The two most famous celibates of the 20th century were Mother Teresa and Gandhi. Mother Teresa I understood; Gandhi I did not. So I read the pertinent portions of his
Gandhi’s celibacy was not so much specifically about sex, as about asceticism. In the end, he was a Jain, and Jains take some things to extremes.
So I read the Wikipedia article about asceticism. All around the world, significant numbers of people who belong to every major religion practice this. Their terminology and specific beliefs are diverse, but their motivations all boil down to one and the same thing: the desire to leave the world of matter and reside instead in the world of spirit.
They presume to accomplish this by killing off all desire for pleasure of the five physical senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
Related: The second chakra
This quest strikes me as quite vain.
They assume the spiritual world is free of conflict, disappointment and frustration. St. Paul said, ”To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
All evidence available to me indicates that the material world and the spiritual world are, finally, much the same. There is light and darkness here; there is light and darkness there.
In the story of his near-death experience, George Ritchie says he visited a place that was veritably a living hell; where events in the material world were full of obscenity and strife. Events in the spiritual world, at that place, were little different.
What you choose determines where you go. Seek and you will find.
Much of the excellence — the light —
in the cosmos involves gratifications of the flesh.
Music: This one young woman normally sits on the other side of the congregation, and I don’t hear her. One Sunday, she sat behind me, and the very sound of her singing transported me to a transcendent place. The activities of singing or playing an instrument likewise may bring moments of transcendence for the performer. That’s why we do these things.
Grooming and hygiene: Bathing, shaving, brushing one’s teeth, using mouthwash and perhaps cologne, all please the senses of touch, taste and smell. God forbid we should stop doing these things.
In all candor, in the past, for some years, it was nearly impossible to get myself into the shower. I did it only before my bi-weekly appointment with my therapist, and then only because I had a strong crush on the woman and did not want to stink in her presence. Looking back, I see the issue: the shower made my skin feel so good, it felt sinful.
Note that, to me, sex has never felt sinful.
Sports is all about pleasing the body.
And letting me watch Serena Williams.
Things that do
bind the soul to matter include covetousness, self-aggrandizement and resentments.
One will be unhappy if one makes one’s happiness contingent on having bling, designer shoes, the latest phone or tightest cooch.
Self-aggrandizement refers to seeking to make oneself matter. Asceticism can serve this end, as with those who vaunt or flaunt their refusal to eat pork.
I discussed resentments at length in About organized religion.
Human beings aren’t alone in being subject to these things.
All things bright and beautiful
Samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth, does not just affect human beings. Little birds, bears, wolves, spiders, honeybees — we’re all caught up in this. We’re all here for a reason. I don’t presume to know what that reason is. But until that reason is satisfied, we’ll never leave.