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The Lonely Passion
Masturbation is an illicit form of sex life as described in Prabhupada's purport in The Nectar of Instruction:
As far as the urges of the genitals are concerned, there are two—proper and improper, or legal and illicit sex. When a man is properly mature, he can marry according to the rules and regulations in the sastra and use his genitals for begetting nice children. That is legal and religious. Otherwise, he may adopt many artificial means to satisfy the demands of his genitals, and he may not use any restraint. When one indulges in illicit sex, as defined by the sastras, either by thinking, planning, talking about it or actually having sexual intercourse, or by satisfying the genitals by artificial means, he is caught in the clutche.. of maya. These instructions apply not only to householders but also to tyagis, or those who are in the renounced order of life.
—Nectar of Instruction, Text One, purport
There is no reason why this has to be a widespread problem among those practicing bhakti-yoga. It is not an unconscious act as with dreams, but a deliberate act, and one that does not give real pleasure or any positive result. It is destructive and depressing. Anyone who has this habit should take the responsibility to overcome it and not blame it on anything or anyone else. It is something within your power to stop.Since masturbation is a deliberate act of the will, it should be stopped as soon as the first stages occur. Acts take place in three stages—thinking, feeling and willing—and so this act, if it is to be stopped at all, has to be stopped in the initial stage.
We should have alert systems within us, similar to military defense systems: As soon as the radar operator sees something dangerous approaching on the radar screen, alarms are set off and the fighters track it down. When I have talked with persons who have this habit, I sometimes ask them where they do it, and what are the circumstances. It often seems to happen when there is particular stress or loneliness or boredom in their life. I suggest that if they find themselves entering the preliminary stages, being in the place where it usually happens, or in the wrong time or state of mind, then they should know right away they are in great danger.One devotee had this habit from early puberty. He was drawn irresistibly into "adult" book stores. Now he knows that in order to fight his habit, he had to be like the ex-alcoholic who does not even take a drop of liquor. He cannot even allow himself to walk down the same side of the street where there is an adult book store. If one can analyze one's behavior and find the preliminary steps that lead to this unfortunate act, and if one is sincere, he will work hard to stop it. And Krsna will help.I mention the word sincere, but it is a fact that some devotees who are sincere still cannot seem to make resolutions strong enough to stop this practice. Therefore it may be necessary for them to adopt a number of changes in their lives. Whatever the changes are, it is worth it.
This particular compulsion is one that can be totally overcome and left behind forever. One of the first steps should be to approach a devotee in whom you trust and confide in him your secret. With his help and with Krsna's help, do whatever is necessary to gradually overcome your compulsion. Otherwise, it remains a definite transgression of the principles of illicit sex. Since the devotional life is so pure, a person who masturbates starts to develop great guilt, self-hate, and so on. One does not have to be a professional psychologist in order to see it. Even if we are not able to ascertain the original cause or origin of this habit in a fellow devotee, still we can help each other to overcome it for good. Even in the preliminary stages of devotional service, there is sufficient strength to get rid of the lonely passion.