This post will make sense to those of you who have some insight into Yoga Philosophy.
Brahmacharya often translated as celibacy is one of the yamas(or observances/ code of conduct) of Patanjali’s Ashtanga or 8 limbed path of Yoga. Simply saying celibacy however doesn’t seem to do justice to what is being conveyed through the concept of Brahmacharya, and according to me it has some profound meaning behind it.
I think that a mismanagement or misunderstanding of Brahmacharya is what has caused many of the scandals that one hears about in the yoga world. Even apparently highly accomplished yogi’s managed to get stained, the reason is that it is a constant practice, no matter how highly accomplished one is in ones practice, there is always room to slip if we are not vigilant.
I personally do not believe in suppression and am a big advocate for complete expression. Does an insistence on a modest/prudish attire that gives away as little of the body as possible actually indicate an underlying fear of our incapability at self control guised under the label of respect? One must use one’s own inner compass and many things need to be taken into consideration and refined according to who we are and in line with our personality and stage of growth. Apart from that, one must consider what is the Ashrama or stage of life we are in? If we are in the Grihasta Ashrama, it means that we are in the stage of our lives where we are meant to create and procreate, create a family and live the worldly life.. but if in this stage we try to suppress our natural instincts, that’s where the problems start. Now some people can be naturally inclined towards Brahmacharya, so then it’s a not a problem at all because it is not forcefully induced.
The Tantric way, the definitely more difficult path which requires great strength of character and a highly developed practice appeals to me. It is not at all about turning away from one’s desires or suppressing them but confronting them, then holding the reins in one’s own hands.
Brahmacharya in both action and thought boils down to a strong command over our desires (certainly not limited to one’s sexual desire but any sensorial pleasure, like food, beverage etc.) so that one is not helpless in the face of our desires, but we come to them with purpose, understanding and an ability to deal with them as well as the added repercussions of having them fulfilled.
To an extent, Brahmacharya paves the path to Vairagya or non-attachment.
Can we smell the coffee brewing in the morning, appreciate the aroma thoroughly but not once think of drinking it?
Can we then one day decide to drink the coffee and have that experience add great joy and pleasure to that moment in our lives, but not be enslaved to a craving for a repeat of that pleasure the next day? Can we have just one bit of dessert or those salty chips then stop? Can we be apparently provocative if that is what our expression requires at that moment, but at the same time be free of temptation? Can we spend two months by ourselves in the countryside, reflecting on our true nature and have no sexual thoughts cross our mind? Upon our return to our beloved, can we then make love with such intensity and passion that the Gods themselves descend from the heavens to bow to the power of our sexual expression. Can we take time to understand what sexual union really is, beyond the surface? Can this sexual union then become a pathway to our spiritual awakening instead of becoming a sensory bondage that often brings with it emotional turmoil in the form of heartache, jealousy, insecurity, hurt from not having our love reciprocated or fear of losing our partner?
Can we love truly and then simply let go? Can we take responsibility for our desires and take care that no other is harmed, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually in our pursuit of them? Can we choose a partner and stop considering other options? Can we be so open minded and accepting of other peoples expression that nothing can scandalize us but at the same time be firmly established in our own values? Can we strongly desire getting that perfect handstand, and with equal ease give it no importance? Can we, for moments at a time forget whether we are a man or a woman and just be? Can we embrace that both the sexes exist within us?
And finally can we live this life fully and cherish completely the desire to live we wake up with everyday, but at the same time be ready to die any moment?
Patanjali says in Sadhana Padah
2.38 || Brahmacarya pratisthayam virya labah||
Upon the establishment of Brahmacharya, power is attained.
I am not claiming to be accomplished myself, but I am on the path and at the start of the realisation of all the things that this concept stands for and how it can lead to clarity and contentment.