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Sex, Gender and Identity
Seeker: Dear Ram, we got back from the party in one piece. It was so good to see you. I enjoyed our long conversation. I know this isn’t a particularly spiritual question, but it is something I’ve been thinking about lately. I would like you to comment on it, if you will.
Women in the West have lots to contribute to the world of women, and vice versa. We’re talking basic human rights and equality that the West can gift to the East. With Asian women, they’re more relaxed about their role, partly because it’s their karma and caste, etc. Western women sometimes do make issues of situations, but if a man can somehow look at it from a feminine perspective, there might be something there.
Ram: I agree in principle, but doesn’t it depend on the woman’s perspective? Women can be as deluded and lacking in self-awareness and spiritual values as men. I’m rather in favor of seeing both sexes as sailing in the same existential boat. I wonder if any problem, especially those that involve the genders, might not be easier solved by assuming the human perspective rather than trying build a mutual appreciation of opposite ideas across a wide gulf of distrust.
Because gender conditioning is total and begins at such an early age, it takes great determination to deconstruct and understand it.
Another problem with the gender overlay is that the line between the male and the female is often seriously blurred in Western cultures. You find many feminine men and many masculine women nowadays. And because this line shifts subjectively all the time it is always difficult to know whether one is communicating with a man or a woman. In the East you won’t have this problem, because the roles are very well-defined.
Of course you can reasonably offer this criticism of the human overlay too. But because it is less specific and more a shared experience, there is less chance of mischief. Ultimately, however, seeing the other as one’s own self is the only surefire way to insure harmonious relationships.
What can sex do?
As far as sex goes, there are many unrealistic ideas about what it is and what it can do. Because it feels so good, we automatically assume that it’s all good. But if you strip away the fantasies around it you find a very contradictory energy, one that produces as much anger, violence and attachment as it does euphoria. When something feels so good, the mind immediately gets attached to it and to the objects that supply it. It can happen (and I think you suggested that this was at least partly the case with you and John) that a person often endures an unhealthy relationship simply because the sex is good. The potential for conflict is enormous because of the unconscious feelings sex stirs up. For example, you might feel that if you are intimate with a person you have the right to be blunt and direct and criticize him or her for completely frivolous reasons. Sex tends to break down much-needed boundaries. One needs to always maintain good manners and act toward your partner as you would toward a friend of the same gender. There is often a feeling of ownership and possessiveness. Power and control are always issues. You want your partner to look a certain way (to exicte you) or to behave a certain way (to keep you excited), etc.
When you analyze it sex feels good because it is the way the species survives. It has to feel so good that it will take precedence over all other needs – if there is a conflict. If there were no other avenues to ecstasy we might assume that it is an inherently good thing – but it isn’t. Often as not, even though it was intended primarily for survival, it is unfortunately used as a kind of stress-relieving therapy which can easily generate psychological and spiritual problems.
Finally, attachment to sex can prevent one from seeking the ultimate ecstasy of self-realization and appreciating the intense pleasure of a pure mind.
So what about sex as a spiritual path? True, the ecstasy one experiences in sex is the ecstasy of the self. But to attain a state of effortless, objectless ecstasy one would have to let go of the practice that put one in that state in the first place. But this is very difficult to do, especially if sex is the means, because attachment develops quickly. When this happens sex often ends up being the end and not the means.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I hope they are helpful.
It was great to see you after such a long time. I’m sure the Lord will make it happen again.
~ Love, Ram