Like the Tantrists in India, the Chinese Daoists believed that all existence evolved from the interaction of two opposite, but complementary, forces or energies. In Daoism, the sexual union of man and woman symbolises the union of these two energies. The yin energy of the woman needs the yang energy of the man, and vice versa. So the quest for giving pleasure and helping each reach a state of orgasm is as important for the male as it is for the female.
As a result, from ancient times in both countries, specific lovemaking techniques were celebrated, as illustrated in the graphic sculptures in the temples of northern India, as well as some of the early Chinese erotic paintings.
In both systems, the art of giving sexual pleasure is celebrated with a common goal towards the communion of the body and the mind to reach a spiritual ecstasy.
Interestingly, in both countries that early tradition of sexual spirituality was later suppressed around the same period in the 20th century. When Mahatma Gandhi, who was educated in England, was elected as the first Indian Prime Minister in 1948, he sent squads of his disciples to smash the erotic representations in various Indian temples because they offended his puritanical view of society.
At around the same time, the Communists, led by Mao Tse Tung, came to power in China and implemented a cultural revolution which became very active in extinguishing any signs of eroticism and sexuality in the Chinese people.
As a result, in modern China and middle class India, until recently, any sexual expression was frowned upon, and the subject not discussed in polite company.
In contrast, in the West, sexual freedom is taken for granted, so much so that sex has become sterilised and cheapened by the media. All mystery, excitement and emotion have disappeared! At the same time, our lack of sexual skills and a selfish quest for pleasure from both sides often results in unsatisfactory intercourse which deeply affects our relationships.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, our sexual energy is stored in the lower abdomen in an area called the Dantian. It is the basic force which sustains us through life and is inherited from our parents. This energy serves as a catalyst for the other types of postnatal energies which we obtain from breathing and the food we eat.
Qigong breathing has a tonifying effect on the kidneys and adrenal glands which, according to Chinese philosophy, are associated with sexual energy. This concept has been confirmed in Western Medicine and it has been noticed that the removal of the adrenal glands is associated with a decline in libido in both male and female patients.
This explains why breathing exercises have such an importance in Chinese medicine. In sexual Qigong, specific techniques are practised to improve sexual health. One such exercise aims at holding the breath while contracting the muscle in the perineum to either control the erection or strengthen the vaginal muscles.
The ancient Indian philosophy centres on the concept of chakras (the Sanskrit word for wheels). The chakras are centres of energy that connect the spiritual and the physical body. There are seven main chakras located at the base of the spine, the lower abdomen, the solar plexus in the middle of the abdomen, the heart, throat, forehead, and the top of the head.
Each chakra is connected with a particular spiritual or psychological function, such as creativity or sexuality. These energy centres can be either open or closed, and may be activated with techniques such as Yoga, meditation or lovemaking. The opening of the chakras is connected with the awakening of the kundalini which is traditionally associated with a sleeping coiled serpent lying dormant at the base of the spine.
It is said that during lovemaking, the physical movements in the sexual region, combined with deep breathing and positive visualisation, can awaken the kundalini and elevate physical love to a mystical dimension of timelessness and oneness with the universe.
The author of the Kama Sutra, Varsyayana, begins by mentioning that love, together with virtue and wealth are the three aims of life. He explains that love is necessary to satisfy the mind, ethics are necessary to satisfy the conscience, and spiritual seeking is necessary for peace of soul. As a result, without eroticism the mind becomes restless and unsatisfied, without virtue the conscience goes astray, and without spirituality the soul is degraded.
In that sense, both Daoist and Tantrist doctrines recognise our sexual energy as our most potent creative force and that individual self enlightenment can be obtained by cultivating and controlling this energy. Not through guilt as we were taught in the West, but through a spiritual code of conduct and a sexual education which allows both partners in a relationship a genuine communion of their physical, emotional and spiritual attributes.
Olivier Lejus MHSc. (TCM), BHSc. (Acup.) is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney.