Updated: May 8
This is such an important Yama and for some reason, I tend to back away from it because I believe it will not be well received or afraid to offend someone and the last thing I want is to make anyone feel judged. That said, I did not create this list, I can only try to live by it and help you to recognize it as well, this list that I am speaking of is the Astanga 8 Limbs.
Brahmacharya is the practice of non-excess, moderation, and right use of energy. It’s the practice of experiencing the pleasure, wonder, and mystery of life without over-indulgence. Brahma is Sanskrit for God or creation. Charya translates to mean “one who is established in”. Brahmacharya can then be translated as “One who is established in the way of God or the creative force.” When you choose to look at yourself and your energy as sacred, the practice of moderation becomes easy and an act of honoring the divine with yourself and others.
Brahmacharya is the 4th of the Astanga 8 Limbs. The 8 limbs, for me, are the single most important practice to continuing our journey up this metaphysical ladder!
In the Yoga Sutras, more specifically I am referencing the second book of the yoga sutras, Patanjali gives us five recommendations, called Yamas, for how we should treat others and how to attain liberation. https://vimeo.com/528463574?share=copy
The full list looks like this….
Ahimsa - Non-Violence
Satya - Truthfulness
Brahmacharya - Conservation of vital force energy.
Aparigrapha - Non-Hoarding
The fourth yama is brahmacharya, which means “to respect the creative power of sex and not abuse it by manipulating others sexually”. Or… to conserve vital life force energy! Appropriate celibacy. Brahmacharya is a way to get to God—a way to arrive at the last preverbal door of the universe. It has sometimes been translated as “continence” or “chastity,” which has led to a lot of misunderstanding regarding how to practice this yama. To practice brahmacharya is to understand the potential of sexual energy, which has been said to be the essence of all physical and psychological forces.
This is such a slippery subject matter, prana is prana and it has its own intelligence and mysteries, but what it also has is a lower(not lesser! Lower in a vibrational place, foundational energy. This does not mean it is bad in any way, but it is very attached to pleasure and desire so it will confuse us and draw us in.
Let me explain further….
When sexual energy is directed wisely, it becomes a means to transcend separation or otherness. When sexual energy is used to exploit, manipulate, or humiliate another, however, it propels us into deeper separation and ignorance (avidya).
Also, when sexual energy is used to propagate a physical experience rather than a divine one it then keeps us in our lower realms or the lower chakras.
The idea of appropriate celibacy falls loosely into this form.
The belief is that when we are young we practice or experience appropriate celibacy, I am sure everyone understands this. Then when we marry or commit ourselves to another being we use sexuality for procreation as well as experiencing the divine love between ourselves as is often experienced in tantric rituals. Later in life, we enter into the true state of celibacy and brahmacharya energy when we begin to look within and offer to God that energy that we could not control and offer it up as a gift, this practice will elevate us all spiritually. But don't worry, this is done only when you are ready in this life or the next or next…….
Pathanjali tells us to embrace the idea that health and vitality will come to one who is established in brahmacharya—to one who treats sexuality with reverence, and one that embraces the practice of brahmacharya is to challenge our culture’s foundation, and will redefine what intimacy is and what is possible with the grace of God.
It is said that if one practices Brahmacharya, their power and life will increase and all sickness will be destroyed.
Sri Pathanjali, in his teachings, explains the importance of Brahmacharya. It was studied by foreign scholars, such as Dr. Louis, an eminent physician, who opined, in his book Chastity, that most precious atoms of the blood enter into the composition of retas (male seed). So preservation of the male sperm by practicing continence helps the better development of the brain, body, and mind. Dr. Nicholas says that the best blood in the body goes to form the elements of reproduction in both sexes. So if anybody wastes retas he is losing the best part of the blood and becomes weak physically and mentally. If it is preserved, he becomes strong, intelligent, scholarly, heroic, and powerful.
Lord Siva in the Jnanasamkalani Tantra says, "The wise do not regard the ordinary forms of asceticism as real asceticism. Continence is the highest asceticism. He who is a continent is equal to God."
I hope I didn't lose many of you while reading this week's blog, but at the very least please explore what it means to waste our time on things that will drain us, we will become weak and our minds will waste away, begin to explore this conservation of your energies, and it will be much easier to turn within.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, ohm …..