“Is religion adherents can have different interpretations of

“Is sex good or bad?” A question without a
definitive answer but one with many views especially amongst the religious
community. Most religions have their say one way or the other but Hinduism does
not have a unanimous opinion on the subject. When reading into the beliefs that
construct the religion adherents can have different interpretations of whether
sex will delay their attainment of moksha. An adherents’ view can be informed
through close inspection of the Hindu traditions, opinions of philosophers,
interpretations of differents sects and the mythology from sacred texts. Each
can give different perspectives on the topic of sex and is up to the individual
to decide what perspective holds the most weight to inform their spiritual
life.  

 

 HIndu traditions are practical components of
the religion that express Hindu beliefs and from such traditions adherents can
construe the religions stance on topics not specifically outlined or made clear
in the sacred texts. The ashrama system delegates lifestyle practices to
certain life stages of which there are four. In this system protocols on sexual
relations are outlined and from this Hindus can interpret the religions views
on sex in relation to the achievement of moksha. Each of the four stages of
life have certain protocols or Niyam outlined in order for adherents to perform
their dharma, receive good Karma so that they can either go up a caste in the
next life or receive liberation from the cycle of samsara. The four stages of
the ashrama system are student, householder, hermit and ascetic or
Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasi. During the student stage
Brahmacharya (0-24 years old) you are meant to remain celibate and learn about
the religion, during the householder stage Grihastha (25-49 years old) your
dharma is to get married, be a carer for elderly relatives and have children,
during this stage it is permissible for adherents to pursue kama (pleasure) and
artha (material gain). The stage after this is the hermit stage Vanaprastha
(50-74 years old) in this stage one gradually withdraws from life. The final
ascetic stage Sannyasi (75-100 years old) is one of complete spiritual devotion
where one renounces all worldly possessions and desires including sex. This
practice teaches adherents that sex is meant to be performed in the Grihastha
stage as part of one’s dharma with means of procreation but attachment to sex
leads to karma and delays moksha. This tradition highlights the power of the
ascetic lifestyle in relation to knowledge as seen in the student stage and as
moksha is unable to be obtained without self realisation, some hindus
predominantly orthodox interpret this hindu tradition to mean that an ascetic
lifestyle is key to moksha.

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Another Hindu
tradition that provides information for adherents on the religions views on sex
relative to moksha is the devadasi system. The Devadasi system was a religious
practice outlawed in 1988 by the Andhra Pradesh Devadasi Act. Devadasi was the practice of hierodulic servitude, and
involved dedicating girls aged between 8-16 years old in a ritual marriage to
the deity in which the temple was honored, they would then work in the temple
and function as spiritual guides, dancers, and provide sexual services for male
devotees. They were viewed as
high status religious servants, they would reside in the temple and would be
present and active participants in ritual worship. Devadasi’s would have
intercourse with worshippers of higher castes generally the Brahmins, those
closer to reaching moksha. This union is seen as a re-creation of divine power
whilst still in connection to one’s body as famed theologist and missionary,
Farquhar states “every well appointed Hindu temple aims at being an earthly
reproduction of the paradise of the god in whose honor it was built”. This
system doesn’t behave as though intercourse delays moksha but as though it’s an
early impression of the ecstasy to be felt outside of the mortal realm. As this
was a religious practice generally participated in by those closer to achieving
moksha it contradicts the ashrama system by not supporting the statement that
sex delays the attainment of moksha.

 

Topics of controversy
in religion can be weighed in on by religious philosophers whose opinion can have
great influence on the religion as a whole and on the views of worshippers. The
topic of sex in Hinduism has been greatly debated and has been discussed by
famous Indian monk Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda was a popular
philosopher in India during the late 1800’s, he wrote many books pertaining to
Hindu yoga practices, books that have been read by the likes of Gandhi and
quoted by Barack Obama in a speech in India in 2010. His opinions on sex were
negative, a reflection of Christian views on the topic most likely impacted by
the influence of British colonisation on India, he was a celibate monk who
preached an ascetic lifestyle to his religious following. In the complete works
of Swami Vivekananda he discusses the topic of sex by stating “No sex, no
possessions; as these fall off, the eyes open to spiritual vision. The soul
regains its own infinite power”
(The
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda,  Volume 5, LXXVIII, 9th July, 1897). From this we can observe
his opinion that sex delays spiritual progress and celibacy aids in the
achievement of moksha. His views are shared by a great number of Hindu
worshippers particularly orthodox Hindus.

 

HInduism encompasses
many sects which form due to difference of opinion on the meaning of certain
religious beliefs. A sect that has a contradictory opinion to orthodox hindus
in relation to sex is Tantrism. Tantra believes in the divinity of sex and
explores it as an energy and source of power as opposed to just a means of
procreation as orthodox hindus do. In the Tantric beliefs, harnessing the energies of
the body, emotions and mind, including sexual energy, is not a goal desired for
its own sake but a pathway to the ultimate goal of self realization. Tantra is
about transforming one’s sexual energy into spiritual progress, and has nothing
to do with participating in sex just to succumb to one’s desire. These teaching
provide a positive view on sex informing adherents about the importance of the
energy created through sex to one’s spiritual enlightenment and thus doesn’t
believe sex delays the attainment of moksha as Swami Vivekananda suggests.

 

The sacred text and
mythology of a religion are what form the notions that make up the faith. As
the Hindu religion’s texts are filled with stories of figures and deities, the
meaning of these stories can be up to interpretation and can inform peoples
views on different controversial topics such as sex. Shiva is a male
deity, he is a Brahmachari and commits to the lifestyle of a Brahmacharya because his consciousness is
filled with the Truth of Brahma.
The god Shiva is known as the great ascetic of Hinduism, and is often used as a
model for human ascetics. Shiva renounces sexual behaviour as a Brahmachari.  It is precisely his control of his sexual
desires that is said to be  the source of his monumental power and energy.
Through the control of his lust, he produces ascetic heat and tapas, which is
his purifying and sometimes destructive power. Adherents often use stories of
Shiva and his power that strengthens through his Brahmacharya lifestyle and
interpret it as a model for their own lives, construing this to mean that their
own celibacy will give them power and aid in their souls journey to moksha.

 

Alternatively the
stories depicting the union between gods and goddesses give a different view on
sexual relations.  The Hindu gods each have a female counterpart such as
Vishnu and Lakshmi. The gods power is drawn from Shakti or feminine energy
provided by their counterparts. From this power we observe the divine version
of soulmates where eachother strengthens with their union. This is mimicked in
adherents lives through the relationship between man and wife where a man plays
the part of god and bride the goddess. A man is only half a person until he is
married and one anothers souls are connected, to be held accountable for the
other spiritual journey. One’s soulmate must connect on all seven centers, the
lowest center being sex and highest being samadhi. A kundalini awakening is an
effect of union with your soulmate, it is a gradual process leading up to the
energy reaching the crown chakra producing self realization and enlightenment.
This is needed in order to progress in one’s spiritual journey and eventually
obtain moksha.  As sex is one of the centers, a sexual union is needed to
gain a soul connection on all levels to reap the results of a kundalini
awakening. In this way sex does not delay moksha but is infact a key component
in progressing through life cycles to achieve moksha.

 

The components that
circumscribe the Hindi faith give opposing notions on how sex relates to ones
spiritual progress and journey to achieving moksha. The tradition of the
ashrama systems paints sex as a neccessary practice for the attainment of praja
but ultimately a desire that obstructs the gift of self realisation and delays
moksha. The devadasi system was a tradition that embraced sex and viewed it as
an impression of the paradise of the gods, a divine act to be participated in
by those close in their life cycles to procuring moksha. Swami Vivekananda an
Indian monk and philosopher agreed with the notions of sex garnered by the
ashrama system whereas the Tantric sect of Hinduism believes that sex provides
a powerful energy that aids in spiritual progress. The mythology of Shiva
attributes his power to his Brahmacharya lifestyle and thus shows adherents
power gained by asceticism as opposed to Tantras’ sexual energy. The belief in
soul mates a connection that follows Hindus into the afterlife attributes sex as
a component in the union. Therefore individual Hindus can have different
beliefs on the topic of sex depending on what particular aspect of the religion
they use to inform their views

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