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Sex Mortalises. Spirituality Immortalises.

Orgasm – a word that automatically directs our mind to the act of sex. Orgasm is also an experience that has traditionally been seen as being only for men and it is only in this century that women (of course) have raised claims for it: “I am a woman, I too would like come”, a woman may say, as contrasted to her male counterpart who simply does come (most of them do).  Here’s another fact: many women and girls have never known that they can have an orgasm.

Biological sciences which came from Western medical practices were ignorant of the existence of a clitoris, yet it is in that same culture that we now find new age tantric philosophy stressing on the esoteric and erotic being the same. One can safely say that this is likely a reaction to years of sexual suppression finding expression by embracing another culture’s esoteric practices, practices that have existed long before the English language came into existence. We are in that era where yoga has become synonymous with an Instagram post of twisted limbs – something easily achievable at a young age when the body is not hijacked by illnesses and age. There is a trap in representing this as being spirituality and sexuality together, often with semi-nude to nude yoga poses being portrayed as ‘sexual expression’, ‘inner voice’, or ‘freeing the chains of the body’. It conveys what is required – a call for freedom from the patriarchal control societies have placed on many. But we must ask, “Is this spirituality or simply sexuality?”

The sudden freedom to go beyond our own constructed ideologies, selves and faith has permitted many adults to explore outside of their cultures and faith. This has brought together a type of human connection the world is now accepting easily. Might we call this spirituality based on a voting ballot because people across the world have begun accepting numerous forms of sexuality and differences? Or is spirituality something larger, existing in itself, a consciousness much larger than sex, with sexuality being a smaller part, one that is bound to the body, a physical act of pleasure in the temporariness of time and space expressed through the body which is a limited instrument for it?

As an adult I had no conclusive answer to this as I came with my own constructions, prejudices and assumptions. I came with a mixed bag of faith, religions, and spiritual practices which tuned me to be open to all sorts of beliefs. After having studied clinical psychology, philosophy, science and religion and accepting the left hand path of god in Hinduism, I was in a turmoil of conflict because spirituality or its practices were also strictly meant for men. Every scripture I read, and guru I visited made me feel that having a woman’s body was limiting my spiritual practices, until I became a teacher myself.

I wondered who I was in this extensive planet of 7 billion people to make my own claims of spirituality as opposed to those millions who believe in their own versions of it too. Which person alone is an authority over such a vast range of experience?

From meditation-induced Kundalini awakenings to drug-induced awakenings, how do we decide if something is a true experience in itself or merely called forth as an illusion in the brain to feel as if enlightenment has happened? Is spirituality determined by a serpentile awakening that can be brought about through intense orgasms shared between two bodies? If it is about sexual union between bodies, then sexuality as a form of spirituality is indeed limiting because it would mean that we have to sexually unite with every other being in order to experience such a spirituality. I have no intentions of sexually uniting with my parents or siblings. There definitely is something more to spirituality. Is it just about holding one’s orgasm in and pulling it up the spine for an awakening? Is it about holding this life-force within us in order to heal internally, to be expressed from within through various forms of creativity that touch the soul, heart and bodies of others? This to me is again limited because it requires some level of sensory fulfillment, some level of pleasure and desire to be met. Some level of stimulation. As someone who spent 5 years in celibacy as my first path to initiation, I was not okay with such limiting views.

I can safely say that my understanding of what transpires as spirituality and sexuality does not come from an adult self. My adult self might have the necessary ‘degrees’ or ‘lineage’ for it, but the implementation of this knowledge is what I have considered to be far more valuable than everything I thought I knew. Knowledge comes with responsibility and I learn this everyday as I stand in a classroom of 7th and 9th graders, filled with innocence and openness. I cannot teach sexuality by triggering the pleasure buttons of young adolescents. I am held by my duty and responsibility to them. I cannot teach them about uniting their bodies sexually in order to reach the divine. That is wrong at many levels including their own religious faith that stops them from acknowledging certain bodily changes. I might think I have the right knowledge, but it will not be right for many students who are socially, culturally, and religiously bound by what their own family and religion teach them. Neither is it my job to challenge them to accept my religion and leave theirs. My job is to stimulate logic, and make them question and develop reasoning as their road map.

Not everyone has the same views and practices of morality and ethics where sexuality and spirituality is concerned but how do we choose what we teach to a group of young individuals who are easily influenced? This marks a spiritual test and not a sexual challenge.

Our first school intervention began in late 2015. In the first few months, I brought in a team of four other facilitators with me. They were part of a tantric healers’ group. We accepted each other’s views and life choices as long as we knew we were not hurting an other person. Not harming oneself or another person actively or passively was the common ground which held our practice together. But our friendship and practice eventually came to an end after being put to a test when our knowledge had to be translated for the benefit of our school students.

In early 2016, I missed three weeks of school because of work travel, and the team was responsible for the work during my absence. After my return a teacher notified me about sudden levels of disrespect having surfaced mainly among the boys. We were both surprised about this change in behaviour in our students as we had cleared the topics of respect, consent and desire through many role-plays and by helping the boys understand that respect must be universal whether you want to date a girl, sleep with her, or just be friends, and that even strangers deserve respect. The girls in class spoke to me separately, narrating instances of the boys acting out (including some who had never behaved badly before). They said, “Didi, they are not interested anymore. The boys told us that they don’t need to show us any respect since they are not going to get married to us.” One girl pointed out, “This was after bhaiya’s class with them didi. You were not there. We don’t know what happened after that, but they said ‘Reshma didi is wrong. We don’t need to show you respect if we are not interested in any of you. We can sleep with you tonight and do what we like, even if we hurt you and it won’t matter because tomorrow we’ll find someone else. There’s a lot of other girls in this world.’”

This was the first cohort of 9th graders I had taught. The bhaiya students were referring to was my erstwhile friend, and it was he who had communicated this ‘logic’ to the boys. The boys had formed their own understanding of what had been conveyed to them. I knew my friend, their bhaiya, a black-robed self-proclaimed Aghori tantric[1], had been honest with them about his affairs and life. But he had been careless in his interaction with the students, as he had suggested, through examples from his personal life, that sex without responsibility and respect was acceptable.

The responsibility to correct this situation fell on me. I addressed the girls and boys together, with a class teacher present. The boys were given the space to be heard although they made a lot of ruckus, refused to focus, and disrespected my presence by making loud noises, as they knew noise sets off triggers in me.

I probed further to ask them what made them think they only need to show respect to the girl they are going to marry, and two of them answered, “Bhaiya told us that it is not necessary to get married and that we can have sex with whoever we want and not just with one person. He said that he has sex everyday with different people and he has the energy to do everything, and he looks so fit and young. So if I can also do that, I can just have sex with a different girl every day. Why make an effort to show respect when the next day we are not going to be together?”

I burst out laughing when the boys told me this. I rephrased their logic to make sure I had understood them correctly and said, “So you are saying that if you have sex like bhaiya everyday, with any girl you wish, you will be fit and young. That you can do whatever you like. One girl every night. And you don’t have to show her any respect after that. Is this what you’re saying?”

The boys yelled out, “YES didi, now you understand us.”

I yelled back, “Yes, now I know how stupid you boys really are that you can’t check your facts before believing what someone tells you.”

Many of the boys rolled their eyes to show their disrespect. The idea of unlimited sex had brainwashed their rational selves into believing that sex was all life is made up of. That having sex daily would keep them fit and young. As an educator, I had to do some damage control and I had to substantiate my logic to win these boys back. It is not their fault that men such as this ‘bhaiya’ turned out to be faultily designed themselves. So I inserted myself into a comparison that would give them a realistic sense of sex not being synonymous with being fit and young. I asked the entire class, “How old do you think bhaiya is?” I then asked them to guess the ages of the other three facilitators, and then guess mine. When they made their guesses, I asked them if they still stubbornly held on to the idea that ‘sex, daily, will keep you young and fit’. The class replied, “Yes, didi.”

“So out of 5 people, you all are saying that 4 of them are having sex daily. I am the fifth. Now I am at school every day, I’ve had fever for days, I am also having my period, I haven’t had the time or energy to have sex. So then I must be really old and unfit, correct?” Then I shocked them further by telling them each facilitator’s true age. I stressed, “That bhaiya is only 3 years older than me. You said that I am only 19 or maximum 21 years old and that bhaiya must be 40 years old. If you’re saying sex is keeping him young and fit, then what do you think I am doing, having sex 24 hours long, is it? With my time and travel, do you even think it’s possible for me? What a disappointment you all are!”

The class ended in silence. Some girls apologized, others thanked me for correcting the situation and a few boys apologized, “Sorry didi, we also got lost.” What I’ve learnt from my 15-year-old students is what my spiritual father-guru told me “Sexuality happens after a certain age. If you want to teach spirituality to a child, the most divine being in our human community, how can you use sex?”

We’ve all met that one guy who will try to convince us to smoke weed, relax and let go so that he can take us to bed with the pretext that Lord Shiva did it too. A man who can make a woman experience orgasms is given a respectable and desirable seat in society. The divine male likewise has been portrayed by his sexual or physical prowess. Many women fall for their charms as they experience sexual or orgasmic liberation in their encounters with such men. A similar seat is not given to a woman.

As a teacher of young adolescents and an adult coming from the school of practice of Aghora, I learnt that spirituality is not about orgasms, magic tricks, supernatural powers, spirit talks, healing or harming but it is about implementing one’s learned knowledge with full awareness of every word and sentence uttered. Being responsible in knowing if the other person (in this case, sixty 15-year-olds) has the ability to receive a certain knowledge, and also having the foresight in knowing what to do in case they don’t.

Sexuality is limited to our own bodily energy, and the body of another during a specific moment of time and space with a privacy that is necessary. It is limited to a fluid either being expelled outwards or pulled inwards. Sexuality is good for the mortal ego. The expression and longevity of sexuality is limited and bound to time, space and physical form.

In a world of self-identifying egos built upon our fears, the fact that the ego is mortal might act as a catalyst in seeking spirituality but it can, more often than not, also hinder one’s evolution instead of enhancing it because the ego is as limited as our sexuality. On the other hand, the expression and longevity of spirituality knows no time, space or form. It is unlimited.

 

 

[1] Aghora tantra is a form of spiritual realization through extreme rituals and practices that include consuming meat and alcohol, and engaging in sex and corpse divinity in controlled manners. Termed the Left-Hand Path of God in Hinduism, ascetics on this path are feared by many as death is an Aghori’s teacher and darkness is embraced.

Cover Image: Pixabay

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Article written by:

Reshma Valliappan is a consultant and interventionist implementing the Peaceful Warrior program at two community schools in Pune. She is also a visiting lecturer and speaker at colleges and universities within and outside India.

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