Can orgasm lead to Enlightenment?

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on May 9, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

YabYum Tanka

One of the main differences between authentic Tantra and Western Neo-tantra is this: some of the followers of the latter truly believe orgasm can result in Enlightenment. It is true that Enlightenment may include orgasm, but, I am sorry to say, folks, the latter does not automatically lead to the former.

Then there would be a lot of enlightened sex practitioners out there. And I mean truly Enlightened, as in the case of one man named the Buddha.

Sex is a form of bliss, no doubt. But it is a short-lived sensual bliss that does not automatically lead to full-blown spiritual bliss. Indeed, I have yet to read or hear of someone who has achieved permanent Enlightenment via the path of sexual practice alone.

I have read, however, that one well known Neo-tantric teacher made the rather preposterous claim that Buddha could not have achieved Enlightenment without first having had sex with his wife Yasodhara.

What do those Neo-tantrics know about real cosmic Enlightenment, anyway?

According to one of today’s foremost writers on yoga, Georg Feuerstein, they do not know much. They are a confused lot.

“Their main error is to confuse Tantric bliss (ananda or maha-sukha) with ordinary orgasmic pleasure,” he writes in his well researched book Tantra: The path of Ecstasy.

Don’t confuse sensual pleasure with spiritual bliss!

While I disagree with Feuerstein about his version of the history of Tantra, I absolutely agree with his statement above. That’s what I have read. That’s also been my experience: sensual pleasure and spiritual bliss is not the same. Sex is sensory, yogic bliss is extrasensory.

Or as Nisargadatta Maharaj would say: “Love is a state of being. Sex is energy. Love is wise. Sex is blind.”

This blind force of sex can sometimes release powerful kundalini energies, however, resulting in amazing inner ecstasies. But sex is not a unique gateway to bliss. Music, dance, drumming, chanting, and yoga asanas will more likely release these energies. In fact, Bhakti Yoga is all about opening our heart chakra; letting ourselves dance into ecstatic trance on waves of repetitive music and chanting.

If you’re one of those lucky few, like the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, the rapture may strike when you are quite young, innocently lying down in savasana (corpse pose) on the floor to “experience death.” But such cosmic graces are only showered upon the karmically endowed few. Those with amazingly wise and spiritual past lives!

And, if we want these ecstasies, these fleeting, nondual flashes of insight to become long lasting and finally permanent, we need to practice powerful tantric and yogic techniques that awaken the slumbering kundalini force at the bottom of our spine.

After several such Enlightenment experiences, sometimes in front of a statue of Shiva, the already highly evolved Ramana Maharshi sat in silent meditation for days and weeks, without need for food, nor sex. Soon his Realizations matured into a permanent state of being. Into a permanent state of Love.

Ramana was a natural sage from birth. We, on the other hand, we need to work on our practices a little more intensely and frequently.

We need to open, strengthen, purify and balance our chakra energies through asanas, pranayama, dhyan, kirtan, etc, so that we can truly experience and embrace the kundalini force when it actually manifests its inner petals in blazing splendor.

And to explore that subject in some detail may require a whole series of books in itself….

We certainly won’t be able to master this esoteric science after a weekend course with Neo-tantric teachers Margot Anand or Charles Muir.

If sex was a means to full-blown Enlightenment, the great scriptures and the sayings of the saints would be replete with such proclamations. I’m sorry to say, Neo-tantrics, you will not find the Buddha proclaim that ejaculation equals Enlightenment.

Nor will you find any written or oral (pun intended) indication that his Enlightenment had much to do with his previous sex life.

The genuine power and inner essence of Tantra lies in its ability to transmute our desires. Yes, to transmute. Not to indulge, not to cling, but to alter, transform and metamorphose our desires into non-attached, free-flowing and mind-blowing bliss.

Some may now think that this is a bunch of puritanical BS. But no. Tantra is known for its straightforward, body-embracing attitude. Tantric teachers shoot straight from the hip.

Just contemplate these words of one of my favorite Tantric teachers, Lama Yeshe: “There is no reason at all to feel guilty about pleasure; this is just as mistaken as grasping onto passing pleasures and expecting them to give us ultimate satisfaction,” he writes in his widely acclaimed book Introduction to Tantra: The Transmutation of Desire.

Lama Yeshe also points out that the Yab-Yum Thanka (see photo above) does not represent sexual intercourse but “the experience of total unity—of method and wisdom, bliss and emptiness—characteristic of the fully enlightened state.”

In other words, the cosmic union of Shiva (consciousness) and Shakti (kundalini energy) in Tantric practice as well as cosmology.

So to conclude our short escapade into the world of Tantric love: sex is a passing pleasure, Enlightenment is the ultimate, lasting satisfaction.


About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


71 Responses to “Can orgasm lead to Enlightenment?”

  1. Thanks, Ramesh. It occurred to me that we make a great team for Elephant because we approach Yoga from such different perspectives, yet have great commonality in the end.

  2. Ramesh says:

    The nondual and the purely spiritual is by its very nature universal, but the philosophies about this state differ, depending on the psychological and cultural context. That's why you have various philosophical concepts about nondualism.
    Does that make sense to you, or do you mean that there are different nondual states?
    That Norvana and Samsara is one is a nondualist concept and similar to the Tantric Sahaj Yoga, for example, but different from Vedanta in which the world (samsara) is an illusion. Still Shankara of Vedanta and Buddha reached the same nondual state of enlightenment in meditation, they just explain it differently. These philosophies are of course important and will effect how the followers of Vedanta and Buddhism think and act. It matters in the real world if you think this world is an illusion or if you think it is relative truth. In tantra thus one says there is absolute truth and relative truth and one must embrace/unite both, which is similar to the idea that Samsara and Nirvana is one.

  3. Truth says:

    It seems you are trapped under hoodwinking prostitute of intellect. You write like a blind defining elephant by touching it as pilla and arguinig. The gayatri or bla bla book is no authority. Experience too is a trap and illusion ramesh.
    Belief is bla bla ego system of protection
    Comparing lsd to samadhi is insanity of insane which best be left for 'mental prostitution' or bondage of ur chains of slavery
    good luck

  4. Ramesh says:

    Truth, would be great if you could present your arguments without resorting to name calling.

    Experience can certainly be a trap if one clings to previous great experiences and forget to live and experience the now. Yet, inner experience, not belief, is the best measurement of ones spiritual state of mind. It's all a matter of perspective.

    Certain LSD experiences can certainly be similar to samadhi experiences, others may just be a jumble of fanciful visions. Again, it all depends. But LSD is not a substitute for the real thing…

  5. Sam says:

    Spending eternity in the state of orgasm cannot compare to even one millionth of a second of nirvana. If you disagree with this even in the slightest, then you have never experienced nirvana.

    Why do you think it is the ending of desire? You just decide to stop feeling pleasure to try to be holy or spiritual? How on earth could that possibly be a permanent solution?

    Nirvana is the ending of desire because it is inconceivable perfection itself. There is nothing that can be conceived that is better than it, much less desired.

    This is important: nirvana is better than anything you can ever conceive, ever. This includes living as a god. It also includes living a simple, modest life with a loving family. It includes orgasm, the ability to teleport, living forever, being awesomely rich, living a relatively normal life with one very special aspect about you, living a highly spiritual life, breathing, creating a universe, destroying a universe, eating yummy food, and hiking. One way I could describe nirvana is as orthogonal to all conditioned existence.

    So here is the lesson for today: in order to want something, you have to conceive of it first. If it can be conceived of, it is less great than nirvana. Therefore, anything you desire is less than nirvana. But in fact even without desire, simple conceptualization itself is less than nirvana.

    Those with great realization are not somehow secluded from reality. They are just the true masters. They are better at existing than we are. We ejaculate semen. They ejaculate everything.

    We think we exist in a real world with real obligations and the highly realized exist in their own quiet haven, living a simple life and ignoring the world. In fact we and this conceived world of ours is a dream, and the masters exist in reality. So we are the ones who ignore what is actually real and take the dream to real, while they ignore dreams and focus on what is actually real.

    Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more. However, note I am only stream entrant and cannot maintain nondual realization continuously yet

  6. Uncle Ramesh,

    Great article. I am going to read all of them. Congrats, I'm glad your writing regularly.

    — Chris

  7. Tapash Chatterjee says:

    I Need to Know Whether The Orgasm Leads to the Stae of Enlightenment or opposed to It?Whether An Enlightened Person can participate in Attaining Physiocal Orgasm?Whether An Enlightened Person Feels the Need to Acieve the Physical Orgvasm ?

  8. Nyima Wimberly says:

    Orgasms as much as sneezing

  9. Nyima Wimberly says:

    …At least that's the answer the texts will give you.

  10. Aron Stein says:

    The answer is no.


  11. Nyima Wimberly says:

    O hymen! O hymenee! why do you tantalize me thus?
    O why sting me for a swift moment only?
    Why can you not continue? O why do you now cease?
    Is it because if you continued beyond the swift moment you
    would soon certainly kill me?

    -Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Children of Adam.

  12. […] benefit people in multiple ways, including stress relief, cardiovascular health, better sleep, and perhaps even enlightenment, just to name a few. Also, sexual exploration can help with a lack of stagnation; as most people […]

  13. bharat teja says:

    Hello There!
    Spirituality or the process of mediation i feel can help an individual to transcend from his gross level of energy to more subtle energies. Sex, money, fame exist in gross levels. Once an individual is able to get to his subtle energies these things become insignificant, as they feel no more pleasurable.

    One can get to one's subtle energies through the process of Self-purification.

  14. Charlie says:

    I am very new to this whole world of meditaion, tantra, yoga etc. Reading around the web it feels very overwhelming as they seems to be so many types of everything and i have no idea where to start reading and what to start learning to practice. any comments on any books or websites that would be a good introduction to

    all this.

  15. Joey Rober says:

    The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it'll do even better in those areas, but for now it's a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod's strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

  16. Kundan says:

    Hi Ramesh!

    Have you read the book "Transdendant Sex" by Jenny Wade?
    The majority of the people interviewed in that book never did any Tantra, never even knew heard nor heard of it – and yet they had the Enlightenment Experience anyway – Sex or Orgasam CAN be a way to Enlightenment. I myself, when I went to the Illumination Intensive, had my own Direct Experience of Truth through an inner sexual encounter, plus I met other people who described their Direct Experience as an orgasm. I feel that this article is a little biased against sex, because it is trying to be againsrt the Neo-Tantrist – but it is not just the Neo-Tantrists who are claiming this – when I myself had my experience, I had never even HEARD of Tantra myself. Of course, it also depends on what you mean by Enlightenment and what you think of it and its after-effects.

    The article also seems to imply that only very few people such as Buddha and Ramana Maharshi can have Enlightenment – this is not true at all.

    And no, everything doesn't become suddenly great just because of Enlightenment, passing effects still get people down, but there is this inner sense of safety and peace, that everything is okay, no matter what – and that is PRICELESS!

  17. […] Listening to the symphony blaring out of my second chakra. […]

  18. […] to Anderson,”Yoga and body movement can be orgasmic, which is one of the highest levels of spiritual feminine origins.” Returning to the origins of […]

  19. Kyle Askland says:

    Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and everything. Nevertheless imagine if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and clips, this website could certainly be one of the very best in its field. Fantastic blog!

  20. […] Neo-tantra, often referred to as sacred sexuality, is not tantra. […]

  21. chiasue says:

    There are many paths to enlightenment and to say that there is only one is too rigid. What is it about some self-righteous people in the yoga path that diminish sex to mere carnal pleasure or attachment as though it is not worthy of being a sacred connection to divinity and "God" whatever that may be for you?
    Yes, the view on sex today is far from sacred but the total negation of it as though it is some sort of lower and demeaning pleasure is also wrong. We need a balanced view. Yes, sex can bring ecstasy when it is viewed as something sacred, when it is done as worship to the sacredness and the divinity of the other person.
    We cannot deny this part of our humanness and it is there for a reason.
    There is some stiffness and rigidness in this article as it is based on orthodox views of what ought to be the right path to enlightenment.
    Who are we to judge the path of others. What the world needs is a balanced and sacred view on sex not a negation or denial of its magical power based on interpretations of the ancient texts.
    An Indian priest said once that we currently only know about one-quarter of what the ancient and wise peoples of the Earth knew, and surely they had a much more sacred, accepting, and encompassing view on the physical and spiritual union embodied in sex.
    Let's demystify the subject and show openness to the beauty of it all.
    Not even the most self-righteous person can deny the power of attraction.