Saturday, 31 May 2014

Sensual Love Is Sacred, Too

One of the most misunderstood words in spiritual lexicon is ‘desire’. Can Self-realisation only be attained in a state of perfect, unmoving desirelessness, as many believe? In the conflict between spirit and flesh, we are led to ask: does one necessarily preclude the other?
Kama or desire has a place in Hindu philosophy. Desire is that glorious spark of energy that ignites dormant dreams, fanning them into existence. Indeed, the world itself was born of desire. In the Rig Vedic Hymn of Creation, we learn how the great Unknown, Unborn, Mysterious One felt the first impulse of desire. Thus was born the first seed of the mind and Creation sprang forth.

Nothing wrong with desire

To be desireless implies a state where there is no movement towards growth or realisation. Desire per se is not wrong. It is acquisitive desire coupled with greed and selfishness that is bad. Conversely, the refinement and cultivation of pure desire is the seed of all artistic and creative endeavour.

If all movement born of desire is snuffed out, then we are no better than automatons living a robotic life. What needs to be overcome is acquisitive desire, lustful desire and the selfish desire for self-aggrandisement at the cost of another’s wellbeing. What we need to embrace are pure desires of creative impulses and spiritual refinement – for these are the very fuel which propel us further on the path of inner perfection.

Moreover, even in our worship of the Divine there exists the path of love and devotion to a personal God that does not eschew the sensual, but celebrates it. In viewing God as the ‘Beloved’ and in worshipping God with our senses we sanctify our emotions and impulses. Desire is elevated and transformed into yearning and longing for the Divine. Mystics down the ages, from all religious traditions have felt a deep and abiding passion for their chosen deity – and have poured forth their longing in some of the most sensual, erotically charged poetry. Rabia, Rumi, Mirabai, Hafez, St John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, Andal and Jayadeva have all penned verses that are full of a voluptuous ecstasy. They have attained transcendental bliss even while acknowledging and embracing the sensual.

Cosmology of tantra

Taking the concept of desire even further is the cosmology of tantra. In this stream of thought desire is the pulse of the universe and all creation vibrates to this beat. Creation is understood in explicitly sexual terms as the attraction between the male and female polarities – the union of Shiva and Shakti. In the way of tantra even everyday activities are opportunities to experience the Divine. It is a deeply personal path wherein even the mundane is subsumed in the mystical. To be spiritual then is to be constantly aroused by the wonder and mystery of life.

The sensual is sacred, too. Love is the highest energy in the emotional spectrum, and lovemaking is merely a physical outpouring of that energy. In approaching desire with reverence, even physical lovemaking is nothing short of god and goddess coming together in joyous union. It is not in the quelling and suppression of desire, but rather in the refinement and elevation of desire that our salvation lies. For as Deepak Chopra states: “Spirit and flesh are not separate. They keep apart just to flirt.”

First Published by Tunisha Mehrotra on

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