Item 18 of Pope Paul VI's encyclical on birth control, "Humanae Vitae," begins: "It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be easily received by all…" The Pope's words have rung true, for his stand against "conjugal acts made intentionally infecund" goes directly counter to the grain of our licentious civilization. A storm of controversy has arisen, and the Pope has been widely denounced as a reactionary all in the name, we take it, of the poor starving people of Peru and India.
The idea behind the birth control debate seems to be that it is wholly impractical to ask people to do something which they are determined not to do. We refer to the Pope's admission that his stand "undoubtably requires ascetical practices" of his followers. Apparently no small number of people both Catholic and outside the Church were hoping to get a clear go-ahead on unlimited sense enjoyment without so much responsibility as a dignified cat or dog would accept. And the fact that they looked to the Pope for sanction in the first place indicates surprisingly abusive disrespect for his high office and person.
Whatever we may think of people who imagine that they can coerce their ways into the kingdom of God with placards and protest letters, we must wonder if it wouldn't be more worthwhile for them to use such determination to follow their supposed leader rather then to oppose him? They might find themselves capable of far more asceticism than they thought. We also must wonder if these same people who ardently demonstrate for the Pill ever take such effort in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ or in following its tenets themselves. But, as The Bhagavad Gita one of the most authoritative of India's Vedic Scriptures states, passion has the power to steal intelligence away.
Sex life, according to the Vedic wisdom, is the greatest cause of material bondage because it is the greatest pleasure of material life. Therefore it must be restricted, and the restriction is to marry and to have sex only for the purpose of generating children. Furthermore, these children are not meant to be mere products of lust which is called demoniac birth but should be conceived with the full loving intention to deliver them into the hands of God so that they can have liberation from the bondage of material Nature. The Christian doctrine is clearly identical in its essentials, although there are several minor points of difference along the way.
To say that people will not follow such a teaching cannot refute the teaching itself. Krishna, or God, is not relative but Absolute. His doctrines and rules such as the restrictions on sex life are not meant to take all the fun out of life; the rules are meant as guideposts to help the conditioned soul reach his ultimate destination, the confrontation by direct experience with the Absolute Truth. One may follow or ignore the guidepost as he chooses but if he wants to reach the goal, common sense will force him to follow it. Nor will a democratic consensus change the way, any more than a Gallup poll could put New York City on the West Coast.
The path of sin means any path which does not lead to knowledge of Krishna. Sin has no other meaning. And virtue, or saintliness, means any course of thought or action which will lead to Krishna. The center, the criterion, then, is Krishna God. Those who are so intent today upon changing all the rules have apparently lost sight of this. Until God returns as the only and absolute center of gravity in their lives, nothing that they do can be considered worthwhile or happy, be it with or without ecclesiastical approval. And if Krishna is placed at that center, then even the most rigorous asceticism will be joyful and will lead them to fulfillment. It is not a question of how much sex one is allowed to have, but of how much one wants God.
Another part of the same message by the Pope is well worth noting:
On this occasion, we wish to draw the attention of educators, and of all who perform duties of responsibility in regard to the common good of human society, to the need of creating an atmosphere favorable to education in chastity, that is, to the triumph of healthy liberty over license by means of respect for the moral order.
The main reason why it appears impractical to ask people to practice sexual abstinence today is that the modern social atmosphere is literally drenched in sexual stimuli. This is because sex sells anything, and our upright businessman's world will do anything to sell, however degrading or depraved it may be.
If children are raised in a moral, religious atmosphere and are not hounded and battered by sex-sale gimmicks throughout their lives, then restraint will not be difficult for them as they grow older. But if sensual connotations pervade their minds almost from the very moment of birth, then they will necessarily crave sex to an exaggerated degree from the earliest point of puberty and even earlier.
Today's bold and daring underground revolutionaries whose stock-in-trade is primarily sex and who proclaim themselves liberated because of their sexual "frankness" do not realize that they are actually only displaying the chains placed upon their minds from birth by a rapaciously greedy industrial society, one which has trained its every facility from movies, magazines, television and comics to subway ads and public health services upon them to induce them to buy, buy, buy.
And the so-called generation gap is nothing more than the magnitude of hypocrisy exhibited by those who have created this hellish atmosphere in expressing surprise at its effects. As The Holy Bible says, the sins of the father are visited upon the son.
If human civilization is to endure at all, there must be a radical alteration of this pattern of indoctrination-through-sex into limitless consumption. This is a problem which today's public-spirited governments and philanthropic groups might take up to actually benefit mankind. But it is more likely they will prefer the Pill to any real solution of our human ills and will push ahead as busily as possible to create their Utopian world of sub-human industrial sex-slaves. All in the name, to be sure, of freedom.