What a predicament—sex and spirituality! This is a tough nut to crack, and I wonder if anybody has really cracked it satisfactorily, even after thousands of years. Of course, it's not sex itself that is the problem, but our relationship
to it. The perennial question is: If we have sincere spiritual aspirations, then what is the best position to take in relationship to one of our most basic instincts? Well—and this is the fun part—it all depends who you ask!
For example, even within a single tradition like Buddhism, there are completely contradictory schools of thought. The Tantric Buddhists tell us that it's impossible to achieve enlightenment without practicing sexual yoga, while the Theravada Buddhists tell us that we'll never reach the higher stages of enlightenment unless we transcend the sexual impulse altogether. What a confusing business! But the truth is, for most of us on the spiritual path, esoteric questions like these, as intriguing as they are, are really superfluous. Why? Because the greatest challenge for most of us, in relationship to sexuality at least, is just not to make a mess of it, or as they say in the East, create more karma. But that sounds like a tall order if even most of the big gurus can't walk the straight and narrow without making a mess of it. And if they
are apparently confused about the right relationship to sexuality, what are the rest of us mere mortals supposed to do? Forget about the whole thing? Impossible.
Face it directly and try to come to terms with it? Sounds good, but who has the courage and heroic spirit necessary to really face into the eye of the tiger of sexual desire without their whole world falling apart? You see, so many of us open-minded, freethinking characters really are squares
when it comes to this particular mega life issue. What does that mean? It means that we don't want to look at the whole question too closely or too personally because for most of us, sex is more important than God.
The promise of perfect happiness and deep contentment that the sexual experience represents creates a whole universe of attachment and selfhood that is far too important to us to be questioned. And we just don't want to rock that boat. When we put together the "What Is the Relationship between Sex and Spirituality?" issue of What Is Enlightenment?
the boat was rocking so hard, we nearly fell out of it.
The following interviews with Father Thomas Keating and Miranda Shaw show why, when looking into the eye of this awesome tiger, we really do have to make the effort to find our own way.