A Serious objection to an article written by William J Broad in the New York Times published on Feb 27th 2012 titled ‘Yoga and Sex Scandals - no surprise here’
Dearest NYT Editor,
I find the article ‘Yoga and Sex scandals - no surprise here’ an affront to all rational human beings, and contain some serious allegations that hurt my sentiments.
I request an apology and retraction of the following sentences in specific. I have substantiated my objection in a 2000 word article.
“One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.”
“if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.”
So, let me present a different point of view, with some explanations drawing from yogic documentation that i have read and interpreted. It is in the form of an article that i have published on my personal blog.
You’re having sex with your lover.
Magical foreplay has left you mighty aroused.
You’re in the middle of pleasurable lovemaking.
As the heat builds, things gets sweatier, approaching the climax.
Time dilation takes over, and then….it hits you.
The most pleasurable sensation you have ever experienced, washes over you in waves.
You go all cross eyed and feel strange sensations of being one with all matter and energy.
You scream the lord’s name (or any four letter word)
That, my friends, is a medium size orgasm.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? You should probably get yourself an orgasm at the earliest. If no one is available to help you out, do use your right hand. Instructions available online.
That orgasm. That bliss. Let us start with examining that for a second. Lets define this as Data point 1 - ultimate bliss.
Statistics, Research and rape cases in Delhi show us that - Sex drives humans.
Apart from procreation, and burning some calories, the only other obvious benefit of sex is to attain bliss.
Ergo, humans are looking for the ultimate bliss.
Sex drives animals too. In fact, sex drives most sentient beings.
(Sorry plants, you would skew my argument by being a (non)fucking outlier)
So, is the ultimate desire - ultimate bliss?
Ultimate bliss, is what enlightenment is all about. Its about being one with the universe.
The term is called mukti, or moksha - which means letting go, liberation.
Where your body ceases to exist as an individual and becomes one with the universe.
The appropriate terminology would be Atman and Brahman.
Atman is you - your soul, your identity.
Brahman is the universe - not the politically incorrect term for the Indian bourgeois.
A really learned sage called Shankaracharya, propagated a pretty cool idea about 1200 years ago. And he had learnt it from his guru who learnt it from his guru, so this must have been at the dawn of time itself.
This idea was called Advaita - non duality.
Where there is no distinction between YOU (atman) and the UNIVERSE (brahman).
If there is no duality, then you are realized, you are enlightened.
So, what are they talking about? Attaining the ultimate bliss.
And there are many ways to do it - meditation, yoga, ayurvedic purification of the body etc etc.
And sex is ONE method to attain the ultimate bliss.
But the only problem with sex is, this bliss lasts for hardly a few seconds. And after you receive your bliss, you’re tired as a dog.
Men especially, who roll over and sleep off.
So, we see that the act of receiving this ultimate bliss isn’t as easy on us. An average human being can handle a few seconds of bliss.
But mukti, moksha, enlightenment talks about entering a blissful state and staying there! :o
Is this even possible? So this brings up a small requirement.
That is the only way to build up your capacity for this aforementioned ultimate bliss.
The good news is, such preparation and training is available with every faith, religion, and pagan ritual.
The bad news is that - if you have ever been fortunate to have experienced things like prayer sessions, visits to shrines, pilgrimages, rituals etc - that seems to be the only documented way to prepare yourself for this ultimate bliss. And this takes forever - this is anything but an overnight job.
And no - having sex ten times a day will not improve your spiritual capacity. It may however, give you a ripped midsection after all that cardio.
So - if you are spiritually prepared, and become ONE with the universe, you will receive oodles and oodles of ultimate bliss. Data point 2.
Phew. And all of this is JUST one possible way to attain enlightenment. To become a Buddha, so to speak.
If only it were so easy. Sigh.
Some history -
Thomas, the Apostle shows up in Kerala in 52AD. Being a man of god, and a man on a mission, he does not get distracted with the delicious fish curry, unspoiled backwaters and coconut hair oil smeared women of Kerala.
When he meets the first Keralite, he talks to him about Jesus Christ and this new and exciting religion called Christianity. But this Keralite has absolutely no idea who Jesus is, or how Christianity is spelt - in spite of all the head bobbing and general agreement to St.Thomas’s religious pitch, he doesnt even know what the word Religion meant!
And, history continued.
A few hundred years later, Muhamed of Ghazni, during a summer backpacking trip to the subcontinent, met and asked a simpleton on the street if he belonged to a religion called Islam. Naturally the simpleton would not have understood the word Islam or religion, and replied in the negative. Muhamed of Ghazni is reported to have torn his shirt off and turned into the incredible hulk. And so, his band of hulks set out to kill every non-muslim/infidel in this part of the world. And they would have, if not for the brilliant idea of converting these infidels to Islam.
So, my point really is - there was no religion called Hinduism. There were just regular folk hanging around in the subcontinent, and foreigners came and started asking questions about religion and converting them into Christians, Muslims and the like.
So, a bunch of these natives figured that if they weren’t Christian or Muslim or Jewish etc, they were left out of this cool new club called Religion. So they decided to call the religion itself Hinduism, because thats was the Mughal word of the day - Hindus, those infidel rascals who live on the other side of the Sind river.
Hinduism became a religion not out of inclusion but out of exclusion. Data point 3.
The Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata etc - we shall call them ‘The Documents’ - are now cited as the holy epics of Hinduism. Convenient, for purposes of unification and simplicity, but not exactly accurate, as just pointed out.
These ‘Documents’, actually belonged to an era before Hinduism. There were wayyyy more documents, but they met their fate in the following ways -
- Mughal invaders destroyed everything they came across. Bhaktiyar Khilji, to cite just one example of many, burnt down the Nalanda university library, the largest library in historical existence. The library took 3 whole months to burn up completely. So a lot of ‘Documents’ went missing.
- A lot of it hasn’t even been translated into English. And some of them are so complex, they may never even get translated.
- They used to rock the Gurukul system and oral tradition those days. Very few things were written and passed on.
- Some are just lost.
Given that this is pre-Hinduism, everything those days was called ‘Sanatana Dharma’ - which means ‘Way of Life’, or ‘Eternal Truth’.
So all these documents, documented the ‘Way of Life’, or Sanatana Dharma’.
Could this just be a record of the past? Of the prevalent knowledge then? Of the ideas, knowledge and history of those times?
Data point 4.
Yoga, comes from Sanatana Dharma. Yoga is a common term for many many things.
Wikipedia describes it as a physical, mental and spiritual discipline.
What people perceive as Yoga, is actually just a small little part of it - Hatha Yoga and the asanas.
Go buy a Yoga mat, put on your Yoga clothes, and lets do Yoga! Because its so much cooler than Pilates!
So, in the west, Yoga means fitness. It sometimes means charlatans posing as Gurus (very much like the eponymous movie, ‘The Guru’), making sweet love to their Heather Grahams.
But Yoga means a lot of things.
And there are different types of Yogas.
There is Hatha, Bhakti, Mantra, Karma, Kriya, Jnana, Kundalini, Swara, Raja and many others.
Different types of Yoga. Data point 5.
Unfortunately, Yoga, and Tantric Yoga are equated with sex. Theres even a term for it - Tantric sex! If we need to demystify this, lets look at the science.
There are three divisions -
Tantra, Yantra and Mantra.
Same family of science. They rhyme, in case you didn’t notice.
No sex cult stuff yet.
An analogy id like to give is -
Tantra is the technique, or the general idea
Yantra is the drawing of it, the instrument
Mantra is the vocal articulation of it
So ancient ideas relating to ancient science were articulated in these 3 ways.
A tantra, a yantra and a mantra.
Still no sex cult stuff here.
1. Tantra is the technique for understanding and using the energy around you.
2. Yantra means instrument. Simply put, Yantras are diagrams of energy fields and cosmic maps and all of that.
Think of a Yantra as an ancient mindmap. So, to use this mindmap, we’d need a stencil.
The stencils of the ancients contained 5 elements - Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space.
So they would use equilateral triangles, and lines, and lotuses and zeros - and draw these beautiful energy fields. Yantras were a physical representation of universal principles known to the ancients. Yantras are also called Mandalas and the geometric design were even used in temple architecture to maximize the human benefit of visiting a temple.
3. Mantras are the sounds and vibrations. It is said that ancient language was a mapping of various energy points in your body. So when you say the word ‘Om’, it vibrates something inside your body. When you say a full mantra, it vibrates various parts of you. So it gave you spiritual powers by vibrating your energy centers.
Still no sex cult stuff.
So, Tantra, Yantra and Mantra are three representations of universal science. Data point 6.
We could go into Ayurveda, Cosmology and really deep science here, but thats out of the purview of this argument. The best part about all of this, is that its religion agnostic. Just like how Yoga does not require any religious prerequisite, Tantra, Yantra and Mantra also don’t.
It is useful to learn that the discipline of Tantric Yoga explicitly defines 5 forbidden things -
Sex, Alcohol, Meat, Fish, Money
There are two approaches in Tantra -
The left handed approach that prescribes mandatory use of the 5 forbidden things.
The right handed approach that prohibits use of the 5 forbidden things.
The magnanimous ancients were smart enough to define the left handed approach because one way to transcend a desire is to turn it into a sacred action and offer it to your favorite deity! Pretty cool eh!
So, the overall point here is - Tantra is not sex. And Yoga is not a sex cult.
In closing, id like to borrow a quote from a beautiful book i once read - Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses by Dr. David Frawley -
“The Yoga tradition does not reject sexual energy as evil, bad or shameful.
Celibacy is recommended along with spiritual practices only to transmute that energy for usage at another level.
Without proper meditational practices, Celibacy can be harmful because the unused energy can stagnate and cause various physical and emotional problems”.
If someone has lied about his celibacy and gone around having the ‘sexy time’ with unsuspecting devotees, thats not Yoga’s fault.
If someone has painted one large brush stroke claiming that Tantric Yoga is all about sex, thats not Yoga’s fault.
If someone chooses to sue their guru, and allege whatever they want to allege, thats between them and their guru - its not Yoga’s fault.
If someone is practicing the left handed approach of Tantra, and didn’t bother informing his devotees, thats not Yoga’s fault.
Its not Yoga’s fault, and Yoga is definitely not a sex cult.
* the purpose of writing this was to clear up misconceptions, written in the best interests of the truth, and to debate the interpretations thereof.
This was not intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Im irreligious, as you can make out.