Why was celibacy usually prescribed for those wishing to take up the spiritual path?
Is celibacy the only way or can people in whatever is considered as “normal life” also have a foothold in spirituality?
The whole dimension of spirituality is to grow beyond the physical; to taste something beyond the physical. If your involvement with the physical is very deep, naturally your attachment to the body is very strong. It is not sex per se which can be an impediment in one’s growth, but one’s attachment to the body definitely is an impediment.
Generally, sexuality breeds that attachment. Celibacy has been talked about in that context.
But does the sexual act itself stop a person from pursuing his spiritual path?
Not at all, but what is being said is, unless your focus is strong and one-pointed, the chances of progress (or the progress itself) will naturally be very slow because you are thinking in many directions at the same time. For a person who wants to go all out and do things in a short time, the advice is definitely to not get entangled with these bodily aspects because then you will get involved in many things.
For many people, if they start out with any kind of physical involvement with something, emotions and thoughts follow and their whole life becomes just that – they cannot keep their focus on anything else. If a person is such that one department of his life is handled one way and it is totally absent when he sits for something else, then it is not so much of an impediment.
But most people cannot deal with their lives like that. It just entangles them on all levels. It is in that context that this has been said. Whatever activity you do in your life has nothing to do with the spiritual process because the spiritual process is inward, activity is outward.
An action is either of the body, mind, energies or emotion.
All these things can be stepping stones for a spiritual process but they are not spiritual in any sense because all of them belong to the physical realm. Spirituality and activity have actually had nothing to do with each other if you know how to keep a clear distance between the two. But that distance is not there in most people, so we say “do not get entangled in this, do not get entangled in that.”
If you are absolutely conscious in every aspect of your life, nothing that you do in your life is an impediment.
But that is a far away thing for most people.
Compulsiveness to Consciousness
Though people would like to project their sexuality as a very conscious process, it is not so.
It is a compulsive process.
Maybe it is handled a little consciously by some people while others do it compulsively, but essentially, the basic ingredient and seed of sexuality is a compulsive process.
It is physiological and chemical – it is a function of hormones which drives you in that direction.
Unless you are able to transcend all compulsiveness within you, it is definitely an impediment in that sense.
Any kind of activity, whether it is eating, sexuality, talking or whatever; if it is a compulsive process, if you are enslaved to it, it is an impediment.
If you look at what is causing this compulsiveness, if you understand that and handle that aspect, compulsiveness goes away.
That means you are definitely moving towards freedom.
If one pursues a spiritual path, irrespective of where he is right now, he will gradually evolve out of many compulsions within himself.