Passion is a very strong desire. A mild desire becomes a strong passion by frequent repetition or frequent enjoyment. In a broad sense, passion means any strong desire. There is passion for service to the country in patriots. There is passion for God-realization in first-class aspirants. In some people, there is a strong passion for novel-reading. There is passion for reading religious books. But generally, in common parlance, passion means lust or a strong sexual appetite. This is a physical craving for sexual or carnal gratification. When any sexual act is repeated very often, the desire becomes very keen and strong. The sexual instinct or the reproductive instinct in man involuntarily prompts him to engage in sexual acts for the preservation of his species.
Passion is the instinctive urge for externalisation through self-preservation and self-multiplication. It is the diversifying power, which is directly opposed to the force that moves towards the integration of being.
Passion is an effect or product of Avidya. It is a negative Vikara in the mind. Atman is ever-pure. Atman is Vimala or Nirmala or Nirvikara. It is Nitya-Suddha. Avidya Sakti has taken the form of passion for keeping up the Lila of the Lord. You will find in the Chandipath or
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Kamarupena Samsthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah
It means: “I bow to that Devi who has taken the form of passion in all these beings”. Even Brahma, the Creator, does not know the exact seat wherein passion lies. In the Bhagavadgita, you will find it mentioned that the senses, the mind and the Buddhi are the seats of passion. The Pranamaya Kosa or the vital sheath is another seat. Desire is all-pervading in the body. Every cell, every atom, every molecule, every electron is surcharged with passion. There are undercurrents, cross-currents, inter-currents and submarine currents in the mighty ocean of passion. You must completely annihilate each one of them. You must completely destroy passion in all places.
Passion is a Vritti or modification that arises from the mind-lake when the Rajo-Guna predominates. Rajasic food such as meat, fish and eggs, Rajasic dress and the Rajasic way of living, scents, novel-reading, cinema, talk on sensual things, bad company, liquor, intoxicants of all description, tobacco—all these excite passion.
Passion in children, the youth and the aged
Passion is in a seed state in young boys and girls. It does not give them any trouble. Just as the tree is latent in the seed, so also, passion is in a seed state in the minds of children. In old men and women, passion gets suppressed. It cannot do any havoc. It is only in young men and women who have reached adolescence that this passion becomes troublesome. Men and women become slaves to passion. They become helpless.
There is not much difference in sex between a male and a female, a boy and a girl, when they are very young. When they attain puberty, there is a drastic change. Feelings, gestures, body, gait, talk, look, movements, voice, qualities and demeanour change altogether.
The whole mango tree—with all its branches, leaves and fruits—is contained in a subtle form in the seed. It takes time for manifestation. Even so, the Vasana of lust lurks in the mind when you are a boy, manifests at eighteen, fills the whole body at twenty-five, works havoc from twenty-five to forty-five and then gradually declines. Various forms of wrong-doing and mischief are committed by human beings between twenty-five and forty-five. This is the most critical period of life.
Sexual thought in sages, spiritual aspirants and householders
In a Jnani [fully realized being], the sexual craving is entirely eradicated. In a Sadhaka [serious aspirant], it remains well controlled. In a householder [who is not practicing], when not controlled, it does havoc. It exists in him in its fully expanded state. He cannot resist it. He yields to it helplessly on account of his weak will and lack of firm resolution.
In a Jnani or a sage, no sensual thoughts will crop up in the mind. There will not he any difference in feeling when he sees a beautiful young girl, a child or an old lady. He will see the one underlying, eternal, immortal Self in a female and a male. He will not have any difference of feeling when he touches a book, a log of wood, a piece of stone and the body of a female. There is no idea of sex in a Jnani. Such must be the condition of mind of a man who is established in Brahmacharya [control of sex].
Quoted from Brahmacharya by Swami Sivananda (1934, published by the Divine Life Society)