Gandhi and sex
It was apparently during the 1906 campaign against the Zulu that Gandhi formalized in his mind his determination to take the vow of brahmacharya, or chastity, at the age of thirty-eight. This was simply part of the process of his detachment, and growing asceticism, but it masked a sexuality, and attitude to sex, that often perplexed, and concerned his peers and colleagues.
He made no secret of his interest in sex, perhaps even his obsession, and he often related the fact that he was unable to keep out of his teenage wife’s bed, even as his father lay dying. The business of chastity, therefore, once declared, became difficult for him to observe. He was very fond of women, enjoyed numerous intimate friendships with women, and quite a number of white female activists and feminists professed their love for him. It seems, however, that the way he dealt with it was to construct an elaborate system of rules and observances in regards to sex and marriage that he pressed on his followers quite zealously.
Marriage was to be avoided, he said, and if impossible to avoid, then sexual relations within marriage were to be limited to the strict requirements of procreation. In India, somewhat later in life, he established ashrams in which he engaged in what he described as âexperiments’ with boys and girls, allowing them to bathe and sleep together, but forbidding under threat of punishment any sexual talk or any untoward play. If the urge was overwhelming, he would advise, then take a cold bath.
Rumors abound of Gandhi’s tendency to sleep and bathe with young girls in the interests of challenging his own probity in regards to sex, resisting all temptation to stray beyond the utterly chaste. This was true with Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of his private secretary, and also his personal physician, who attended him from girlhood. She would bathe in his presence, as he kept his eyes closed, and sleep with him without intimate contact.
He was, however, prone, as he himself confessed, to âinvoluntary discharges’. He also had an almost mystical belief in the power of semen: âOne who conserves his vital fluid.’ He said. âAcquires unfailing power.’
To accommodate all of this, he somewhat reinvented the rules of brahmacharya, defining the chaste man as: âOne who never has any lustful intention, who, by constant attendance upon God, has become proof against conscious or unconscious emissions, who is capable of lying naked with naked women, however beautiful, without being in any manner whatsoever sexually excited … who is making daily and steady progress towards God and whose every act is done in pursuance of that end and no other.’
Well, one can place what interpretation one wishes on this, but in probability, by the time Gandhi arrived at a point in life that he began to quite openly discuss these facts, he was a law unto himself, and even the fundamental of Hinduism could be altered and manipulated to suit his needs. This is just another curious fact about Gandhi.