Sex, Death, and Yoga – Part 4

radha_krishna_in_the_garden_of_love_he01Throughout this series I’ve proposed that our natural impulse for sexual intimacy originates in transcendence. In this post I’ll describe how sexual intimacy finds its expression in transcendence and in my next post I’ll conclude the series by offering some thoughts on how our sexual impulses can be channeled in an authentically spiritual way.

An abstract conception of transcendental sex is found in Tantric Yoga, where the union of Shakti with Shiva resolves the differentiated world into a monistic unity. Tantra offers a path to undifferentiated transcendence with a sexual component that calls for the retention of secretions during sex and the movement of vital energy up through subtle channels of the physical body, but Tantra does not propose relationships between varieties of beings in transcendence. Other traditions propose similar techniques for approximating spiritual ecstasy without reference to a diversified spiritual world within which erotic activities take place.

In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali denies the efficacy of sexual contact altogether, attributing all impulses, sexual and otherwise, to impressions on the mind made by external objects. The ultimate goal of yoga in Patanjali’s system, kaivalya, is a state in which consciousness is aware only of itself, to the complete exclusion of external objects including the mind. As such, controlling one’s sexual energy is strictly a matter of restraining a desire that poses an obstacle to yoga: there’s no scope for spiritual sexuality in the Yoga Sutras. [Read More…]