The Problem of Sexual Urges and Spiritual Cultivation, Including How Losing Your Vitality Can Interfere With Meditation Practice
The question of sex always arises when someone become serious, truly serious, about the practice of spiritual cultivation.
Many people then choose to refrain from sex, causing difficulties between husband and wife, and justify their restraint on the fact that they want to cultivate. In many cases they simply are bored with having sex with their partner and use cultivation as an excuse for refraining from sexual relations. Yes, that's so.
There are also those who refrain from sex because they honestly want to cultivate, but who also thereby cause suffering to their spouse who still needs it or wants it. Those people need some sort of solution to their predicament because this course of action involves a lack of compassion. It's the spouse who suffers.
There are also those who practice celibacy and yet who don't make any progress in spite of practicing the discipline of "no leakage." That's because they don't know how to practice correctly, and forget that cultivation is effective only if they simultaneously cultivate emptiness. Otherwise, as Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine point out, physical restraint only helps the health, and that's about all.
Then again, there are those who use willpower to refrain from sex, without dissolving the roots of the problem through emptiness cultivation, and then next life they go wild for sex because they restrained themselves harshly in a previous life, and are now free of constraints because they're now born in a different tradition.
There are also those who don't refrain from sex at all, and who also get nowhere in terms of their cultivation, or achieving any sort of kung-fu, and wonder why. Why, why, WHY don't they make progress in spite of years of ardent efforts? No one bothers to tell them that the transformation of jing (seminal, generative energy) to chi (life force energy, which involves the separation of the koshas (body sheaths as explained by Hinduism) requires a degree of sexual discipline.
In short, no water in the boiler, no steam in the pipes and no steam in the pipes, no power in the system. Lose your jing, you lose your chi and without chi you have no kung-fu.
There are so many factors to consider. What is it you need to know about this topic?
First of all, there are two extremes possible when it comes to sex.
There are the rules for maintaining celibacy promoted by Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, yoga and so forth for people who really want to cultivate a spiritual path. The rule is NO SEX, and yet no one can actually follow it. Yes, these schools talk about the rules of sexual discipline and no leakage, and yet no one can follow them.
One the other hand, there are those who hold the view that you should have sex whenever you want, which of course ignores any obvious effects on the health from sexual dissipation as well as the tie-ins to states of kung-fu and spiritual progress. This is a growing view in the Western cultures, and who there ever develops samadhi or the higher states of spiritual attainment?
There is also the modern understanding, currently promoted by Western science, that if you don't have sex it's bad for you, which is just an excuse for giving yourself over to sex. Actually, the research is still going on involving this subject, so this viewpoint is not yet a definite conclusion. So the idea that masturbation is good for you, while promoted by Western culture, has not factored in the complete picture of the situation. In terms of sexual injunctions, such as not drinking cold things during or after sex, or not having sex in front of a draft, air conditioner and so forth, and not to lose the elixir too frequently, on these notes the Eastern schools are far ahead of the Western schools in their empirical observations and injunctions.
Science doesn't even recognize the fact that certain healthy male athletes can feel the energy loss if they have sex and lose their semen (and chi) before a sports event or competition. With so much at stake and having proved it to themselves, they therefore refrain from dissipation before an important event.
Naturally, some athletes cannot feel any difference at all, and think it's all in the mind. There are reasons for this obliviousness, too, such as their youth (an overflowing abundance of energy usually masks the reality of the situation, as it does for many medical conditions) or the fact that they are, in effect, "body dead" and usually cannot feel anything at all. Talk to body workers and massage therapists and you'll hear countless cases of athletes who cannot feel anything in their bodies, so this should come as no surprise.
The first point you must understand in all this is the following: "Don't think cultivation is that easy." Don't think you can have sex whenever you want and still succeed.
Don't think it's that easy that you can do whatever you want whenever you want and still achieve the Tao. That may sound attractive or the way you want things to be, but is simply wrong. Who said the universe has to follow your rules, whims or inclinations? The reason the many masters of various traditions unanimously tell you about these injunctions is that they prove these principles to themselves. They may not hold for other sentient beings in other realms, but for human beings with this type of body and karmic condition, that's just the way things are.
People lock on to all sorts of crazy ideas in life, such as they "deserve this" or "deserve that" as promoted by the New Age self-help and manifestation crowds, but if you have not cultivated the merit for some status, possession or achievement in life you want, then in truth you deserve nothing at all. That's simply the way the universe operates. You cannot sweep away universal principles and laws just by saying it's unfair, the path is hard, or it shouldn't be so. To do so is unrealistic. So you can demand all you want, but you are speaking to the wind. With the karma you've inherited by being born in this realm, you are subject to certain laws and limitations.
In other words, once again I tell you what my teacher always says: "Don't think cultivation is so easy." You have to CULTIVATE to achieve the Tao.
Second of all, a point people miss is that for complete cultivation achievement you want MIND enlightenment, and you want the BODY to become enlightened, too.
The typical approach, such as followed in Zen, is to ignore the body and attain the Tao (enlightenment, realize the dharmakaya) through cultivating prajna transcendental wisdom. You ignore the body entirely and look for the source of the mind without cultivating mental attachments.
After achieving the Tao, next you finish the catch up task of finishing off the transformation of the physical body so that it, too, can be transformed into a purified Reward body, or sambhogakaya. This is a body whose five elements have been transformed, and every cell has actually achieved a measure of awakening. Shakyamuni Buddha actually demonstrated this achievement in one of the sutras wherein we can say that every cell actually becomes enlightened, too. But we cannot go into the details of the Reward or Enjoyment body here in such a short space.
Now to be honest, one way to approach the Tao is to cultivate the body first to a state of purity, and then use the purified body to help cultivate the realization of the Tao. Most of the form school adherents try to practice this path, but most of the participants on these roads NEVER succeed because of clinging to the body when they say they aren't. These folks laugh at the Mind-only practitioners and say you'll never achieve immortality because you guys don't cultivate the body, but they never achieve immortality OR the Tao because they get too tied up in clinging to form realm practices. Frankly, they don't have enough wisdom to travel the form schools and make progress using those vehicles.
Most Tao school, yoga and Esoteric school practitioners fall into this camp. They strive to turn their physical body into a Rainbow body by which they can use this purified body to enlighten both body and mind. When you achieve this stage of kung-fu - the Rainbow body - you can choose to stay in this world forever or leave if you want. You can use it as a basis for achieving the Tao, but the achievement of it is NOT THE TAO. It is simply laying a foundation for the achievement of the Tao wherein your body no longer presents that much of an obstacle on the path.
Achieving this sort of body is simply cultivating a certain type of kung-fu, but most who cultivate this avenue do not cultivate wisdom and rarely get past the first dhyana (samadhi). Upon enlightenment, you can cultivate a REAL Rainbow body whereas what most people cultivate is just a semblance of the real thing. Yes, it is a cultivation achievement but it's only at the level of the Form Skandha, and does not constitute enlightenment. If you want to cultivate this type of kung-fu, there are certain practices as well as arid locations that best suited for this sort of practice.
The quicker and surer way to enlightenment is to ignore this body of ours entirely and just shoot for mind enlightenment. This type of practice, as found in Zen, definitely involves refraining from sex. That's the road of practice - empty mind cultivation and ignoring the body to achieve the Tao.
Many who achieve the Tao through this route, once they attain it, choose to leave this world rather than stay and complete the transformation of their physical nature. So they, too, make the error of never achieving Perfect and Complete Enlightenment. Naturally the physical body transforms as you cultivate this path, and once you achieve the Tao, you work on finishing the transformation.
I want you to remember two quotes. Remember, no one tells you this in cultivation clearly, but there are two sides to the coin. Therefore the first quote: "Merely to cultivate the physical body in order to achieve long life, but not to practice to realize the self-nature is a cultivation practitioner's first mistake. To practice only for realizing the self-nature, however, but not for the internal elixir, will result in your practicing for ten thousand eons without becoming a sage."
The second quote, another similar saying runs, "By cultivating your essential nature only, without cultivating life [without cultivating the gong-fu which entails transforming the physical body], the yin spirit will not become a saint in 10,000 aeons."
I'm going to take a risk and throw in an Esoteric school teaching by Master Tsong Khapa of Tibet on deity yoga (from Tantra in Tibet, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, p. 129), and for those who know of this sort of practice, you'll realize that he, too, was saying you have to cultivate both your body (chi) AND your mind to achieve the Tao. If you don't know what deity yoga is, then just ignore these 3 paragraphs:
'If one cultivates only (a path) having the nature of a deity [if one only works on cultivating their chi and mai gong-fu of the physical body], one cannot become fully enlightened merely through that because the fulfillment of (yogic) activities is not complete. Or, if one meditates on the suchness of a deity and not on the deity [if one cultivates emptiness but ignores the physical aspect of chi and mai cultivation within the physical nature], one will attain Buddhahood in many countless aeons but not quickly. Through meditating on both, one will attain the highest perfect complete enlightenment very quickly because to do so is very appropriate and has special empowering blessings.'
'Thus, Ratnakarashanti says that if one cultivates only deity yoga, one simply cannot become fully enlightened. Also, even if one does not meditate on a deity, through meditation on emptiness accompanied by other methods one can become fully enlightened in many countless aeons. If one meditates both on a deity and on emptiness, it is the quick path.'
'Therefore, the master Ratnakarashanti also asserts that the view of emptiness is common to both Mahayanas and that without deity yoga the path is slow like the Perfection Vehicle, but through joining deity yoga with the view of emptiness the path is quick.'
Yet another quote from another tradition: "Without the body the Tao cannot be attained. But with the body Truth can never be realized." What's that mean? It has implication for those who concentrate on the body too much, and who therefore never achieve the Tao.
All these quotes basically say that you need to achieve MIND enlightenment and TRANSFORM THE BODY on the cultivation path. You want to achieve body enlightenment, too, and for those who know the way, sex can help transform the body for the path.
So the third way is to actually use sex on the spiritual path, which is the road of Tantra. Of course everyone says they want to do this, but few are actually qualified. Shakyamuni Buddha had hundreds of qualified students with high stage Tao and he refused to teach this road. The great Esoteric Master Tsong Khapa of Tibet also forbid monks from practicing this route. Nagarjuna, the founder of the Esoteric school, also did not teach it.
Think deeply on this fact - if these greats, who had qualified students, refused to teach it, you must really ask WHY?
All the religions of the world actually ignore the topic of sex. They'll talk about everything else, but they leave this one alone. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. - they just skirt around the issue and dismiss it with various injunctions. However, two cultivation schools actually address the topic DIRECTLY and teach you how to cultivate the path along with sex.
These are the schools of Taoism and Esoteric Buddhism. Only these schools address the topic of sex directly.
Actually, the original school of Esoteric Buddhism was founded by Nagarjuna and includes nothing about sexual cultivation. Master Nagarjuna indeed introduced pictures of male Buddhas in embrace with their consorts (Buddha mothers), but the meaning of these pictures were that the yin and yang energies of the physical body must become harmonized for you to succeed on the path. This is something we've talked about when discussing Western alchemy, so we cannot go into much here discussion here. The Shingon school, of Japan, is the closest surviving vehicle we have that resembles this original tradition, and in it you'll also find no mention of sexual cultivation. So you have to think about this.
The ORIGINAL Tao school has a strong equivalence to Zen, and the original Tao school does not deal with sex either. Actually, the peak of the Esoteric school and the peak of the Tao school are equivalents to Zen, but we cannot go into that here, either. What I want you to know is that the development or introduction of sexual cultivation techniques into cultivation schools actually developed over time simply as a way of helping qualified practitioners attain the first dhyana, and no more, for that's as far as they can take you, if at all.
They cannot take you to enlightenment. They cannot liberate you.
No one can liberate you through sex. Don't be cheated, especially by Indian and Tibetan masters and all sorts of self-proclaimed gurus. The most it can do is help you transform your body, and you still need to cultivate to attain the first dhyana. That is all. It can only help you reach the first dhyana and if you really want to succeed on this route, you need lots of merit, you have to practice the skeleton meditation and breathing practices to open up your chi channels, you have to have an enlightened master and heavenly help to teach you, you have to have high wisdom and absence of desire, you have to find the right partner, you need the right conditions, frankly no one can do it.
The actual techniques of sexual cultivation, together with kundalini yoga, came from the top of the Desire Realm heavens, and very few people are qualified for either of these roads of practice. Everyone says they are, or wishes they are, but frankly, you need the merit of a King or Queen to succeed at these techniques, let alone be introduced to them. The reason some masters can practice them is because the first dhyana is a stage of merit that is higher than the status of any worldly King or ruler. If you reach the first dhyana-samadhi you're already out of the Desire Realm.
Now there are lots of books today supposedly talking about tantra and using sex for the path. None of these books mention genuine tantric teachings but are just texts on sexual yoga, and many are not even that but just poor attempts to spiritualize lust. What they teach is usually quite laughable if you consider it sexual cultivation. If you consider it sexual yoga, that's okay because sex in different positions can be used for health conditions when practiced correctly, but that's yet another different topic.
If you're interested, I do recommend you familiarize yourself with the content in the works of Jolan Chang when you want to learn about sexual techniques with a partner, and the Plain Girl (woman) Sutra from China which discusses the theory behind these techniques. Those are some of the best sources available, in addition to translations by Doug Wile.
The big rule to help you out is the following and only this: Cultivate a clear mind, and then there will be less desire. That should help guide you in the first place. That's the idea to follow.
A clear mind equates to less desire.
The more you cultivate an empty mind, the easier it will be to get over the pull of sexual desire and succeed at the first dhyana. Once you do that, the pull of sex is lessened 80-90%, if not more.
Deep breathing practices, when done correctly and with force so as to involve your chi fully, can divert sexual desire when it bothers you. Or, yes you can learn how to have sex with a partner without leakage in order to continue your cultivation. That's the basis of tantra, with chi cultivation thrown in. Yes, avoiding stimulating foods like garlic and onions helps cut down on sexual desire. Yes, eating less helps lower desire. Yes, avoiding pornography helps prevent a fanning of desire. Yes, avoiding hormones and hormone stimulants helps reduce desires.
There are all sorts of obvious rules like this we cannot go into because time is short.
As to the crazy, mistaken and evil practices of trying to steal sexual energies from a sexual partner for ANY purpose whatsoever, we'll have to leave a discussion of this topic off for another time as well. People promote all sorts of mistaken notions on sex because of this or that ancient book, and never realize these ancient books are mistaken. Why? Because frankly, people just want an excuse for sex, so they seize on all sorts of mistaken notions to justify lustful attitudes. They want an excuse for sex, and so they seize on spiritual cultivation as the justification. People don't know their own deep minds!
Remember Buddha, Tsong Khapa and Nagarjuna. They had qualified students and never taught anything, did they? Think about this.
There are all sorts of related issues we could discuss on this topic, but we'll have to save them for another time. I think I've revealed as much as can be written about these matters in the chapters on sexual cultivation in Twenty Five Doors to Meditation and Meditation for Beautiful Skin contain more info than you'll find on all the texts out there that supposedly talk about this topic.
Remember. As my teacher always say, "If you want sex then have sex, but don't say you're cultivating. You're just cheating yourself and others." If someone tries to say they'll liberate or save you or speed your evolution via sex, run the other way. Rely on your wisdom. I tell you this time and again. Then again if you have a partner and start to learn sexual yoga, of course it might help you. Relationship counseling might help you, too. Learning how to make a family budget might help you. All sorts of things might help you in various ways, but don't elevate them and take them out of perspective.
The big lessons to remember out of all this are: (1) don't think cultivation is that easy, (2) you have to SUCCEED with mind and body enlightenment to achieve the full Tao, and (3) with a clear mind there is less desire, (4) you have to cultivate wisdom and discipline on the path to succeed, and don't forget virtue and merit.
Use these principles, and all the other free lessons on the site, to help guide yourself but don't get suckered in by your own notions of wanting things to be a certain way. Remember, there are NO SECRET METHODS in spiritual cultivation. The rule is emptiness practice all the way, along with cultivation of MERIT and WISDOM, and the basis of passing through the stages of advancement involve cessation-contemplation to the very end. The basic principle of the spiritual path is to let go of your mind, to rest your wandering thoughts, to let go of mental clinging and abide in the natural state without clinging or desire. You can word it in 1,000 ways but it's all the same thing. It's in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, etc. It's all there, it's always the same thing.
Ponder that. All the methods in the world involve virtue and merit, emptiness, non-clinging and non-ego. They do not involve clinging to the body, but forgetting about the body, ignoring the body, not identifying with the body. The big mistake of most form school practitioners, such as in Esoteric Buddhism, is that they bring consciousness into the body in order to practice. Your real mind is everywhere, so why do you try to bring it into the body? Why do you try to localize it and grab hold of it? Do you know what you're doing?
If you understand these principles on a deep level, then you'll know how to practice any meditation technique from any school with proficiency. Remember that there aren't any secrets, just mistaken notions and incorrect practice, and practice that isn't disciplined enough or long enough or deep enough to show progress. Grab a method, practice it with patience and consistency and in time you'll achieve results. Don't get confused or cheated but just proceed straight ahead and issues such as the body will stop bothering you.
No one said it would be easy, but then again, the method of letting go is a method of no-effort, of stop using effort, so actually it's not hard. It's just a practice of breaking the habit of clinging.
Hope that helps.
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