There are three kinds of adultery: physical (the worst); emotional (very distressing); and mental (the secret kind). Physical adultery breaks up marriages, destroys homes and creates distraught children. Even if forgiven and the couple reunites, it is not forgotten. There is always wondering, "Will it happen again? Did it happen last night?" Emotional adultery is quite common. In the workaday world, husbands often become more attached to their female employees and associates than to their wives. Working wives become more emotionally attached to their boss and fellow workers than to their husbands. It is understandable. After all, she spends more waking hours with men at work than with her husband.
Mental adultery--that's the secret culprit. Who knows what anyone is thinking? But the feeling is one of drifting away into a fantasy world, of deciding to become or not become emotionally or physically involved with someone other than one's spouse. But most devastating, most devastating, is mental adultery through pornography. The visualizations, the fantasies, the changes in sexual habits it produces, the secrecy, all bundled into one, creates a distance between spouses, unless of course they are enjoying the same pornographic episodes. A verse in the Atharva Veda implores, "Sin of the mind, depart far away! Why do you utter improper suggestions? Depart from this place! I do not want you! Go to the trees and the forests! My mind will remain here along with our homes and our cattle (6.45.1)." It is hard to believe such verses were written thousands of years ago. Human problems haven't changed that much, have they?
The Sanatana Dharma is the oldest religion in the world. Therefore, its followers are the oldest people in the world, having explored sex (the Kama Sutra is the oldest known erotic text) and learned how to control it; established a system of sanctified marriages and found out how to keep interpersonal relations going unhindered. India's culture spread all through Asia, and because of it one rarely sees any affection shown in public--kissing, hugging, hand-holding, touching or feeling. One might wonder how such a large population can be accounted for!
Hindus know that the sexual force is an energy either in control or out of control. When controlled, it creates peace, well-being and health and provides a mental, emotional, physical balance. When out of control, just the opposite is the case: confusion, secrecy, stress, fear of discovery, lingering guilt and suppressed anger, which creates misunderstandings and unresolvable situations.
Adultery is in the news today, as not only national but international scandals. Television plots give permission for "sneaking around." It is not uncommon, and many don't give it a thought, for husbands to visit "ladies of pleasure" and pay for their services during their wives' monthly retreat, or many months of pregnancy--and, of course, the business trips. Yes, those business trips!
The South Indian ethical masterpiece, Tirukural, advises, "Among those who stand outside virtue, there is no greater fool than he who stands with a lustful heart outside another's gate (142). Hatred, sin, fear and disgrace--these four will never abandon one who commits adultery (146)."
The adulteress has a karma to bear that affects many generations of her relatives and friends, for she is psychically connected to every man with whom she has had intercourse. A mystic could see a fog-like psychic tube connecting their astral bodies that will not disintegrate for many years. The adulteress may have many of these tubes, especially if she is a woman for hire. A man is connected in the same way to all women he has been with. It is through these psychic tubes, which are like the umbilical cord connecting a baby to its mother, that the energies flow, and the karmas as well--good, bad and mixed.
A husband and wife who were both virgins at marriage have only a singular psychic tube through which energies pass between them. If their relationship is pure and they are intellectually and emotionally compatible, they automatically control their karmas of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Their children are lovingly raised, because they are never entangled in family feuding. There is no fight involved, because no intruder has established a new psychic umbilical cord with either spouse, which would cause disruption between them and impending havoc to the children.
Once an astral, psychic tube is established between two people through sexual encounters, it becomes a telepathic channel, conveying thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is an important connection for married couples, tying them intimately together. Those who are married and have fidelity know that it is possible to feel the spouse's moods and emotions and even read his or her thoughts, all of which are conveyed through this psychic laser beam or subtle astral pranic channel. For those who have had sexual encounters with several of the opposite sex, the psychic connections become confusing. It would be like watching four, five or more TV programs at the same time, all day long and especially during the night. Small wonder they experience stress of which the cause eludes even the best psychiatrists.
Now imagine a wife working with men in a hospital or an engineering firm, and her husband working as a computer programmer among women. Each is attracted to others of the opposite sex, maybe because of karmas from a past life. Their emotional pranas move out of their bodies and connect with those of the opposite sex. Compatibility is established with a new partner. Talking and laughing together become easy. When the "big happening" happens, as affairs so often do, the physical-mental-emotional-pranic exchange of energies forms an astral tube (nadi) which connects the two for a period of at least twelve years.
Through this nadi, the information conveyed is as subtle as: she sneezes and he coughs; he gets angry, and she becomes pensive and sulks for no reason. Certainly, no high-minded telepathic communication is happening as it maybe once did when the pranas were just forming. Now, because they are psychically attached and pulling on each other, they become antagonistic toward each other. That's why they say sexual intercourse outside wedlock ruins a relationship. They still have to work in the same office together and attend the same meetings, which were quite different when the flirting first began. Then when one or both turn a roving eye toward someone else, a feeling of jealousy comes up, and rejection. A good TV script, perhaps, but a disaster in real life.
Now let's think of the man's poor wife, at home doing her daily chores, taking care of the children. How does she begin to feel? She becomes listless, uninspired, as he draws on her energies to feed the adulteress. The home becomes an empty place. She and the children are alone in a barracks, between walls that do not hold in love and compassion and kindness.
What is the healing when adultery has happened? We are working with the Sringeri Shankaracharya and his team to find more of the traditional prayashchitta, penance, to deal with this and other similar matters. Indeed, this is one of the great challenges of human relationships. Don't dismiss this as irrelevant on the spiritual path, the path to liberation, or at least to getting a better birth in the next life. Perform some kind of penance that will sever the tubes: maybe walking on fire or sleeping on a bed of nails for three days and nights, or performing kavadi with fifteen spears pierced through the flesh, a well-known public penance. The best resolution is to live with the spouse like brother and sister under vows of celibacy. Those who don't do something to mitigate the kukarmas and break the astral ties of adultery will suffer through the lives of their children, who will follow the patterns that they secretly set.
Adultery can be stopped on the mental plane. In fact, if it is not stopped there, watch out. It can be stopped on the emotional plane. Husbands beware of secretaries more beautiful than your wife. Wives beware of employers who may be more exciting than your husband. Pornography adulterers, you can turn off that computer and stop the pornography on the mental plane.
Finally, beware of the siren, the professional seducer, who is there, always there, when the wife is incapacitated or when the husband is on a business trip. They appear in many forms. There is always a price to pay. They may break up the marriage. Children may lose their mother or father. Guilt supersedes and far outlasts all temporary pleasure.
Fidelity and infidelity are part of the human experience. The choice is yours which part of the human experience you want to experience.