The Journey of Self-Discovery

Everyone, it seems, is maddened by sexual desire, especially it appears, at least to my reading, those who wish to suppress it. Yet, as Swami Prabhupada says, to turn our material happiness into spiritual bliss we do not need to negate our material happiness, we simply change our material nature into a devotional one. This is how we reach the state of sac-cid-ananda, eternal-fully cognisant-joyful.

The Journey of Self-Discovery by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, although published in 1990 consists of talks given during the period 1950’s to 1970’s, and I have to say, as such reads as quite dated in places. Not that there aren’t some little gems in it, such as the emphasis on atma-tattva, atma-jnana, self-knowledge. This reflects much of the writings I’ve read around the need for self-enquiry as part of the spiritual journey, indeed, self-knowledge seems almost a prerequisite for shifting from I am to I AM THAT.

Throughout there is much reference to the Bhagavad-gita, seen as the principal book of knowledge in Vedantic literature, such as the notion of the proprietor, where the spirit soul is the proprietor of our bodies. This leads us to say things like ‘my hand’, ‘my eyes’, ‘my legs’, etc etc, where the question posed is, ‘in the midst of all these objects which belong to me, where am I?’

As the answer can’t be found through material effort but through meditation (especially the technique of pratyahara, the 5th limb of the Eightfold Limbs of Yoga, called ‘just the opposite’ or shifting from our outward focus to an inner focus, see my Blog post Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses), science (at least at the time of publication) had to a great extent set aside these kind of questions. Indeed, it is the ‘I-and-my’ thinking that is our root defect; an illusion (maya). To get out of this illusion all we need do is accept Krsna as the supreme proprietor. Krsna is called the Supreme Absolute Person, sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah, full of eternity, knowledge, and pleasure personality.

A large theme that runs through the book is that of pleasure, the giving up of material pleasure for real pleasure. Since material pleasure is temporary it is not considered real; something is real only if it exists eternally. Yet, as Swami Prabhupada says, in this material world everyone is attracted by sex. Yet it is only by vanquishing Cupid (our interest in illicit sex, ie, sex outside of heterosexual marriage) that we can advance spiritually. Sex between men would be, by definition, illicit.

However, giving up the ‘hankering’ after sex is recognised as difficult in this age of Kali. Our present age is called Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel, hypocrisy, and the decrease in religion, truthfulness and forgiveness. An increase in peoples social positions being determined by their wealth rather than their qualities. And the principles of justice being determined by a show of strength. This is the age of the body, of filling our stomach, and fulfilling our desires. Unfortunately our desires are never fulfilled, they simply grow.

And so, if we do wish to give up our material pleasures and engage in real pleasure, we can only do this through bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Swami Prabhupada says it is impossible to reach the transcendental platform through the practice of hatha-yoga. Indeed, quoting Krsna from the Bhagavad-gita, he says, “One can approach the Supreme Person only by devotional service – not by challenge, not by philosophical speculation, and not by exercising in this yoga or that yoga.”  

But we can only truly become devotional if we are able to make friends with our own mind. Otherwise the mind is our enemy giving us false impressions and illusions. This can result in us worshiping Krsna through selfish motives. Devotion and worship are very different. Devotion being for no other motive than to please Krsna, but expecting nothing in return. And indeed, this reflects writers such as Daniel Odier, who talks of using our desire as a vehicle to access our greater devotional desire.

Bringing it all together

Thankfully, at least to my way of thinking, devotional service involves all of our being, and evolves with times and cultures. So, a heterosexist reading is no longer appropriate.

Likewise, in line with Adyashanti (who said in his book The Impact of Awakening, that if your nature is to eat you will carry on eating, if it is to go for walks you will carry on walking, or if it is to have sex you will carry on having sex, once you reach awakening) I am inclined to think that if devotion is done for the purposes of pleasing Krsna and not self-gratification, whether it is through the medium of sex or not should be irrelevant.

As such, we do what our nature is, to tap into our desires that can act as the gateway to those greater desires of devotion, expecting nothing in return.

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See my personal development / personality profiling book DISCover the Power of You published through John Hunt Publishing Ltd, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-78535-591-2

And for those who enjoy historical fiction, stories of underrepresented life’s, see my first novel Fermented Spirits published through Austin Macauley Publishers, 2022. ISBN-13: ‎978-1398437159