Monday, April 20, 2009

My brahmacharya needs testing

I was researching something which lead me to this article by the Straight Dope:
Mohandas Gandhi's sleeping arrangements attracted public attention during the winter of 1946-47, when he was trying to quell violence between Muslims and Hindus in the Noakhali district in what is now Bangladesh. It came out that Gandhi was bunking nightly with his 19-year-old grandniece, Manu. In part this was an effort to stay warm in the winter chill, but Gandhi soon acknowledged there was more to it: he was testing his vow of brahmacharya, or total chastity in thought and deed. If he could spend the night in a woman's embrace without feeling sexual stirrings, it would demonstrate that he had conquered his carnal impulses and become "God's eunuch." It turned out that Manu was not his first brahmacharya lab partner--he'd also recently gotten naked (partly, at least) with another young woman in his extended family, starting when she was 18.
Remarkably, the critics eventually quieted down. Even Bose, who quit in protest and later discussed the issue in a book, My Days With Gandhi, remained an admirer. Gandhi continued to sleep with women until his assassination in 1948, and the matter is little remembered today. The esteem in which Gandhi was held no doubt partly accounts for the lack of repercussions, along with his advanced age. His notoriously eccentric views on sex may have been a factor too. Gandhi believed that sex for pleasure was sinful (for that matter, he felt eating chocolate was sinful), that sexual attraction between men and women was unnatural, and that husband and wife should live together as brother and sister, having sex only for purposes of procreation. (I take most of this from a memoir by journalist William Shirer, another admirer.) He swore off sex at age 36, required a similar vow of his disciples, and publicly freaked when he had a nocturnal emission in 1936 at age 67. Many hearing him rationalize his unusual blanket substitute probably figured, eh, that's the mahatma for you. (For what it's worth, the kinkier takes on the story--e.g., that Gandhi was regularly massaged by naked women--have no basis in fact that I can discover.) Whether or not you buy the notion that he didn't get off on contact with his very young bedmates (or feel that that would make it any less creepy), it says something about this profoundly strange guy that you can hear his claim that naked sleepovers were tests of purity for both participants and go: You think?


Blogger The back of the hill said...

My Brahmacharya also needs testing.

April 21, 2009 1:30 PM  

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