By Swami Sivananda
Strict regulation of sexual life and a rigid practice of non-violence are necessary if you want to have progress on the spiritual path.
If you use contraceptives you will never learn to exercise self-restraint
He who uses contraceptives is an immoral man.
Learn the virtue of self-restraint. The use of these artificial methods will eventually sap your energy. It will break down all restraint.
There is an intimate connection between sex and control of the palate. He who has controlled the palate has already controlled all the other organs.
Sattvic food will make the practice of Brahmacharya easy.
Continence is not harmful. On the other hand it conserves nervous energy. It gives great mental strength and peace of mind. Sexual indulgence leads to moral and spiritual bankruptcy, premature death, nervous weakness and loss of one’s faculties, talents and capacities.
Manu says: "The first-born child is born of Dharrna and the rest of Kama or lust. The sexual act for mere pleasure is not justifiable".
Passion for the flesh or body is not pure or real love. It is only infatuation born of ignorance. You do wicked deeds and kill your soul on account of this passion.
How is the world to feed all the millions? In spite of advanced agricultural methods and reclamation of waste land, it has been found impossible to balance food production with the increase of population. Hence, the growth of population has to be restrained if there is to be no lowering of the standard of living. If this is not done there will be mass starvation, famine and consequent degradation of morality. Special agencies of the United Nations are busy in finding out a long term solution. The United Nations Population Commission is now at work, assisted by the Economic Council for Asia and the Far East.
No doubt in principle it is right that population has to be restricted. But how? Naturally, through the advanced means of planned parenthood. What do we mean by this?
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Health Mnister of India answers: "I need hardly say that our educated class thinks of planned parenthood mainly in terms of city-dwellers and educated men and women. There are also many amongst the poorer classes whom our social workers can reach in the cities, where their organizations are working. But they also invariably think of birth control by the artificial methods of contraceptives, which have taken a firm hold of people in countries of the West. I am totally unable to reconcile myself to this view".
Indeed, the unanimous answer as to how to plan parenthood has been the usage of contraceptives. It is a pity that most of our learned leaders, with very few exceptions like Amrit Kaur, should stoop so low in aping the West, with complete disregard and ignorance of their own heritage.
The Vedic preceptors strictly enjoined on their students the practice of unbroken celibacy; and when they had completed their studies and were advised to get married, it was not for the sake of physical pleasure but for the sake of progeny. Self-restraint gave them moral strength and spiritual vision. Through self-restraint they achieved ethical perfection and improved their intellect.
There is no safer and better solution for the restriction of our population than practice of self-restraint. No number of birth control clinics and no amount of propaganda advocating artificial methods can take root in these masses, whose traditional background has been always soaked in spirituality. No method other than self-restraint can be morally and spiritually successful either in India or anywhere else in the world.
In India it was Mahatma Gandhi who, for the first time, organized stubborn opposition against the use of contraceptives for family planning, as artificial methods gave free latitude to the married and even encouraged the unmarried to embrace the path of self-indulgence with vulgar impunity.
Gandhiji said, "If the rural population practiced moral restraint they could limit the size of their families better than through the use of contraceptives. Artificial methods are like putting a premium on vice. The remedy will be worse than the disease." When Gandhiji said this, many eminent leaders, doctors, lawyers and educationists (even some of his foremost disciples), rose to contradict him, saying, "The restraint of the natural impulse in men and women would lead to serious consequences. There will be mass neurosis. Their zest for living and their mental faculties would ebb away, their lives would become drab and dull," and so on and so forth.
All these charges were baseless and were but a confession of lasciviousness on the part of the crusaders against self-restraint. This has been adequately proved by distinguished scientists and doctors and by numerous scriptures belonging to all faiths. To quote a few such noteworthy remarks, let us choose them from Western spokesmen in whom our educated intelligentsia are prone to believe much more than in their own scriptures.
Sir Lionel Beale, Professor of the Royal College in London, says: "Sexual abstinence has never yet hurt any man. Virginity is not too difficult to observe, provided that it is the physical expression of a certain state of mind".
Professor Cesterbu concurs with Beale by saying, "The sexual instinct is not so blindly all-powerful that it cannot be controlled and even subjugated entirely by moral strength. We must know that robust health and ever-renewed vigour will be the reward of this voluntary service".
Sir Andrew Clark also agrees that "continence does not harm; it does not hinder development; it increases perception and energy".
That the practice of continence is a fitting remedy for birth control has been emphasized by the noted American, Joseph H.J. Spenglar. He says, "Moral restraint offers a salutary solution to the problem of over-population".
Gandhiji answered his critics by the example of his personal life. In his autobiography he writes: "I took the vow of Brahmacharya in 1906. I launched forth with faith in the sustaining power of God. The more or less practice of self-control has been going on since".
Gandhiji was a man of experience and whatever he spoke was from his personal experience only. His was not an arm-chair philosophy. He emphasized that continence was the prime qualification for success in all achievements and in every walk of life.
"I hold that a life of perfect continence in thought, speech and action is necessary for reaching spiritual perfection. Brahmacharya means perfect control of all the sense-organs. For a true Brahmachari, nothing is impossible."
It is obvious that strict celibacy, as practiced by Bhishma, Lakshmana and Hanuman, is not possible for the masses; but it is essential for their physical, moral and spiritual growth. They should have a well-restrained and sacred marital relationship.
Bernard Shaw, a highly intellectual and profound spiritual personality, but an atheist and a non-believer in organized religions as accepted by the masses, voiced the universally accepted truth that "unless we restrain desire we destroy ourselves."
"In my opinion we can give an impetus to birth control in our country by ways and means which ought to come instinctively to us if we are true to the best traditions of our civilization. Perhaps in no other country in the world has the practice of continence been advocated with such emphasis as in India by all our saints and sages. Self-restraint on the part of both men and women, and particularly on the part of men, must therefore be the first weapon in our armoury if we are to battle successfully against overpopulation in our country. Artificial methods seem to the average man to be easy of attainment. Hence, they are advocated by all and sundry. I look up at this as a danger signal because it is always the straight and narrow way that leads us to salvation".
Thus did Rajkumari Amrit Kaur represent the real sentiment of the majority of the masses of our country in theHarijan.
The women of India have a great role to play in thwarting the onslaught of materialism. Through the ages, it is they who have preserved the spiritual character of our society, their natural instincts being religious. It is ignoble that they should subscribe to the philosophy of the modern apostates.
Gandhiji wrote over a decade ago: "In my opinion it is an insult to the fair sex to put up her case in support of birth control by artificial methods. I have little doubt that the vast majority of women will reject them as inconsistent with their dignity".
It is high time now that the leaders of our country became aware of the ignominous consequences of birth-control through artificial means. They should launch a country-wide campaign, particularly in the villages, propagating the gospel of self-restraint, abolition of early marriage, and practice of clean and healthy living.
The nation is fortunate in having Amrit Kaur as its Health Minister. Though miserably outnumbered by the votaries of contraceptives, she emphasizes once more: "Artificial methods are wholly impractical in our country because of the ignorance of our people, the lack of scientific medical aid available to them, and also because of their high cost. I challenge the statement myself that the practice of birth control by the use of contraceptives has proved a success either physically, mentally or morally for the people of the West who have practiced it over a number of years.
"On the other hand it has contributed in no small measure to a lowering of the standard of morality and to a disregard by both men and women of the fundamental responsibility given to human kind for procreation. While birth control is essential for India to restrict its growing population, the more I live and serve the cause of health, and the closer contacts I have with sick and suffering humanity, both in the city and in the village, the more convinced I become that it will be a fatal step for our country to resort to artificial means".
Gandhiji writes in the Harijan: "There is nothing in our society at the present time which is conducive to the practice of self-control. Our very up-bringing is against it. The primary concern of parents is to get their children married anyhow so that they may breed like rabbits. If they are girls, they are married at the earliest age convenient, irrespective of their moral welfare. The marriage ceremony is one long, drawn-out agony of frivolity and feasting. The householder’s life is in keeping with the past life. It is a prolongation of self-indulgence. Holidays and social enjoyments are so arranged as to allow one the greatest latitude for sensuous living. The literature that is almost thrust on our generation panders to animal passion. Modern literature almost teaches that indulgence in it is a duty and total abstinence a sin.
"Is it any wonder if control of the sexual appetite has become very difficult, if not impossible? If the practice of birth control through self-restraint is then the most desirable, sensible and totally harmless method, we must forthwith change the environment and social ideal. The only way to bring about the desired results is for individuals who believe in the method of self-control to make the beginning themselves and, with unquenchable faith, to affect their surroundings. For them the conception of marriage I discussed earlier seems to me to be of the greatest significance.
"A proper grasp of it means a complete mental revolution. It is not meant merely for a few select individuals. It is presented as the law of human species. Its breach reduces the status of human beings and brings swift punishment in the shape of multiplicity of unwanted children, a train of diseases, and disruption of man as a moral being responsible to his Maker.
"Birth-control by the use of contraceptives no doubt regulates the number of newcomers to some extent and enables a person of moderate means to keep the wolf from the door. But the moral harm it does to the individual and to society is incalculable. For one thing, the outlook upon life for those who satisfy the sexual appetite for the sake of it is wholly changed. Marriage ceases to be a sacrament for them. It means a revaluation of the social ideals hitherto prized as a precious treasure. No doubt this argument will make little appeal to those who regard the old ideals about marriage as mere superstition. My argument is only addressed to those who still regard marriage as a sacrament and woman not as an instrument of animal pleasure but as the mother of man and trustee of the virtue of her progeny.
"My experience of self-control by fellow workers and myself confirms for me the view presented here. It assumes overwhelming force from my discovery in a vivid light of the ancient concept of marriage. To me, the practice of Brahmacharya in married life now assumes its natural and inevitable position and becomes as simple as the fact of marriage itself. Any other method of birth control seems unthinkable and useless. If the idea that the grand and only function of the sexual organ is generation, possesses men and women, then union for any other purpose will be held as a criminal waste of the vital fluid, and the consequent excitement caused to woman and man as an equally criminal waste of precious energy.
"It is now easy to understand why the scientists of old placed such great value upon the vital fluid and why they insisted upon its strong transmutation into the highest form of energy for the benefit of society as a whole. They boldly stated that one who attained perfect control over the sexual energy strengthened the whole being—physical, mental and spiritual—and attained powers unattainable by any other means.
"Let not the reader be disturbed by the absence of many or even any living specimen of such giant Brahmacharis as were found in days of yore. The Brahmacharis that we have today are incomplete specimens. At best they are aspirants who have acquired control of the body but not of the mind. They have not become proof against temptation. This is not because Brahmacharya is so difficult of attainment. It is because the social environment is against them, and the majority of those who are making an honest effort unknowingly isolate the control of animal passion from all other passions, whereas, to be successful the effort must include control of all passions to which man is a prey. Whilst complete Brahmacharya is not impossible of attainment by the average man and woman, it must not be felt that it requires less effort than that required by a student who wishes to master one of the sciences".