The Case for Chastity
Perhaps the most difficult to keep of Master’s commandments, especially for young men, is chastity. The society we live in is so permeated with sexuality, and most of us have been surrounded since birth by so many people and so much material inundated with unchaste preconceptions, that the concept of self-restraint comes hard.
And yet, experience shows that the Master’s teachings on this subject are grounded firmly both in Spiritual Necessity and in human nature. It does not take us long to discover, if we are serious about the Path and our commitment to it, that sexuality and Inner Experience are incompatible; and once we get past the fears and prejudices that have been implanted in us by all segments of society – including, sadly, the churches –, and actually live for a while free from the addiction to sex, we begin to discover for ourselves the peace and contentment that real chastity brings.
We have learned that the first step towards an honestly chaste life is intellectual acceptance of the value of chastity. Since most of us have been assuming the opposite for years, anything that goes to reinforce the concept in our minds is helpful. And if we realise that the Master’s teaching is thoroughly and completely in harmony with all Masters Who have come as well as an astonishing number of Great Men in all walks of life, we may perhaps feel more secure in our own practice.
The following article, made up of excerpts from the writings of Masters and Great Men, is a step towards this understanding. It is only a beginning; much remains to be said. God willing, a complete and thoroughly documented inquiry into the physiological and psychological consequences of chastity will shortly appear in these pages, in which many questions left unanswered in this article will be taken up. One point only might be mentioned: All Masters and others who understand the value of chastity have consistently opposed the use of contraceptives – Mahatma Gandhi, for example, has written explicitly and at great length on this point. This has led many critics to feel that the Masters and others are out of touch with the modern world and its tremendous problem of over-population. Not so. The Masters know well the dangers of over-population, and have consistently advised Their disciples to have small families. But They also know that all attempts to subvert the basic natural law – in any field – brings new problems in its wake which are worse than the one that is supposedly being cured.
The commonly expressed opinion that chastity is an unworkable and unnatural alternative to contraceptives is effectively refuted by observing the condition of inhabitants of the Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan. These people, known throughout the world for their excellent health and long life, are by no means Saints; they have nevertheless successfully practised population control by means of chastity for centuries. In 1949 a remarkable American woman, Jean Bowie Shor, visited the Hunza Valley as part of an epic journey in the footsteps of Marco Polo.
This is what she says:
While marriage is important, so is birth control. There are only a limited number of arable acres in Hunza, and if the Hunzukuts had as many children as other Asiatic or Oriental peoples, there would soon be serious overpopulation. Centuries ago they solved the problem. When a wife becomes pregnant she leaves her husband’s bed, not to return again until the baby is weaned, two years for a girl, three for a boy.
Families, therefore, are small, usually three or four children, and the population does not vary appreciably […]1
And how does this ‘unnatural’ practice affect the Hunzukuts? Are they nervous, weak, frustrated, repressed?
‘We are the happiest people in the world,’ the Mir said with a quiet sureness which precluded any boastfulness, ‘and I will tell you why. We have just enough of everything, but not enough to make anyone else want to take it away. You might call this the Happy Land of Just Enough.’ 2
The longer we stayed in Hunza the more we were impressed with the stamina of the people. It is not unheard of for a Hunzukut to hike sixty miles over the mountain trail in a single day. They climb mountains higher than any in the United States with greater nonchalance than I show walking up four flights of stairs in an apartment building. […]
Sir Robert McCarrison, once surgeon general of India, describes the Hunzukuts as ‘unsurpassed in perfection of physique […] capable of great physical endurance, and enjoying a remarkable freedom from disease in general.’ 3
Once the Hunzukuts were mighty mountain warriors, feared by the surrounding countries […] But now they live in serene peace with each other and their nervous neighbours. There is no poverty in Hunza, and yet money is not considered a necessity. […] Longevity is a national characteristic. While the arbab of Misgar was in his sixties, some of his advisers were pressing a hundred. Many of the diseases of civilization, including cancer, are unknown. […]
‘Tell us about the Mir,’ Franc asked. […] And by the way, where are the soldiers and police?’
Nabi Khan laughed. ‘There are no police,’ he said, ‘because there is no crime. Therefore there are no jails. Nor does Hunza have an army. […] A few years ago the Mir had a small bodyguard, but he disbanded it. Why should he have a bodyguard? He has no enemies.’ 4
There are no doctors in Hunza – except an occasional foreign medical man who visits to marvel at their phenomenal freedom from disease. McCarrison, who spent some time in Hunza, noted the complete absence of ulcers and dyspepsia, as well as the non-existence of cancer.’ 5
Pity the poor Hunzukut! Strong, healthy, contented, serene, happy – and chaste. Living examples of what the Master means when He says,
Even if you don’t take up the Spiritual Way, I tell you, if you live a life of restraint, you will have peace.
The Hunzukuts are not Saints; but they are men.
The selections following are given to demonstrate the fact that the Master does not stand alone in His advocacy of restraint; consequently, only a tiny part of His own writings on the subject are included. Those readers who have not already read Morning Talk XI, ‘Chastity – We must become self-centred,’ in the book ‘Morning Talks’ should do so, as it is probably the single most valuable writing on this subject extant. Also helpful is the section Chastity in the booklet ‘Seven Paths to Perfection.’
Footnotes: 1) Jean Bowie Shor, ‘After You, Marco Polo,’ New York: 1955, p. 284. 2) Ibid., p. 282. 3) Ibid., p. 278. 4) Ibid., pp. 266–267. 5) Ibid., pp. 283–284.