Sex, Love and Compassion

I’ve been looking at a fair amount of Zen teachings lately, and came upon Osho’s Zen material. One particular part stuck out (and is quoted in Osho’s description of the tarot card, “The Lovers”):

These three things are to be taken note of: the lowest love is sex – it is physical – and the highest refinement of love is compassion. Sex is below love, compassion is above love; love is exactly in the middle.
Very few people know what love is. Ninety-nine percent of people, unfortunately, think sexuality is love – it is not. Sexuality is very animal; it certainly has the potential of growing into love, but it is not actual love, only a potential…
If you become aware and alert, meditative, then sex can be transformed into love. And if your meditativeness becomes total, absolute, love can be transformed into compassion. Sex is the seed, love is the flower, compassion is the fragrance.
Buddha has defined compassion as ‘love plus meditation’. When your love is not just a desire for the other, when your love is not only a need, when your love is a sharing, when your love is not that of a beggar but an emperor, when your love is not asking for something in return but is ready only to give –to give for the sheer joy of giving – then add meditation to it and the pure fragrance is released. That is compassion; compassion is the highest phenomenon. (Osho: Zen, Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing, chapter 3)
A variation of this article is included in my book, This Endless Moment 2nd. edition

Let’s take the next 3 issues of Into the Centre to look at these three realms, and maybe wrap up with a fourth, summary issue.


I amuse myself with the general confusion sex brings to discussions of relationship and love. Indeed, one of the weirdest things I hear from couples in trouble is, “We yell at each other and have long periods of silence, and I really don’t like my partner, but at least we’ve been faithful.”

Ignoring the moronic use of “faithful,” (being emotionally faithful and available seems to me of much more significance than sexual fidelity) it’s clear that such comments mean the couple is still stuck in puberty.

brooke brittney

Notice the two pictures, above. People around my age will remember to Brooke Shields ads for Calvin Klein – “Nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s.” And there was Brookie, fresh from her pre-pubescent nudity and deflowering in Pretty Baby. People clucked over the sexual innuendo in the tagline, and bought Calvin Klein jeans.

Fast forward to 2003, and to the cover of November’s Esquire. Here we find Britney Spears, who denies being sexual. Here’s a quote from the article:

“COMPARED WITH THE DEPLETION of the ozone layer or the political future of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I concede that the existence of Britney Spears is light-years beyond trivial. But if you’re remotely interested in the cylinders that drive pop culture, it’s hard to overestimate her significance. She is not so much a person as she is an idea, and the idea is this: You can want everything, so long as you get nothing. Obviously, Britney is the naughtiest good girl of all time. But what makes her so different from previous incarnations of jailbait purity—Tiffany, Brooke Shields, Annette Funicello, et al.—is her complete unwillingness to recognize that this paradox exists at all.”

Now, the point being made is that within western culture is a paradox, and that paradox is this: 
people are obsessed with sex, 
and obsessed with being in denial about 
being obsessed with sex. 

Dar was having a discussion the other day with 2 of her grade 8 girls; they’re doing a project. One of the kids decided to talk about boys disrespecting girls. Ultimately, Dar used sex as an example – that boys will do or say anything to have sex. And it doesn’t take them long to realize that the best way to get laid is to profess love.

This, of course, suggests that girls are helpless victims, manipulated into sex. Phooey. I have never thought women to be dumb, nor do I believe they don’t “get” the game. 

The game is this: 
boys use commitment to get sex, and 
girls use sex to get commitment.

And none of this has anything to do with love or relationship.

Sex, as Dar once elegantly put it, is an activity, not an indicator. Or, as Osho put it, it’s a seed that can lead to love and to compassion. Can. Not does

Dar wrote me an e-mail from school one day, after driving in thinking about a female friend of ours, who was conflicted about sex and relationship. Dar wrote:

Does sex have anything to do with relationships? In a relationship or out of a relationship is sex not just a way to fulfill your own need and enjoy watching another person react to you? Maybe it helps you connect at a deeper level – I don’t know — or is it just a way to play and have fun? It certainly is not going to make a relationship happen. In x’s situation that you described this morning – I would think that she should chose between wanting a relationship with this guy or having sex with this guy. If sex is what she wants then she is doing the right thing but should be clear about what is doing. If it is a relationship that she wants – why is she confusing it with sex when she truly has not learned how to do a relationship with this guy? How can she know that his perspective is not truly about sex if she does not leave that out of it? I may not be clear – these are only thoughts.

The reason sex continues to be considered some kind of marker in relationships is sexual embarrassment and immaturity. Sex is given “great meaning” because we’re afraid to take it casually. It’s a hard thing to admit out loud to being sexual. I once worked with a 21-year-old who broke up with a guy for having sex with a female friend of his. She later got back together with him, and then went to visit a male friend of hers, and ended up having sex with him. She decided she had to dump her boyfriend because having sex with her friend meant she really loved him and not her boyfriend. (Confused? She’s living this stuff.)

I asked her about the obvious: did she see that she had done what she’d dumped her boyfriend for? She looked confused, and said, “He did it for sex. I did it because I think I must love him.” I asked her what was wrong with being horny and doing something about it. She blushed.

Sex is a seed, and the seed may lead to love. Mostly, it leads to horniness and if we are lucky, a roll in the hay. There is nothing magical or mystical about sex, per se. (Which is not to say you can’t make sex into a mystical experience – that’s what Tantra and Kundalini work is all about. Neither of these, however, require “love” to be in the equation.)

Part of growing up is having a mature view of sex, being sexual and sexuality. This mature view accepts our sexual nature as both real and “passing.” As time goes by, sexual attraction shifts, de-intensifies, and also changes as we get older. This shifting is normal, and means we have to take newer approaches. A shift in sexual attraction says nothing about the depth or quality of the relationship.

This week, have a look at what you make out of sex, what stores you tell yourself about it, and wonder a bit if the stories are helpful. Allow yourself to have a moment or two of seeing sex in and of itself. Understand that sexual attraction is a minor and immature indicator of “love,” and virtually no indicator of depth of relationship. Once you allow any of this to be “real,” you can accept your sexuality as a part of who you are. Period.

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