Brahmacharya is a precept in yoga that covers the practice of observing and mastering the senses. The senses, the urges, and the actions that they give rise to, are like a team of powerful wild horses. The senses and urges naturally want to go in their own directions. You, as the individual, end up unconsciously riding in which ever direction they choose to go instead of being the director the journey. In order to harness this raw power, one must be aware of it. Awareness of the pulling of the urges and the senses allows for development of the ability to channel them. It is this channeling that leads to the beginning of mastery.
Brahmacharya is often associated with abstinence; as it is sensual pleasures that impede the mind from extending into pure awareness. When the mind gravitates toward pleasures, the senses, on an energetic and spiritual level, become less discriminatory and the higher goals of the spiritual practices are not easily attained. Forces and desires, that draw us away from the spiritual path, can be assessed and addressed with less internal turmoil through the practice of brahmacharya. From this practice, in addition to acquiring morals, one attains higher levels of mental and spiritual clarity. One can then be more in-tune with the reason behind the spiritual practices: One can be more in-tune with GOD.
Sexual abstinence, as it is often associated with brahacharya, has merit; however, sex is not the only sensual pleasure that humans have at their disposal. Drinking, drugs, food and video games are just some of the activities that can stimulate the senses in an addictive and sensual manner. When the centers of pleasure are stimulated, the effect is euphoric and most people are unconscious of it. The feelings and the sensations that are elicited by this stimulation often need to be repeatedly experienced, as the individual is, for all intents and purposes, addicted. However, anything that can addictively stimulate the senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell can be observed, directed and controlled.
Overindulgence in pleasurable diversions detracts from the totality of the mind’s quiet and broad beauty. Excessive indulgence in pleasures dulls the senses, weakens the resolve and brings about enslavement to the passions that run amok within us. The indulgence in pleasures can take away from focusing on life’s greater purpose, i.e. Our Connection to GOD. To deepen this connection requires us to slow down, avoid overt hedonism and become more aware.
Many people relate to life in ways that involve attachment to pleasures and anxiety about things (i.e. I want this and I want it now, I’ve just got to have this or I will die, etc). This attachment makes us more apt to submit to passions, lusts and sense pleasures. Although our spiritual practices and focuses can leave us feeling refreshed, invigorated and bring us closer to GOD, they cannot be fully realized when sense pleasures hold sway in our lives. Awareness, then, is key for realizing the most from our spiritual practices.
To observe brahmacharya is to cast one’s gaze toward GOD. One does this while aligning the desire to minimize the effect of the proclivities (toward sense pleasures) with all that striving to attune one’s self with GOD entails. We are asked to be more aware of the thoughts, actions and speech which keep us bound to this earth plane. Awareness, of our tendencies to veer towards indulging in pleasures of the senses, sometimes to excess, is mandatory. Without awareness, observing brahmacharya would be nothing but an effort in futility.
GOD, here, is defined as what the individual (reader) defines as the highest level of the essence of creation/sustaining/dissolution that one could ever imagine. One a real level, humans are bound to this earth plane. Responsibilities, cares, obligations, desires, longings, lusts and the like keep us fettered to this plane. By ascribing to a view, a Concept of the Ultimate Source of All Creation/Sustaining/Dissolving, the proclivities that bind us to this earth plane have minimal influence over us. This is a view that is universal to all religio-spiritual disciplines throughout the world. GOD cannot be encapsulated in anyone’s one dogmatic representation. Be it Allah, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Krishna, Ardhanarishvara (my personal favorite), the Tao, Nothingness, the Great Spirit, Odin, Zues/Hera, Assur/Aset, etc. Whatever the human personification of the Ultimate Source, efforts must still be put forth to minimize the rift betwixt humans and that same Ultimate Source.
This is not only about moderating extremes or being more moral, this is about guiding the thoughts, speech and actions into a more wholesome state. By applying moderation, temperance and by being more aware, of what we think, say and do, one can avoid the extremes of overindulgence. ‘Wanting’ can be kept in check. We find solace with our current state as we work to attain our goals. To live in the realm of incessantly wanting more is to live life unfulfilled. Moderation and temperance are keys to overcoming the tendency of wanting more and overindulging the senses.
Heaven/perfection – Nirvana/liberation can be attained through the practice of brahmacharya. This is outlined in the King James version bible: ‘And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible’. I Cor 9:25. That is to say, that mastery is achieved by knowing what is going on, within one’s self, at all times, in order to achieve that Oneness with the Ultimate Source of All Creation/Sustaining/Dissolution, with GOD.
By observing brahmacharya, one can greatly augment the spiritual journey by minimizing the effects of force, anger, greed and lust. Brahmacharya can minimize, if not negate, the internal strife that one experiences when presented with sense pleasures and open the door for the development of joy and bliss. We can then, more easily, loosen the bonds of sensuality, selfishness and the hunger for power as we develop the abilities to love unconditionally, to think and see fluently, fluidly and clearly and to reconcile the polarities within ourselves.
Observing brahmacharya stimulates our higher spiritual energies and leads us to a deeper connection to GOD. Pleasures, then, cannot hold sway over us. As we master them, they become simple experiences and not a means to an end.
RYT200, Scottsdale, AZ