Pornography

02/06/2016

Porn is unsettlingly easy to find.  It really is at our fingertips.  Perhaps before watching it, one experiences a brief moment of fear–will I be punished for this?  I personally don’t think that any fair moral code could punish someone for harmless pleasure.  But is porn really harmless?

Porn is disappointing.  Very disappointing.  It is a travesty of a way to feed lust.  Perhaps it is preferable to forcing lust upon others, but it’s repugnant nonetheless.  There’s no point in filming something like it, with absolutely no creativity.  It’s mechanical, dry, and there’s not even contact between the two people except through the sexual act–no one does this in real life, no one should do this in real life, no one should pretend this happens in real life, and no one should implant in others’ minds the idea of doing this in real life.  Porn removes all subtlety, all imagination, all passion, all spontaneity, all intimacy, all thought from sex.  It objectifies the actors within it, and it objectifies the human body and all people for that matter, and it makes sexual pleasure nothing more than something sleazy, engineered–not to mention the people it oppresses by their circumstantial obligation to participate.  By sexual intuition, no one would reach the conclusions portrayed in porn.  Porn attempts to define pleasure for us and I pity those whose minds form any form of attachment to it.

For more on the detriments of pornography, watch the TEDTalks by Israeli speaker Ran Gavrieli.

Abortion

What is my opinion on abortion?  First of all, I don’t think a doctrine that prohibits abortion should prohibit contraception, because sexual pleasure as only a pleasure that does not involve procreation is spiritually legal.  Also, if destroying a life is required to save another life or is the result of sex forced on the mother, the mother should have the right to choose–choose whether or not to preserve her own life, or choose because she didn’t get to choose to get pregnant in the first place.  But regardless of the right to choose, abortion should not be the first option; even if abortion is considered acceptable, there’s no reason to celebrate it.  We should look for inspiration to countries like Italy, where abortion is legal but has declined for the last few decades.  Life is still something to be respected, and sex under certain circumstances still has consequences according to nature, so why should we fight nature if the sex is only for the sake of pleasure?  As for Planned Parenthood, examining the facts one can discover that abortion is a tiny fraction of the services it provides (3% from 2013 to 2014), and defunding it out of sanctimony could have many repercussions, including a potential increase in government spending as a result of an increase in unplanned pregnancies.  A Medicare birth ($14,000) costs the government 28 times the price of a Planned Parenthood UID ($500), and every $1.00 invested in family planning saves $7.09 in government spending–while preventing abortions.  Yet, those who try to slam Planned Parenthood are very unlikely to support any of these measures.  In other words, if the goal is to reduce the incidence of abortion alone, a systematic approach would be highly more effective than religious zeal.  But the bottom line is, my opinions are mostly ideological and when it comes to policy, unless I were elected with the power to do so, I shouldn’t have the power to dispute the will of the majority.

Birthday

12/29/2015

I’m giving up the conviction that birthdays don’t matter.  Sure, they are a time of reflection, of looking back.  But to any person other than the one looking back, “looking back” doesn’t mean anything.  Other people already see you according to your last encounter with them, whereas you always live in the moment.  Therefore, looking back is normal to others–but can be stirring to you.  For others, the past is more inextricably tied to the present than it is in the point of view of the object of observance.  When I look back on a birthday, especially if I’m in places where I’ve spent previous years, I feel so much weight.  The weight isn’t a burden, but it just exists.  There’s so much life, so much love, so much happiness; I feel like I’ve lived 100 years (I’ve lived 16).  Experience is beautiful.  I apologize for the cliche, but it’s an ineffable experience.

Immigrants and Privilege

12/18/2015

My parents came to this country with about $20 in their pockets.  As they have built their way up, it is safe to say now that I live a life of comfort and prestige, where everything I could ever want is available to me should I ask for it, where money has never been an issue.  But as someone second-generation, is it fair for me to dislike prestige?  I’m surrounded by people with mansions, with connections that get them places, with millions of resources to die for that they waste away out of indolence because we’re only human and the fact that something is given does not ensure its use–in total, luxury and the accompanying disproportionate chances at success.  My parents didn’t have to migrate, but they did in order to give me this, or as much of it as they could.  Is it fair for me not to see much fairness in that?

A few important qualities of my parents have resulted from their immigrant experiences.  For one, they always assume the worst will happen.  Not can happen, but will happen.  This is warranted, considering they have probably already seen the worst–but why make yourself miserable by thinking of an unfavorable future?  Calculating the future doesn’t make misfortune less likely.  The only difference is that when misfortune comes, you won’t have enjoyed all of your days without it.  Why should you let apprehension prevent you from enjoying the present?  I am surrounded by friends, by a culture that isn’t imbued with this excessive sense of caution, so it’s natural for me to get annoyed with my parents who do have it.  But the child of an immigrant, especially one as shielded as I am, gets torn.  I have to understand that my parents didn’t get overly cautious out of nowhere–so it should make me insensitive to scorn it.

Another quality of my parents is that they never expect life to adapt to them.  Hence, individual qualities must be altered to fit the system–the flaws are only within.  For example, I am a fairly short person, which I’m okay with.  But my parents have never told me to be happy with my height; on the contrary, they always inculcated in me the idea that tall people are most successful in life, an idea I am just now realizing is pretty unhealthy.  They have even offered me the option to get growth hormone injections (I declined).  (To their credit, they probably weren’t expecting a yes anyways.)  As lighter examples, they perceive as flaws a lot of things that other parents see as merely qualities.  You aren’t a morning person?  Picking later classes once you’re in college isn’t enough; you have to become a morning person.  You don’t have friends you relate to, nor are you a social butterfly?  It doesn’t matter what gives you pleasure; you have to become an extrovert.  Put aside your likes and dislikes, because you have to learn to like watching football and going to the Home Depot.  You have a poor sense of direction?  Too bad, because you have to develop one.  You don’t realize that you’ve faced these urges from your parents until you’re old enough to figure out on your own that different people have different skills, and that that’s okay.  Ironically, immigrants who come from cultures characterized by a fixed mindset often expect their children to adapt more than native parents do with their own kids, even if the native culture is traditionally more growth-oriented.

Finally, my parents had to work extremely hard to reach where they are now.  They have earned every penny.  But because of this, they have little sympathy for the underprivileged; because they are a success story, they don’t feel any remorse for the failure stories.  In fact, most of India shares this attitude, that poverty is an inevitable part of the social hierarchy and will always exist, so there’s no point in fighting it.  In fact, my dad has even called my sympathy a mere result of my youth and immaturity.  Since my parents succeeded without help, they don’t think other people should have help, either; they have entitled themselves to consider debt and poverty as products of nothing but personal irresponsibility.  This is where I most disagree with my parents.  It is incumbent on society to provide every new being an equal chance at success, rather than leaving potential to be unlocked based on the lottery of birth alone.  My views don’t change, but I’m still torn because I know that it’s easy for me to sympathize without having experienced any of the hardships of my parents.

I know that these qualities in my parents were also influenced by many other factors, like culture, their own parents, their own upbringing, and general staidness, but I think the immigrant experience has also had an important effect.  That said, every immigrant experience is unique.  I haven’t talked about all of these points with many other second-generation kids, but there is a chance some would relate.

Returning to India

11/18/2015

I am Indian.  I am currently 15 and have visited India four times.  At my stage in life, we become different people every year.  Between my most recent trip to India in December 2014, my freshman year of high school, and the time before that, over four years had passed, so in 2014 I was ready to experience India in a way I never had before, through a new set of eyes.

I made tens of thousands of words of notes during the trip, but the following entries include a few that discuss only the more subtle aspects of returning to India, rather than the actual occurrences of the trip.

December 2014

Ever since I’ve been here, I have been feeling an odd thrill.  Is it because I have Indian blood, or because I have childhood memories here?  Or because I have a new perspective?  Or because I am enjoying time spent with family?

Mumbai is a beautiful and rich city, but do we say that just because it’s different than the US?  Also, it’s a city we foreigners don’t get even close to experiencing, save for Eastern toilets and bucket showers.  Although Nani’s (my maternal grandmother’s) condo is old, it may well be in the top 1% of Indian living conditions.  We only observe India from our bubble, from a sheltered distance.

In this country, with such an abundance of population, people find their niches in unexpected places.  There are thousands of street vendors, rickshaw drivers, tiffin carriers, etc., and there are just so many people that someone is always somewhere, at any given obscure place.

There is a sense of Indian companionship and trust, as there doesn’t seem to be the slightest bit of suspicion as men in sari shops have to tighten saris for display on women and for taking measurements, or as barbers on the streets use large knives to shave random men.

In America, everything is an enclosed environment with virtually no smells or intimacy; in India, everyone is open to each other, with walkers in the streets, people all up in each other’s space in driving, people’s open clotheslines, people sitting in each other’s laps in rickshaws, the smells of people’s feces, the scents of all of the vendors’ products.

As I purposely didn’t use a seatbelt in the car, a thought came to mind.  It feels like I’m here for the first time, but at the same time I’m not.  I’ve seen everything before, but I saw it from my own bubble like my baby cousin once removed: ‘I’m hungry now,’ ‘I want mommy now.’  Now that I’m old and mature enough, I can get the experience of being here and actually observe things–but at the same time, I’ve already observed this city before.  I feel like a foreigner experiencing the nuances of the city as opposed to those of my own homeland, but experiencing it with background knowledge of the city as if from another person: my former self.  It’s a weird balance.

In India, with this lifestyle, because everyone has to be active and simple tasks require much vigilance and energy, there is simply no room, no time, for trashcans (let alone recycling), suburbs, exercise, nutritional restraint, seatbelts, easy ways to wash your hands, mere handsoap, public services, fine arts, foreign language and electives, manners (i.e. polite ways to belch, fart, grunt, etc.–although that’s also cultural), etc.

Feminism and Gender in India

11/18/2015

The novelist and poet Margaret Atwood said, “Does feminist mean large unpleasant women who’ll shout at you or someone who believes women are human beings?  To me it’s the latter, so I sign up.”

If you consider yourself a meninist, all I can say is that I hope this post dispels your ignorance.  You may think that feminists are oversensitive and should learn how to take a joke.  “Sexism is over, women are equal now,” you might say.  First of all, let us begin with the premise of meninism.  The formal definition of feminism is belief in the equality of the genders, so by default, meninism is the belief in female inferiority–and that is itself sexism.

But America is full of ideologists who are often more likely to discuss the theory of feminism than its implications.  Feminism isn’t about insensitive jokes in the workplace; it’s about access to safety, health care, and education worldwide.  Millions of girls in the developing world are more likely to be raped than schooled, which perpetuates economic dependence and almost certainly contributes to extremism.  I highly admire journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn for highlighting these concrete issues in their book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

This should be enough to silence meninists, but that’s not the whole story.  Even the initial meninist argument doesn’t hold true: in an industrialized country like the U.S.A., women aren’t even close to being treated as members of society equal to men.  Women are not represented equally as executives and in government and still haven’t been granted equal pay or decent maternity leave by law.  And yes, thousands of women face hostile environments everyday because of their gender.  No, not all men see women as nothing more than objects.  But that’s the start of the conversation, not the end.

But all of this talk about equality warrants another counterargument: men are not the same as women.  No matter how much feminists argue otherwise, there will always be differences between them.  This argument has a few problems.  First of all, arguing that women are equal to men does not implicate that they are the same as men.  In the United States, the cost of car insurance is higher for male teenagers than it is for female teenagers–so how can men and women be the same?  There are some skills, talents, and strengths that women are more likely to have than men–and vice versa–and whether these differences are innate or inculcated on us by society is a question that remains largely unanswered.  But some innate differences between men and women cannot be denied: men are physiologically more likely have more muscle mass than women, and women are wired to have more emotional intelligence than men.  But in terms of academia, leadership, and politics, the differences between men and women are founded by nothing except tradition.

And as we make social progress as a society, we have also become more aware that the distinctions between men and women are not universal and, for many, truly confining.  In fact, some argue that gender does not exist at all.  In my opinion, the best way to address this is to settle for the idea that no qualities or skills are limited to men or women, but there still remain people who actually identify as full men and women.  The argument that gender is nothing but a deep-rooted fallacy is not very evidenced: a 2009 Emory University study found that without facing social pressures, male rhesus monkeys are more likely to choose “male” toys such as trucks and vehicles, whereas female rhesus monkeys are more likely to choose “female” toys like dolls and stuffed animals.  Yet, this does not warrant panic if a human child exhibits preferences that stray from the norm.  And even more importantly, it does not demonstrate a hierarchy; male tendencies are in no way, under no circumstances, inherently superior to female tendencies.  How does that translate to real life?

With the exceptions of being a mother or being a father and breastfeeding, I don’t believe any activities are intrinsically male or female.  (Note: this does not mean that a child will turn out better with both a mother and a father, because studies also show that children with two mothers or two fathers do not face any psychological damage or disadvantage.)  In a heterosexual marriage, I do not believe duties should be designated to either the male or the female–so it follows that I do not believe that women should be forcibly domesticated.  This does not mean that all housekeeping activities in a marriage should be split in half; it only means that the point of marriage is shared objectives.  I believe the ideal attitude of spouses is the following: “We have this and this to take care of, so let us collectively do it together in a way that makes sense according to each of our other obligations.”

In any case, at our stage as a society, logic is less likely to convince than example.  Many people can understand the points made in the previous paragraphs, so far more insightful might be instances in real life that depict our treatment of women.  In December 2014, I made a three-week trip to India, in which I stayed in Mumbai and in various parts of Gujarat.  The following entries are a few observations I made and thoughts I had on gender during the trip.

December 2014

Chariot Yoga

11/19/2015

The post on sexual pleasure mentioned the chariot model of yoga, which deserves its own post for a brief explanation.  In the chariot model, the indriyas or senses are the horses, the mana or mind is the reigns, the buddhi or intellect that disciplines the mind is the driver, and the atman or soul is the passenger.  The chariot can only move forward when the senses are surrendered to the mind, which is surrendered to the buddhi.  Yoga is a vector, so direction is also an important factor, not only concentration in that direction.  The direction is correct when the system is surrendered to the will of the atman, without attachments and desires of the mind in the way.  This analogy describes the progression highlighted in Chapter 3, Slokas 42-43 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Sexual Pleasure

11/17/2015

Many see sexual pleasure to be the limit of the human experience, even the purpose of human life, and I can assure you that this is not true.  But regardless of the fundamental role of sexual pleasure in human existence, we need a way to address it as part of regular life.

In long-term relationships, spouses must share all goals and be entirely open to one another; by this logic, a spousal relationship can develop between any two people regardless of their sexuality.  I used to think that sexual pleasure, like the pleasures of taste and touch, was merely physical.  However, insight from my parents has opened me to understand that sex does indeed have an intense emotional aspect that is conducive to mutual trust and love in a relationship.  Although my parents could be biased in this opinion by Indian culture, according to them, sex is not a part of marriage that we can overlook.

To some religions like Christianity, sexual restraint is a central part of being a clean person and earning heaven–but a glance at Christian society shows that this rule hasn’t worked out too well.  Plus, modern studies are finding that regular sex can boost immune health, lower blood pressure, lower heart attack risk, alleviate pain, and improve sleep, among other health benefits.  The point is, our ideology should accept something that is an ineluctable feature of the human body.

Hinduism is seen by most Western scholars as compatible with sexual pleasure–actually, some Western scholars have taken this too far.  For example, bhakti, which has a strong base in saguna (manifest) forms, the rupas, of God, despite being selfless and irrelevant to bodily desires, has been falsely interpreted by some Western historians to have an element of eroticism.  In any case, Hinduism is in no way a faith characterized by sexual ritual, but it does accept sexual pleasure as compatible with spirituality.  Libido is mentioned twice in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7, Sloka 11; Chapter 10, Sloka 28), and neither time is it forbidden.

By instinct, many Hindus believe that sex should only be performed for the purpose of procreation.  There are many problems with this ideology: for one, we cannot deny that God also created homosexual attraction, which does not compel humans to procreate.  Furthermore, as far as I can see, nothing warrants heterosexual scorn for homosexual practices, because it is clear that any sex done for pleasure alone is effectively nothing more than mutual masturbation, whether or not it is between man and woman.

We can confirm that celibacy is not a requisite for spirituality, but what about general sexual restraint?  This question is one of the most important questions in yoga (union with God–moksha, nirvana–and the path to that goal), and it is best answered through realizations rather than theoretical knowledge.  The following is a series of individual journal entries with relevant ideas that have come to me over time.

December 2014

What is love?  I believe in love in regards to familial, especially motherly, love, because I myself have experienced it; even the Hindu religion recognizes that the love of mother is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.  What’s there not to believe?  Even God loves us, although that is love (although truly incomparable) more like that of a parent towards his children, not the infatuation Westerners often call love.  The Western mode of thought considers physical attraction or even sexual infatuation to be love, partially contributed to by the fact that Western religions consider the body to be the self, and partially because of the push towards more open and shameless sex as a regular part of life encouraged by Hollywood and media.

Sexual infatuation–as with Romeo and Juliet–aside, what about the actual love between two unrelated people?  Westerners base this on appearance, but can it not be unrelated to appearance?  I believe people can have personalities that we enjoy, to the point of willingness to commit to those people, but can there be something beyond that?  There was without doubt unimaginably potent love between Sita and Ram, and that must be the same love that exists between God and all of his devotees.  But a tiny portion of me is a tiny bit curious, does unconditional love unrelated to appearance or bhakti, an ineluctable tie between two mortally bound souls, exist?

later in December 2014

Onion and garlic are tamasic, categorized with meat, because: Sri Krshna didn’t eat them (confirms), they are disagreeable for digestion in Ayurveda, they provoke wicked thoughts, and they are indulgent, dirty foods that a would make a good person feel like he/she is crossing some sort of barrier, as with meat and alcohol and sex.

01/16/2015

Since I believe the purpose of life is not sexual gratification, I don’t see an enormous problem with gay men marrying women, so that both parents can have a genetic relationship with their kids, and so that gay men wouldn’t be deprived of the sensible, balanced, and peaceful nature of many women.  With what I know about marriage, it is almost entirely emotional, not sexual.  However, Dad said that many marriages, some he can name, have broken because of gay men were just trying to cover up their biological inclination by marrying women.  The question occurred to me, is that fair to a woman to put her through a relationship with a gay man?  Is that somehow cheating her, depriving her, tainting her righteous opportunity to enjoy?  I understand that unless you’re bisexual, it is not within your biological realm of possibility to fathom sexual inclination to or gratification by the other sex than the one of your attraction.  Yet, it’s still amazing how Hindus can put aside their belief in reincarnation, more lives and opportunities, and take sexuality so seriously as if this life were their only one, that one’s conjugal relationship is the final verdict and that one must must must be true to one’s sexuality in an overt way.  My outlook on marriage agreeing with the purpose of life–why has what seemed to me to have been the original truth of all humanity, a simple application of righteous principles, become what is now just a ‘Vivek-thing’?

(Note: I have obviously learned since this journal entry.  For one, all of the emotional requirements of marriage can be met between any two people regardless of gender.  Even when my opinions have changed, I will include such journal entries because dialectic may help readers to absorb more.)

01/17/2015

Sexual pleasure is a pain, the ultimate dirty and tamasic indulgence hurting so good, which makes it difficult to initially engage in.  Once initiated, it is addicting, something to which you feel compelled more and more easily to return.  Right after and throughout the day, life is disintegrated; when you can’t feasibly do it (you can’t have sex all day), you feel a compulsion to return to it, and your life culminates to the moment where it can happen again.  Past health risks, you feel helpless when it’s not occurring and less satisfied when it occurs.  It’s not a supreme moment that exemplifies the nature of human existence, but rather a delusive disintegrator.

(I am now more forgiving to sexual activity as a pursuit of pleasure.  We cannot deny the natural human inclination toward it.  That said, although a person who engages in regular sexual activity is not by default a bad person, the most disciplined of yogis consistently seem to practice sexual restraint.)

01/18/2015

Although sexual compulsion and inclination is delusive and painful, it is a natural part of human embodiment that we would not be better off without; this reflects one of the ideas of our Upanishads class today, that the goal is not merely to escape, but rather to rise above and conquer.

03/19/2015

Hunger, thirst, sensual pleasure, lust–bodily desires and experiences can be very deluding.  However, you can’t just leave it all and go be a yogi in the forest, or a Buddhist monk or whatever name and face people put on renunciation.  I’m not being an iconoclast; what I’m writing here is very real, and isn’t religion really about finding the truth?  At least naturally, you can’t eat a meal and decide whether or not you taste it, then decide whether or not you get full; similarly, you can’t spontaneously change your biology to annul your sexuality to avoid the addictions and clouding reasoning associated with sex; you can’t choose whether or not music induces an endocrine or cerebral response, or choose if it gives you chills–it’s just not your choice.  You cannot escape material sensations–but that’s not the end of the story.  You can escape the attachments and delusions associated with them (kama or desire, lobha or greed on its feeding, kroda or anger on its obstruction, etc.).  We can’t renounce the expectations of the sensual and material results of actions, which will come regardless of our whims and speculations–but we can renounce our dependence on those fruits.  We are totally pure, but by our association with the body, which reeks of inexorable material impurities, the impurities of the body become ours (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18, Sloka 48: “Do not abandon your innate duties, Arjuna, even if they are tainted with blemish, because just as all fire is enveloped insmoke, all undertakings are clouded with demerit.”).  The actions must be performed, and the experiences will come, but as soon as we separate ourselves from the attachments to the body and its karmas, realizing those actions and experiences to be discrete from the true self, then nothing can bind one to the body any longer.  Free from the bonds that hold one in the wheel of samsara, one can be pure, and with purity, one is eligible to reunite with God (in a state known as liberation, moksha, divine heaven, nirvana, etc.).  That statement of truth cannot even be understood with a mindset that does not recognize the atman, the actual subtle life (which is not based in the body).

03/11/2015

It’s difficult to find balance in life: within food, between food and other things, reality and entertainment and speculation, exercise.  Then there are more outside forces, like music and sex–and no matter how you seek to quantify the confusion, it is only God Who can understand it.  Getting a sense of that, how can you comfortably continue life?  How can you work and forget this background force, how can you study or eat a meal?  By devotion: only with love can you always be surrendered, and live in the context of that state no matter what happens in the foreground.

03/27/2015

There is one important thing to understand regarding why Hindu texts don’t discuss issues such as homosexuality or abortion:  Under Hinduism, the purpose of life is not sexual relationships.  Acquiring the pleasure of cleanliness, purity, and devotion (which leads one to enjoy the supreme pleasure of the divine bliss of God) may seem to require a path that renounces a lot of what people now think are some of the only sources of happiness–namely money, intoxication, and sex alongside other physical indulgences.  In other words, people have to renounce what they think are sources of happiness in order to attain real happiness.  People may regard that statement with skepticism, but the reality is that if anything (assuming one doesn’t acquire instant-happiness-entailing devotion to God), the short-term displeasure of those renunciations is the only way to lead to the long-term infinite bliss of God, whereas those material items that provide immediate pleasure only lead to long-term pain and dissatisfaction.  As for the pleasure derived from sex, although we cannot deny that it exists, we must know it to not be our own pleasure, because we are not these physical bodies (but rather the atman life-sources within).  Yes, this argument to avoid indulgent sex is completely hopeless and short-sighted in this modern era (which Hindus know to be Kali Yuga), but the mindset that justifies free enjoyment of sex, when boiled down, is truly a manifestation of the current corruption and lack of spiritual progress of mankind.  And accompanying this corruption, as we have grown further and further from God over thousands of years, we have developed and fallen prey to gender inequality, Hindu caste, monetary greed, and many other vices of man.

(Note: Again, since writing this, I have developed a far more tolerant attitude toward sexual endeavors.  Now, I believe that you don’t have to renounce the short-term to attain the long-term happiness, because the two are irrelevant to each other and can coexist.  You can enjoy the bliss of God without renouncing sexual or epicurean pleasures.  I will generally avoid writing about “religious experiences” in this blog because of the nonsense that this cover can justify, but in this case I can assure you from my own experience that the pleasure of God satisfies all desires and all sense of incompleteness, thereby obviating cravings for external enjoyments.  If true, this directly negates Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, in which there is no chance of attaining subtler goals unless physical ones have already been met–but then again, so does the existence of happy poor people.  As for the relationship between mental and external enjoyments, see the final entry in this post.)

06/19/2015

I would say the only righteous sexual desire is that for the purpose of procreation, but that would invalidate the righteousness of the inevitable sexual urges of homosexuals.  As I read the Gita searching particularly for whether sexual pleasure complies with spiritual dharma, I don’t see it called off anywhere.  If anything, it is rajas because of the association with body pleasure; living solely for it could be justified as tamas, however, but that doesn’t mean it is in all cases.

07/01/2015

Sometimes there is no regret on pursuing sexual pleasure because there probably aren’t immediate drawbacks.  Sexual desire is unique in that although it can return in a matter of a few hours, when it is fed, it is fed completely and entirely.  Perhaps this is associated with how it is based only on the material body, because even after the moment of gratification, although the subtle mind by its connection with the body can still understand the pleasure, the desire for it and ability to be stimulated is dissipated in the body right after gratification.

Actually, there is guilt associated with it, but just if one has been previously exposed to the higher pleasure of involvement in a larger purpose (mentioned in A Path Appears, detailed in the Gita).  Things would be different if such pleasure had no spiritual repercussions.  But it can’t be such, because one can’t attain the Supreme without freedom from the material.  The superior satisfaction of control over the cravings can only be understood once that path has already been taken.  If anything, sexual pleasure can serve as a reminder of and encouragement to attain the real goal, because greater gratification in the moment is hard to imagine, let alone the infinite pleasure of God; the conception that pleasure can be greater than that experience can encourage bhakti.  However, while a larger cause requires full dedication, entailing escape and forgetting mundane, material life, sex firms your attachment to and mental association with the body, because it directly involves consciously deriving pleasure from it.

07/25/2015

Sex leads to instability and anger, which clouds knowledge (Chapter 2).  Common perception doesn’t matter; it’s Kali Yuga, and everyone else’s bondage doesn’t justify pursuing activities that will lead to our own.  After all, God says He is the sexual desire leading to procreation, not to pleasure.

In certain ways, it must be nice for a male homosexual to live in our society, because gay men aren’t corrupted by the unfortunately common use of women as sex symbols.

08/02/2015

It is possible that God diminishes sexual drive to allow us to avoid distractions during the day?

08/06/2015

Chapter 18: a jnanayogi must renounce lust, but on the other hand, a karmayogi attains God even while performing action.  Presumably, this means while a jnanayogi must deny sexual urges, a karmayogi can at least accept them as a natural occurrence (actually energized by God, Chapter 7) and even follow them for procreation.  However, this should never be motivation to pursue karmayoga, because under that mindset sex is pursued for pleasure, whereas it should only be undertaken for procreation.  Any yogi knows or eventually realizes that sexual pleasure is not a lasting pleasure, rather a transient and sleazy pleasure (sometimes of an addict), a chemical release in the brain like those associated with drug use, that clouds the buddhi, obfuscating the dharmic from the adharmic, and makes one cling to material nature (rajasic dhriti).  And after all, Sri Krshna says not pursuing this body-centric (therefore rajasic or even tamasic if destructive) pleasure may begin as poison, but end up as nectar with the pleasure of self-control.

Delicate idea: perhaps homosexuality is a blessing from God, because for homosexuals, dharmic procreation is not entangled with physiological desire.  This would make MSM or other forms of homosexual courting or intercourse adharmic.

Sex itself can be performed under any of the three gunas, but the pleasure itself, derived from the body, cannot be sattvic.  Renunciation is not only of physical sex, but also of thoughts of it and indulgent observance of attractive people.

Perhaps they want to be true to themselves, but homosexuals should not marry just with the prospects of sexual pleasure.  As for “love,” as in emotional commitment and not physical attraction like between Romeo and Juliet, I believe it can be towards anyone, of any gender or physiology.

08/11/2015

Why must one avoid sex?  Isn’t it just like having a really good meal?  Perhaps one of the differences, among the many major ones, is that sex for pleasure removes the possibility of divinity from interaction with other people.

08/18/2015

Why do women seem to demonstrate no sexual drive?  Are they have more self-control than men, or do they secrete fewer or less strong hormones (warranting the new women’s libido pill)?

08/25/2015

Recalling that a sensual pleasure is supported by an infinitesimal portion of God’s infinite yogic power (Bhagavad Gita 10.42) eventually serves as an excuse for pursuing sexual pleasure.  There doesn’t seem to be any proper way to pursue the pleasure–although the activity itself can be righteous, if done solely for appropriate procreation.  We must first renounce sexual activity, then restrain lust.  Perhaps the mindset that God sustains the pleasure by a tiny portion of His glory only works when the pleasure escalates, because just as pain is difficult to imagine when we’re not in it, sexual pleasure is difficult to refer to as an experience.

(Note: now I see that people don’t have sex to be righteous, so this has little importance.  Not all activities are directly productive.)

08/31/2015

I feel like many great Hindus personally scorn homosexuals as sleazy, and I don’t really see why.  Perhaps, not coincidentally, those Hindus are under the strong influence of Indian culture.  Sure, maybe homosexual practices and indulgence are bad, but not any worse than heterosexual indulgence.

09/01/2015

Just as masturbation ruins a person’s sanctified relationship with life, indulgent sexual relations with others must ruin pure relationships with others.

(My current view is that while masturbation does seem like a sleazy practice on first sight, in small doses it can relieve stress without descending into a habit of dependence, i.e. addiction.)

09/03/2015

I always struggled to see the difference between masturbation and sex for pleasure; to me, the only difference is in the number of people involved.  But today, Mom offered me some insight into the Indian view of this issue of the compatibility of sexual pleasure with spirituality.  She said that people just don’t live alone–even Sri Krshna and Sri Rama got married–and part of a matrimonial relationship is sex, respecting and fulfilling the desires of the spouse.  But what if the spouse doesn’t want sex and you do?  Is the solution masturbation, to appease the body’s unwanted urges without involving another person?  If not masturbation (which is apparently so impure iOS will never autocorrect to it), is the solution to this unilateral desire restraint of those sexual urges?  But doesn’t that defeat one of the purposes of marriage?  My mom really didn’t show any approval of masturbation, which she said causes impurities in the mind that prevent effect execution of duties with its distractions–and I can see some truth in that.  That means that she thinks that sex in moderation within a married couple, in the proper way, even if it isn’t solely for procreation, is compatible with moving towards God, and therefore has the potential to not obstruct spiritual sensibility.  Then how does homosexuality, where there exists no attraction to the opposite sex, fit into this model?  Obviously, no procreation arises from MSM (or its female counterpart), so it serves no purpose whatsoever except gratification.  But if righteous heterosexual marriages can involve sex only for pleasure, can’t the same righteous union happen between homosexuals in a same-sex marriage?  It seems in the past, Hindus have drawn the line there at where is it acceptable to derive sexual pleasure, but if they stigmatize homosexuals and same-sex marriage for that reason, then that by default upsets the basis of justifying pleasure in heterosexual marriage.

09/23/2015

I appreciate the great art and realistic depictions Hollywood and Bollywood have brought us–The Help, Twelve Years a Slave, Three Idiots, Barfi!–and I appreciate good comedy.  However, now I can see the force Hollywood has been in glamorizing sex, alcohol, and violence.  The way Bollywood has degraded women as sex tools as main characters and in item songs is becoming quite evident, but Hollywood has its ails, too, which India probably took too far in trying to emulate Hollywood in favor of these detrimental aspects of our era.

10/23/2015

After much thought about it, I think I may have discovered the acceptable way to pursue sexual pleasure: out of compulsion by the body, whose hormones we don’t control, but not out of compulsion by the mind, the site of addiction.  Even if this doesn’t quite fit the integrating model of yoga, represented by a chariot, that begins with conquering of the senses with the mind, then the mind, by the intellect, at the same time, conquering the mind has far more spiritual relevance than conquering the senses, even if the order in which either is done is unconventional.

The Importance of Sleep

11/17/2015

In discussing dhyana yoga (union with God by exclusive absorption of the mind) in the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krshna says, “This yoga is neither for him who overeats, nor for him who observes a complete fast; it is neither for him who is given to oversleeping, nor for him who is ceaselessly awake.” (6.16)  The Bhagavad Gita is an almost exclusively abstract text, but Sri Krshna felt the need to mention this concrete aspect of our journeys.  Although yoga is an entirely internal process (of the antahkarana, the mind complex), at our stage we must cultivate a physical context that is conducive to our spiritual journeys.  In particular, sleep is more important than rested people can imagine.

Lately, have been writing more frequently, especially working on a Bhagavad Gita commentary, often sacrificing sleep to do so.  After several months on significantly less sleep than my body needed, any sense of peace I was developing began to dissipate.  The following is a journal entry I made at that time: the turn of thoughts might convey a sense of what lack of sleep can cause in the mind.

11/06/2015

The peace I thought I had is falling apart.  Maybe it is a combination of many factors, like stress over so many commitments (I emotionally and physically cannot handle more; an increased tendency to back out of things seems like being a flake, but I only do so because of my real needs).  I thought maybe lack of sleep prevented me from composedly handling challenges, but self-analysis renders more.  I originally thought I was unfoundedly depending on myself to make the commentary perfect, to the extent where I feel repelled by the idea of working on it at this time.  Now, on the other hand, I’m starting to think maybe as I grow up, my participation in my commitments has gone from superficial to realizing how much I have to learn; I always assumed I can have success in everything I care about and depended on that idea, but now that I’m more exposed to each field I’m participating in, that idea is definitively slipping away and my accomplishments seem nominal.  But now, I’m thinking, something bigger in my life could be causing this… despair?  Mild depression?  It could be that all my life I thought I was part of a system beyond philosophy, that I was beyond certain emotional attachments, but now I’m seeing how quickly and easily I’m shaped by the things I learn, that I don’t know everything.  Maybe there were triggers, like seeing Mukundananda’s great children’s book, discovering the historical inaccuracy of the Aryan invasion theory, seeing my own previous work and being unable to emulate it, reading about the origins of capitalism and how it is still very powerfully the mindset that shapes almost everything in the West, which I’m not apart from.  Maybe what happened is that it is dangerous to have utmost faith when you’re too young, because anything contrary you learn can cause the basis of your life to crumble.

(later that day)
Nothing is crumbling.  Or at least, a hurt ego isn’t destroying my life; I’ve always been open to learning and others’ success and that hasn’t changed.  Outside influences aren’t hurting my faith, just confusing me because I’m tired.  This tire is making the stress of so many activities, even those intended to be fun, more stressful than they actually are.  At this point in sleep deprivation you begin to get a bit reckless, just not carefree, and you begin to stress at the smallest things.
(Note: It is physiologically proven that sleep deprivation can high blood pressure and increased sensitivity to pain, among a myriad of adverse effects and immediate dangers such as delayed response time.)

Lizzie Velasquez

written 10/31/2015

The way Lizzie Velasquez encourages oppressed people is great, but I don’t like her argument that haters should keep bothering her “because I’m a better person than you’ll ever be.”  Her efforts to make people more tolerant are great, but at the same, in my opinion, people are too quick to obsess over some of these discrimination issues.  For example, that’s great if you’re LGBTQ, but there’s no reason to celebrate it; no one celebrates heterosexuality.  We should without doubt be open and respectful to everyone and fight for their rights if necessary.  Lizzie Velasquez happens to be a great person, and although the current state of our society makes celebration of the qualities of minorities necessary to bring light to those issues (thus warranting Velasquez’s fame), in a perfect world, if we ever reach such a state as a community, her body should not automatically win her respect.  If people see a person they find ugly, instead of automatically looking for his or her “real beauty within” (which might not even be there), they should just ignore the body and see the person for what they really are, like they do for everyone else.  The same goes for attractive people; we get closer to the truth, the goal of all humanity, when we see things for what they are, not for the form they take.  Until we reach that discrimination-free state, keep fighting, Velasquez!  I don’t respect you because you’re beautiful, but because you stand against discrimination, because you speak out against oppression, and because, of course, everyone deserves basic respect.