The following information is a chapter from my book, The Little Book of Meditation available on amazon.com:
Now the same requirement for the need of wisdom and discipline holds for sexual conduct on the spiritual path. Many people wonder whether it is necessary to be celibate in order to make progress with meditation. Is celibacy absolutely necessary and essential for spiritual progress? Is there any conflict with sexual relations and spiritual striving?
If you start to meditate, your yang chi will start to stir and then arise, passing through your chi channels. All the stages of this process typically promote sexual desires. The arising of sexual desire as your chi ascends happens for everyone, men and women alike, including individuals who have taken vows of celibacy. No one is immune. This is just a natural principle for human beings: with the stirring of your yang chi comes an increase in sexual desires.
There are actually two types of sexual desires: mental desires and physical sensations. While it is easy to ignore the uncomfortable physical sensations that give rise to mental desires, if one gives in to the mental states of sexual desire then sexual activities are soon to follow. If you give in to sexual desire and then lose your chi energies through ejaculation (male), those energies won’t be available to open your chakras and chi channels. Your chi is the energy that opens your chi channel orbits, so even when people practice sexual relations it is important that the man does not ejaculate too frequently and thereby lose much of his chi and semen. Since women do not lose as much chi through orgasm as men (largely because their bodies are designed to absorb energies), this injunction does not hold for them.
How to balance the body and mind when sexual desire arises is therefore one of the main hurdles to spiritual practice and progress, and the key is to either cut off the mental desires when they arise so that consequences do not go further, or balance the body energies so that the rising energies can be handled without emission or loss. If one can harmonize the body, this is the perfect solution, and one will find exercise or pranayama techniques helpful in this effort. One can also sometimes use sexual relations to harmonize the body, too.
The principle in this type of sexual effort, called sexual cultivation, is to harmonize the energies of the body to a state of comfort by harmonizing the internal chi flow through sex, while not losing energy in the process. Once again, the principle of non-ejaculation for men therefore holds. A rudimentary understanding of sexual cultivation is that the proper practice of sexual activities can cause internal energies to flow smoothly throughout the body’s chi channels, sometimes opening chi channels, and thereby help to harmonize both the body and mind. If you can reach a state of comfort that way, and can let go, you might have an opportunity to cultivate mental emptiness with this technique.
Your chi energies arising from meditation are meant to open up your chakras and channels, which are obstructed just as arteries and veins get obstructed by plaque and cholesterol. When those energies start working through your channels the friction initially gives rise to uncomfortable feelings, which some try to solve through the avenue of sex. These energies often feel especially uncomfortable at the earliest stages of the path because at that time the nerves, muscles and channels receiving the most attention are usually in the lower torso of the body. Your chi energies, when you begin to meditate, try to push through the obstructed channels near the bottom of the spine, root chakra and in the waist, which are all near your sexual organs. Hence, people will feel uncomfortable pressure in the genital regions (and elsewhere as well) when their energy starts to rise due to meditation, and this often leads to sexual desires.
Those energies often increase sexual desires, and so the problem and quandary always arises. To give in to sexual desire brings release from the pressure, but that release of pressure means that you lose your chi and generative energies. Therefore, there is no further progress in opening up your chi channels or in getting rid of the very desires that plague you (which tend to go away as you make more progress). Nevertheless, if one can learn how to have sex in a way that harmonizes the body without energy loss, this can then become a form of cultivation hat can be of some help.
As explained in my book, The Little Book of Hercules, if a woman engages in sex and experiences an orgasm she doesn’t lose a fraction of the energy men lose through ejaculation, so orgasm is not as detrimental to women as semen loss is to men on the spiritual path. The vagina tends to absorb energies because of its design, so a woman has fewer problems than men when it comes to sexual orgasm. On the other hand, if men lose their rising cultivation energies through sex or masturbation, they tend to lose a lot of energy and that energy loss will definitely hinder their practice because it won’t be there to open up the chi channels.
Does it mean you absolutely cannot have sex on the spiritual path? No.
Does it mean that sex is bad for you? No.
Is there anything wrong, evil, dirty, immoral or shameful about sex at all, or something to feel guilty about? No.
Does it mean that refraining from sex will cause you to succeed in achieving the higher goals of meditation and spiritual cultivation? No.
Does it mean that refraining from sex is bad for you? No.
Does it mean that engaging in sex is bad for you? The principle of wisdom once again holds in that any activity taken to an extreme, such as sexual activities and relations, can be harmful, but it depends on the individual and the situation.
Do men lose energy through ejaculation? Yes, though not all will equally feel the energy loss, and various age groups are affected differently by the energy loss.
Do women lose energy through orgasm? Yes, but not to the extent that it is as large a problem as it is for men.
Will preventing the loss of one’s generative forces help preserve a healthy body? Yes—if the restraint is naturally accomplished without force. If you can retain the vital force, and not let it leak out through overindulgence in sex or by wasting energy, it can accomplish wondrous things for rejuvenating the body.
Are there times when celibacy will help with your meditation efforts? Yes.
Does that have to be all the time? Not necessarily so.
Are there some situations where sex might help you with your cultivation practice? Yes, if done in the proper fashion.
If you are celibate, how will this help your meditation practice? If you try to let go and cultivate emptiness and abstinence simultaneously, then your internal energies can accumulate and finally pierce through your obstructed chi channels. Celibacy, when matched with meditation practice, helps you achieve this most quickly. Celibacy without meditation practice only accomplishes a little along these lines because you don’t cultivate the necessary mental emptiness that leads to chi channel openings, so the results only appear as better health and longevity.
If you are older and have lost a large degree of your vitality, how do you regain your vitality to succeed? Meditation with abstinence will eventually restore your vitality, and some measure of youthfulness, despite advanced age.
Should you ever try to absorb the energies of your partner or absorb back your own energies during sex? No. This is harmful to both yourself and your partner.
Is energy loss through masturbation worse than the energy loss from ordinary sexual intercourse? Yes.
As you can see, there are many issues one could discuss on this complicated topic. These questions only introduce the tip of the iceberg of issues that must be considered.
Other factors aside (the difficulty of relationships, the possibilities of pregnancy, etc.), the main issue is essentially one of energy loss and the need to transform the energies and obstructions inside your body. To counter the problem of energy loss, many men wisely learn how to have sex without ejaculation, which is to the benefit of both parties. However, they need to learn how to do this in the correct way, for most teachings on non-ejaculatory sexual relations are incorrect.
Most people don’t know that while there is an emphasis on non-ejaculation in these lessons, the whole purpose of sex is to bring about a balancing of the elements of the body – a harmonious body feeling because the internal chi flow has become smooth. If they are engaged in overly strenuous activities, there will be too much energy loss just as occurs from too much physical exercise. If they miss the principle of cultivating a harmonious relationship, pleasant experience and peaceful mind during the sexual relationship, they also achieve nothing through their efforts. Sexual relations should certainly embody nice, pleasurable experiences for couples, and can have a higher purpose than just being marathon sessions of jamming and poking, as portrayed in pornographic films, that simply end in excited release.
As an example of some incorrect notions on non-ejaculatory sex, men are often taught to press on their perineum right before orgasm. However, if a man tries to press on his perineum to prevent ejaculation, as is often taught, he can hurt his bladder, prostate and kidneys. This often happens to men who do this frequently. So there is a right way and wrong way to practice non-ejaculatory sexual intercourse, and the majority of ways taught are not just incorrect but actually harmful.
The correct ways for a man to avoid ejaculation during sex primarily involve managing his breathing and movements so that he does not rise to the brink of orgasm. In this way, he can prolong his sexual activities until both parties feel calm and comfortable, and both parties can then cultivate a peaceful comfortable state wherein they can forget their body and mind. Men and women must both manage their breathing and movements so as not to arrive at orgasm too quickly, but the secret key for men is to learn how to manage their breathing to avoid ejaculation.
This is a far cry from the sex we see in movies where partners are trying to reach a frenzy of excitement through all sorts of unusual positions and strenuous movements. What we see is not necessarily a nice, pleasurable experience that can possibly lead to the cultivation of one’s chi and channels, or which doesn’t involve much loss of energy. Oral sex, as another example, often produces release but can rarely produce an internal comfort of smooth chi flows throughout the entire whole body. To be sure, there is room for countless forms of pleasant play in sexual relations, but when we are talking about sexual cultivation, the principle is to bring about internal comfort and harmonious chi flow along with the natural mental, emotional and spiritual harmony between the parties that one would expect in such a relationship.
If your chi flow becomes smooth, your body feels comfortable, and your mind becomes empty and relaxed, you might be able to forgo clinging to that state (if your chi and channel cultivation has progressed far enough) and be able to recognize the bodiless clear awareness that knows the mind and body, but which is not whatever it knows. It is a clear awareness that stands behind thoughts and consciousness. If one just rests in the comfortableness of sex during and afterwards, and clings to the body and mind during sexual activities, nothing much is accomplished other than the usual results one would expect. If one can detach from the body because one has become very comfortable because of sex, and if the mind has simultaneously become empty while the channel flows have been harmonized, then one can be cultivating the channels at the same time one is cultivating open awareness. If one can enjoy the sexual relationship as the clear pure awareness witness, which is always detached, this is higher still.
All during the sexual relationship one should not become robotic or like an automaton. “Detached” does not mean divorced from normal human relationships, and it does not mean suppressing whatever emotions (or sensations) normally arise either in order to be “pure” or “clear” or “empty.” These are mistaken notions about the correct route of cultivation. Natural reactions and emotions should always hold and you should never attempt to wipe them out. All the normal human emotions proper to a caring sexual relationship should still be there. One should strive to be cultivating the awareness which stands behind the mind, which you can only realize in a state of non-clinging when your chi channels are opened. Naturally, only cultivation adepts can do this, but this is the ideal.
One does not use the other party just for sex or just for cultivation either, but simply uses sex as another possible method, within the whole repertoire of methods possible within this world, to cultivate one’s chi flows, channels and mind for further possible progress. No method is good or bad, it’s humans which make it so. Sexual relations are therefore just another opportunity for a certain type of meditative cultivation, and if sexual opportunities do not exist (you can see that countless individuals do not have spouses in the world), one need not pursue them. In short, one does not need to be celibate to succeed in cultivation, nor does one have to be a monk or nun to succeed. There are no such restrictions, limitations or stipulations. In the old days, many people attained enlightenment even though they belonged to wealthy and honored circles, including mixing with entertainers, so it is wrong to assume that the occupation of a monk or nun is best. It is all about your determination and how you practice.
Some men in Asia practice hanging weights from their penis, thinking this is sexual cultivation, but this is also an incorrect notion. Several surgeons have told me about the countless surgeries they have performed because men have torn tendons and ligaments in the sexual organs from such practices.
There is also the issue of sexual discipline, abstinence or celibacy when it is not accompanied by meditation efforts. Without meditation, sexual discipline (refraining from the loss of semen) indeed leads to a healthier constitution and helps increase longevity since your energies are retained rather than lost. However, there is very little transformation of generative force to chi. Therefore there is very little opening of the chi channels in the body as compared to celibacy combined with meditation practice. There is indeed a beneficial effect, but not as much for spiritual progress when one maintains their celibacy accompanied by meditation efforts. In light of these facts, when celibate religious officials refrain from meditation exercises it is really unfortunate. When they don’t practice meditation, they incredibly limit the potential of their other spiritual practices. If the partner isn’t already a cultivation practitioner with some gong-fu under their belt, they don’t really have the requisite foundational basis for joint practice.
In sexual cultivation, on the other hand, the idea is that your body already has attained a smooth circulation of chi from meditation practices, which is why the partner is paramount for such practice. Sexual cultivation is really only truly possible if two individuals are themselves ardent meditation practitioners who have already cultivated their chi and channels to a high level, and then the practice can bear the best fruit. Ordinary people who do not meditate can imitate the technique, but it really only pertains to cultivation practitioners since they are the only ones who can feel and adjust their own chi and channels. However, the principles can certainly be applied within the realm of ordinary human relationships. If one goes looking for a sexual partner for cultivation practices, however, this shows the desire is for sex rather than sexual cultivation because it can only be practiced when there is a prior relationship of mutual harmony, trust, understanding and karmic relationship.
In sexual cultivation, one tries to use the thrusting (exercise or movements of sex), and attendant happiness and joy of sexual relations to not only create inner harmony, but to ignite your chi and further clean out your chi channels. That is one objective for practice, but not all. One tries not to drop into sexual desire during that time but maintain awareness and watch one’s mind as one reaches a state of comfort. You can definitely set into motion a mutual circulation of comfortable chi flow when sexual relations are done in the right way. This can open up chi channels, bring a calming of the breath and relaxation wherein you forget both your body and mind, and whereupon you can realize emptiness just as with every other standard meditation technique. The comfortableness achieved through sexual relations can therefore afford an opportunity to cultivate the detachment of empty awareness that sees and knows but does not attach. Hence the entire practice avoids the principle of mental clinging, which is the antithesis of most sexual relations since they are based on the strong force of lust and longing which grab the mind.
The use of strong or gentle thrusting during sexual relations is not the issue, for both are used since it is a matter of sexual technqiue. Every individual is different, so what is right is what is individually required to move the chi and bring about inner harmony. The issues are the mutual circulation of chi brought about through sex to make one or both parties comfortable without excessive energy loss, and the possibilities of achieving a mental state free of worries and concerns that can find emptiness and relaxation at that time. This is the right approach and right way to proceed, and the most that can be mentioned in a book.
Making food and making love turn out to be two of the most important things in life, yet few know how to make these activities into medicine. Practically no one in the world is meditating, but everyone is eating food and making love. Both can be used to help transform your physical body when done correctly. Both can be used to help calm your mind.
Making love, as a physical activity, is perhaps the only practice that non-meditating people will ever encounter that can help them cultivate their chi channels a little bit, and because of the required interrelationship with the partner, sexual relations often help them to become better people. However, practically no one knows how to actualize the possibility of chi and channel cultivation through the medium of the sexual relationship. Such is the karma of human beings.
No cultivation method in the world is superior or inferior, right or wrong, but it is just that human beings misuse various techniques. There are lots of ways to misuse sexual cultivation practices, which are certainly difficult to practice correctly. Thus, celibacy is preferable for most cultivators because few are qualified with the necessary wisdom, merit and cultivation basis required for joint practice, and celibacy avoids many difficult issues which most cultivators don’t want to become involved with. However, if one is already married or involved with a relationship, the option to improve one’s sexual skills by applying these principles to their practices definitely becomes possible.
You need to know that the difference between celibacy, and celibacy coupled with meditation efforts to cultivate an empty mind that does not grasp, is like the difference between a pot of water that evaporates slowly, or is made to boil so that it evaporates quickly. In both cases the water evaporates but the slow method does not produce any power that can be harnessed. In the case of steam produced by a fire, there is a release of power that can be harnessed to do things if it is kept within a closed system.
In terms of meditation practice, the image of steam coming off boiling water reminds us that we can experience the opening of our chi channels and eventually a kundalini awakening if we refrain from losing our energies. Just as in the production of steam, the “warming” effects of meditation release internal chi energies that will open up your chakras and channels if you refuse to let them leak. On the other hand, if you practice celibacy without meditation efforts it is akin to water that evaporates very slowly to accomplish little. To be sure, the chi channels will also open a bit from a route of sexual restraint without meditation, but at a much slower pace. This slow pace is a result of celibacy unaccompanied by meditation efforts, and is a contributing factor as to why the ordinary celibate religious functionaries in many religions attain no great spiritual progress at all.
As the lives of great individuals like Moses, Abraham or even Confucius illustrate, you can still attain the Tao if you marry and lose your internal energies through sexual activities, for this is the natural path of human beings. However, the breakthrough may come at a more advanced age when you lack relevant meditation teachings and forego any concentration on meditation practice. You have all the helpful materials in this small book to practice meditation with intensity if you choose, and these examples prove you can still get the Tao even if you are not celibate or even if you start practicing meditation at an advanced age. You therefore do not have to avoid marriage if you want to make progress with meditation and spiritual pursuits, but can even, as explained, use marriage or cohabitation to your benefit because it affords you yet another possible way, through sexual relations, to help cultivate your body and its inner chi channels.
Often you will see monks and nuns in various traditions who have been celibate through the sheer force of will power to suppress desire and practice restraint, but who have not cultivated a realization of mental emptiness and thereby transformed their energies. In those cases, you may often see a shriveled countenance, rather than fullness in the face or a facial shine, because they never learned how to transmute the energies to end up cultivating their chi. (When someone transforms their energies and opens their chi channels, their face always appears bright and full.)
Those who purely practice celibacy or chastity like this, which the Hindus call brahmacharya, will always experience health benefits to the extent that they do not suppress their internal energies. Whenever anyone retains their chi, this retention will help to open up internal chi channels, which is why the Asian medical schools insist that celibacy often leads to better health and longevity. The problem occurs when people maintain these energies but suppress them from arising, because of will power, in order not to experience sexual desire. That is the wrong approach to handling the situation, and causes eventual problems.
Another common consequence of monks or nuns who try to be strict with sexual abstinence by suppressing desires is that they end up trying to protect themselves by shielding themselves from people. They become afraid to face people, and therefore even shun people or start to hate them. They can become odd, isolated or lonely individuals because of this wrong approach to discipline.
For those who never solve the problem of sexual desire through the cultivation of mental emptiness (cultivating an empty mind), but who practice forceful restraint, yet another difficult problem can often arise in subsequent lives. Due to the forceful restraint they applied in this life without learning how to let go and cultivate emptiness so as to transform consciousness, they will still have sexual desires because they never purified the roots of the situation. Their solution of forcible restraint is like putting a rock on top of weeds. This may cover the problem temporarily, but the weeds will not go away because the roots are not destroyed. In fact, those weeds will often start growing up around the rock, which is why many male religious functionaries start pursuing other males since women, in their mind, are forbidden. The same goes for their pursuit of children instead of women – it is all because they have not been taught the proper principles for handling sexual energies. They have these various religious injunctions on sexual discipline and restrait that they must adhere to, but don’t know how to transform their bodies and minds.
The strict discipline of sexual abstinence as a spiritual practice may lead to good fortune in subsequent lives, but after that good fortune is used up – like an arrow shot into the air which eventually falls to the ground – you have to start all over again, so who can say it ultimately produces good fortune? Unfortunately, most religions never truly face these difficult issues of sexual desire or want to discuss how to solve them.
Unfulfilled desires, held back due to forced restraints, can lead to all sorts of depravities when you finally have the opportunity to be free of those constraints and act without reserve. It is challenging for humans, having the bodies of animals with urges, to solve these difficulties concerning sexual desires and approach the problem with wisdom. In the present life, the forcible suppression of sexual desire usually breaks down after awhile, and then surges up into a bonfire of lust. In subsequent lives, sexual desires are often amplified for those who previously practiced the restraint of holding back through sheer force of will but who never solved the root of the problem by working to transform their consciousness. The individual felt unfulfilled, and so those urges within consciousness continued forward. In subsequent incarnations those individuals often tend to excessively pursue sex, in order to experience what they forcefully denied themselves, because those thoughts were always retained within consciousness and those urges will therefore manifest again. When given the right opportunities or circumstances, they tend to then go overboard.
Ask yourself, what has been accomplished if you do not learn how to dissolve the problem at its root by cultivating meditation and the transformation of your chi and consciousness? The only true cure to the problem of sexual desire is meditation that purifies consciousness and the urges within it. As you make more meditation progress and open more chi channels, the problem will become less and less over time. It will become less because consciousness purifies, or empties out, because discipline becomes easier to maintain, and because a healthier body will have smoother chi flows and less uncomfortable feelings that give rise to sexual desires.
Since the root problem lies in the mind, when it comes to the practice of celibacy that is where you should put your efforts to master the problem of retention. In cultivating your mind (consciousness) through meditation, you will also be cultivating your chi and the problem will lessen because of the subsequent transformation of your body. In time, as you start achieving a degree of mental emptiness, you will start purifying consciousness and end up tackling the problem at its root. This, of course, requires a commitment to meditation practice because without meditation it is difficult to calm your mind to the point where thoughts subside and you can realize the inherently empty nature of the mind.
As stated, one can even use sexual relations to help speed the transformation of your physical body (the opening of your chi channels) when it is pursued in the right way, but this is only possible for ardent cultivation practitioners with high wisdom. In everyday life, the effort must go into learning how to detach from thoughts and let go when sexual desire arises, but not suppressing those energies because they have work to do in opening up your chi channels. Those energies are involved with the yang chi or kundalini energies necessary for cleansing your chi channels, opening up chakras and harmonizing your body’s five elements. Therefore you must not cling to your sexual thoughts and let them lead you elsewhere, or you will lose those energies. On the same lines, you should not stimulate sexual thoughts, such as by constantly watching internet pornography, for you will certainly end up losing your energies from this route as well. One of the benefits for going into secluded retreat to practice meditation is that you can separate yourself from these various influences that lead to sexual desires.
The correct practice, which is only initially a bit uncomfortable for those not used to it, is not to let those rising energies carry you away and pull you into sexual activities, such as masturbation. Masturbation, or other sexual activities, are the result of attaching to thoughts (“following thoughts”) and letting them ensnare you and control your actions. Rather, you should let go of the energies you feel and thereby let them continually transform your body by opening up your channels, even if this is initially uncomfortable. You must learn how to detach from the body, which isn’t you, and successfully disidentifying from the body involves recognizing that the body is not your self. Since the body is not you, but just a phenomenon appearing within your consciousness, you do not have to act on all its impulses but can learn how to ignore its various energies and sensations. This is difficult to do, but such independence can be learned after sufficient practice effort.
Now in certain humid climates and in certain other situations, the uncomfortable feelings of your body can often be quickly alleviated through (non-ejaculatory) sexual activities or sexual cultivation. There are various conditions such as this where the chi channels within your body become much easier to open, and the chi flow becomes easier to harmonize, by using the energies stimulated through sexual intercourse. The internal movement of chi brought about by sex can indeed restore a great degree of internal comfort, if sufficient time is taken to produce chi flow harmony, which is why sex is often considered medicine for the body and can become the basis of a cultivation practice.
The more one cultivates, the more one becomes able to externally feel the internal energies of one’s partner inside their own body, and can thereby know how to move to help adjust the obstructed chi flow regions through massage and lovemaking activities. However, few can practice this correctly. It requires sufficient non-ejaculatory skills for the man, prior chi and channel cultivation to a high level, prior knowledge of what emptiness is, an understanding of the aim of harmony and smooth chi flow for the two bodies, an understanding of other details about the method and its objectives, and non-clinging throughout the passion. More often than not, the weather often plays a factor in what one can achieve through these efforts. As previously stated, in muggy or humid environments (whereupon the body often feels stuck or the individual groggy from the sluggish internal circulation of chi), it is difficult to open the chi channels and transform the body, which is often helped by this remedy.
This is another reason why many masters who succeeded have often lived in dry, arid regions. In dry regions the external water element does not hamper the body and produce uncomfortable feelings of internal chi stagnation. The wind (chi) and water elements of the body are always seemingly fighting one another until all the body channels open and the body is transformed. Through cultivation you seek to create a harmonious functioning balance between the body’s elements, but humid environments often dampen the internal circulation of chi. Thus the weather, and one’s environment, can make it much easier or more difficult to succeed in meditation.
Certain areas in the world, especially mountains with “good cultivation chi” as their feng-shui, have climatic conditions that make them sought out for cultivation progress. Many countries have such auspicious regions, though some are better than others. To feel this type of chi helpful for meditation, one need only visit the four holy mountains in China (Wutai, Omei, Jiuhua, Putuo) for comparison purposes. India has certain areas with excellent cultivation chi as well, and so do various regions within the Mideast. However, just because a region is considered “holy” or “sacred,” it does not mean that the chi in the area is good for cultivation regardless of what a spiritual tradition or promotional bureau may say. This is a large mistaken assumption that many often make. In short, it is truly difficult to find a good place to cultivate; many other factors must be taken into consideration other than the fact that the area has good chi.
As stated, the body at times will definitely feel uncomfortable due to the rising of chi, which might prompt thoughts of sexual desire, and as a life skill you just have to learn how to handle this problem with skillfulness. It cannot always be handled through sex, nor should it be. There are breathing practices, stretching and movement exercises, or meditation and detachment practices one can turn to. One can even alter their diet to reduce the problem in the first place. The highest method is to detach from the body and its sensations, and cultivate the root source of the mind. These efforts, because of the resultant chi flow, will return order, harmony and balance to the body and tend to purify consciousness so that the problem decreases.
If you refuse to attach to these energies and ignore the sensations of pressure that arise with sexual desire, this method, because you leave the energies alone, will allow them to open up your channels and achieve an inner harmonious circulatory flow in your meridians that is absent of obstructions or restrictions. This is the objective you are after whether you use sexual activities or not, and sometimes it is far easier and far less complicated, and the results are usually far better, if you just learn how to let go and achieve these results through meditation without sexual involvements. If sex was the cure all and end all then all past masters would have recommended it, but this paucity of discussion suggests just the opposite. In fact, there are many warnings as to the opposite. The correct idea is that sex is NOT the cultivation path or a form of meditation practice. Nevertheless, in this modern world of readily available sex of all kinds, you need to know about this to elevate your life skills and bring them more in line with becoming more helpful activities.
Thus, as a meditation practitioner, it is beneficial to learn how to continually release the sexual tension within your body and mind without succumbing to suppression as a means to thwart sexual energies. The pressure you feel when the chi channels start opening, which entails the chi pushing through various obstructions, is what often causes uncomfortable physical feelings or urges. You may have this strong feeling that you want to push energy through the pelvic region, and so you seek sex. This is especially true for men since most have never learned to hold their energies long enough to effect these chi channel openings. The longer you are able to do this, however, the less the problem becomes over the long run. However, there is a misguided push to encourage masturbation in today’s world which relieves the pressure but doesn’t solve the problem. The modern idea of teaching and actually encouraging children to masturbate is incorrect. It is not that it isn’t a common tendency, but that it is not to be promoted or encouraged. With such a mistaken emphasis, not only will the health of males go down, but rarely will any males develop the detachment skills that will help them improve their health and succeed in spiritual pursuits.
If you let go of sexual energies they will eventually help your body transform, and as your channels open and your chi purifies, your mind will get even quieter during your meditation practice. This is a natural process, and progress naturally builds on itself until more channels open and the problem finally no longer exists. The idea of mentally cultivating emptiness, which means knowing your thoughts but not clinging to them or trying to suppress them, means to recognize that there is sexual desire but to remain detached from it and not get swayed by it. You should avoid following it to its natural conclusions when the pressure builds. If you occupy yourself with other activities until you fall asleep, by the next day the pressure has usually shifted because the energies within can harmonize while you sleep. As with dealing with logismos, there are many strategies that can be employed to help someone master retention. The famous Christian monk, Saint Francis of Assisi, during wintertime would go out and lie in the snow to help cool his body in order to deal with sexual desires, but you do not have to resort to such remedies.
When you succeed at retaining your energies, then your channels will eventually open because you don’t give into expelling those energies, and because your channels open the pressure you experience will become less and less over time as you learn to master this. This is a life skill one should definitely set out to learn; it is not just a skill meant only for meditators and spiritual cultivation. Even the skill of learning how to have sex without ejaculation will serve both partners well because it can enable them to prolong sexual relations, and that extra time might allow both parties to reach a higher state of pleasant inner comfort and a better relationship of togetherness. Sometimes there are no obstructions in the body, but it is just that the chi flow is temporarily hampered and needs a boost, and in those cases non-ejaculatory sex can often prove quite helpful, too. As often stated, you need to learn how to adjust your body yourself which extends to the topics of food, exercise, diet, and sexual activities.
If you are a celibate man and practice abstinence, you can also lose semen through wet dreams, and in that case the Flying Bird Form performed before bed time will help you avoid this type of leakage so that you can conserve more energies for cultivation progress. In this practice, performed three times before sleeping, you stand erect with your hands at your sides. You slowly inhale deeply, drawing the air into your abdomen, while lifting your hands above your head and simultaneously raising yourself on your toes. As you inhale and raise your arms above your head, you also gradually look upwards to those overhead hands where they eventually touch in the air above your head. You will often feel the energy of your breath run up your spine into your brain as you inhale deeply and raise your body on your toes. After standing on your toes and looking upwards for several seconds, holding your breath deep within, you slowly descend with a slow exhalation to match your descent while lowering your arms to your sides once again.
Wet dreams represent the loss of some of a man’s generative force, but since this occurs naturally without our control it is nothing to be overly concerned about. It is the body’s natural solution to a problem. It simply means a person’s energies have become full, but have not yet become transformed, and thus they overflow rather than open up more channels beyond what they already have opened. The problem of wet dreams decreases as an individual opens their channels and gets better at meditation practice, so the solution in the long run is more meditation practice. Nonetheless, the flying bird form technique, practiced three to five times before sleeping, helps to eliminate the problem for those who become overly concerned. When one practices this form they can feel the breath rising into the head along their spine, and this tends to create a pathway to eliminate the problems of overflow.
Many of the problems with sexual desire arise because of our original topic of the diet—we’re eating heavy meat diets rather than being vegetarians, and meat diets typically stimulate sexual desires and lead to more sexual activities. In today’s world we are not just eating meat but ingesting high levels of stimulatory hormones at the same time. Furthermore, we are being exposed to incredible amounts of mental sexual stimulation everywhere we turn in life such as in the movies, radio songs, and on the internet. All this bombardment of sexual images helps to promote sexual desires within society far beyond any levels known in the past. If you can avoid some of these forms of stimulation in the first place, sexual desires won’t arise as frequently, and so the problem will be somewhat reduced. But in such a stimulatory environment that we now have, who can learn how to reduce their desires without the proper teachings and guidance?
When I look at world diets increasing in meat and hormone consumption, and see people surrounded by increasingly graphical stimulatory depictions of sex on the internet, radio and television, and see the pace of life increasing wherein people seek sex as a necessary outlet of relaxation to be able to handle it all, and don’t even have time to meditate anymore, I shed a tear fearing that fewer individuals will be able to succeed at cultivation in the future. Hence, I am giving you the concentrated gist of many teachings so you can accomplish as much progress as possible given the unfortunate circumstances of our present day.
Sexual desire is one of the top reasons men fail at their cultivation, for they don’t know how to handle the increasing levels of stimulation they are now exposed to. If you can throw yourself into breathing exercises, martial arts or yoga stretches, or other forms of joint and muscle exercises when sexual desire arises, this can also help alleviate the discomfort because you will be redirecting your energies elsewhere. The problem will hence dissipate. Many people throughout the ages have noted that physical exercise reduces sexual desire because those energies are diverted elsewhere – into building the muscles. Eliminating certain stimulatory foods from the diet (such as garlic and onions) also tends to reduce desire, as does becoming a vegetarian or reducing one’s food intake in total. However, these are not long term solutions which can cut off the root of the problem.
If you are married or have a partner, the problem can be skillfully handled, as stated, through sexual relations without ejaculation. This is called “sexual cultivation” when the right principles are applied, but most people do not know how to perform this correctly, as already discussed. In the final analysis, no matter what methods you employ, the solution involves some form of meditation practice. Even tantric pictures of male Buddhas with female consorts include other symbols pointing out the necessity of meditation practices before one can use this type of technique. The practice of mental detachment from desire leads to eventually eliminating the mind of desire, and that is the awareness practice of meditation. Like getting rich slowly, it simply takes time to master this. Desire will eventually subside through the practice of detachment rather than suppression, and this is the true long term cure to the problem.
The key in terms of cultivation is to let the body’s energies transform the body, and as those transformations are worked through, the problem will become less severe. That sequence of transformations, called purification or catharsis in Christianity, absolutely requires meditation in some form or another. As you experience more and more of what it means to have an emptier mind, without suppressing thoughts or the energies trying to arise and without succumbing to the physical sensations and urges, you will have a much easier time with retention.
This simply means you must practice, practice, practice at learning how to detach from the pull of thoughts and physical sensations that arise within the body. This will help you avoid masturbation. As to sex itself, men should try to learn non-ejaculatory sexual techniques. If you are a man and fail at either of these avenues—and you most certainly will at first—it’s no big deal and no reason for guilty feelings or dejected feelings of failure. Never give up, feel dejected or become worried that you won’t be able to master this because it’s all just a matter of sufficient practice. As with any worthwhile activity in life that you wish to master, you must pick yourself up after any type of failure and try again. You should just keep working at cultivating a skill until you reach a state of mastery. It’s as simple and as humanistic as that.
Like learning to ski or ride a bike, you may fall down a lot in the beginning, but with practice you will gain proficiency at non-ejaculatory sexual relations, or refraining from masturbation, and then seldom fall afterwards. It always takes practice to learn a new skill, and you have to try to develop that sort of mindset rather than succumb to the frustration of initial failures and give up trying.
Because most people don’t know that the actual secret is cultivating mental emptiness through meditation, and thereby learning some degree of detachment so that you can stay independent of whatever arises in the mind without becoming entangled, the problem of celibacy and retention often becomes a psychological affair that can lead to all sorts of mood swings and neurotic behavior until the channels clear enough for mental and bodily discomforts to decrease. When your meditative stability has increased and you start to transform the roots of desire in the mind, you won’t be as compulsively tossed around by the pressures of the body or sexual desires anymore. Until your channels fully open, however, some vestiges of the problem will always remain. Therefore, please remember that it takes time to develop proficiency to deal with the problem, and you must simply keep trying to learn restraint. Men should not berate themselves for failing now and then when initiating this undertaking in self-mastery.
The issue has to be solved by the transmutation or purification of your sexual energies into a more refined stage of chi and channel openings, and this is only accomplished slowly over time through meditation. Sex itself won’t save you, and the movements of the lower torso won’t save you or bring you to samadhi or enlightenment. You also cannot absorb the energies of your partner through sex in hopes it will help your physical body or empower your spiritual practice with extra energy, which is another mistaken notion many wrongly propagate. However, you can learn how to have sex in such a way that you activate the body’s chi energies so that they start to ascend, or so that the flowing energies can dissolve channel obstructions and both partners feel so comfortable that they can relax and detach from their bodies and minds. If both partners can let go at that time, they can both realize a bit of emptiness which may empower their spiritual practice and physical transformations yet further. As with vegetarianism, it is a complicated topic, so it must be approached with wisdom and caution.
* For the rest of the chapter, pick up The Little Book of Meditation.