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Questioner: I want to talk about sexuality. Are there ways in which a person can healthily express sexuality?
Acharya Prashant: Whatever we do is an expression.
Breath is an expression, eating is an expression, these hand gestures they are an expression, and the way you are nodding your head is an expression, the way I do my hair is an expression. Everything that we do, every bit of what we are is an expression.
Even repression is an expression. Please understand this.
Even repression is an expression, you know we have decided, for example as society, as a culture, which parts of body to publicly hide and which parts to publicly declare – that is an expression of what we are, is that not?
So, even repression is an expression. What does expression mean? Expression means manifestation. So what you are, and by that, I mean the quality of your mind, that is certainly going to be expressed. So there is hardly any question of separate enquiry into the expression of sexuality.
You see, do we repress only our sexual urges?
L: Of course not!
AP: We repress everything.
L: Yes! Even basics of emotion: anger…
AP: Anger, attraction, fear – we repress everything. I just talked of clothes, we repress everything. In fact, one would not be factually incorrect if he says that civilization is an exercise in repression. So, when a healthy expression would come then it is not only sexuality that would be expressed, a man would become totally expressive and that is the whole purpose of life—to express the Self. And by the Self, I mean the healthy Self, not the sick ego.
You asked whether sexuality needs to be controlled or celebrated or feared. Neither controlled nor celebrated. There is nothing really so special about it that it deserves a separate and distinct celebration.
For example, you are not asking me whether blinking of eyes should be celebrated. Now you are blinking all the while, you are not asking me whether getting a firm sleep every morning should be celebrated, you are not asking me whether sipping a cup of tea should be celebrated. These are movements in life, by deeming them as worthy of celebration we are putting a stamp of uniqueness, speciality, and distinctness, and extraordinariness upon them—and that is not health.
In health, everything is so extraordinary that it is ordinary.
In health, there are no fragments.
In health, you do not value one part of being over another part.
L: But then there is this fact that sex is a very big taboo in our society. So, while it should not be especially celebrated, it is very much feared and it is a thing that is talked in hushed tones and behind closed doors. So, obviously we are relegating some kind of importance to it, while it is an ordinary thing, we are giving it importance, and we are trying to suppress it, so…
AP: Richa (addressing the listener), I want you to enquire into whether we are giving importance only to sexuality. And whether it is only sexuality that is discussed in hushed tones and behind closed doors. Is it really so?
Some diseases are gross and apparent. You know, you can have a skin disorder, so it is visible and you can have a liver disorder it is not visible. But does that mean the liver disorder any less significant than a skin disorder?
Sexuality might be there on the surface because sex is very visible and open thing. And it produces very open and distinct results—you will have kids. So, it is gross. But at the same time, there is so much that we are suppressing and we have to talk about it because it is, I repeat, inseparably linked to all human disorder. Sexuality is just one aspect of it, and unless all aspects are taken care of, even sexual aspect cannot be taken care of.
I want to question you—Is sexuality not related to possessiveness? Is possessiveness not related to corporate greed? And is it not related to political ambition? And is it not related to national chauvinism? And do diplomatic discussions not happen behind closed doors?Just as you do not want to fornicate in open streets, similarly you don’t want to have diplomatic discussions on open streets. Both are supposed to be highly confidential and private matters, are they not?
Two nations, diplomats from two nations, and especially if it’s a back-door diplomatic effort then nobody would want that anybody has a whiff of what is going on. Like two secret lovers, two old diplomats would be meeting. So you see, you look at the analogy. They are parallel. Nobody would get to know what is happening, and they would get particularly annoyed if they come to know that the media is getting some kind of scent of it. And publicly they would totally deny that there is an affair going on – ‘No! No! Nothing!’
Are you getting it?
Only when the whole thing matures, would they come out publicly with it. Like lovers do; so there is so much in our lives which are sick and rotten. Sexuality is just one of those things. Which in a way is good news, because it means that if we can pick up the thread at any end, or for any place, this whole knitting that veils the reality from our eyes can be unravelled. You pick the thread from any place and if you keep pulling it, you will soon find that the whole structure has come down.
So if one can, for example, work on his forgetfulness, he is parallelly working on his sexuality. If one can work on his fears, he is parallel working on his disease of ambition. If one can work on his day-dreaming, he is parallel working on his tendency to be hopeful and procrastinate. Laziness is so deeply linked with dwelling into the past.
You work on one thing and you will come to the root of all disease. But to take one particular symptom or one particular expression of the disease as a separate unit in itself, would be misleading, and would never really solve the problem. This society, this sick society that you talked of, where sex is a taboo or sexuality is a taboo, please see that it is sick in twenty other respects also. And all aspect of those sicknesses move together. As the society becomes more liberal, as the minds become less narrow, then all kinds of sicknesses will be cured in unison, parallelly, together.
L: Sir, while we are saying it is not sexuality but a lot of other things interconnected. But I don’t think that it was always the case that sexuality or sex in India was specifically, you know, seen as a taboo but before the Muslim invasion, before the coming of British, we were quite a liberal society. Like we see, that we are from the land of Kamasutra. We see in the temples, in the ways we used to dress up. So do you think we are colonized, as in British were the ones who were more uptight about such things and they had more taboos about the sex? And when they came a sort of exchange happened, where we obviously become more strict about sexuality while it seems they have taken on to what we were as in pre-colonised India. So do you think we are still a colonized nation when it comes to the matters of sex and sexuality?
AP: But why would that happen?
You see, the two of us interact. Let’s say, I come from India and you come from the west. If I absorb all the darkness from you and you are able to assimilate all that is bright about me, what does that tell about us?
L: That we both take things that we lack?
AP: There is darkness about you, and there is brightness as well and there is darkness about me, and there is darkness as well. But what do I chose to take from you? Only darkness. And what do you choose to take from me? All that is good about me. So, what does it tell about us?
L: That we are looking for something that…
AP: Okay, I ask you again: There is a rotten thing here, and there is a delicious thing here, and I pick up the rotten thing, and there is a rotten thing here, and a delicious thing here, and you pick up the delicious thing. What does that tell us about the two of us?
L: That I am inclined in a way to look for a positive thing and one is inclined toward a negative thing. That is our state of mind…
AP: So you know man, and the society build by man and the nations raised by man, they are always in constant touch and relationship with other entities. One nation would always be interacting with another nation, it depends on you what you take from the other and it depends on you, what you take from me. Getting it?
Now why should, even if I buy the story you are giving me, that India was colonized by various alien forces, then Indians in a spell of subjugation absorbed many vices from there, even if I buy that story, tell me why should I buy all that is useless about you, why? If I am I am so very enlightened, then why should I be enthralled by darkness?
L: Maybe, they did not see it as a darkness we do not know that we are enlightened.
AP: If I do not see darkness as darkness, am I enlightened?
L: Like if we see, so were told that we were barbarians, we need to be civilized.
AP: So if a dark one can tell an enlightened one that he is a barbarian and the enlightened one buys those words, then is he really enlightened?
L: But maybe I don’t realise that I am enlightened
AP: Everybody is enlightened, there is nothing but enlightenment.
But the only difference between a Buddha and what you call as an ordinary human being is that – a Buddha knows that He is enlightened. If I am enlightened, then by definition, I have to realize that I am enlightened and what kind of enlightenment is this that quickly turns into self-doubt when a so-called barbarian dominates him. How is it possible?
L: Sir, could you reframe that thing again?
AP: We are going back to let’s say 9th century AD, right?
9th and 10th – century the first attacks on India’s western borders have just began and this is the land of enlightenment, correct? Adi Shankara was here pretty recently, this the 9th century and he travelled the length and breadth of the country and he established the four tirths and he wrote such commentaries in a short period of time. And we are living in the land of enlightenment, as you said. And then as per the story, some barbarians come and they not only defeat me militarily but they also conquer my mind. I give up all that is graceful and sublime about me. Then am I really enlightened?
I am being defeated both physically and mentally. I am losing out not only my land, but also my mental freedom. You know somebody can come, and subjugate you by way of chaining you, by way of jailing you but enlightenment or let me just say, ‘mental cleanliness’ is not something that an invader can take away from me.
And here I would also want to say that one who is liberated mentally is very difficult to defeat in war. He won’t be defeated. Because you are defeated often not by enemies’ numbers, but by your own fear and to be mentally liberated means you have no fear left, how can you be now defeated?
You can be killed but you cannot be defeated. A land that declares ‘I am not the body’; a land that declares that ‘freedom is more precious than life.’ How could such a land accept defeat? And after accepting defeat, how could such a land accept a perversion of its values?
L: Sir, what is coming to my mind is that, so maybe as a person, I have a lot of good qualities but I am not aware of it. The British come and they tell that it’s not a good thing, now since you have no awareness of the thing, that it’s a good thing, you buy their story and obviously they are more powerful since they have more armies, and so mentally also more powerful than you
AP: You see, even though we are actually simplifying and generalising the whole historical process which was quite a complex thing being played out over many centuries, we are greatly simplifying and he doesn’t even need to convince me , if he has all the pomp and power, I will be dissuaded by his display. Just the display would be enough for me, to start feeling inferior.
Please understand that a man of virtue, real virtue, cannot give up his virtue, now it is beyond him. Now, he is helpless in a way. You can hack his limbs if you want to but still, he cannot give himself up. He cannot. Because that’s him!
India declared that whatever is the highest possible I am That; and if I am That how can I give myself up?
Whatsoever is the real Truth—the only Reality the only Truth, that I am, and there is nothing except Truth. Now how can I give myself up? How can I give the Truth up? A man of real virtue cannot be persuaded, dominated, except in physical ways. Yes, physically you can fetter him; but that is alright, that can be done to anybody.
So we will have to stop looking at history if you are talking about India, we will have to stop looking at history as a reason, as a causation, or as a justification for our ignorance, for all the taboos that are prevalent in society including the sexual ones.
L: But do you think that since India’s colonization was not a one-time thing. Like it was not for a short period, it went on for years, hundreds of years, and if a man who is virtuous, he is repeatedly told over the years, years and years, you are not virtuous. Can he come to eventually give up his virtue? Or will he not be affected by it by whatever is happening, what was said to him?
AP: You can go on repeating this question for centuries!
L: And the answer will be no.
AP: You know, I see that you want some real change in the society. You will not get real change till you keep attributing the darkness prevalent to forces outside of you. You know, what you are trying to do? You are trying to bring history into the picture, and you are trying to bring the British and westerners the Muslim invaders. You have talked all of these.
While talking about all of these and by talking about men’s attitude towards women, and that we have a patriarchal society we are trying to place the onus of this darkness upon somebody else. The fact is if I am in darkness, I am in darkness. And if the light has to come, change has to come, it has to come today, to me, and through me. Otherwise, you see, there is history to everything. And then because human life and the world is cause and effect, you can keep on regressing back infinitely on the chain of cause and effect: ‘and this cause this, and this caused this, and this caused this, and then so what!’
That is purely an intellectual exercise, no real, honest, affirmative action in it. So it will not lead to change. But you will feel as if you have discovered the root, the reason. So what? The change will not come.
Change will only come when we will understand that responsibility lies on the individual.
If you see that we are people who are loveless, who know no celebration, or narrow-minded, violent, aggressive, possessive, the list is endless. If you see all this, then see,that it need not be like this. After all, he is like this, he is like this and I am like this, it need not be like this. It is needlessly like this. It can change right now, and it can begin with me. In fact, begin with me and end with me because all the concerns, and troubles, and problems that I have right now, belongs to this state of mind that I am in. I change, will my questions remain the same? Will my problems remain the same?
They will not remain the same. So essentially everything that you see in society, has something to do with the individual’s troubled mind. So do not call for historical narratives or institutional action. It is only a change in the individual consciousness that will change everything. Let the man change, let the woman change, and everything will change.
Even history will change, surprisingly!
L: But how does the change come about?
AP: Ah! That’s a beautiful question!
I am glad we have come to it, even if at the end of the thing.
How does the change come about?
By honest effort to understand. To really know what is going on. We are trying to really really understand the matter. We are not trying to put the blame on someone. In fact, we are more than prepared to turn inwards. We are prepared to say that we are the cause of our so-called misery, nobody else causes it. There is no point blaming it on foreign occupation, or this and that.
If I really want change, I have to look at myself. This ‘looking at oneself’ is called Spirituality. So, that is the only way. That is the only way through which any real and meaningful change can come. Otherwise, there are a thousand ways to, you know, keep pampering oneself and keep deceiving oneself. And man has all those ways. We will raise great institutions, we will have collective actions, we will do this and that.
Collective action won’t help. Institutional interventions won’t help because after all, it is man’s mind that is behind all collectivism, and all institutional action.
Man’s mind has to change.
Wisdom literature has a great role to play in that; right education has a great role to play in that, the right guru has a great role to play in that. And none of that can happen without existential grace. So that is the first thing.
And let’s pray for that grace to come to us and then you will find that everything changes. Past changes and future also changes.
When young people come to talk, they begin with that, ‘We are a perverted society because we repress sexuality’. When old people come to talk they say, ‘You know, we are perverted society because we do not care for our elders’.
When people who are concerned with animal welfare come to talk they say, ‘We are such perverts because we are cruel towards animals’, or somebody may come and say, ‘We are such perverts because we do not care for the marginalised people, the oppressed ones, the tribal’. And women come and they say, ‘We are perverts because we are rapists’. When men come they say, ‘We are perverts because of all the women are so possessive’.
Because we are centred in our narrow self-definitions, so we see only that aspect of illusion which is relevant to our self-definition. All these things are related. How can you care for your elders if they are not sexually attractive? So are these things no really related? Tell me!
What does the old man say? That we are a perverted society because we do not care for our elders. The young man says that we are perverts because the society represses my expression of sexuality. But these two things are related.
The young man is busy with the young woman in a room and the old one is coughing and knocking himself out, in the adjacent room. Aren’t these two things related? But there is a wall in-between and you think wall really means a division.
The wall is an illusion. These two things are related.
The fundamental problem is the darkness in human mind.
Only spiritual wisdom can heal that.
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Why do we suppress sexuality? The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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