If bhakti offers higher taste why do devotees still struggle with sex desire?
Transcription By: Shalini Ahaluwalia Mataji
Edited By: Murlidhar Prabhu (Murli Thundi)
Question: If bhakti gives us higher taste which makes lower pleasures insignificant then why do sometimes even senior devotees struggle with sex desire?
Answer: There can be many reasons for this. First of all, sex desire is a very deep-rooted desire and it takes time to get purified of that desire. It’s not just a desire of this lifetime but has been going on for many, many lifetimes. The scriptures also say that it takes a long time to get purified.
But along with that at a practical level you may find that actually people indulge in sex for multiple reasons. One is for the pleasure of releasing the physical urge. But along with that sex also becomes a pseudo-medicine for loneliness, boredom or frustration. When a person is unable to manage his emotions then also he engages in sexual release for the sake of emotional relief and not so much for the sake of physical pleasure. Then this habit of seeking relief through sex, in something false, has to be changed which requires taking responsibility of one’s emotional life and becoming emotionally mature. This is something every individual has to do on one’s own.
For instance, when a person gets addicted to say drugs there is the withdrawal pain which is there and which lasts for a few days after the person decides he will not take drugs. But even after one has navigated through the withdrawal phase, there are emotional triggers after that. Say, there are heavy conflicts with somebody, or one is irritated, frustrated and wants some relief, then immediately one will remember the drugs.
Hence management of frustration by finding some alternative means of gaining relief is extremely important. Unless the addict, in the above example, is able to do that, even when there is no strong physical urge for drugs, the addict will fall back again to that old habit of taking drugs and there will be a relapse. A similar thing also happens with many devotees, especially the current devotees who are not brought up in a devotional background but were brought up in a culture where materialism is glamourized. That’s why for many people, sexual indulgence, which may or may not be through artificial means, is not just for physical pleasure but it’s also a means of relief, a pseudo-medicine.
In devotional life, if a person lives within the devotional culture, then a person is protected from most of the gross sexual stimulus. However emotional problems can come for everyone, even if they are devotees. They may sometimes feel lonely or frustrated, isolated, or for whatever reasons feel bored. Now when this happens, when one is feeling emotionally dry, one should not seek relief in lower pleasures, due to bad past conditionings. The lower pleasures are not a medicine, instead they are a pseudo-medicine and it makes things worse. Instead when the emotions make us frustrated at that time, we should rise upwards to the higher shelter of Krishna, for which we have to re-educate our emotions. When there is boredom, loneliness, frustration or any other negative emotion, even though the mind may think of some lower pleasures as a relief, we have to learn to seek the higher pleasure.
This seeking of the higher pleasure requires re-education of our emotions. We need to find out where is it that I can get the shelter of Krishna, what is it that gives me relief? And then start doing the activity more and more. Then through the habitual engagement in that activity, I re-educate myself so that whenever there is frustration, boredom or loneliness I immediately take shelter of Krishna through that activity.
Hence it is not so much the absence of the higher taste in bhakti, because bhakti does give the higher taste, as the need for cultivation of a different set of skills, which will enable one to choose a higher shelter than go by default to a downward pleasure. That’s why we are not here to judge others, why this person did this, or why that person did that, because that is between that person and Krishna. But we can observe for ourselves whether, when I am in my negative emotions do I try out some pseudo-medicine or do I seek shelter of Krishna? When we do that, when we train ourselves and educate our emotions to rise upwards and take shelter of Krishna, then these struggles with sexual desire will decrease significantly and eventually they will get eliminated.