Question: Observance of Brahmacharya [restraint and transformation of sexual energy] would appear to be meaningless, because scientists, through laboratory tests, have proved that semen cannot be reabsorbed into the system and that the brain has nothing to do with semen.
Swami Sivananda: Semen is a mysterious secretion that is able to create a living body. Semen itself is living substance. It is life itself. Therefore, when it leaves man, it takes a portion of his own life. A living thing cannot be put to laboratory tests, without first killing it. The scientist has no apparatus to test it. God has provided the only test to prove its precious nature, viz., the womb. The very fact that semen is able to create life is proof enough that it is life itself. I have thousands of letters from young men who have wasted this precious fluid and are in a miserable plight. Several young men even go to the point of committing suicide! Through reckless waste of semen, they lose all their physical, mental and intellectual faculties. Those who are perfect Brahmacharins have lustrous eyes, a healthy body and mind, and a keen, piercing intellect.
Scientists with their test tubes and balances cannot approach subtle things. No amount of dissection of the body will be able to tell you where the soul is, where life is, or where the mind is. Through the practice of Yoga, the seminal energy - not the gross physical semen - flows upwards and enriches the mind. This has been declared by the sages. You will have to experience it yourself.
Question: Would you kindly suggest some effective methods for conversion and sublimation of the sexual energy into spiritual energy or Ojas?
Swami Sivananda: Observe strict continence in thought, word and deed. Give up thinking useless and vain thoughts. Keep balance of mind in all conditions and circumstances, contemplating the Divine. Practice [the preliminary yogic postures of] Sirshasan, Sarvangasan and Oordhva Padmasan, besides Viparitakarani Mudra. Preserve the energy by constantly repeating the Name of the Lord, doing intense Japa [mantra repetition] and meditation, and study of the [scriptures] Gita, the Bhagavata, the Ramayana and the like. Develop Viveka [discrimination], Vairagya [dispassion] and Vichara [reflection]. As dispassion increases, so is the vital energy not allowed to leak out. The greater the Vairagya (non-attachment to worldly objects) the more secure will be the semen. The more the preservation of semen, the greater will be the transmutation into Ojas [spiritual energy] which means abundant physical, mental, moral and spiritual strength and quick evolution. Pranayam [breathing exercises] helps a lot in gaining control over the physical machinery and the mind. To have control over the mind means to have control over the Prana Sakti [energy] and prevent Veerya [semen] from being let out. To have control over this masculine power means to have abundant Ojas which enables the aspirant to glow spiritually. Intense Sadhana [practice], with the desires reduced to the barest minimum, will sublimate the sexual energy into spiritual energy. For further information, go through my book "Practice of Brahmacharya." It gives exhaustive details regarding the subject in question.
Question: Why has God created young beautiful women? There must be some sense in His creation. We should enjoy them and procreate as many as possible. We should keep up the progeny of the line. If all people become Sannyasins and go to forests, what will become of this world?
Swami Sivananda: These beautiful women and wealth are the instruments of Maya to delude you and entrap you into the nets. If you wish to remain always as a worldly man with low thoughts, debasing desires, you can by all means do so. You are at perfect liberty. You can marry three hundred and fifty wives and procreate as many children. Nobody can check you. But you will soon find that this world cannot give you the satisfaction you want, because all objects are conditioned in time, space and causation. There are death, disease, old age, cares, worries and anxieties, fear, loss, disappointment, failure, heat, cold, snake-bites, scorpion-stings, abuse, earthquakes, accidents, etc. You cannot at all find rest of mind even for a single second. As your mind is filled with passion and impurity, your understanding is clouded and your intellect is perverted now. You are not able to understand the illusory nature of the universe and the everlasting bliss of Atma [the Innermost Self].
Passion can be effectively checked. There are potent methods. After checking passion, you will enjoy real bliss from within— from Atma.
All men cannot become Sannyasins [serious spiritual practitioners]. They have various ties and attachments. They are passionate and cannot, therefore, leave the world. They are pinned to their wives, children and property. Your proposition is wholly wrong. It is Asambhava, impossible. Have you ever heard in the annals of the world’s history that this world had become vacant as all men had become Sannyasins? Then, why do you bring in this absurd proposition? This is an ingenious trick of your mind to support your foolish arguments and Satanic philosophy which has passion and sexual gratification as its important tenets. Do not talk like this in future. This exposes your foolishness and passion-nature. Do not bother yourself about this world. Mind your own business. God is all-powerful. Even if this world is completely evacuated when all people retire to forests, God will immediately create crores of people by mere willing, within the twinkling of an eye. This is not your look-out. Find out methods to eradicate your passion.
Question: Are the senses meant to be starved and destroyed? The ascetic ideal says so. The Greek ideal, however, is moderate enjoyment of life. Most of the Western thinkers of the rationalistic type accept this. Modern psychologists assert that by denying or refusing the needs of the body such as food and sex and suppressing emotions like attachment and love, people generally create mental problems for themselves. Is there any substance in this?
Swami Sivananda: No; the senses have not been given only to be starved or killed. Neither are they given for being indulged in and fattened. In truth, the senses are not given for any earthly purpose whatsoever. That is the highest view that the sages uphold for spiritual aspirants. The senses are given for being utilized consciously and deliberately for the attainment of something altogether above and beyond the farthest reach of the senses. To understand the right import and significance of self-restraint, one must take a more comprehensive view of the question.
In the human being, these senses are given together with the superior, directive faculty of intelligence with its aspects such as discrimination, selection, etc. The senses are to operate under its wise supervision. The aim is not the ultimate denial of the senses, but the achievement through restraint, of a pleasure a million fold greater than that achieved through gratification. When one realizes this fact, he will understand, how, with the Yogic aspirant, this self-restraint is not a matter of bitterness or reluctant, unwilling repression at all. Understood in its correct light, it is a joyous, voluntary discipline undertaken for the acquisition of an infinitely greater and more blissful experience. Does the angler ever grudge the loss of the worm cast for catching a big fish?
Moreover, the rationale of asceticism is not rightly understood by most people. The ideal of asceticism and penance is not based upon repression. Conservation and sublimation are the principles underlying asceticism rightly practiced. The true ascetic withholds, diverts, canalizes and finally transmutes his natural propensities. The untoward repercussions of forced repression such as complex, neurosis, etc., have no place here. No doubt, modern psychologists are correct in their view about repression, but one must know that it does not apply to religious asceticism, wherein the process is sublimation and not just repression; and it must always be remembered that asceticism is a part of Yoga which provides such a marvelous system of mental training and culture that most effectively counteracts and wards off any possibility of neurotic complexes or obsessions.
It is, however, true that asceticism is very much misunderstood by the majority of persons, and unfortunately by the ascetics themselves, as a result of which we hardly come across a real ascetic in the aspirant world.
Yoga recommends a proper utilization of the tremendous faculties of undissipated senses for higher purposes of inner culture, social welfare, inventions, scientific progress, and finally, intuition. The senses are to be sublimated through restraint applied through reason and intelligent judgement. Their unlimited potentialities are to be harnessed for the greater good and not allowed to be most shamelessly dissipated for a momentary pleasure, unintelligent and animalistic. Viewed from this angle, the aspirant is asked not to starve and destroy the senses, but really to strengthen them and utilize them for his good. Dissipation, on the contrary, actually causes destruction of the senses.
The Greek ideal was enunciated as a general philosophy of life for the average humanity. Asceticism, as understood by the sages, is a distinctive discipline specially incumbent upon that class which would walk the spiritual way, the aspirant class dedicated to the goal of Self-realization. This class is vividly aware that the conception of "moderate enjoyment of life" is a conception alone and is well-nigh impossible to put into actual practice. For, the very nature of enjoyment is such that it tends to progressively increase in force each time the senses are indulged in. The habit gets man in its grip and draws him down. This has been the uniform experience of the sages. Therefore, at one stage or the other, a rigid religious self-control and denial becomes imperative in the march to spiritual progress.
The rank materialist may not care for it, but the seeker does. The seeker is marked out for a special achievement. You know how an ultra-modern acrobat, a ballet dancer or an expert boxer willingly imposes a rigid regimen upon himself to keep perfectly trim and healthy for his professional success. Mark the denials and restrictions during the training period of any serious candidate trying for a championship in athletics! His keen zest and enthusiasm serve to keep his mind in a high mood of inspiration and anticipation. What, then, should be the interest and aspiration in true asceticism undertaken as a part of the training for an infinitely greater achievement in the spiritual path?
Question: How can I find out if I have got Chitta Suddhi [purity of the whole mind and heart] or not?
Swami Sivananda: Sexual thoughts, worldly desires, unholy ideas, sexual Vasanas, anger, vanity, hypocrisy, egoism, greed, jealousy, etc. will not arise in your mind if you have Chitta Suddhi. You will have no attraction for sensual objects. You will have sustained and lasting Vairagya. Even in dreams you will not entertain evil thoughts. You will possess all the virtuous divine qualities such as mercy, cosmic love, forgiveness, harmony and balance of mind. These are the signs to indicate that you have attained Chitta Suddhi.
Question: The Hindus worship the phallus or the sex organ. They are ignorant people. They have no philosophy.
Swami Sivananda: This is the sarcastic statement of a curious, passionate, impure foreigner of little understanding or intelligence. When a foreigner tries to learn the Tamil or the Hindustani language, he first tries to pick up some vulgar words. This is his curiosity nature. Even so, the curious foreigner tries to find out some defects in the worship of symbols. The Linga is only the outward symbol of the formless being, Lord Siva.
Linga means ‘mark’ in Sanskrit. It is a symbol which points to an inference. When you see a big flood in a river, you infer that there must have been heavy rains the previous day. When you see smoke, you infer that there must be fire. This vast world of countless forms is a Linga of the omnipotent Lord. The Siva Linga is a symbol of Lord Siva. When you look at the Linga, your mind is at once elevated and you begin to think of the Lord.
There is a mysterious power or indescribable Sakti in the Linga to induce concentration of the mind. Just as the mind is focussed easily in crystal gazing, so also, it attains one-pointedness when it looks at the Lingam. That is the reason why the ancient Rishis of India have prescribed the Lingam for being installed in the temples of Lord Siva.
To a sincere devotee, the Linga is not a block of stone. It is all radiant Tejas or Chaitanya. The Linga talks to him, makes him shed profuse tears, produces horripilation and melting of the heart. It raises the devotee above body-consciousness and helps him to commune with the Lord and attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Lord Rama worshipped the Siva Linga at Rameswar. Ravana, the learned scholar, worshipped the golden Linga. What a lot of mystic Sakti there should be in the Linga!
The light of consciousness manifesting out of Sadasiva is, in reality, the Siva Linga. From Him all the moving and unmoving creations take their origin. He is the Linga or cause of everything. In Him the whole world merges itself finally. The Siva Purana says: "Pitham Ambamayam Sarvam Sivalingascha Chinmayam". The support or Pitham of all is Prakriti or Parvati; and the Linga is Chinmaya Purusha, the Effulgent Light which is self-luminous. The union of Prakriti and Purusha, of Parvati and Siva Linga, is the cause of the world.
The union of Linga with Yoni is a representation of the eternal union between the static and the dynamic aspects of the Absolute Reality. This represents the eternal spiritual communion of the paternal and the maternal principles from which all the phenomenal diversities have originated. This is an eternal communion of the changeless Being and the dynamic Power or Sakti from which all changes flow.
The lower sexual propensities in the aspirants are eradicated by this sublime conception. The spiritualization and divinization of Linga and Yoni help the aspirants to free themselves from sexual thoughts. All base thoughts gradually vanish by entertaining this lofty idea. All sexual relations in this world are spiritualized as the manifestations of the ultimate Creative Principle, of the eternal self-enjoyment and self-multiplication of Lord Siva in and through His Power or Sakti.
Question: In your book "Easy Steps to Yoga", you speak about the importance of Brahmacharya. I get tired after the day’s hard labour; is it a sin to look at my wife who gives me pleasure? Does Brahmacharya help one escape old age? The sexual act is necessary for renewing life. All man’s mental powers give him no chance of escaping the time-linked process of birth, life, aging and death. For the propagation of the species, man and woman have been provided with this creative power; and the sex act is a necessity.
Swami Sivananda: You have viewed the topic from a thoroughly wrong angle. The very premise for your theory is wrong. Immortality does not pertain to the physical body. Once born, a man has to die, i.e., cast off the physical body. That state in which you freely enjoy the continuity of life without entering the cycle of birth and death is immortality. Unless you identity yourself with that Cosmic Self which transcends all limitations of space and time, you cannot enjoy immortality. To identify and realize that Immortal Self, you should conserve and preserve every bit of energy within you. There is only one energy within us which is able to do the different functions under various forms. As you expect a long life to the machines you use by keeping them in a good condition and doing the minimum work without allowing them either to rust or to waste, you should maintain this body well-conditioned and have its life prolonged by conserving the energy within. Without the body, how can you probe into the higher planes?
Please go through my translation of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Practice the sort of renunciation advocated by it. It does not require you to renounce family life. You have to live in the world and learn through the world without becoming one of the world. Your duty is to maintain the household, but not to get attached to it. Then and then alone will you have that purity of mind which will enable you to progress on your path towards the attainment of perennial peace, joy and bliss.
Enough of your wrong notions. Awake and understand your true imperishable nature. Behold your true immortal, all-pervading Self and rest in it drinking the nectar of immortality. Follow my instructions. You will be a thoroughly changed personality with inner spiritual strength. Have faith and sincerity. Success is yours. Thou art That.
Excerpted from various writings of Swami Sivananda.