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

Saturday, 24 May 2014

A Childlike Approach To Life

Most of us are caught in the trivial parts of life and miss seeing the whole. Without leaving our room we want to see the vastness of sky. We live a part of the whole and that part is our pattern, our position and our ego. Thus, we limit our brain to limited paradigms. To see the whole is part of managing our life effectively. To take that leap, one has to have a childlike perceptive and not a childish perceptive.

Life is a great mystery; it is vast and limitless. It cannot be limited by shallow thinking. We have not learnt to observe life and hence we are lost in limitations. To be childish is to be ignorant like a child and to be childlike is to be innocent like a child.

One has to learn how to perceive, how to look, how to see. A child sees innocently. To be innocent is to be open. When we look at a flower, we don't actually see the flower. The perceiver pollutes the perception. With strong likes and dislikes one looks at a flower. When that happens, the emphasis is on one's likes and dislikes and not actually on the flower. As you grow old, your mind encounters rigid frames of like and dislike, opinions, dogmas, fears, conflicts, greed etc.
Hence your "seeing" is influenced by your background. So your experience of the external world is a product of your mind.

We learn through books, school and college. We collect lot of concepts, words and we get imprisoned by what we know. When we "see and know" something in the outer world there is a struggle. The struggle is to see and know in the light of what you know from your past. The present should fit into your past. So what you know from your past is more important than what you see in the present. You are bound by what you know.

Thus our perception is not free. What we know and learn is dictated by the background of our knowledge, our past. A childlike perception is freeing oneself from that background and be free inwardly.

Apply this in the field of relationships, at office or at home. You have an image of your spouse or boss. This image is a product of your conclusions, opinions and with that mental image you relate to your spouse and work. So your struggle is to see that the other fits into your image of your partner or boss. This is a complicated way of living. A childlike perception has no image and its innocence comes in touch with the object. It does not hanker for validation; hence there is no struggle for such validation. By this one can relate better without bitterness.

A childlike perception is pure sensitivity and not sentimental. To be sensitive is experiencing "what is" and sentimental is reacting to "what is" from one's past. Most of us are sentimental. Let us enter into the state of childlike perception and experience the delight of the now. Then you will transform the ruins of your heart with the "childlike" perception of life. Drain the cup of sentimentality and fill it with sensitivity. Thus walk on the path of being sensitive to "what is". Then you will relate better in your office and home. You will build a better rapport with people. You will nourish people by your warmth of being sensitive.

Published 1st by Swami Sukhabodhananda on

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Desert Retreat House: The Practice of Equanimity

"Buddha in the Garden"

At the store yesterday I heard a shopper say to the cashier, "I am so stressed out," and without batting an eye, the cashier responded, "Aren't we all?"

When I got home from the store yesterday, I put the word "stress" into a Google search - over one million responses were instantly returned. Imagine that, there are over a million online sites I can access to read about the causes of stress, the symptoms of stress, the ways to cope with stress.

Interestingly enough, people today are not only anxious and stressed out in the places and at the times when you might expect stress to be manifested - before a big exam, when the work report is due, when a relationship is tearing apart, when finances are tight. But people today also find themselves in a state of anxiety even when they are on vacation, or when they are spending time with their families, or when they are at church.

 As I think abut it, it seems as if stress and anxiety have infected the culture in epic proportions.

While the word "equanimity" is not used all that often in popular culture, it is a concept that is frequently found in the Buddhist literature. In fact "the practice of equanimity" lies at the heart of the teaching of the Buddha.

In an age when stress has become such a dominant force, I believe we would all do well to learn something about the "practice of equanimity." I recently came across this definition:

Equanimity is the taming of excesses of thought and emotion

Buddhists often use the term "monkey mind" to describe anxiety, restlessness, being easily distracted.  Like a monkey who can't ever sit still, quickly and chaotically jumping from place to place without a pause, people who are restless or stressed out suffer from "monkey mind."

A "monkey mind" is always filled up with constant ideas, strategies and plans about how to control everyday living. In a "monkey mind" emotions rage- anger, fear, doubt, despair, obsessive attachment to another - they pull a person from place to place chaotically and without a pause.

Maybe "monkey mind" is a better way of describing that national epidemic of stress and anxiety that so inflicts our culture nowadays.

 The way to cope with "monkey mind" is to "practice equanimity" - to trade "monkey mind" for "mindfulness."

When I sit in my garden for my daily period of mindful meditation, I am essentially practicing the discipline of equanimity. I clear my cluttered mind of all my ideas, all my plans, all my goals and aspirations. I open my heart to whatever comes my way, no matter how wonderful or how terrible it all may be, realizing that I can control none of it, only embrace it, because "it is what it is."

In mindful awareness I am indeed "taming excesses of thought and emotion" - I am practicing equanimity. And, of course my "practice of equanimity" in my garden meditation is practice for the way I try to live life every day.

As I sit in the silence of yet another beautiful desert day, the thought comes to me that the wisdom of Jesus is much like the wisdom of the Buddha. Jesus also taught his disciples to practice equanimity:

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 
But seek first the Presence of God.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

With a clear mind and open heart I breathe it all in - what a glorious day.


Aseem Seth