BBC News – TOM DE CASTELLA – Mar 5, 2013
The subject is back in the headlines after Cardinal Keith O’Brien admitted that his “sexual conduct” had fallen below the standards expected of him amid allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.
As a Catholic priest he was expected to abstain from all sexual activity and devote himself to God and the Church’s followers. Buddhist monks have similar expectation. In both religions, masturbation is regarded as a breach of celibacy.
For non-religious people the institution can be hard to comprehend. Go to story
excerpt from Batsasur, an essay by His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur:
The practices of asceticism are really conceived in the Epicurean spirit. The ascetic dreams of obtaining the mastery over Nature by the method of controlling his senses. If the senses grow callous to the temptations of the world the ascetic thinks that he will have less chance of falling into the power of Nature. He has an idea that when he will have perfected these defensive arrangements he will have become the real master of the situation. The Brahmacharin, according to the ascetic point of view, is to pass through a period of training in severe abstinence with his guru in order to be fitted to discharge the duties of citizenship, which will make a great demand on his nerves and muscles with greater thoroughness. There is no reference to the service of Godhead or to any spiritual issue.
We have had many occasions to explain that the spiritual is transcendental. No mundane consideration can form any part of spiritual training or conduct. It is not a spiritual affair to be even able to control one’s carnal desires. Such self-control itself is, indeed, automatically produced by the awakening of the soul. But self-control itself is not therefore a function of the soul. The soul has nothing to do with the senses. The soul desires neither sensuality nor sexual purity. The soul is not a mere moral being. If Brahmacharya means a method of gaining moral power, it is wholly a mundane affair and is as such not only of no concern to the soul but is positively obstructive of spiritual well-being.
This is bound to be so because the point of view of the soul is all-embracing. The soul rejects nothing. He regards nothing as redundant or useless. The soul has a use for everything. But the soul sees everything as it is really related to himself and to other entities. There is, therefore, no room for the temporary type of morality in his relationships with the other entities. Everything is absolutely good on the plane of the soul. The scriptural Brahmacharya institution accordingly means service of the Brahman, i.e. the Reality Who is always the Great and always the Help. The servant of the Absolute is free from all delusion.
Morality is a valued commodity only on the plane of delusion. But it has no locus standi on the plane where the conditions of existence are perfect.
Till the service of Godhead is realized, it is impossible to be really moral in the sense of being needlessly and perfectly virtuous. If a person is causelessly virtuous in the worldly sense, he or she will be a subject of easy exploitation for all the cunning rascals of this world. This is so because morality as conceived by the empiricist, has a reference to the physical body and the changeable mind and is, therefore, liable to change so long as the conditions are not radically altered. The empiric contriver of juvenile welfare strives to produce conditions that will favor the growth and continuance of the empiric moral aptitude. These artificial conditions are confidently enough expected to be likely to prove of permanent benefit to those young persons who are brought up under those improvised conditions. But the brand of morality that has to be produced by the artificial manipulation of the natural environment is likely to prove of little value when the props are withdrawn. The analogy of needed protection for the growth of delicate plants does not apply, as such plants are always exoterics. Hot-house morality is thus a misnomer and a delusion in relation to the soul.