Let’s talk about sex: the flowering of desire

This topic may be a little bit away from the recent issues we’ve been having on Kinfonet, but it is an aspect of Krishnamurti’s teachings that we don’t often talk much about, and is something worth looking at in its own right.

Sexuality is an inescapable feature of modern culture. There are a dozen or more ways of expressing (or not expressing) one’s sexuality, including being asexual (understood as having a natural lack of sexual interest in other people). For instance there are speculations that historical figures such as Isaac Newton, Henry Thoreau and Frederic Chopin were asexuals.

How sexuality is expressed or not expressed is not the topic of this thread, but rather sexual or (if one identifies as being asexual) sensory desire itself.

As far as I’m aware Krishnamurti’s teachings on sexual desire are quite different from those of orthodox Buddhism and Vedanta. In those traditions the view is - broadly speaking - that sexual desire is something bad, to be suppressed, controlled, or denied. There are some esoteric (or Tantric) schools - such as Vajrayana Buddhism or Kashmir Shaivism - that are more inclusive of sexual desire, or which attempt to find ways of utilising sexual energy. But in all these schools there are a great many layers of superstition and theoretical dogmatism which complicate the basic question of sexual desire.

To ask what is involved in meeting sexual desire for itself, is not the same thing as looking for a way to channel sexual energy, or to use it as a means to some extrinsic theological or ideological end.

Krishnamurti’s approach, as I understand it, is not to judge or condemn sexual desire; not to suppress it or run away from it; not to use it as a means of gaining special energy or esoteric powers; and not to indulge it either.

He sometimes talked about how we are habituated to one or two senses only, and that if one could look at something (like the sea) with all one’s senses, then the whole includes the part - it transforms our relationship to the senses.

Sometimes Krishnamurti said that sexual appetite has its own place - or that where there is love, sex is no longer a problem. He sometimes said that where there is no identification, sexual desire can be something factual, natural, non-contradictory.

But for me Krishnamurti’s most communicative way of talking about sexual desire is through the language of flowering:

I’ve got desires:

I see a car, a woman, a house, a lovely garden, beautiful clothes - whatever it is - and instantly all the desires arise.

And not to have a conflict.

And yet not to yield…

Desire is there, and to cut it off is to suppress it. To control it is to suppress it. To yield to it is another form of… getting and losing.

So, to allow for the flowering of desire without control… The very flowering is the ending of that desire.

But if you chop it off it will come back again…

So… let the desire come, flower, watch it. Watch it, not yield or resist. Just let it flower.

And be fully aware of what is happening…

Allow the thing to flower and watch it, watch it in the sense be totally aware of it, the petals, the subtle forms of desire to possess, not to possess… the whole of that movement of desire…

You have to have a very sensitive… choiceless watching.

(Conversation with Anderson 17, 1974)

It is only in freedom that anything can flourish, not in suppression, control and discipline; these only pervert, corrupt. Flowering and freedom are goodness and all virtue.

(Krishnamurti’s Notebook)

So what is involved in this flowering of desire? Can it be done, easily, happily, in daily life? What is our relationship to the senses more generally? And what is the relationship of this flowering to freedom?

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The central problem of desire is that it involves the taking over by thought, thinking, of sensations - which are natural - which is what creates the conflicts in desire.

So Krishnamurti asks whether there can be an alertness of the senses as a whole - of sensation - without the interference of thought in sensation?

How do we, as human beings, function? With all our senses or only with partial senses? You understand my question? Senses are very important - aren’t they? Otherwise you couldn’t live, touch, feel, taste, see, watch and so on and so on, hear, with all the senses fully awakened. But our senses are not. They are only partially awake. Right? Because it has been one of the doctrines of religions all over the world, to control your senses…

So, is it possible to be aware simultaneously, of all the senses in full action - aware?

Have you noticed a sunset with all your senses? Have you noticed the movement of the sea, the blue light and the movement of a wave, with all your senses? You haven’t. Have you watched your wife with all your senses? No.

Now, when you watch with all your senses, what takes place? You can’t answer that question, because you have never done it. So we must not say what happens when all the senses are awake, functioning fully, but why is it that we are always partially responding, except perhaps sexually - partially responding - why? You understand? Partial responses of the senses. Why? Is it that we have given importance to one or two senses? Right? I’m asking you. Or we haven’t even thought about all this? So if you begin to be aware of your senses, not choosing one sense better than the other sense but aware without choice, the whole movement of senses, not one part of it, but to watch our reaction to every sense, the taste, the hearing, the seeing, the smelling, the feeling, all that.

We live by that. We live by sensation. Right? And thought takes over the sensations. Haven’t you noticed it? … You see something beautiful in the shop, a nice shirt, or a nice sari, or whatever you see in the shop. There is perception, seeing, going inside the shop, touching it, which is sensation - right - seeing, contact, sensation. Then thought comes along and says, ‘how nice to have that shirt on me, it looks nice’. Right? So thought creates the image of you in that shirt or in that sari. Right? Then desire is born. I wonder if you are following the whole sequence of this?

We are always fighting desire. The religions all over the world say, suppress desire, don’t fight it, suppress it, get rid of it. You can’t. Desire for god is the same as desire for a shirt, sorry! Because both are based on desire. So, seeing, contact, sensation. And not to allow thought - careful, I’m not saying you can’t allow it.

See the truth, the moment thought comes and builds an image, then desire is born, which is a fact, simple, observable, a daily fact.

Now, sensations are normal, healthy, otherwise you would be dead. And to watch very carefully thought not building an image. You understand? And not letting thought create an image out of the sensation. I wonder if you understand this?

(Question and answer meeting 1, Bombay, 1985)

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So there seem to be three distinct aspects of engagement with the movement of sensory desire:

  1. To find out if there can be a gap between simple sensory sensation and the absorption of the sensation by thought and imagination

  2. When sensory desire has been born, to watch it nonjudgmentally so that it is given freedom to flower

  3. Implicit in this engagement is the possibility of observing with all one’s senses, fully awakened.

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  • I think this gap is created by awareness; in awareness there is no sense of grasping/rejection, the sense of me is powerless.
  • It looks that K says that a “simple sensory sensation” (the so called, desire) ) has its own right to exist fully, from the moment of its birth, through its full expression, until its dissolution.
  • Taking the example of a flower, I can observe the 3 stages: the bud, the blooming, and the withering of the flower.
  • In the same way, in the mind, only awareness can illuminate the entire existence of the “simple sensory sensation”; what happens instead is: the “me” thought wants to approach a fact (the “simple sensory sensation”) with ideas, based in memory; so, the idea of desire attempts to interact with the fact of “the simple sensory sensation”; such relationship between a fact and an idea is not possible, such interaction leads to control/suppression/grasping of the idea of desire while the simple sensory sensation is ignored, missed.
  • Fully awakened senses and observing with all one’s senses is another definition of awareness.
  • To me the senses are extraordinary important, indispensable in observation. I would say that when the senses are free of the “me”, or are empty of the “me” they function freely.
    What is my relationship to the senses ? Maybe I could say I watch them as I watch a child. I am vigilant to catch the “me” coming to “dominate” them.

This seems like awfully hard work at first glance.

It just shows how much diligence is needed to go into these matters. Its like you have to start at the beginning each time. Else you fall back on images which may have been alive once but are now merely shadows of their former selves.

Yes. But one’s awareness has to be real present moment awareness, the razor’s edge (so to speak), to see the immediacy of thought coming in to take over sensation. This is the challenge we face. We have to catch the intrusion of thought as it occurs in the moment (or just after) of sensation.

Yes. Although it is important to make a distinction between a natural sensory movement (which may be a sensation of sexual attraction, for instance) and the thought-created movement of desire which takes over this sensation and pursues it artificially through thought and memory. This seems to be the challenge of the ‘razor’s edge’ just mentioned.

Yes. Thought comes in to control or shape the sensation, either to continue the sensation as pleasure, or suppress the sensation in service to ideas of virtue, etc - all of which is a form of non-relationship to the actual sensation as it is.

Yes. Awareness and the senses go together. Sensation can be whole or partial (when we use only one or two senses). When there is sensation as a whole there is also the acme of awareness (according to Krishnamurti), which is to be in a state of total attention (which is rare: ordinary awareness is something we all have, or can have; but total attention with all one’s senses fully awakened is something we very rarely experience).

Yes. This is the same challenge put in different words: can we be so attentive, so aware in the present moment, that we catch the moment that thought, or the ‘me’, comes in to interfere with the senses?

I have opened a new thread related to this, exploring what it means to live in the ‘now’ moment (which is where our senses live).

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Yes. As I was saying to Crina, it is about living on the ‘razor’s edge’ of the present moment, the ‘now’ moment, to be able to catch the second that thought or the ‘me’ comes in to take over sensation, to interfere with the senses and sensation… This is the challenge that we face.

Flowering: flowering to me means there is no conflict, no division, no will as it is natural. A flower doesn’t decide to flower or choose to flower. It blooms naturally. Our bodies also grow old on their own, without our will. As flowering is natural, it is not do with will.

What is the difference between will and natural flowering of desire?

Will implies a conscious psychological choice.

Krishnamurti uses words like watching. In general terminology we choose to watch, there is watcher, decider, will. I decide to watch this or that as choice. I struggle to work out of choice. I struggle to study for exams. My work is not my natural flowering.

In flowering there is no choice, no conflict, no division.

So to explore flowering we need to question choice, conflict and the sense of division.

In flowering there is no division. There is no division as me and my body. What is the state without conflict as me and my body? It is not will. It is natural state of being of my body. So we need to question conflict, choice and division

Yes - though one ought to bear in mind that this thread is looking at what it means for sexual or sensory desire to ‘flower’, as well as the relationship more generally between sensation, the senses, and thought.

To be aware of sensation as it occurs.
To be aware of where the sensation becomes hijacked by thought, and becomes desire.
To be aware of the movement of sensation or desire as it flowers.
To be aware with all one’s senses fully alive, fully alert.

These are the questions being looked at here.

As you suggest, this awareness - of sensation, or of thought coming in to take over sensation, or of the flowering of desire, or of all the senses operating simultaneously - is not the same thing as will, as choice, as condemnation or judgement. It is choiceless awareness, choiceless observation: sensation is happening, there is no choice about the matter, no condemnation of it, no attempt to move away from it into suppression or judgements. And if thought comes in to shape it, creating desire, there is no choice about this either, no suppression or condemnation, just choiceless observation of it as it is happening (if one can do this).

The thought of pleasure is very “impulsive”. (other thoughts are, but we want to stick to pleasure)

Below I will be talking about the thought of pleasure, coming in the mind when, let’s say I am looking at an attractive man.

Since sensations are subtle and silent, while thought is loud and habitual, I find myself (un)intentionally moving into a space where I can think I am free to feed the thought of pleasure, which magnifies the sensations (and this is how the “me” dominates the senses).
This personal imaginary space is another cul de sac of thought ( in this case, the cul sac of pleasure). Personality I catch my self creating this space immediately.
At times, I still go to the cul de sac of pleasure, cause the idea of pleasure is so magnetic and so apparently inoffensive. But I don’t stay long in it, I realize that by doing it, by creating this stretch outside the “now” so to speak, I am wasting my time and “distort” the man I think is attractive.

Actually, it is so interesting this expression: to waste time means, not to be in the present where, there is no time.

Yes - though it sounds strange: to waste time is to be in time! (psychologically speaking).
While to save time is not to be in time at all (i.e. to be in the present, in the now - if one can).

You describe the challenge of pleasure very well.

Because we live so much of our lives in thinking, in imagination, when we perceive someone (or something) attractive, beautiful, instead of remaining with the sense-perception as it is (and the sensation it creates in the brain-body: the simple and immediate feeling-response, which may be pleasant), our imagination takes over this feeling-response of sensation and plays with it in thought. The result is psychological pleasure.

This can happen with people, with things (possessions), and with ideas.

There is of course a place for the imagination - especially when it comes to art, literature, stories, or science.

The problem is, as you say, that when it comes to people the imagination creates an image of the other person - either attractive or repelling - and if we feed this image too much, then we no longer have any actual relationship to the person at all (or only a very distorted one), because the image is something we have created subjectively. It doesn’t communicate the actuality of the other person.

Though it is artificial, the power of the imagination is not to be underestimated. Imagination is connected to the chemistry of the brain, meaning that it can create feelings of both pleasure and fear. The mind in its ordinary inattentive state doesn’t distinguish clearly between artificially created pleasure, and the natural feeling-response of the senses to something beautiful.

So the question is whether we can be so intimately present to our feeling-reponses as they are occurring that we notice where they have been highjacked by the imagination and so made artificial.

I recollect Krishnamurti saying that chastity has nothing to do with sex (contrary to what the religions have said) - rather it is about living a daily life without creating images (in relationship). But to be chaste in this sense requires living on the knife edge of the present moment, in the now - a tremendous challenge indeed!

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