Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?

The following post is taken from my response to a young person interested in practicing celibacy as a way to cultivate spirituality:

…The whole idea of celibacy made sense to my mind: conserve the vital essence and transmute “lower desires” into higher “spiritual perceptions”;  do not waste or dissipate the sex energy as it is a strain and hindrance in cultivating the spirit.

Ok, what am I getting at?…The constant fight and discipline year after year was exhausting me physically and tweaking me mentally. Even though I could sit for hours on end and once in awhile experience the most sublime out of body states, I came to realize that the constant fight would ensure my ultimate separation from the very Source I prayed and fought for. I was fighting the very energy (sex) that was needed to feel deeply alive and aware. I found that the more I was able to kill the sex instinct, the more dead I felt on the inside…and my body started to fall apart. I was getting sick for longer and longer periods.

It’s kind of interesting to note the corner I painted myself into. It seems that the world loves and reveres the monk or nun who “gives up the world” for a “higher calling.” And it’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling special, that somehow you’re doing something “selfless” and beyond the scope of the rest of the world, that achieving the highest spirituality somehow required a separation from the world. In fact the world and worldly pastimes (especially sex) was a sort of enemy—one to be denied and fought. And the ones who fought the hardest were the ones most revered, even if the battle left physical and mental scars.

It was quite a cosmic set-up. Devotees of the church revered the sanyasis, the senior monks and nuns of the order. Of course they revered the ideal that we represented, but it was a little too easy to go along with the unspoken charade of being somehow separate and higher than the rest of the world. A seductive kind of spiritual arrogance would creep in. Try as one might to remain humble and to be authentic and real, the power of group-think and the tidal pull of living in close community with those who thought along the same lines made it difficult to think and act differently. In other words, the voice of the community and the role of monastic would more often than not overshadow and overpower the voice of my own heart, which was sublimated to such a degree that I came to consider body, mind and even my heart as a kind of enemy, something not to be trusted.

The idea of “transmutation,” the raising of the kundalini to sublimate sexual desire was a nice sounding principle that meant nothing to me in practice. You see, I started from the premise that sex was something that got in the way of spirituality and that it was a “waste” of vital essence, that it was something to “transmute,” that higher spiritual perceptions occur only when the sex desire is let go of. This starting point would hardly allow for the transmutation of sex desire, as I was not able to transmute that which I did not wish to fully look at or embrace within myself.

I chopped myself into pieces: Higher Self vs. lower self, sex desire vs. spiritual desire, ego vs. soul, etc. etc…This very separation of self and Higher Self was also the backdrop of my prayer for oneness with God, and in my own fragmented consciousness, I relegated God to an impossible future: “If I try harder, if I’m chaste enough, if I’m good enough and strong enough…maybe then I will find oneness with God.” That inner schism between my “weak” and “faulty” self and with the God Ideal was tweaking me mentally to no end!

Fast-forward 19 years. When I left the ashram, it was with the thought from some in the community that I gave up, that I did not try hard enough, that somehow I was caught by delusion. It was part of a belief system that was extremely difficult to dislodge from. However, I finally came to the understanding that I needed to just be, sex desire and all… to embrace rather than to fight the energies of my humanness. Was it delusion on my part? Maybe, but I knew that the ultimate surrender would begin by learning little by little to trust the voice of my own heart, and not the loud voices shouting “failure” and “fallen one” from the outside.

During that difficult period, I felt a need for a major housecleaning: I threw out all of my holy relics and sacred scriptures! I felt a need to toss it all: the baby along with the bathwater! It was not from desperation, but rather from an inner knowing that it was ok to let the whole superstructure of my spiritual belief system to collapse, along with all the assumptions, props and mythologies built up around the lives of the holy saints, the gurus, sannyasis, etc. I felt that the voice that called me to the ashram was now calling me to enter another phase of learning, one that called for a greater trust in what my heart was saying.

Now about celibacy…this is my opinion: What belief system do you wish to build up around it? Do you wish to believe the rishis and gurus who apparently develop great powers through the mastery of brahmacharya? Or do you subscribe to the present medical model that says there is no harm in losing the sex fluid? In my experience, yeah, it’s great to abstain for long periods, and yeah, it’s also fabulous to indulge. Why make either way such a big deal? In my opinion…it comes down to just being aware from moment to moment. If you wish to have sex, do so with all your awareness and being. If you wish to practice celibacy, do so with all your awareness and being. If you wish it to be a fight, do so with awareness and being.

In the ashram, some of the monks who seemed to be most disciplined could also be the most emotionally disconnected and harsh. This is not to say there were not some wonderful and loving individuals there. I have also met some deeply spiritual and powerfully loving householders, people who have the responsibilities of raising a family. I bow my head to those who have been able to achieve such balance in their lives while caring for family.

The belief systems we build up around spirituality and the saints can be just as much a trap as can be in losing ourselves in the day-to-day dramas of “worldly living,” sexual overindulgence, relationship problems, etc. Again, I think it comes down to connecting with the lessons that are here for us when we just allow ourselves to be available to where we are in the sacred moment.

It sounds so simple…and I think it really is. But the mind seems to want to complicate things, to idealize the saints and gurus, to build huge edifices of stone and scriptures. I think it’s fine in the beginning, in fact maybe it’s necessary as a way to develop some kind of spiritual routine…And for me it took me almost two decades to get to a point of understanding the fundamental simplicity of the spiritual path…I’m a slow learner. It’s something that a 5 year old can understand. But the practice of moment to moment awareness is fought by the mind because it wants to make the path to God the most arduous, where only the saints and renunciants abide.

…I could be wrong about the whole thing, and I only have my heart to filter all the experiences garnered over a lifetime. But I think that is all that anyone has. We can mentally process, but the heart will ultimately filter it all. If we cannot trust our hearts, where are we?


Filed under Celibacy

22 responses to “Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?

  1. Of course, the raising of sepent power must arise, and the sexual energy has to be transmuted upwards. It is natural to have sexual desire, but to masturbate regularly is to throw away that creative essence within yourself.

  2. Shiv

    According to Credo Mutwa (Zulu Sanusi) Sexuality (males and females) was created by reptilian humanoids who called themselves gods and decided to control humanity. Sexuality and also language was created to divide and weaken humans so that they were easier to manipulate.
    As ridiculous as this may sound it makes perfect sense to me that to manipulate someone, you should do it in a subtle way so they are unaware of what is really going on.

  3. Rob

    Sexual denial? It seems to me that all of the teachings promote an embrace of the sexual and creative power and a channeling of that power toward the spiritual.

    I can’t imagine spending that kind of time abstaining without knowing why, or while thinking it is something to be shunned instead of embraced and directed at a higher pursuit.

    During periods of abstinence one realizes spiritual awakenings and experiences that are not possible without a complete conservation of sexual energy and a complete refocusing of sexual desires toward the divine.

  4. Ben

    A person who listened to his heart and not what has been told him. How many people just give up before they start because of other peoples ideas of a spiritual life and how to attain it. I have had many spiritual experiences over my life-time while not being celibate and one of the most heartening was to come to the point where my heart said to totally accept myself, sexual desire and all. I gave myself full permission to experience and enjoy sex.
    The curious thing that’s happened with this total acceptance of sexuality and myself is a lessening of desire and a stronger ability to say ‘no’ to it. I have come to a natural point while living and experiencing spirituality and sexuality where sex is not as important to me, take it or leave it, whatever life offers.

    Maybe this is the beginning of celibacy, I do not know but I do know that one can live a sexual life and have many spiritual experiences but your sex life will more than likely be eventually transformed into a more loving expression of it and it may also not be best to discount the possibility of wanting to pratice celibacy once a type of balance has been achieved. For me, I now like the idea of having the power to say “no” to sex, this used to be a constant struggle and at times still is in a way but to a lot lesser extent.

    Please do not give up living a spiritual type of lifestyle because you feel celibacy is just to difficult. Try totally accepting yourself just as you are, embrace your sexuality and once you embrace it totally then you may find it easier to work with. Regards, Ben.

  5. Only God Can Help

    Only god can help us remove our sexual desire’s in order to succeed in Celibacy or Brahmacharya. Remember we have to ask him for help when we have the urge. If you give in..it will take over. We have put impressions(samskaras) of sexual intercourse in our mind and we must keep replacing it with thoughts of the supreme being. No matter what celibacy is important for enlightment..even after marriage there will be a time where you have to let go of every desire not just lust. Lust is a major part of it. I didnt succeed in brahmacharya..but I want all of you to keep trying with me. WE can do it! through the grace of god. If we can succeed..we can change the world and make it a better place. God can make us liberated while living for the benefit of humanity. Its never to late. You can be a celibate even when your old. Im young i have to admit I may not have experience like any of you. But I have to tell you one thing. I have done so much sexual activities myself that I lost so much energy,concentration , will power, and so on that I seriously do not want to go back. It is a fact that sexual indulgence is a waste of energy. If you also suppress your sexual energy it is going to drive you crazy and make your mind tired because your dwelling on sexual thoughts. Only way to rise the energy is if you stay away from the opposite sex as much as you can. Do not look lustfully do not try to look into someones physical structure. Main thing is to not dwell on sexual thoughts. If you do immediatly your prana will come back down and all the time you spent rising the energy can fall back down. Which is why i keep failing and alot of people do. But if we stick to the path and try out best not to think of these thoughts the more easier it will be. The more we ask God for help The more easier things will get. We can do it! Please Do it! I do not want to be alone in going on this path..but I will keep going even if nobody does. But you can do it too. Nothing is impossible through gods Help. I wish you all good luck who is trying to go onto this path. Remember all these saints. Remember what they went through and what they did. They were successful and we can be too. Trust in god and I will pray for you all. Brahmacharya is the highest penance of all WHICH is why it is so hard and confusing with so much failures. If you have true understand and Faith in god and not even giving up if you have urges we can succeed. Please try again whoever that wrote this interesting post. You can do it. Let Father work through us. Om Namah Shivaya. Aham Brahmasmi. Tat Tvam Asi “Thou Art That”

    I got a link for you all who need help to brahmacharya. Swami Sivananda Helps alot through his writing please read because this made me stop from “masturbating” 6-12 times a day. Imagine that people. I wasted that much energy. I know the experience of feeling tired after all that for weeks-months. http://www.dlshq.org/download/brahma_nopic.htm

    Go to that site and youll get immense help from it.

  6. peter

    Maybe you weren’t ready for complete celibacy, and your heart was sensing this. The realisation of anything depends on your level of conscious awareness, ultimately the bodily desires are a distraction and are never satisfied. The trick is to pay them no heed, they’ll eventually diminish. The more you confront something head on, the greater it’s response will be. Cultivating loving thoughts of god, and centering them in your heart is a great help.

  7. ben

    Celibacy is a path if one chooses it to be. I feel giving no energy to sexual fantasies is a form of celibacy while also participating in a healthy sex life with one’s partner. Another form of celibacy may be total refrainment from sex. I suppose the question should be, “what is the spiritual way”? The spiritual way is what we so choose for the state of consciousness we are in and as far as I’m concerned this does not mean that a person in an evolved state of consciousness refrains from all sex, on the contrary his or her sex life may be the most rewarding it ever has been. For others in a similar level of consciousness it may mean, total or near total lack of interest in sex. They may feel they have transcended the need for it.

    There is too much interest in the subject of sex on Earth. The preists have done a very good job in taking it out of it’s natural state over the centuries. Just move onto higher consciousness and your sex life will take care of itself. Eating or breathing doesn’t produce the interest that sex does, yet they are in similar categories, all natural acts, but with all natural acts humans have managed to make them unnatural in one way or another, eg, gluttony, denial, or just plain unconscious. Make not a big deal of the most natural of acts and just leave it at that. A time may come where some of us may wish to transcend this desire, but I think for many of us now it is of no great importance and may not ever be.

    Easiness is the way to live with all life, not being worrisome of this or that, just an easy going attitude. We like to make such a big deal of things and it takes time to turn our ‘big deals’ into ‘no worry deals’, especially the one’s that have been handed down over the centuries like sex has.

  8. Terrianne Harrison

    For me, I never made the decision to be celibate. I found myself in a place where it didn’t seem important to me like it once did. It still doesn’t. I found myself and my mind in a place where that never even enters it. Maybe it’s just not that time for you. All I can say is it came easy for me, I was ready for that. Maybe you’re not.

  9. Ben

    Hi Peter and Terrianne. If love has led to celibacy then my heart goes out to you. My heart goes out to you, anyway. Love. Ben

  10. Uma Shankari

    Dear Terriane, Lucky you, where is this place, is it real or metaphysical? I would like to be there too. Pl. help. In the meantime I agree with Ben and Peter. In my thinking celibacy is about inner renunciation – of not only one’s sexuality but everything else- all our desires- from food to ambitions to even
    desire- to- free -oneself -from- desire; why we have to ultimately give up even our own body, isn’t it, at the time of death, and imagine how wonderful it would be if we can do it without conflict, struggle…and it seems to me the way to practice inner renunciation is to be gently firm with one self and grow in understanding of self with the help and grace of the gurus and spiritual beings. But I too often feel impatient and ask what is the quickest way, but I know there are no short cuts – neither forced celibacy nor fasts nor a thousand pranayama…to do our best and wait for grace seems to be the way forward. Love Uma

  11. Rosanna

    Every monk or nun didn’t start the spiritual path as virgins or being 100% celibate. They came to be the way they are because of an inner calling. This inner calling emanates from the soul. It allows itself to be known in the form of a hunch or intuition. Don’t let your mind cling to a particular thought, sexual or non-sexual. Try to still your mind and keep it empty. Stay in the moment. Out of mind, out of sight.

  12. This is really the 3rd article, of your website I really browsed.
    However I personally love this one, “Celibacy – Path to Bliss or Madness?
    | Accessing Your Higher Self” the very best. Thank you -Karine

  13. Joe

    Celibacy is a ‘happening’. It’s not a practice. Practice you’re daily sadhana and everything else will ‘happen in due course’. Yes, it’s that simple.


  14. Reblogged this on Skeptic Meditations and commented:
    I’ve been playing with fire lately. Yes, I’ve been thinking about sex (again) versus celibacy as spiritual discipline after I watched this fascinating Video: Secrets of the Vatican | Watch FRONTLINE Online | PBS Video (aired 2/25/2014).

    Read the excellent essay and story below written by Bruce, a former monk of 19 years from the same monastic order I was in, and let me know if you think celibacy is a path to bliss or madness.

    • Hi Scott, Thanks for reblogging my article on your website. It’s given me a chance to reread the words that I posted back in 2007. What is interesting to me are some of the comments that were generated since that time. I suppose it’s not surprising that there would be some “energy” and judgmental beliefs around celibacy. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts, Scott, and the ones of your readers. Thanks again!

  15. Loren

    I really like this article for its self acceptance, and it’s emphasis on heart rather than traditional head knowing. I feel like restraint and self discipline are important paths for anyone who wishes to be free from their own constant desires and feelings about the world, to be non reactive. But to be too restrained can be indicative of some block, either due to trauma or false beliefs about the self. Im learning this myself. The best remedy to me is balance, I value the idea of celibacy when sex has become compulsive obsessive and there’s an idea we aren’t good enough as we are, and I value shakti or kundalini energy for embracing all of our bodies energy centers and experience ecstatic embrace with another or through self pleasure it can be quite euphoric and healing actually but I think that celibacy could be healing too, again depending on where and who you are as a person. Thanks for sharing this!

  16. Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts.

    I myself am in a conflicting situation where my sex desire is really low since birth (I have other unrelated health issues since birth) and I’m basically living in celibacy all of my life (36 now). Only at nights in dreams I have sudden orgasms, but it’s not sex, it’s just some specific emotional experiences and desire to be someone else, and the source of it comes from my low self-esteem since childhood. I might label myself as asexual, but still that does not help at all (and it makes finding a long term partner almost impossible in our modern sex-driven world). So, I guess, I’ll have to live in celibacy my entire life.

    • Thank you for sharing Martin, and for being open and vulnerable! Sorry to hear about your struggles with “low self-esteem.” Would like to share some of my thoughts from what you’ve written. It comes through loud and clear to me that you would like to have a “long term partner,” which also includes sexual intimacy.

      A question that comes up for me: Do you think your low sex drive is connected with low self-esteem? To me, being able to connect with and increase your overall energy level increases sex drive, self esteem, creativity…as well as love for life.

      Another question: How is your overall energy level?

      If you would like to explore these questions with me in depth, let me know. I offer a free “Connecting With the Bliss Resonance” phone or Skype session that I’ve designed to give individuals such as yourself some tangible steps towards higher self esteem and energy. Just click on “Connecting With the Bliss Resonance.”

  17. Pingback: Celibacy - Path to Bliss or Madness? | Skeptic Meditations

  18. Cristian

    Hi, my name is Cristian and I found this on Scott’s blog.
    All I have to say for now is Thank you for posting it. I am a Christian orthodox monk for 20 years now, currently going through a change in views about self and my life.
    I can tell you that I understand your position.

    • Thank You Cristian, I would love to hear your thoughts and insights from your perspective as a Christian Orthodox Monk of 20 years!

      In my experience, the forms, philosophies, structures and techniques of the spiritual tradition that I followed, as beautiful and helpful as they were in the beginning, became old, dusty…like straight-jackets after years and years of disciplined “practice.”

      In other words, for me the role of “monk” and the lofty ideals that I assumed created an inner schism that assured my eternal separation from what I longed for: oneness with the Divine. My aspirations as a monk created a kind of fight with my “lower” passions and all that made me uniquely human.

      In my longings (as a monk) to “rise above,” and transmute “base” sexual desires, I was not allowing myself to just simply be with a most primal and ultimately blissful energy. I found that the inner and maddening fight with lustful thoughts was one thing, but just underneath the experience of lust, there was a resonance/sensation that naturally seemed to move up the spine…and that was sublimely blissful!

      I came to experience sex desire as an activating “engine” that naturally moved energy upwards…and that imparted the experience of what I refer to as “Glory.” Not physical/sexual orgasm, but rather an energy that contorts the entire body, that is centered around the heart…and drawn out…like a slow-motion orgasm!

      I don’t believe there can be a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the Divine. To me, the path is messy, shattering, ego-pulverizing, non-linear, paradoxical…and yet so beautiful that it takes one to insanity and back!

      For me, it was through following the subtle underlying sensations of sex desire that allowed me to embrace and “dance” with the very activating energies. In attuning deeper and deeper with subtlety, the “Life Force” would move and posture my body in ways that would allow for greater flow of what came to feel like sweetness flowing through the spine/body!

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