“It is said in the Manu-smriti that lust cannot be satisfied by any amount of sense enjoyment, just as fire is never extinguished by a constant supply of fuel. In the material world, the center of all activities is sex, and thus this material world is called maithunya-agara, or the shackles of sex life. In the ordinary prison house, criminals are kept within bars; similarly, the criminals who are disobedient to the laws of the Lord are shackled by sex life. Advancement of material civilization on the basis of sense gratification means increasing the duration of the material existence of a living entity.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.39 Purport)
“I was privy to an interesting conversation recently. A group of us were driving somewhere, and along the route we happened to see a golf course. It was beautiful and full of participants. On one side was the driving range and the other the respective holes for competition.
“Within our group in the car was a husband-wife couple. The wife noticed that the golf course was full of patrons, but that there was not a single woman in their midst. She was alarmed at this constitution of population.
“The husband was quick to respond. He said that men play golf specifically to get away from their wives. This is an age-old joke that has a lot of truth to it. The adult married male has the tendency to get overburdened by responsibilities, and so a day out on the greens is a way to refresh the spirits.
“The only difficulties they will meet are through the challenges presented by the course. There is good-natured ribbing of the other participants in the group, which might number four people. At the very least, the wife is not around to nag and yell.
“Well, when the husband made this remark, the wife responded almost instantly. She didn’t have to think about it, and what she said really stuck with me. She asked why the men made the initial approach. If they were so interested in getting away from women, why did they go towards them in the first place?
“Doesn’t this perfectly sum up material life, in what we hear from Vedic literature? There are several principles that relate almost exactly, I would think.”
One of those principles is sankalpa and vikalpa. The mind makes a plan.
“I will do this. I will do that. I will go here. I will take this route.”
Then, through the passage of time, the same mind goes in the opposite direction.
“I must give this up. No way I want to deal with that again. Let’s move away. That was a terrible experience.”
The mind is an element of material nature, and so such defects inevitably manifest. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the bow-warrior named Arjuna showed signs of following this behavior at the beginning of the Bharata War.
The original sankalpa was to fight. Arjuna and his brothers were ready to commence hostilities with the rival party, the Kauravas. The soldiers were gathered on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The scene was many years in the making.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, Arjuna went with vikalpa. He was ready to drop his weapons and abandon the fight. He had his reasons, but it was the working of the mind. Once again, it chose the complete opposite of what was previously considered wise and prudent.
Shri Krishna had to set Arjuna straight. The disciple learned from the guru how to follow the Supreme Consciousness. This source of intelligence is above the mind. When working for a higher purpose, sankalpa and vikalpa no longer have an influence.
The other principle to consider is that sex life is the tightest binding element to the cycle of rebirth. We are stuck in the material world because of desires for material enjoyment, the foremost of which is relations with the opposite sex.
That initial approach carries the potential for temporary enjoyment, but there are so many constraints and dependencies created in the process. The resultant byproducts can create so heavy a burden that the person wants to disengage immediately. Soon thereafter, they are back in the thick of things, acting as if the previous misery never took place.
It is thus understandable that genuine spiritual life features a loosening of the interest towards sex life. It can still be used, as it is a potency gifted from above. It has its value. The proper use aligns with dharma.
बलं बलवतां चाहं
कामो ऽस्मि भरतर्षभ
balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ
kāmo ‘smi bharatarṣabha
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
For as long as such desires remain, the individual continues in the cycle of birth and death. The enjoyment may seem like the primary reason for living at the moment, but there is a much higher taste available through genuine spiritual life. For instance, the parrot-like Shuka enjoys the ripened fruit of Vedic literature that is Bhagavata Purana, and the enlightened souls continue to take pleasure from that discourse, which is millions of times more enjoyable than anything the illusory world has to offer.
If association deathly afraid,
Why initial approach made?
Such that enjoyment sought,
And for best interests thought.
But soon after running away,
Cycle on repeat to play.
Better with Supreme Consciousness aligning,
Who superior plan for us designing.