Sex and the yogi

Does yoga reduce rape or does it enhance the chances of it? Centuries of celibacy attempts and spurious gurus gone wrong stand testimony.

 |  5-minute read |   04-03-2015
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The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad's sixth Adhyaya, which holds the incantations and mantras, recipes and potions for sexual intercourse and begetting a child, is not a very kosher tablet by modern standards. By any means, in the current environment, digital or printed, and were it not preordained as sacred, it would be banned as pornography. 

Sex, in Indian Hindu tradition, and its enjoyment and wilful participation in it, is as much a part of Vedic culture as it is in modern celebration of it. Semen is said to contain the life force and the genitals, the source of procreation, vital energies. There is nothing unsacred about it. Brahmacarya, or celibacy, was recommended practice by those who wished to conserve this life force or energy.

The processes of yoga, apart from keeping the body limber enough to withstand the duress of deep meditation, are used to activate the chakras and utilise them. Asanas like parivritta trikonasana or utkatasana accentuate the energies of this chakra. The suryanamaskar, done correctly, alone activates it thrice during one complete cycle. But here is the thing about yoga, at advanced levels, and in the hands of a Master, the asanas are used in combination with each other to open and close advance and activate according to what energies the body requires.

The simple practice of anulom-vilom is a pranayam, or method of alternate-nostril breathing, can be regulated to heat or cool the body. The ashtanga yoga format which studies ethics, self discipline, diet, the mind, to regulate the body is a comprehensive programme. It is only under the guidance of an expert, or more traditionally, a dedicated guru, and often after years of training that a student can begin to understand and activate the body in such a manner that is within his control.

Rigorous yoga practitioners also speak of diseases the body throws up in the first few months or years of practice - akin to the withdrawal symptoms of an addict. It can take up to ten years for the kundalini shakti to rise along with one's levels of mastery over it to be made adept. If anything the purpose of the yogic practice is to reverse sexual energy or prana into brain energy via celibacy, and the few who achieve this impossible task, are yogis.

S Radhakrishnan wrote in the introduction to his Principal Upanishads, "When controlled, brahmacharya helps creative work of every description. When the seed is wasted in sex excesses, the body becomes weak and crippled, the face lined, the eyes dull, hearing impaired and the brain inactive. If brahmacharya is practiced, the physical body remains youthful and beautiful, the brain keen and alert and the whole physical expression becomes the likeness and the image of the Divine.

"It is yoga's impact on beauty and physical fitness, a side effect to its original purpose, that makes it a universal draw in a looks-driven age. Put all of this in the context of a Rs 200 a neighbourhood yoga centre session which anyone can sign up for or drop out of, do 20 suryanamskars, measure his or her hips for weight loss in 20 days and mix and match a bunch of asanas without understanding what it is they activate or energise. The unleashing of energies in strange concoctions implies, especially by the strictest yogic standards, chaos for the body, and the mind.

An editor friend of a fitness magazine recently joked with me about how many socialites ended up having affairs with their yoga instructors. Even as Bikram, the hot yoga guru, currently facing rape and assault charges in the US, told Elle magazine India in January that wherever he went, women he taught found him "irresistible" and he was forced to oblige them. These are not untrue instances of what results when yoga is used unchecked. The admittedly tenuous link also traces back to why spurious and mass spiritual movements are often rocked by sex scandals. American yoga guru John Friend, who taught an Anusara style of yoga, a couple of years ago shut his practice post a sex scandal.

The Hare Krishna and Mahesh Yogi followers of the post '60s saw sex scandals and free spiritedness with deep links to transcendental meditation. And Madonna, goddess of pop sex, and Sting and their experiments with tantra and the kundalini, are well documented. Gandhi's own experiments with truth and with celibacy, or those of spiritualist Andrew Cohen's, and the accounts of Japanese monks of the Taoist orders document the struggle some of the wisest men of our times in dealing with sexual energies. It is not then pragmatic to expect that the neighbourhood yokel who has walked into a yoga class and is unleashing energies without a second thought to them, will have them under balance in about two months.

Ancient Indian systems of knowledge had built in checks and balances that allowed only hand-picked students, thought mature enough to handle the knowledge, to advance through levels. All knowledge was not to be disseminated without thought to the ultimate user and its impact on them and on society. That this eventually degenerated into a system that coercively kept certain classes out is another debate altogether.

The ignorant propagation of yoga in fact, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, could thus very well result in a rise of rape, not a decrease in it. It would be wonderful if those who propagated Hindu systems of practice took the pains to inform themselves about it, rather than sell them out of context, as fads and quick cures for everything from the size of your waist to rape. The latter, alas, only good governance can cure. How about some of that?

Writer

Gayatri Jayaraman Gayatri Jayaraman @gayatri__j

Mumbai-based writer, reporter, editor. Currently writing two books.

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