Tagged: sex

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: Smoking, Cussing Godman?

Ramakrishna_at_studio-min
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Bengal India, 1881

A critical analysis of a popular Hindu guru-messiah who smoked, cussed, and enjoyed company of young boys

Modern yoga is a curious and fascinating phenomena. Millions of Westerners are awed and have flocked to Eastern mystical teachers and to exotic spiritual teachings from Asia.

In awe of Eastern mystical teachers and teachings, I dedicated 14 years of my life as an ordained monk within an East-meets-West ashram-monastery on a hill that overlooked Dodger Stadium, the graffitied barrios below in Highland Park, and on the horizon the skyscrapered silhouette of downtown Los Angeles. This was a modern yoga-meditation retreat that blended “ancient” Eastern mysticism with a Western metropolis.

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952), author of Autobiography of a Yogi, founder of Self-Realization Fellowship and the Monastic Order on the hill in which I was cloistered, was heavily influenced by Hindu-Bengali godmen Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836–1886), Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), and the Ramakrisha’s devotees.

Below is my review and excerpts of a book that is critical of a smoking, cussing godman in Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography.

Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography
by Narasingha P. Sil
University Press of America. 1998. Hardcover

In Ramakrishna Revisited: A New Biography critical scholar, Narasingha P. Sil argues that most biographies of Ramakrishna are lopsided idealizations, even distortions, of the actual character and actions of the revered saint. Using primary Bengali sources, and himself a Bengali, Sil analyzes and pathologizes the intimate details of Ramakrishna’s speeches, actions, and relations with family and disciples.

Sil’s, Ramakrishna Revisited is not an adoring disciple’s recollection of a guru-godman, but is a critical psychological analysis of the complex man. The buck-toothed Parmahamsa is often portrayed as vulgar, profane, and psycho-sexually creepy.

Here are excerpts from Ramakrishna Revisited:

Ramakrishna’s reputation as a delirious child of Kali the Divine Mother not only endeared this mad mystic of Dakshineshwar to many of his near contemporaries but even [to] modern scholars of the Western world and [to] millions of Indians who respectfully regard him as God–bhagavan. p2

“The lesson of Ramakrishna is that man must approach the divine without guile–openly, in wonder, with the simple faith of a child…and finally…that God is like a child who needs to be amused ‘in superfluous sport and aimless dalliance’”. p4

He [Ramakrishna] enjoyed smoking tobacco (hookah) and above all, the company of young men. p7

Charles White has warned against apologetic writings “available in the occult market” in respect to Indian saints, living or dead….This work [Ramakrishna Revisited] seeks to respond to White’s suggestions for an understanding of saints “in language other than that of the adoring devotee or the hostile skeptic”. p10

“Ejaculation is extremely harmful for ascetics…[and therefore] it is not good even to look at a woman…[as] there will be ejaculation in dream, if not in the waking state” Ramakrishna said, as recorded in the diary of Mahendranath Gupta or “M”, disciple and author of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. [1, 2] p70

Hindus generally believe that “a man who possesses a store of good semen becomes a super-man”. p71 [See my post Preserving Sex Fluids for Yogic Transformation & Immortality]

[The paramahamsa] told his devotees: “The moment I utter the word ‘cunt’ I behold the cosmic vagina, which is Ma Brahmamayi, and I sink into it.” p73

Narendra [Swami Vivekananda] was under intense mental strain, highly vulnerable and suggestible when he met the paramahamsa at the young age of twenty-one and Ramakrishna, the “mighty mentor”, stepped into the void of his would be disciple’s life rendered chaotic after his father’s death.” p91 [See my post Swami Vivekananda: Master Marketer of Yoga]

[Ramakrishna] confessed: “I used to say ‘Ma, I shall take [myself] seriously only when the zemindars of this country appreciate me.” In an incisive study of gurus from all cultures, Anthony Storr reports that “some historians have proposed that all messianic characters have secret doubts about their missions, and that is why they strive to gain disciples.” p153

[Ramakrishna] exclaimed on one occasion: “Mere knowledge of Advaita! Hyak thoo–I spit on it.” He also spat on the floor denouncing rationality. “A mere scholar without discrimination and renunciation has his attention fixed on woman and gold.” Even bhakti or devotion is not efficacious if it is “tinged with knowledge”. p163

When a visitor named Shyam Basu asked Ramakrishna: “How can you say that sin is punishable when you say that He is doing everything?”. The later was cheesed off and quipped: “What calculating cunning [sonar bener buddhi]! You asshole [Ore podo], just eat the mango. What will you gain by counting the trees, branches, and leaves in the grove?” p163

When the inquirer insisted on direct evidence for instruction before accepting it, Ramakrishna exploded: “I don’t know! I can’t cure my own disease and you want to know what happens after death! You talk like a nitwit. Try to find ways of putting faith in God. You’re born as a human only to learn devotion”. Indeed, any kind of reasoning made the Master very uneasy and upset. p163

Ramakrishna preached: Too much knowledge is called ajnana, ignorance. To know only one thing is jnana, knowledge–that is, God alone is real and exists in all beings. To converse with Him is vijnana. To love Him in different ways after realizing Him is vijnana. p164

Our East-West idols and myths are fascinating, even captivating. We thirst for and seek after heros, heroines, gods, godmen and godwomen. Some Westerners may abandon traditional temples and flee to exotic, mystic East-West hybrid shrines. There is poetry and beauty in human folklore and mythology: whether of gods, men, cultures, or societies. But intellectual freedom is realizing that ignorance is not bliss, that wishful-thinking does not make reality, and that truth is stranger and more wonderful than fiction.

Read my review of Ramakrishna Revisited on Amazon.

Notes

1 Total surrender to guru or gods is encouraged for devotees of the bhakti (devotional) tradition of yoga. Intellectual development or reasoning is de-emphasized and often belittled.

2 Srisriramakrsnakathamrta, IV, 89 (GR, p. 414), Diary of March 23, 1884.

pleasures of monks

Seductive Pleasure of Monks

Food was a seductive pleasure of celibate monks.

At 10:00 P.M. the Monks’ Refectory walk-in pantry and refrigerator was locked. The fruits, nuts, and groceries were only to be consumed according to a strict daily quota for each monk: 2 bananas, 2 apples, 2 tablespoons of yogurt, 1 glass of milk, and so forth. Seasonality impacted quotas: peaches, plums, and watermelons, in the late Summer, and when bananas or other foods were going to spoil the quota was increased or posted as “OS”, meaning “open season” or all you could eat. This was a community of ascetics obsessed with food.

No wonder–with the many rules and restrictions around diet–that highly coveted food stuffs were hoarded. Occasionally, the monks were allowed to go to the market and bring home “personal” items.

Last thing to go: food

In the refectory’s over-stuffed “personal” items refrigerator were rich and sweet perishable foods, such as Jiffy, crunchy peanut butter; organic, raw cream; Smuckers jams, clotted creams and jellies. When a monk opened the “personal” freezer door out fell tubs of ice creams, flavors of chocolate, vanilla, rocky road, mocha chip, Cherry Garcia, or Chunky Monkey.

Seeing initials marked in black Sharpie pen on-top of a food container was supposed to warn a hungry monk, “Don’t touch my grub. This food is mine!”.

We often joked: Somebody could leave a $20 bill on the kitchen table, every monk would pass by, and nobody would touch it. But, leave an unmanned package of chocolate chip cookies on the counter top, and within minutes the sweet morsels would disappear, and all that would be left was empty torn wrapper. Monastics were efficient at rationalizing contradictions. “Borrowing” another monk’s personal food was… well… it just happened, quite often and uncontrollably.

Virtually everything a normal, healthy guy (or gal) craved was “renounced” when he took monastic vows. Food, particularly sweets, provided monks with an outlet after days and years of deprivation, meditation, and prayer.

Excerpt from Give My Thy Heart: An Introduction to the Monastic Order of Self-Realization Fellowship–

Diet: The diet in the ashrams is simple but ample. Renunciants eat no meat, fish, or fowl[1]; nor are they permitted to smoke or drink alcoholic or stimulating beverages[2]. (Use of drugs in any form, except for medication temporarily prescribed by a doctor, is of course strictly forbidden). Balanced meals are prepared according to general rules for good nutrition, but the subject of diet is not given undue importance[3]. Three meals are served daily at regular hours–except on Sundays[4], which is a day of partial fasting.

Notes
1 Self-Realization Fellowship requires monastics, and recommends to it’s followers, lacto-ovo-vegetarianism.

2 Indian Chai Tea, made with black tea, was a particular favorite among the monastics. Chai, made with black tea, was served at most special events such as Monastic vow ceremonies, commemoration ceremonies honoring one of their gurus or saints, and anytime the monks could whip up a cup or pot of the deliciously sweet, spicy brew. Coffee was seldom served or seen in the monastery. I heard of senior monks who brewed coffee in their bedrooms using personal coffee makers. These monks were considered rogue, but apparently senior enough monks were beyond reprimand of the rules.

3 The “subject” of diet may not be given undue importance. But food and eating it was certainly the most discussed topic in the monastery, aside from the emphasis on spiritual/religious concepts and activities.

4 Sundays in the ashram/monastery had another set of rules around diet, and lack thereof. I plan to write a separate post about Sundays in the ashram, that will include descriptions of the fasting and austerities.

monastic order

Monastic Order of Self-Realization

Index of my posts about the Order of Self-Realization Fellowship and monastic life in the SRF ashram.

Ashram, monk life

Bizarre beliefs and politics

Confessions

Vows and Rules

Monasticism, general

Preserving Sex Fluids for Yogic Transformation & Immortality

Shiva, Lord of Yoga, moon in hair, his rasa (vital fluid) locked in his cranial vault
Shiva, Lord of Yoga, moon in hair, his rasa (vital fluid) locked in his cranial vault

Hindus are warned that he who sheds his seed gets sapped of rásā (vital fluid): he withers and dies. Or, he may transform his sexual fluid to attain vitality and immortality.

According to yoga scholar David Gordon White, semen is the raw material, the fuel, for yogic transformation1.

Rásā is the semen, vital fluid, of the moon, soma. Shiva, Lord of Yogis, keeps the moon in his hair, locked in his cranial vault.

Myth of King Moon

As early as 1000 B.C.E., the Vedic Taittiriya Samhita2 tells of King Moon (Soma) whose vital fluid is wasted on his thirty wives, leading to illness. But, through sacrifice, Soma recovers his lost vigor, his vital fluid, and restores himself.

Prajapati (Lord of Procreation) had thirty daughters; he married them off to Soma (King Moon). Every night, Soma makes love and sheds his seed in the clutches of his wives. But he dallies most with his favorite, Rohini. His rásā, his vigor, and semen completely dried up the king is seized by illness. In anger, his wives returned to their lord-father, Prajapati. To recover his lost rásā (vital fluid) and be freed from his evil ‘wife’s disease’ Soma must perform a sacrifice and swear henceforth to restrain himself equally with all thirty wives. With his rásā recovered, the lunar cycle, the waxing of the moon, begins anew.

This mythic tale of King Moon warns of dangers, for men, to lose, in a single stroke, what took an entire month of food and digestion to manufacture. Hindu tradition holds that it takes thirty days (one month or lunar cycle) for food to be digested and transformed into semen. A tremendous quantity of food is required to produce a single gram of semen; and it takes forty days and forty drops of blood to produce one drop of semen3. These mythologies claim, without substantiation, that loss of vital fluid leads to disease, aging, and death.

Celibacy & Debauchery

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), the first yoga master to relocate permanently to the U.S., warned his monks and yoga students:

“Every drop of creative chemical fluid is said to contain the concentrated essence of eight drops of blood and the electric energy that would be contained in their thousands of blood corpuscles…To drive them out of the body foolishly (lured by the enemy sexual temptation) is to lose these soldiers of energy and mental power and to become a victim of the army of darkness, disease, weakness, fear, worry, dissatisfaction, melancholia, and even premature death4“.

Pouring "milk" over Siva lingam
Pouring “milk” over Siva lingam

For young-men, at the peak of virility, indoctrinated in the above myths, wastage of semen is horrible. The horrors of indoctrinated young-men are described in two blog posts. In Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?, Bruce, a fellow monk in the Swami Order I was ordained, advises a young man who wants to practice celibacy for spiritual reasons. In Sex Was Death, I share my struggles with monastic celibacy, masturbation, and nocturnal emissions. Through yogic transformation of semen the practitioner “conceives” a new, superhuman and immortal body from the husk of the mortal, biological body5. Through semen depletion a man shrivels and dies.

Tayumanavar, a Tamil Saiva (devotee of Shiva) poet who lived during the late 1700s, wrote6:

Ecstatically, you think, “sex is bliss.”

This embracing becomes more frequent,
Growing to excess.

Like the waning moon,
Your intellect becomes exhausted.
And your body shrivels up
Like a monkeys’s wrinkled skin.
You grow old soon…

When the dark Lord of Death comes,
Who will protect you,
O sinful mind?

Conclusion

The mythic tale of King Moon warns men7; he who falls into the clutches of semen dissipation is consumed and sapped of his rásā–he shrivels up and dies. Soma, the vital fluid of the moon, must be sacrificed, given back to the gods. So, like Shiva, the man who offers his rásāraises it up to his cranial vault through internal yogic method–he restores himself and attains immortality. In this mythical and practical context, David Gordon White makes a compelling argument, sexual fluid is the raw material, the fuel, for yogic transformation.

Notes

1 David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press. 1998. Print.

2 Taittiriya Samhita (2.3.5), Vedic work estimated to be composed c. 1200–1000 BCE. Keith Translation

3 Primary source for this entire post is David Gordon White’s, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press. 1998. Print.

4 Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, Lesson 22, Life Force and Vital Power

5 p27 David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press. 1998. Print.

6 ibid p340

7 For women, the Hindu traditions claim that female vital fluid consists of ovum, breast milk, or menstrual blood. Every yogic school or tradition has variations or distinct claims. Just as there are inconsistencies among the traditions about the amount of blood contained in a drop of semen, quantity of chakras in the subtle body, etc.

Sex Was Death

The celibate monks were to avoid all thoughts of sex. Imaginary or real sex was strictly forbidden.

bedchamber

Sexual-Spiritual Romanticism

By my mid-twenties I’d dated and been heartbroken with women. The usual, garden variety issues–I got attached, cheated on, or dumped. In a word, disappointment–such is the lot of idealism of romantic relationships. A convenient solution–celibacy, giving up sex, avoided emotional hurt and could make me spiritual–in one fell swoop!

bildeThe seeds of desire for controlling sex energy were planted during my teens. I’d discovered a book in my Dad’s library, Think and Grow Rich1. This is not the place to discuss the impact this influential text had on my life. We are interested in only a single detail, the chapter on “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation”1. Controlling the sex force would, I thought, fuel my intuition, my sixth sense, and bring me success as a creative artist. I was a musician in the years before I became a monk.

Spiritual Sexlessness

The seeds of sex transmutation eventually grew into my vow of celibacy. The ordained monks were required to abstain in thought and deed. But, no one knew my thoughts–or did they? I feared the advanced monks (siddhas) or the guru would read my mind and discover I had dirty thoughts! Sometimes I’d be rudely awakened from deep sleep to discover my hands on my genitals or shaken awake from nocturnal emissions. Pleasure and shame were simultaneous, humiliating. After realizing my “sins”, I’d sit up in bed to meditate on forgiveness or go down to my bedroom floor on my hands and knees. Prostrate in front of my dresser-top photo of gurus, I’d utter over and over:

Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti“I want to transmute sex energy into spiritual energy. I want to turn it Godward to create spiritually.”2

Sex Was Death

The fellow monks and yoga students of Self-Realization Fellowship were “trained”:

“Evil thoughts are the most powerful of man’s interior enemies. Remember that control of the sex impulse should begin with its spiritual transmutation within.

Everyone who finds his self-control waning should remember that yielding will hasten his flight toward the pitfalls of disease, premature old age, mental dissatisfaction, loss of ambition, boredom, unhappiness, and premature unhappy death”.2 [emphasis mine]

The above memories of my celibate days were triggered when I read this below in Men’s Health magazine:

SATURN V, APOLLO 6 (AS-502) LAUNCH FROM CAPE. PAD 39A. REF: 116-KSC-68PC-59 “A UK study found that folks who have frequent orgasms from sex also have greater resting-heart-rate variability, which is linked to longer life. Sex strengthens your parasympathetic nervous system (the brakes on your heart rate), allowing it to better counter your sympathetic nervous system (the gas pedal)”.3

Contrary to Hindu traditions and yogi mythology, sexual activity can lead to health and long-life3,4

Footnotes

  1. The Mystery of Sex Transmutation, Think And Grow Rich. Hill, N. Ballentine. NY: NY. 1960. Ch 11. Print.
  2. Transmutation of Creative Energy Into Spiritual Energy, Self-Realization Fellowship Lesson #71. Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, CA. 1991. Print.
  3. How To Live To Be 100: Break the Bed. Men’s Health (Jul/Aug 2014), 24. Print.
  4. Smith, G. D. et al, (1997) Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort study. BMJ (British Medical Journal). Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/315/7123/1641