“Is sex good or bad?” A question without adefinitive answer but one with many views especially amongst the religiouscommunity.
Most religions have their say one way or the other but Hinduism doesnot have a unanimous opinion on the subject. When reading into the beliefs thatconstruct the religion adherents can have different interpretations of whethersex will delay their attainment of moksha. An adherents’ view can be informedthrough close inspection of the Hindu traditions, opinions of philosophers,interpretations of differents sects and the mythology from sacred texts.
Eachcan give different perspectives on the topic of sex and is up to the individualto decide what perspective holds the most weight to inform their spirituallife. HIndu traditions are practical components ofthe religion that express Hindu beliefs and from such traditions adherents canconstrue the religions stance on topics not specifically outlined or made clearin the sacred texts. The ashrama system delegates lifestyle practices tocertain life stages of which there are four.
In this system protocols on sexualrelations are outlined and from this Hindus can interpret the religions viewson sex in relation to the achievement of moksha. Each of the four stages oflife have certain protocols or Niyam outlined in order for adherents to performtheir dharma, receive good Karma so that they can either go up a caste in thenext life or receive liberation from the cycle of samsara. The four stages ofthe ashrama system are student, householder, hermit and ascetic orBrahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasi. During the student stageBrahmacharya (0-24 years old) you are meant to remain celibate and learn aboutthe religion, during the householder stage Grihastha (25-49 years old) yourdharma is to get married, be a carer for elderly relatives and have children,during this stage it is permissible for adherents to pursue kama (pleasure) andartha (material gain). The stage after this is the hermit stage Vanaprastha(50-74 years old) in this stage one gradually withdraws from life. The finalascetic stage Sannyasi (75-100 years old) is one of complete spiritual devotionwhere one renounces all worldly possessions and desires including sex. Thispractice teaches adherents that sex is meant to be performed in the Grihasthastage as part of one’s dharma with means of procreation but attachment to sexleads to karma and delays moksha. This tradition highlights the power of theascetic lifestyle in relation to knowledge as seen in the student stage and asmoksha is unable to be obtained without self realisation, some hinduspredominantly orthodox interpret this hindu tradition to mean that an asceticlifestyle is key to moksha.
Another Hindutradition that provides information for adherents on the religions views on sexrelative to moksha is the devadasi system. The Devadasi system was a religiouspractice outlawed in 1988 by the Andhra Pradesh Devadasi Act. Devadasi was the practice of hierodulic servitude, andinvolved dedicating girls aged between 8-16 years old in a ritual marriage tothe deity in which the temple was honored, they would then work in the templeand function as spiritual guides, dancers, and provide sexual services for maledevotees. They were viewed ashigh status religious servants, they would reside in the temple and would bepresent and active participants in ritual worship. Devadasi’s would haveintercourse with worshippers of higher castes generally the Brahmins, thosecloser to reaching moksha. This union is seen as a re-creation of divine powerwhilst still in connection to one’s body as famed theologist and missionary,Farquhar states “every well appointed Hindu temple aims at being an earthlyreproduction of the paradise of the god in whose honor it was built”. Thissystem doesn’t behave as though intercourse delays moksha but as though it’s anearly impression of the ecstasy to be felt outside of the mortal realm.
As thiswas a religious practice generally participated in by those closer to achievingmoksha it contradicts the ashrama system by not supporting the statement thatsex delays the attainment of moksha. Topics of controversyin religion can be weighed in on by religious philosophers whose opinion can havegreat influence on the religion as a whole and on the views of worshippers. Thetopic of sex in Hinduism has been greatly debated and has been discussed byfamous Indian monk Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda was a popularphilosopher in India during the late 1800’s, he wrote many books pertaining toHindu yoga practices, books that have been read by the likes of Gandhi andquoted by Barack Obama in a speech in India in 2010.
His opinions on sex werenegative, a reflection of Christian views on the topic most likely impacted bythe influence of British colonisation on India, he was a celibate monk whopreached an ascetic lifestyle to his religious following. In the complete worksof Swami Vivekananda he discusses the topic of sex by stating “No sex, nopossessions; as these fall off, the eyes open to spiritual vision. The soulregains its own infinite power”(TheComplete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 5, LXXVIII, 9th July, 1897). From this we can observehis opinion that sex delays spiritual progress and celibacy aids in theachievement of moksha. His views are shared by a great number of Hinduworshippers particularly orthodox Hindus. HInduism encompassesmany sects which form due to difference of opinion on the meaning of certainreligious beliefs. A sect that has a contradictory opinion to orthodox hindusin relation to sex is Tantrism. Tantra believes in the divinity of sex andexplores it as an energy and source of power as opposed to just a means ofprocreation as orthodox hindus do.
In the Tantric beliefs, harnessing the energies ofthe body, emotions and mind, including sexual energy, is not a goal desired forits own sake but a pathway to the ultimate goal of self realization. Tantra isabout transforming one’s sexual energy into spiritual progress, and has nothingto do with participating in sex just to succumb to one’s desire. These teachingprovide a positive view on sex informing adherents about the importance of theenergy created through sex to one’s spiritual enlightenment and thus doesn’tbelieve sex delays the attainment of moksha as Swami Vivekananda suggests.
The sacred text andmythology of a religion are what form the notions that make up the faith. Asthe Hindu religion’s texts are filled with stories of figures and deities, themeaning of these stories can be up to interpretation and can inform peoplesviews on different controversial topics such as sex. Shiva is a maledeity, he is a Brahmachari and commits to the lifestyle of a Brahmacharya because his consciousness isfilled with the Truth of Brahma.The god Shiva is known as the great ascetic of Hinduism, and is often used as amodel for human ascetics. Shiva renounces sexual behaviour as a Brahmachari. It is precisely his control of his sexualdesires that is said to be the source of his monumental power and energy.Through the control of his lust, he produces ascetic heat and tapas, which ishis purifying and sometimes destructive power. Adherents often use stories ofShiva and his power that strengthens through his Brahmacharya lifestyle andinterpret it as a model for their own lives, construing this to mean that theirown celibacy will give them power and aid in their souls journey to moksha.
Alternatively thestories depicting the union between gods and goddesses give a different view onsexual relations. The Hindu gods each have a female counterpart such asVishnu and Lakshmi. The gods power is drawn from Shakti or feminine energyprovided by their counterparts. From this power we observe the divine versionof soulmates where eachother strengthens with their union.
This is mimicked inadherents lives through the relationship between man and wife where a man playsthe part of god and bride the goddess. A man is only half a person until he ismarried and one anothers souls are connected, to be held accountable for theother spiritual journey. One’s soulmate must connect on all seven centers, thelowest center being sex and highest being samadhi. A kundalini awakening is aneffect of union with your soulmate, it is a gradual process leading up to theenergy reaching the crown chakra producing self realization and enlightenment.
This is needed in order to progress in one’s spiritual journey and eventuallyobtain moksha. As sex is one of the centers, a sexual union is needed togain a soul connection on all levels to reap the results of a kundaliniawakening. In this way sex does not delay moksha but is infact a key componentin progressing through life cycles to achieve moksha. The components thatcircumscribe the Hindi faith give opposing notions on how sex relates to onesspiritual progress and journey to achieving moksha.
The tradition of theashrama systems paints sex as a neccessary practice for the attainment of prajabut ultimately a desire that obstructs the gift of self realisation and delaysmoksha. The devadasi system was a tradition that embraced sex and viewed it asan impression of the paradise of the gods, a divine act to be participated inby those close in their life cycles to procuring moksha. Swami Vivekananda anIndian monk and philosopher agreed with the notions of sex garnered by theashrama system whereas the Tantric sect of Hinduism believes that sex providesa powerful energy that aids in spiritual progress.
The mythology of Shivaattributes his power to his Brahmacharya lifestyle and thus shows adherentspower gained by asceticism as opposed to Tantras’ sexual energy. The belief insoul mates a connection that follows Hindus into the afterlife attributes sex asa component in the union. Therefore individual Hindus can have differentbeliefs on the topic of sex depending on what particular aspect of the religionthey use to inform their views