To realise the ultimate Truth you have to get rid of relationships, you have to get rid of worldly attachments. If you think that we can realise our True Nature by living in the world and enjoying this world, all the pleasures of this world, that is compared to sitting on a crocodile and trying to cross the river. Because the crocodile will kill you.
It’s quite clear that for almost everybody this issue of intimacy with another human being is a strong structure, a strong issue. In the eastern traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism there is a deep understanding that if you seriously want to become a spiritual seeker you become celibate and stay alone.
When I go to India for the January retreat each year we often visit two ashrams: one is Thuli Baba’s and the other is Swami Dayananda’s. In Swami Dayananda’s ashram they teach Vedanta and they completely adopt this tradition. It’s completely accepted that men and women are separate. In Thuli Baba’s ashram, which is rather small compared to Swami Dayananda’s ashram, there are around twelve men and three women, a small group of people. He also makes his position absolutely clear – the men and the women are completely separate. The main group of people in his ashram are young men who are called brahmacharyas, meaning they have made a decision to be celibate.
I asked Thuli Baba about this, making the point that in Western countries it’s rather common to have a relationship, and that we don’t really have any tradition for deciding on celibacy. His response was that karmic destiny requires some people to live as householders – being in relationship, working to raise a family. Then when the children have grown and the family has been provided for there is a withdrawal from intimacy and a focus on spiritual life. You might even leave the family and go on your way as a spiritual seeker. For Thuli Baba this is completely essential.
This is naturally quite hard for Western people to deal with as we don’t really have any culture that supports celibacy. In fact it’s the opposite. We’re brought up with a strong conditioning to be in a couple, to be a married couple. Over the years of our community this has always been something of an issue. What kind of advice could I give? Gradually over these years, after lots of consideration, it always seems to me that it’s case by case.
At the same time it became clear to me that people joining our community are joining an experiment in conscious living, probably for a limited time, because they want to become awakened, to become free and to live in this freedom. So then the best advice that I can give them is to stand on their own feet, and from this position to relate as spontaneously as possible and as intimately as possible with the other residents.
I am not against marriage, against relationship and family and so on, rather I’m for awakening. This is something that very few people are going to choose in their lives. So for these few people my advice is to be intimate – I’m not against sexuality – but to stay out of a fixed love story.
This advice is mostly ignored because actually it’s very difficult for Western people. Our conditioning around intimacy and relating is very, very strong, partly because we have funny ideas about love. In our culture love is something that comes from the other.
He loves me. She loves me. I love you. You love me. We’re going to be saved! It doesn’t work like that. This love is actually something that is inside us, and so expecting it from somewhere or someone else leads to tremendous misunderstandings. However much I might talk about this, people very quickly forget my advice when they get into a closed, conditional relationship.
Over my more than twenty two years of sharing one of the things that sabotages peoples wish for Freedom more than any other issue is getting attached to a relationship.
When this happens you can see that actually Truth was never really the first priority. In fact the priority was to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend and get them under contract, knowing that then you could be happy forever because you had somebody to love you. In fact, this is just falling into the traditional, conditioned trap of relationship.