Almost every spiritual discipline that I have ever read about includes as one of its very basic instructions some form of sexual discipline. There may be other entry-level beliefs and practices that are unique to a particular tradition (a belief in God; a faith in the Dao; a practice of simple prayer; other basic rituals), but they all share in common the notion of sexual restraint, and for all of them this is a basic practice, not an advanced one.
In Eastern religions, life essence (or jing in the Chinese Daoist nomenclature) is not the exact same substance as sexual fluids (semen, menses), but it is so closely linked that to discharge one’s semen is to discharge one’s jing, one’s life essence. In order to even enter into the lowest stages of spiritual cultivation, one must retain the jing for a bare minimum of 100 days. This is not just an act of repression, but a daily renewal of the commitment to practice emptiness (turning one’s will over to the will of the Divine).
This is like filling a car with gas. Without a full tank, you aren’t going to get very far down the road.
In orthodox Christian traditions, sex is forbidden except between husband and wife for the purposes of procreation. For priests, nuns, monks, total abstinence is the rule. In our modern, deluded and degraded age, these rules are seen as some kind of evil imposition; a denial of life and the crazed demands of a control-freak patriarchy (or whatever).
But in fact, without sexual restraint, we cannot even begin to fuel the tank. Everyone knows that the body and the spirit are linked. We intuit it constantly. It used to be common knowledge and only massive thoughtlessness and delusion has made modern people think otherwise. Many people are convinced the spirit doesn’t even exist. And of those who do believe in the spirit, they can’t even entertain a simple (obvious) notion like the idea that the body’s most intense phenomenon may be (must be) cultivated and restrained so as to feed the spirit.
The brainwashing about the idea of sexual restraint is almost completely triumphant in the West. Not only is sexual restraint considered unnecessary, it is considered evil. While chastity is in fact life-affirming, it is portrayed as life-denying. While chastity can be the basis of intense joy and pleasure, it is portrayed as a practice of grinding, hateful dryness.
But I say it is “almost completely triumphant” because it is not totally triumphant yet! For it is possible — even today, I can attest — to be completely on one side (the wrong, deluded, degraded, hopeless) of this equation and somehow (quite miraculously) end up on the other side.
The great thing about the Truth is that it does not stop being the Truth no matter how many times the lies are repeated. It is still there at all times and in all places. It never goes away. The lies have to be repeated constantly, ever more loudly, to keep people from discovering the Truth. Just a little bit of light shining through can be enough sometimes. Everything we do and say is important and meaningful. What a terrible responsibility and what a liberating thought!