On Sex and Suffering
From the popular point of view, it's the best thing there is. From our experience, there are superior options.
A conversation with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The following conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and some of his disciples took place on an early-morning walk in January 1974 at Venice Beach, California.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, here in California the divorce rate is nearly 50%. Why do you think that is so?
Srila Prabhupada: In India there is a saying that he who is married laments and he who is not married also laments. The married man laments, “Why did I marry? I could have remained free.” And he who is not married laments, “Oh, why didn’t I accept a wife? I would have been happy.” [Laughter.] By sex one begets a child, and as soon as there is a child there is suffering. The child suffers, and the parents also suffer to take care of him. But again they have another child. Therefore it is said in Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.9.45], tripyanti neha kripana bahu-duhkha-bhajah. In connection with this child-producing there is so much difficulty and trouble, but although one knows that, one again does the same thing.
Sex is the main happiness in this material world. That is the main happiness, and it is very abominable. What is this happiness? Kanduyanena karayor iva duhkha-duhkham. It is like the rubbing of two hands together to relieve an itch. Sex produces so many bad results, but still one is not satisfied. Now there are contraceptives, abortion-so many things. Maya [illusion] is so strong; she says, “Yes, do this and be implicated.”
Therefore the Bhagavatam says, kandutivan manasijam vishaheta dhirah. A man who is dhira, sober and sane, tolerates this itching sensation of sex desire. One who can tolerate the itching sensation saves so much trouble, but one who cannot is immediately implicated. Whether illicit or legitimate, sex is trouble.
Devotee: Srila Prabhupada, this is the first time we’ve walked this way. Everything looks different and new.
Srila Prabhupada: [Laughs.] This is material life. We are wandering sometimes this way, sometimes that way, and we are thinking, “Oh, this is new.” Brahmanda bhramite: we are wandering all over the universe trying to find out something new. But nothing is new: everything is old.
When a man becomes old, he generally thinks, “Oh, this life is so troublesome.” So he is allowed to change to a new body, a child’s body. The child is taken care of, and he thinks, “Now I’ve got such a comfortable life.” But again he becomes old and disgusted. So, Krishna is so kind: “All right,” He says, “change your body.” This is punah punash carvita-carvananam, chewing the chewed. Krishna gives the living entity many facilities: “All right, become a tree. All right, become a serpent. All right, become a demigod. All right, become a king. Become a cobbler. Go to the heavenly planets. Go to the hellish planets.” There are so many varieties of life, but in all of them the living entity is packed up in this material world. He’s looking for freedom, but he does not know that freedom is available only under the shelter of Krishna. That he will not accept.
Seeing the suffering in this material world, the Mayavadis [impersonalists] want to make life variety-less (nirvishesha) and the Buddhists want to make it zero (shunyavadi). But neither proposition is possible. You may remain variety-less for some time, but again you will want varieties. Big, big sannyasis [renunciants] preach so much about brahma satyam jagan mithya [”The impersonal Absolute is true; this universe is false”], but again they come down from Brahman to do political and social work. They cannot remain in Brahman for long, so they have to accept this material variety, because variety is the mother of enjoyment. Therefore, our proposition is this: Come to the real variety, Krishna consciousness. Then your life will be successful.
Devotee: Most people are trying to enjoy so much in this life that they don’t even think about the next life.
Srila Prabhupada: They do not know what the next life is, so they make it zero. They say, “There is no next life,” and in that way they are satisfied. When a rabbit sees some danger it closes its eyes and thinks there is no danger. These rascals are like that. It is all ignorance.
Devotee: There is a philosophy called stoicism, which says that since life is meant for suffering, one should just become very sturdy and suffer a great deal.
Srila Prabhupada: So, their idea is that one who can suffer without any protest—he is a first- class man. Believing in such a philosophy means that one does not know how to stop suffering. One class of philosophers says that suffering cannot be dismissed and therefore we must be strong to tolerate it. And another class of philosophers says that since life is full of suffering, we should make life zero. But neither class has any information that there is real life where there is no suffering. That is Krishna consciousness. There is life, but no suffering. Anandamayo ‘bhyasat: simply bliss. Dancing, eating, and chanting, with no suffering. Would anybody refuse that? Is there any such fool?
Devotee: People deny that such a life exists.
Srila Prabhupada: But suppose there is such a life, where you can simply dance, eat, and live happily for eternity. Would you not like to accept it?
Devotee: Anyone would like to accept it. But people think it doesn’t exist.
Srila Prabhupada: So our first proposition should be that there is a life like this—only happiness, with no suffering. Everyone will say, “Yes, I would like it.” They will accept it. Unfortunately, because people have been cheated again and again, they think that this is another cheating. Therefore, preaching Krishna consciousness means to convince people that there is a life full of happiness, with no suffering.
Devotee: What will convince them that we are not cheating, also?
Srila Prabhupada: Invite them to come to our temple and see our devotees. We are chanting, dancing, and eating nicely. This is practical proof.
Devotee: But doesn’t one have to be purified before one can realize these things?
Srila Prabhupada: No. We say, “Come and chant Hare Krishna with us; you’ll become purified. We don’t want anything from you. We shall give you food—we shall give you everything. Simply come and chant with us.” This is our message.