Tuesday, November 11, 2008

God's Will

Most newspapers in India carry a daily column on spirituality. Today's column in The Hindustan Times is an interesting one. Before commenting any further, let me provide the text in its entirety:

IF WE accept that God has generated this world then we also have to accept that it was a deliberate choice by God to generate life through the sense of ‘kama’ or erotic engagement with each other. Now this unlooked-for sense of humour on God’s part is truly beyond our mere mortal comprehension. God forgive me (if there is a God) but personally, I can’t help thinking that this process of birth, that is, through sex, is the lowest form of ‘love’.

As a child grows up and comes to know how he or she came into this world, he is mentally unable to accept that this process of birth is what his parents engaged in. He is often traumatized by the attendant realization that the whole universe has been doing this: all according to the wish of the Almighty. Sasthi Brata, a name in Indian journalism three decades ago, author of a book considered prurient for its time, My God Died Young, wrote in that autobiographical outpouring, “I saw my brother and his wife in that position and for me it was shocking, a hallucination.” Trying to make sense of the low physicality of the exalted thing called ‘life’, I feel, or is it jut my mistaken idea, that the process of generation should have been cosmic too, if all things indeed flow from the Feet of the Lord. The preliminaries for birth should have been made the purest form of love.

We are taught that kama, krodha, lobha, moha (sensuality, anger, greed and earthly attachment) cause all sorrow. I feel that kama is the root cause of other vices. The earth is full of vice. If there had been some other divine way to generate the world, our world would have been free of rape, crime and terrorism.

No polluted minds, just pure and good souls on this earth. This planet would have been full of cosmic power, energy and divine light. But unfortunately, God (if there be God) had that sense of humour and we must deal with its consequences. (K K Wadhwani)

This is a shining example of a cultural conditioning masquerading as wisdom.

Display of affection and sexual intimacy is a mostly private activity in human beings. The psychological reasons for this need for privacy are complex, including an increased degree of self-consciousness in humans, an evolutionary-stable-strategy to protect the male who is vulnerable to attack from other competitive males while immersed in the act, a corollary of the part emotions play in human sexuality (and which therefore create the need to protect one's innermost feelings, which can be hurt and trampled upon, from the public gaze), and finally, the religious-cultural conditioning in many parts of the world which considers sex as sinful.

A child is naturally curious about its body parts and has no sense of shame till it comes to realize that adults hide their nakedness, do not show affection to each other the way they show towards children, and that some body parts are "embarrassing" and untouchable, especially after a certain age.

The shock that Sasthi Brata experienced (as described in the article above) is not due to any inherent shocking-ness in the sexual act, but because it was an unpleasant surprise for him to see adults blatantly indulging in something that he had been taught was "bad".

The author is however right in that sexual desire is probably the strongest desire in human beings, and one of the fundamental causes of suffering. But instead of investigating it, he quickly turns to God's will. And like all spiritualists, he confuses the misery of sex with the sexual act itself. Humans have evolved so much that for most humans today sex is as much a recreational pastime as it is the effect of an instinctual drive to procreate. The day may come when the sexual act is considered as inane a pleasure as a game of chess or a stroll in a garden. That day is probably very far. As of today, the sexual act is miserably replete with desires, emotions, stresses, memories, fantasies and hurts.

The article also betrays a deep sense of considering the physical existence as unending pain and suffering, a plane "full of vice". The problem of reconciling the existence of evil with a belief in a just and all-powerful God is age-old, and the writer only exposes his eastern spiritual conditioning when he considers lust as a joke by the cosmic creator, in other words, a Leela of sorts.

It would be a cruel God who plays such jokes on his creations.

In spirituality, carnal love is considered sinful (as the writer says: "the lowest form of love") whereas divine love is considered the most exalted feeling a human being can experience. It would be interesting to ask the author why carnality is to be considered "low". I surmise that his answer will be: "Carnality is lowly because it tries to fulfill one's incompleteness, which can only be fulfilled through union with God, through a temporary, physical act. Carnality is lowly because one is then no better than a dog or a pig in trying to use another human being for one's pleasure. Carnality is lowly because it seeks to satisfy a desire (only to have the desire spring again), whereas divine love seeks union, the ending of all desires."

In my spiritual years, I also held similar viewpoints. If anything, I was even more firmly convinced about the base nature of sex. My views-of-yore are summarized here.

There is a possibility that sex can be a mutually pleasurable activity without its pitfalls and its emotional stresses. But realizing that possibility requires such a great deal of understanding and awareness that it is easier to just condemn it. Psychological celibacy is very difficult (after all, lust is an in-born instinctual drive), and for a person who desires to evolve as per the prevailing spiritual and moral yardsticks, a strong conditioning that sex is bad is very helpful in firming one's resolve. This conditioning then creates "good" (chastity and love) and "evil" (sex and pleasure) in one's mind. Then one embarks on a lifelong inner struggle against an instinct that one condemns without understanding its causation.

A mystical "explanation" of human vices, an example of which the author expresses in the above article, can never lead to actual freedom from them, as the freedom also then lies in a mystical realm.

An actual freedom from the human condition is possible only when we recognize that our instincts are bestowed by blind nature after a long period of evolution. Only then we can understand without condemning, and only then we start working to be free without delusions.


Anonymous said...

on a lighter note, check out this web link and specially the cartoon:


happy trainin ;-)

Anonymous said...

ok. since i have no other choice but to communicate like this:
check out another link:


Anonymous said...

the whole argument of the writer in the article hangs in mid air, the basic premise is unprovable (God), what the intentions of "God" are are unprovable. Its like starting from randomly defined axioms and reaching a conclusion based on those. sometimes the entire edifice of spirituality seems the same.

kaa said...

about this "kama, krodha, lobha, moha ...cause all sorrow." i had read somewhere that the basic aims of a hindu is dharma, karma, kama & moksha.
now isn't that contradicting?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Kaa,

The four aims of life in some forms of Hinduism are defined as Dharma (duty), Artha (worldly success), Kama (fulfillment of desires) and Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

Kama in this context means /fulfillment/ of desires, primarily sexual.

Kama in the sense of the quoted article is the sexual instinct, which continues unabated despite a temporary fulfillment.

The Kama in the so-called four aims is related also to Prarabdha karma, a burden of action that was pre-ordained prior to one's birth (due to unfulfilled intentions in the past life etc.).

Hence, according to this theory, a fruitful realization of the aim of "kama" aids liberation in the ultimate sense, since it frees one from prarbadha karma in future lives.

Anonymous said...

after life past life. these are assumed with the surity of the hair on ones head.

Pramod said...

>>In spirituality, carnal love is considered sinful (as the writer says: "the lowest form of love") whereas divine love is considered the most exalted feeling a human being can experience

I agree that it is the view in the most accepted form of spirituality.But if you dig deeper down you will come to know that tantric sex was also perceived as way to moksha.Tantric sex had 2 approaches, the first approach was to view your partner as God/Godess and immerse yourself in the act of sex and the second approach was to abstain from sex and transform the sexual energy to the divine energy.

You can learn more about the different intricacies of the tantric sex from http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts/225-sex-tantra-and-kama-sutra.(I do not agree to many of the views expressed in the podcast, but it is worth listening)