Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Intimate Relations - Sudhir Kakar

This is an academic book. Sudhir Kakar is one of India's leading psychoanalysts. His book 'Intimate Relations' explores intimate relations in India, or the lack of them, through sexual fantasies in Hindi novels, folktales, films like 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili', proverbs and a huge insight into Gandhi's autobiography. It is an interesting read.

I must confess that I read it with as much interest as I could muster but found it rather too academic for my state of mind. Somehow the mind seems to take on the mindset of reading sex columns in magazines and that perspective puts the brakes on any serious reading. But despite that there were interesting tidbits that I picked up in his many observations about the Indian psyche, religion, obsession with purity, the understanding of the purpose of sex and so on. I breezed through how sex has been interpreted in popular culture through novels, films, proverbs and all that until I suddenly stopped. Where I read it word to word is in the chapter titled 'Gandhi and Women'.

Gandhi's autobiography becomes the issue on which Sudhir Kakar dwells on. It is interesting to see Gandhi change from a (what it appears to be) a sex driven young man who at some point in life begins to experiment with his mind to banish all desire. He experiments in many ways to banish sexual thoughts from his head - following severe diets, practicing celibacy, attempting to keep out thoughts even unconsciously. But  not to the extent of banishing the root of the desire - women - though. He in fact kept himself in the company of his women followers, some of whom  may not have had his chaste ideals, and from within that cauldron, experimented on himself. Every now and then he would be distressed at signs of his mind weakening, even for a moment. For someone who saw food as a prime mover of sexual thoughts, the many fasts he undertook also could be seen as a manner of purifying himself. The words Gandhi uses to describe the passions are interesting as he calls it the beast, the enemy, the battle etc. Highly interesting to read that part of the Mahatma and his inner battles with truth.

One para is really interesting, which explains all the talk of celibacy or brahmaharya and Sudhir Kakar mentions how yogis seek to conquer sexual longings and convert it into spiritual power. He says that Indian mysticism is concerned with the alchemy of the libido which would be converted from a giver of death to bestower of immortality. The theory of sublimation goes like this. Sudhir Kakar writes:

"Physical strength and mental power have their source in virya, a word that stands for both sexual energy and semen. Virya, in fact, is identical with the essence of maleness. Virya can either move downward in sexual intercourse, where it is emitted in its gross physical form as semen, or it can move upward through the spinal chord and into the brain, in its subtle form known as ojas. Hindus regard the downward movement of sexual energy and its emission as semen as enervating, a debilitating waste of vitality and essential energy. Off all emotions, it is said, lust throws the mind into the greatest chaos, with every violent passion destroying millions of red blood cells. Indian metaphysical physiology maintains that food is converted into semen in a thirty-day period by successive transformations (and refinements) through blood, flesh, fat, bone, and marrow till semen is distilled - forty drops of blood producing one drop of semen, which is equivalent to the vitality produced by the consumption of sixty pounds of food.

In another similar calculation wihth pedagogic intent, each act of copulation is equivalent to an energy expenditure of twenty-four hours of concentrated mental activity or seventy two hours of hard physical labour."

And so on and so forth. With such deep calculations and promises of ojas, no wonder the yogis walk the path of celibacy. What they do with those powers, the ones that they accumulate, is what I would like to know. Does all that spiritual energy go into some universal bank and balances the good and bad? Or is it just kept in place? I would love to hear what Osho has to say on this topic. He does come with some refreshing perspectives. Like I said, some interesting stuff surely.

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