In this insightful essay on Tantrism, the late scholar Georg Feuerstein explains the perils of pursuing a heightened state of sensory pleasure, whether or not orgasm is involved.


Full text


Orgasm and the Pursuit of Bliss

The peril of selfishness in popularized Tantrism is most readily apparent in the attitude of some Neotantrics toward orgasm. Contrary to the opinion of the late Swami Agehananda Bharati (an Austrian-born American professor of anthropology), both Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism generally enjoin male practitioners to arrest the semen together with the breath and the mind. In other words, orgasm is not part of the Tantric repertoire. As the Buddhist Tantras put it: the “enlightenment mind” (bodhi-citta) must not be discharged. That is to say, the semen is equated with the impulse toward enlightenment. Orgasm does not lead to bliss, merely to pleasurable sensations. The earnest practitioner must bypass orgasm.

Control techniques

Various techniques are recommended for this, mainly for men, since they tend to come to orgasm more quickly. Apart from great self-discipline and mastery over their bodily responses, men are advised to apply pressure at the perineum to prevent ejaculation. However, this technique can become a health hazard if it is made a habit. It is far better to avoid sexual arousal to the point where ejaculation is imminent. Besides, once the ejaculatory spasms begin, semen is released into the urethra, and the perineal trick merely forces the semen into the bladder.

Some practitioners, seeking the best of both worlds, learn to control their genital functions to the point where they can actually suck up the ejaculated semen again through the penis. This curious yogic technique is called vajroli-mudra, and is described for instance in the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika (III.83ff.), a fourteenth-century manual on Hatha-Yoga.

The merit of this exercise escapes me, because the nervous system has already fired and thus the creative tension that could serve as a bridge to ecstasy is lost. The whole point of avoiding orgasm is to accumulate the subtle force or nervous energy called ojas, which is wasted the moment the nerves fire during ejaculation.