Sexual Desire, Sexual Desire, Sexual Desire ... Argh! ... And You're Telling Me I Have to Meditate?
I swear it's true ...
I get more emails and calls from cultivators on the problem of sexual desire than on almost any other topic.
As Shakyamuni Buddha said in The Sutra in Forty-two Sections,
In the Surangama Sutra, Buddha said, "The difference between the worldly and the saintly depends solely on the elimination or not of sexual desire.
In that same sutra he also said, "If you do not stop sexual desires while you want to attain samadhi, it's like trying to steam sand to make rice. Even if you steam sand for hundreds of aeons, it will always remain sand." Specifically, Shakyamuni Buddha told his cousin Ananda,
Confucius, who was also enlightened, said, "I have yet to meet a man who is as fond of virtue as he is of women (Analects IX.18)."
Okay, okay. Enough. You already know it's a problem. You don't need me to tell you that.
"Arghhh" is what I hear most men say ... and sometimes women, too. When you cultivate your chi rises. Chi is vital energy, and that vital energy ignites sexual desire.
The sequence of events is that simple. Meditate -> chi rises -> sexual desire -> leakage -> start all over again.
Most men don't succeed on the spiritual path because they let sexual desire get the best of them while most women don't succeed because they attach to emotions. As I explain in Twenty-Five Doors to Meditation, the woman's body is yang on the inside while the mentality is of the yin nature; men have yin bodies while their mentality is of a yang nature from which it's much easier to cultivate wisdom. That's why women have less problems with sexual desire, and men have less troubles cultivating wisdom.
That's in general, mind you.
Now Napoleon Hill also found out something interesting regarding sexual desire. He found out in analyzing the cases of over 25,000 successful men, "the major reason why the majority of men who succeed do not begin to do so before the age of forty to fifty, is their tendency to dissipate their energies through over-indulgence in physical expression of the emotion of sex."
Why is sexual restrain so important? Because you need to cultivate chi and then shen and emptiness of the spiritual path, but chi is born from your jing. Lose your jing and presto -- all the good chi you've cultivated for the path is gone.
The good stuff is the refined stuff, and that's what's lost first.
As Cultivating the Energy of Life, by Liu Hua-Yang and translated by by Eva Wong, states:
This is all true but I don't like this explanation because it stresses too much the physical gong-fu of the path. Any Zen master would kick any student clinging onto this type of result in order to knock some sense into them to let go of this sort of expectation. Nevertheless, the major gong-fu of the path cannot occur unless you practice sexual restraint.
Now, does that mean you should never orgasm? No ... I didn't say that. Men can have sex but should try not to ejaculate and lose their semen. Taoism teaches that. Pick up a copy of Jolan Chang's books and he'll teach you how to have sex without ejaculation.
For women, orgasm is less harmful than for men because their bodies are built to reabsorb the energies they lose. That's why the I-Ching says, "yang offers, yin receives."
Anyway, if you want to use the physical body and the mind of sexual desire to attain the miraculous fruit of enlightenment, it's impossible. The physical body--in fact any body of form--won't take you to enlightenment and sexual desires won't either. There's also no such thing as spiritualizing lust.
What do you then do?
When desire arises, don't let it turn into mental thoughts and images. The mental realm is really where the battle takes place. If your chi arises and you haven't yet opened up all your chi mai to experience a state of bliss, the desire will no doubt ignite mental lusts and then you're a goner. So if they are ignited, do something to cut off their momentum.
That's the trick.
You can argue all you want about the fact you must triumph over sexual desire to tread the path. You can kick and scream and deny it or wish it weren't so, but that's just the way it is. A cultivator has to discover that the heroic journey to spiritual realization will always require a degree of restraint, and he must come to recognize the path can never be achieved by sexual means.
The first step on the spiritual path is just this plain and simple-sexual restraint for a period of time--and yet it's very difficult to accomplish this first step. If you can eat less, practice pranayama breathing exercises and body unmindfulness (wherein you ignore the pulling sensations of your body), then it'll be much easier to pass this particular barrier.
This first hurdle is mentioned in almost every spiritual cultivation school because the transformation of jing into higher spiritual essences is a basic step on the spiritual path, and yet it's very hard to climb up this first step because of our sexual urges.
What I can tell you is there is no easy solution, but you have to keep trying over and over again. In time your chi mai will really open and trust me, that body bliss is far some intense and satisfying over sexual bliss. Sexual bliss absolutely cannot match the bliss of the dhyana.
So I know your problem, but keep at it. Don't worry that you fail and must try again. Just keep at it and in time all your chi mai will open and the problem will disappear. It's a problem of detachment rather than suppression, so learn how to liberate your mind into emptiness, forget your body, and the problem will go be transformed away.
Here's another trick you can use. In the Surangama Sutra, one of Buddha's students -- Usschusma -- says he was tormented by sexual desire until he learned how to transform it. He used a combination of the skeleton meditation with following his breath.
But how do you do so? By using two tricks combined. Whenever sexual desire arises, it's located in the body. That is, we particularize and experience it in our body. Your mind follows this particularization by fixating on the body so get rid of it by imagining that the whole universe becomes a raging fire that flickers and burns. That flickering will correspond to your chi flows rising and going crazy to produce sexual desire, which you can't seem to get a hold of. If you make that feeling universal, then you won't be able to lock onto your body anymore because that feeling will be EVERYWHERE.
Secondly, you can imagine that the entire universe becomes blissful and forget your body once again through the feeling of universal bliss. Combine the two -- flickering burning fire and bliss -- and you'll forget your body while it transforms through the rising chi, and your chi mai will finally open. Then you'll finally get over sexual desire AND your chi mai will open AND you'll learn how to forget your body AND attain emptiness.
... all at the same time.
Spiritual cultivation practice is a hard road and this is the best I can offer. You have to let go of sexual desire and liberate it into emptiness and it helps to have tricks like this to do so. It isn't you and the body isn't you either. Neither are your thoughts or sensations as they just belong to the skandhas.
As to the fact you have to get over sexual desire, the Great Sun Tathagata (Buddha) Vairocana said, "There's no use complaining. It's just the way it is." Our task as human beings is to triumph over the energies that keep us in the Desire Realm. That's how we uplift ourselves into becoming true spiritual beings.
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