Is There Sex After Death?
(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
No, this isn’t a racy title to increase readership of my blogs. This is the name of a movie from 1972. And? While on an errand, Shrila Prabhupada happened to see the ad for this movie on a billboard, and mentioned it in a Shrimad Bhagavatam class. He spoke about it with a mixture of wry humor and seriousness. As an ideal acharya (exemplary teacher), he took note of whatever he encountered, and by giving a Krishna conscious perspective, taught us to do the same in our lives. Prabhupada observed that since the mass of people are preoccupied with sex, they wonder if sex will continue in any afterlife. The implications is that if sex isn’t available there, then any existence after death mustn’t be a very desirable destination.
When I was growing up and attending grade school and college, it would seem that although learning was the supposed purpose of education, the mingling of the sexes seemed to mainly be what was on everyone’s mind. In my own life I can see practically that what we are absorbed in during youth becomes very ingrained, and if we build on this in adulthood, it is practically impossible to conceive of living without it. As the saying goes, “Old habits die hard.” The more, and longer, we think of or focus on something, the stronger its influence upon us. Thus the title of the movie is actually very telling.
What we are addicted to, we consider real life, and to imagine not having what we feel dependent on, is inconceivable. Even though professional sports, television, cinema, popular music, games of all descriptions, and our use of technological gadgets aren’t usually considered addictions in the traditional sense, like drugs or alcohol, many people would find it difficult to live without them. In fact, the whole material world and our sensory desires can be thought of like an addiction, which preoccupies or distracts us from the true purpose of life, or self-realization. When we come to really understand our identity as a spiritual being, this changes our relationship with everything.
Without transcendental knowledge, the eternal soul stays in the material world, having its desires for worldly enjoyment facilitated by sense objects, which are like strong ropes, or anchors, for our soul. We might think of our soul like a hot air balloon designed to soar to God, but due our anchor-like worldly desires, we kept earthbound, and thus unable to realize our true potential. Conversely, we are also given the method of obtaining the unlimited sky of the spiritual world: the holy name, called upon with intense desire, or spiritual greed, for obtaining Krishna and His divine service.
The soul is called marginal energy, which means it is a product of its environment, or becomes like its surroundings. The soul is never independent and is either forced to serve God indirectly through the material energy, or voluntarily serves through taking shelter of Krishna in loving devotion. Human life means we have the facility to choose in what way we want to serve, but serve we must. This is called sanatana-dharma, or the constitutional nature of the soul.
Prabhupada considered the question posed by the movie title in ways never thought of by its producers. First, he explained that since most people are attached to sex life, they will have to come back to the material plane where sex is considered the binding force. In every species of life sex exists in some form. Whether a human being, animal or plant, sex goes on to give facility for other souls to take birth in that species.
Material bodies, although apparently existing for themselves, only have meaning in relationship to souls, who require bodies as vehicles to facilitate carnal urges and domination of matter. Our abilities depend on the construction of the particular body and mind, and are actually a huge limitation on the capacity of the soul. Human life gives both the best facility to try to control and exploit nature, and also, yet more importantly, the greatest facility for higher spiritual awareness.
From the highest, deepest perspective, to answer the question whether sex exists beyond this life, we can discover in many Vedic texts (such as the first verse of the Shirmad Bhagavatam and Shri Brahma-samhita) that whatever exists in the material world has its origin in the spiritual world. The material world is like the shadow or perverted reflection of the spiritual dimension, so if sex exists here, it must have its pure spiritual origin. Material enjoyment is always temporary and is dependent on ideal, difficult to achieve conditions, whereas spiritual enjoyment is ever fresh and ever increasing.
The soul, like God, is pleasure seeking, and it is only because we have forgotten our pure source of enjoyment, that we are focused on material enjoyment. This is also why the Gita principle outlined in its second chapter (Bg 2.59) is so important: “param drstva nivartate”, or the truth that we can only remain fixed in our spiritual life for the long haul, when we are experiencing the higher taste of spiritual enjoyment. Duty will carry us for some time, but spiritual taste will enliven and enable us to flourish on the road of bhakti.
We learn from one of our great acharyas, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, about the original and pure sex psychology (adi-rasa), which is devoid of all mundane inebriety. Material absorption in sex attraction means thinking life revolves around our desires by trying to enjoy our personal senses, while spiritual sex means trying to please the Supreme Enjoyer, Shri Krishna, and seeing ourselves as surrendered to the supreme will. Therefore, there is sex after death, either mechanically for biology and our material desires (that eventually become distasteful), or we can experience eternal bliss in the ever increasingly joyful dance of Divine love, with Krishna and his eternal associates. Krishna consciousness is the process of changing from the former to the later, or from so-called material enjoyment in the world of death (martya-loka), to the true enjoyment of the soul with God in the spiritual plane.