A friend recently recommended The Complete Yoga of Human Emotional-Sexual Life1. In this book spiritual teacher Adi Da Samraj explains that intimate sexual relationships can be wholly compatible with a life of real spiritual practice, while also pointing out that sexual techniques alone are not a shortcut to enlightenment. Key insights are: learning sexual self-discipline, practicing unconditional love for another, and recognizing that the true goal is awakening to Reality via restored spiritual awareness.
Relearning to love
According to The Complete Yoga, most of us were, at some point, frustrated in our desire for love or nurturing. In everlasting retaliation for this “betrayal,” we choose to be unloving to others. Yet,
The point to be considered in any moment is not whether or not you are being loved. What must be observed [and changed] is that you yourself are not loving. ... Human beings can always actively love, even in the face of betrayal – but, instead, they tend to choose the acts of separation, and all the acts of separativeness. 2
Retaliation-thinking tends to make people increasingly superficial emotionally, and inclined to choose self-indulgence above relationship – even while seeking a pair-bond. The results are often an obsessive focus on orgasmic sex - and the suffering that goes with this, due to orgasm's addictiveness.
Self-indulgent sexual activity has spiritual implications. “Casual sexual activity is inherently detrimental to the equanimity required for right Spiritual life.”3 By grabbing so much of our attention, conventional sex encourages us to ignore nonphysical, transcendental Reality in favor of material plane illusion. For these reasons, The Complete Yoga advises that mankind must ultimately go beyond sex in spiritual realization. Yet this cannot be achieved by repression or avoidance, as these strategies trap so much attention that they limit real Spiritual growth.
Instead, the reader is advised to deal responsibly with emotional and sexual tendencies - not because sex is the great salvation, but because it can so easily block real Spiritual process if used casually. Tantric practices often slow people's progress because they try to harness sex for continued egoic purposes instead of allowing practitioners to transcend their egoic mindset.4 The true goal is the awakening of the heart, which is why people must transcend loveless, separating habits. 5
According to The Complete Yoga, overcoming the 'sex-food-money' ego – and its never-ending search for self-fulfillment – is critical to overcoming human conflict on every level. People can transcend the emotional-sexual ego by (1) learning to relate to their sexuality in a "straightforward, fearless manner," and (2) healing their relations by granting and accepting love - even in the face of rejection.
This willingness to remain vulnerable, despite emotional pain, frees our feelings so that we can commune with the Divine in every moment. Overcoming our tendency toward separation is the right choice because:
There is no 'private destiny,' There is no 'personal righteousness.' All are involved in the same Reality – together and indivisibly. 6
Mortal love is thus the beginning of a process that awakens us to the reality of Divine love. Yet, as my friend explained:
the true ecstasy of the Reality Way of the Heart is only enjoyed in letting go into it, not by doing techniques. The letting go is not just a new-agey thing, and it requires real discipline in a sense, but it is not about achieving anything. Egoity is not a thing, an entity - it is an action. It is the contraction, the closed fist - it is something we do that prevents our realization of the true nature of Reality which is Prior Unity. And so all our emotional and sexual life is based upon the presumption or the doing of separativeness, and everything about pair-bonding, orgasm, etc. tends to be pursued to "remedy" ourselves from the suffering that results from making that act of separation.
We can never come to know or realize our True Condition if we are seeking for it, because we are already past the place of it. That is what is so radical about all this. As Adi Da used to put it, "this (meaning all apparent existence) is the Radiant Water of Consciousness Itself". It already Is - it can't be found at the end of a long road, because to start down that road, you have already presumed separation from It. So everything about "right" emotional-sexual life is about participation in the limitless Divine Reality, not trying to get better at finding It.7
The Addiction Affliction
Human beings are addicted to orgasm. ... Everybody can attain this pleasure and satisfy his or her addiction. ... It is the orgasm that is aberrating – not sex in and of itself. Sex, as most people tend to live it, has orgasm as its goal. Right and true sex has no goal. Right and true sex is an expression of balance, of equanimity. Right and true sex is playful, prolonged, sensuous, enjoyable, non-neurotic – altogether freed from the fierce goal-orientation and psychology of addiction.
In general, people are as addicted to orgasm as some are addicted to the pleasures derived from the use of drugs and alcohol. ... Your emotional-sexual history is the expression of your addiction.
It is possible for some people to become so addicted to orgasm that they find themselves fundamentally incapable of feeling really good at any other time than in the moment of orgasm. ... In later years, people become ritually addicted to this pleasure ... and their lives may become very complex in their pursuit of [it].8
In the usual scenario, the demands from the cravings become greater as the addiction grows, and in time, the partner becomes depressed and exhausted. The demanding partner feels betrayed and punishes, rejects or abandons the other.
The life you spend with people with whom you have orgasms is ... a recoil from relationship. It is a theatre of jealousy, anger, fear, mediocrity, subhuman energy, and mutual stimulation. ... It is the constant craving for sustenance, because you have adapted to the loss of life-energy.9
Spiritual progress requires one to live in a state of equanimity, to escape addiction – as well as the frustration of repression. Sex is an ideal place to make progress because sex affords such a convincing demonstration of the false belief that 'true happiness must be a state of intensely stimulated pleasure.'
In fact, experience of the Divine is a connection to a limitless flow of Spiritual energy. It's a recognition that this life-giving energy is intrinsic to our very existence, and therefore available at every moment. This truth can also be experienced during sex in the experience of “divine communion.” Communion cannot be forced, but the conditions that make it more likely can be cultivated by transcending neediness and acting from compassion.
Own-body sexual yoga
The Complete Yoga advises the student to begin with solo practice aimed at learning both how to prolong sexual arousal, how to breathe, and how to conduct the life-current in the body-mind in a kind of circle that moves down the front of the body and then upward along the spine toward the crown of the head.
Sexual polarity is only “skin deep” - serving the purpose of physical reproduction. At deeper states of mind and body, polarity is transcended. By experiencing this sense of wholeness while celibate, a person can stop thinking of intimacy as a cure for “incompleteness.” At that point, a person is less likely to try to “get” something from a lover.
The “own-body yogic sexual practice” calls for the student to self-stimulate the genitals as a conscious exercise or devotional exercise. Orgasm is generally avoided, and the aroused sexual energy breathed down the front of the body and exhaled up the spine in a relaxed manner. The celibate practitioner should engage in this exercise both as a training for sex with a partner, and whenever there is a feeling of concentrated or suppressed sexual energy in the sexual organs, head or heart.
True yogic intimacy
In this sacramental practice monogamous partners10 make love using these suggestions:
- They consistently radiate heart-feeling;
- They stay in an intentionally relaxed mood and feeling – although, as needed, they "apply internal upward tensing of the bodily base either in one gesture, or as brief repetitive gestures, while drawing the crown of the abdomen in and upward on exhalation;"
- They inhale the energy down the front of the body, and exhale it up the spine in the direction of the crown of the head; and
- Whenever orgasm even remotely approaches, they stop moving and bypass the genital discharge of energy by exhaling it up the spinal line into the whole body and away from the genitals.
Partners strive to go beyond feelings of rejection, betrayal, or un-lovingness. As my friend explained, this can be quite challenging:
The main thing that I would talk about in relation to my intimate partner is that after we had gotten together and the honeymoon phase wore off in a few months, then the inevitable struggle of all the 'relationship stuff' came to the fore - all the dramatization of the rejection and betrayal rituals. It was pointed out to me by long-term students that I could continue to enact all the betrayal and rejection scripts, or I could choose to take on for real the discipline Adi Da has given - to love unconditionally, to participate with my partner with limitless feeling, to do the man's yoga of penetrating the dramatizations we tend to repetitively enact, by doing love instead, no matter what seeming provocation, betrayal, or rejection would apparently justify an un-loving reaction.
It was something I realized I had to take on for real in order to have a chance at breaking the endless cycle of egoic struggle in relationships, and it was certainly nothing I could fake. I actually had to practice doing the thing that you could say comes naturally when you are with a baby - you automatically love the baby unconditionally. It totally changed our relationship, and it's something that I have to continually do as a practice of living my true condition in the Prior Unity of all that is arising. I make no great claims whatsoever in being able to live like that with moment to moment profundity. But even my extremely primitive attempt to embrace the radical principle resulted in an immediate and total change in the nature of our relationship.
Practitioners also avoid erotic mental imagery and casual contact for mere 'stress release.' Occasions of genital intimacy are less frequent, but more profound.11 Except upon occasions of mutual love-desire, partners sleep in separate quarters (as an aid to self-restraint). Otherwise, says The Complete Yoga, sexual activity tends to create imbalance and lack of discrimination.
As lovers learn to remain loving and move the energy upward, they no longer require degenerative release to feel emotional and physical pleasure. Ultimately, they engage in lovemaking as a form of Transcendental Spiritual Divine Communion, and the practice becomes regenerative. As they work toward that goal, they also strive to move beyond the emotional-sexual pair-bond because it is believed to be a distraction from a full life of spiritual devotion.
According to The Complete Yoga, sex cannot cause enlightenment. However, an intimate relationship that employs regenerative lovemaking (as opposed to the standard “degenerative” orgasm) has several important benefits:
- It moves people away from using sex for seeking self-indulgence toward a more mature sexual capability – one that is relaxed, with full breathing and unobstructed energy flow, more freely expressive, and more open-hearted. This happens gradually and naturally, "without puritanical, moralistic, self-suppressive or sex-paranoid attitudes."
- It helps to reverse the tendency to separate oneself emotionally from others.
- It frees the attention from the search to fulfill the lower body's demands – allowing one's attention to move in other, more expanded dimensions. In this way one discovers the pleasure and ego-transcending love that is inherent in all of life – which can also be present in sex.
- It leads to positive, whole-body movement of life force energy, an energy-conserving and rejuvenative experience.
- Sexual activity ceases to be a troublesome concern.
The similarities between the advice in The Complete Yoga and some of our own discoveries12 amazed us. It is apparent that its author is sincere and has much experience and insight about human sexuality. On the other hand, there was one red flag (apart from the grandiose language and insistence upon a devotee-master relationship). According to its author:
One who has Realized the Divine Happiness can engage in the pleasures of life and endure its pains without being aberrated by either pleasure or pain.
Whether or not this is true, no master would indulge in such a course of action after attaining mastery. As Lao Tzu says:
Here is the great secret:
Just as high awareness of the subtle truth is gained through virtuous conduct and sustaining disciplines, so also is it maintained through these things. Highly evolved beings know and respect the truth of this.13
- 1. by Adi Da Samraj, The Dawn Horse Press (2007)
- 2. The Complete Yoga, pp.74, 77
- 3. The Complete Yoga, p.16
- 4. The Complete Yoga, p.31
- 5. p. 41-2
- 6. The Complete Yoga, p.107
- 7. For Bill's account of finding his teacher, visit this link.
- 8. pp. 45-6, 53
- 9. pp. 53-4
- 10. The Complete Yoga states that the need for commitment stems from the emotional openness required by the practice, not because monogamy is considered an ideal. True intimacy bears no relation to the convention of marriage. pp. 139-40
- 11. Novices are advised to limit occasions to once or twice a week; more seasoned practitioners, once every seven or ten days; and those working at the transcendental level, no more than once every ten days, and ideally once a month. Frequency of degenerative orgasm (in beginners) is determined by orgasm's effects on the practitioner's spiritual practice. Ultimately practitioners must fully realize the art of converting the sexual energy.
- 12. As recounted in our book
- 13. The Hua Hu Ching, Section 29.