Is it Better to Have an Exclusive, Committed Relationship?
Questioner: Does God intend human beings to have only one partner in their lifetime? Is it better for a person to maintain an exclusive, committed relationship?
Sadhguru: God may not have intentions for you. The question is, what is the sensible thing for you to do? There are two aspects to this – one is a social one. Generally, they always said “one man – one woman” in order to stabilize society. In parts of the world where they said “one man – several women,” they had to rule with a stronger hand to keep society stable. I will not go further into this.
The other aspect is, all substances in existence have memory. Your body still actively remembers what happened a million years ago. Genetics is just memory. In Indian culture, this physical memory is called runanu bandha. It is your memory that binds you to things around you. Suppose you went home and you forgot who your father and mother are, what would you do? It is not the blood or the love, it is the memory that tells you this person is your mother or father. It is only memory that breeds relationship and bondage. If you lose your memory, anyone will look like an absolute stranger to you.
Your mind’s memory is miniscule compared to your body’s memory. If you just touch something or someone once, the mind might forget, but in the body, it is registered forever. When people have sex with each other, the mind may forget it, but the body will never forget. If you get a divorce, no matter how much you hate your spouse – still you will go through pain because the physical memory can never be lost.
Even if you just hold someone’s hand intimately enough for a certain period of time, this will never be forgotten, because your palms and your soles are very effective receptors. Whenever you see somebody you do not want to get involved and entangled with, just do “Namaskar,” because when you bring your two hands together (or you bring your big toes together), it stops the body from soaking in memory.
The idea is to keep the physical memory to the minimum because otherwise, taking you to a different level of experience becomes difficult. Those who have indulged excessively in pleasure have a certain grin on their face that is of a leery superiority, but there is no joy in them. It takes a lot of work to get rid of that, because physical memory entangles you in a way that your mind cannot even figure out. So it is very important that you learn to be conscious about what you expose your body to.
The price to be paid
There is a price to pay for too much intimacy all over the place – unless you know how to keep the body at a distance from yourself. For such a person it does not matter what he does. But such a person has no inclination to do such things. He is not compelled by the limitations and compulsions of the body – he is using the body as a tool. Otherwise, it is best to limit intimacy to the minimum. That is why we said one to one, unless one of them dies and the other one remarries. But now, before you are 25, you had 25 partners – people are already paying the price for that – 10% of the population in the United States is on antidepressants. One major contributing factor is they do not know where they belong, because the body is confused.
The body needs stable memory – people feel this. Their spouse may not be physically great or intellectually great, they may be quarreling on the surface, but still they would sacrifice anything to be with them, because somewhere, they understand that this gives them maximum comfort and wellbeing. This is because your physical memory rules your life much, much more than your mental memory. The very way you are right now is ruled by your physical memory, not by your mental memory. Mental memory can be thrown away tomorrow morning, but you cannot throw your physical memory away. That would require a completely different level of spiritual evolution within you.
Minimizing the physical memory
Modern science says this, and in the yogic system, we have always known this: the five elements – water, air, earth and so on – have a strong sense of memory. If I go to any place that is of some significance on an energy level, I do not ask people about it – I just place my hands on a rock. By being with it, I will know the whole story of the place. Like the rings of a tree tell you the ecological history of the place, rocks have an even better memory.
Generally, the denser the substance, the better its ability to retain memory, and inanimate substances have better memory than animate life. Today’s technology is proving it – your computer has better memory than you. The human mind is not for memory – it is for perception. The inanimate cannot perceive – it can only remember. Deities and other consecrated objects have been created because they are powerful forms of memory.
In India, there was a time when you could only enter a Shiva temple naked. Only after the British came into the country and started banning all these things, we have become very prudish. The idea of going naked to the temple was to take the memory of the Divine into the body. You take a dip and then lie down on the floor with wet body so that it soaks in memory of the Divine. The mind looks at other people, what is happening, but the body absorbs the energy of the space.
Both at the entrance of Dhyanalinga and Linga Bhairavi, there are sculptures of prostrating devotees. This is to show you that the body soaks in the Divine much better than the mind. It is just that human beings cannot go nude anymore because we have become so civilized – we put on so many clothes that we do not know whether there is a body or not. Only when sexual urges come up, people know that they have a body.
Erasing the physical memory
You can erase your physical memory through deep devotion or certain other practices. I have seen quite a few devotees like this, but one man really struck me. There was a woman who came down south to Kanyakumari, which is the southern tip of India. We do not know where exactly she came from, but looking at her face, probably from Nepal. She just walked around, never uttered a word, and always a bunch of dogs were following her. She would even steal food just to feed these dogs, and many times, she was beaten up for that. But then, people would sometimes find her floating on the waves. This was a coastal town where three oceans meet. She would go to the beach, sit cross-legged on the water, and float around. Then people started worshiping her. When she came, they would still protect their food, but they could not beat her anymore because she was something more.
Her whole life she had lived outdoors. She slept on the street or on the beach without any kind of shelter. She had a completely weather-beaten face – very similar to pictures you would have seen of old Native Americans. Towards the end of her life, when she was over 70, a famous South Indian musician saw her and became her devotee. He brought her to Salem, Tamil Nadu and built a small house for her there, and a few devotees gathered around her.
About 15, 16 years ago, I happened to be in a hill station near Salem. There, someone told me about this woman – her name was Mayamma. She was already dead by then. It was a full moon night, and they said there would be a pooja at Mayamma’s samadhi. I drove down with my wife and daughter, who was just about five or six at that time, to spend the evening there. It is the most unimpressive little place – a concrete samadhi. When I came there, it just hit me in the face – the very energy of that place was like an explosion. As we sat there, hours flew by. Later, there was a free dinner. A devotee of hers was serving us food. I looked at this man’s face and I could not believe it – he looked exactly like her! He was a South Indian man, but he looked like a Nepali woman. Out of devotion, his face had become almost like hers.
If you erase your physical memory, your body will become like that which matters most to you. The very shape of everything in you will change. That means you get rid of your genetic compulsions. When someone takes sanyas, the first thing is to do a certain process for the parents and forefathers. Normally, we conduct this process for the dead, but for sanyasis, we do this even if the parents are still living. Not that we intend them to die – the idea is to wash off one’s physical memory.
When you were 18, you might have rebelled against your father and your mother, but by the time you are 45, whether you like it or not, you begin to talk like them and act like them. It is not just your parents – your forefathers are acting through you right now. Your behavior is generated and controlled by them. That is why, if you become serious about the spiritual process, the first step is to distance yourself from your genetic memory. Without doing that, you cannot get rid of the compulsions of your forefathers. They will live through you and rule you in so many ways.
When the memory of the body rules you to such an extent, it is better to keep it to the minimum in this lifetime. After all, you still have to get rid of a million years of memory from your forefathers. You have a reptilian brain – the crawling snake and the lizard, and even the scorpion still live through you. Do not think the brain is mind – the brain is body. At least in this lifetime, you want to limit these impressions so that your body does not get confused.
People who were aware of this context created spiritual processes in such a way that the body would become most conducive. Everywhere in the world, it is understood that if someone gets very serious about his spiritual process, the first thing that he does is keep away from all kinds of relationships, because if he builds any physical relationships, naturally, it will complicate things. Only if he is either so compulsive that he needs it, that you cannot take him beyond that right now, or he is so free that he does not identify with the body, we let him have it – otherwise, we generally say no. But if you must, at least stick to one body, because too many will confuse the physical system.
Editor’s Note: You can find more of Sadhguru’s insights about relationships in the ebook “Compulsiveness to Consciousness.”