The Scientific Priest

Priesthood if viewed objectively is a qualification bestowed upon the individuals who have declared their readiness and potential to tread the path leading to transcendence. A priest is one who has qualified to perform in tandem with the fundamental ideology of priesthood--- "transcend what is ephemeral and embrace the eternal". When the performance of qualified people fails to meet expectations, the credibility of qualifying process comes under scanner. Does the observation of abstinence in priesthood come in the way of accomplishing the spiritual purpose behind the priesthood?

Priests and Abstinence

Abstinence is a common thread running through all modalities of priesthood instructed by different religious sects. Religions differ only in the kind and degree of abstinence advocated to their priests. Abstinence from worldly pleasures ranges from indulging in sensual pleasures (e.g. intoxicants, films, music etc) to observing extreme forms of abstinence, say abstinence from sex.

Abstinence in religious sense is not altogether against sensual pleasures. The guiding principle behind abstinence is--- there is a way to inhabit the physical body by not becoming the body. Abstinence is one of the many experimental tools for actualizing that principle. The underlying idea is, abstinence is a catalyst which facilitates the process of transcendence. It is a means to regulate or capture one's desire for sensual pleasures which are transitory in nature.

Compared to spiritual bliss sensual pleasures provide only a hint of eternal joy. All religions converge on this philosophy and design their own pathways to eternal joy. As per this, sensual pleasures are just momentary substitutes which cajole or tantalize the minds that are in search for everlasting happiness and bliss. It is the realization of inherent transitoriness of sensual pleasures which annihilates a priest's desire to indulge in them and embrace the path of abstinence and there of eternal bliss and grace.

In the parlance of psychology priesthood is one of the many effective ways to resolve existential crisis nagging the mankind on this planet. The existential crisis usually arises when one comes face to face with the ruthless instability with which the manifested existence on the surface of earth has been crafted. In this sense priest is a person whose felt existential crisis is far severe than that of laymen. And in his attempt to resolve the crisis he has consecrated his life to some higher cause or ideal.

Abstinence and non-spiritual, primitive, lower mind of the priest

A rational mind observing abstinence in the name of priesthood must be very much convinced of the "discontentment" with which sensual pleasures are instilled. Or it can not be free from its strong habitual tendency to indulge in sensual world. Once convinced of "discontentment" or "distaste" mind must be reminded of the felt bitterness frequently in order not to fall prey to it again. Observance of abstinence in true sense functions as a reminder for the priest's mind. While reminding the priest of the fleeting nature of worldly pleasures it conserves energies of his higher mind by not allowing the lower mind to wield his life.

Lower (primitive) mind of a man can only grasp but cannot discriminate illusory from permanent. The discriminative power is an offshoot of higher mind where existential thinking and spiritual intelligence manifest their influences. For the same reason, spirituality in any discipline demands rejuvenation (by prayer, sadhana etc) on a daily basis. Because higher mind must be constantly protected from the compulsions of lower mind. Mind must be reminded intermittently about the futility of pursuing ephemeral and forgetting the eternal.

Sexual abstinence

Put in other way abstinence is a means for coming to terms with mind's desire to indulge in one's own chosen object of abstinence. Taming a desire for the purpose of observing abstinence is easy. It is a matter of training one's mind in qualities like dispassion, detachment, renunciation etc. But taming a desire which is a direct offshoot of human's basic drive in the name of abstinence is a hazardous task. Priesthood that dictates sexual abstinence expects the priest to extend his practice of abstinence to his sexual realm. Total surrender and wholehearted devotion to the deity or an ideal is the major religious-- strategy advocated for taming the drive (sex) which is the cardinal medium through which life perpetuates itself on the surface of the planet. Evidences from the past history of respective religions about the priests who have attained liberation using similar strategies substantiate the authenticity of spiritually oriented such methods instructed for abstinence. Still numbers of priests who falter in the vows of abstinence are on the rise.

Spirituality is a force that operates beyond the basic rational faculties of human mind. Rational mind often fails in comprehending truths pertaining to soul. Everything that is tangible or concrete is the prerogative of rational mind. Wielding anything as concrete and powerful as sexual drive to meet a lofty metaphysical purpose will be effective only if rational mind can rationalize the cause and process of wielding. Or it will never comply with the act of abstinence but may revolt against it.

Reform the ways of observing abstinence

A die-hard commitment to a spiritual ideology, if not sufficient to assist the aspiring priests to stay rooted in the abstinence of a basic human drive, an overhaul in the structure or system instructing abstinence-based-priesthood is needed. Attempts made to investigate into the factors that debilitate aspiring priests to accomplish their vocational purpose through abstinence must not be deemed as anti- spiritual. Such attempts will never harm the divine aura surrounding the practice of priesthood. Periodic reformations in the entire training procedures of priests will help religions to protect the priesthood from being defiled by (threatening) forces originating from the adverse impacts of technological revolution, globalization and inevitable cultural intermixing.

Sound scientific knowledge about basic human drives and their social, psychological cultural implications must be appended to all spiritual practices and observations meant for abstinence. In other words the practice of abstinence must be footed on a firm scientific platform too. Research trends in theology or other metaphysical realms should evolve into a fact finding discipline which constantly try to derive scientific evidences for their theoretical/metaphysical stances. Eliminating myths surrounding the observation of abstinence must be their one of cardinal agendas.

In addition to this, impeccable qualifying process before conferring priesthood can verily strengthen its systemic roots. Qualifying process must weigh the potential of the priest to observe abstinence in terms of the indicators that are scientific (rational) as well as spiritual (metaphysical). It must address priests' spiritual intelligence, emotional intelligence, existential thinking capacities, self-efficacy in priesthood etc. Rigorous screening must be done before conferring the holy degree.

Abstinence-a sweet reconciliation

Ostracizing erring priests will never guarantee sanctity of the priesthood. On the contrary ostracizing is more likely to incite disbelief in the followers about the sanctity and practicability of this sacred vocation. Let the religious communities focus on giving birth to scientific priests who have known the science behind the abstinence and have the ability to utilize that knowledge in actualizing the spiritual purpose of abstinence. Only then spirituality will grow into a force which can transcend all that is ephemeral and equip the priest-hood with that divine ability to empower laymen whose souls have a craving for eternal freedom and bliss.

Abstinence-however fierce its standards are ---will be a natural spontaneous process occurring inside the priest when in-depth knowledge in human science couples with intense desire for liberation. For a good priest abstinence will accrue from a sweet reconciliation of rational and metaphysical streams flowing inside him. A harmony among physical and metaphysical forces inside the priest should be the aim of all training process leading to priesthood.

Sexual abstinence expects the priest to extend his practice of abstinence to his sexual realm. Practicing abstinence has a scientific approach. Viewing abstinence only in spiritual terms often leads to suppression of desires and drives..Fundamental principle behind abstinence of sex is not altogether spiritual or it should not be so. A scientific approach in the observance of abstinence can reduce the number of priests faltering in sexual abstinence. Nowadays number of erring priests are increasing

 By Jeny Rapheal

Article Source: The Scientific Priest


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