ब्रह्मचर्यप्रतिष्ठायां वीर्यलाभ I
When moderation to pursue spiritual evolution (brahmacarya) is firmly established (pratiṣṭhāyāṁ), vitality (vīrya) is obtained (lābhaḥ).
PRACTICAL LIVING The word brahmacarya has been heavily discussed in the various translations of the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. In this section we will focus on a practical interpretation: moderation. When the mind acts as a servant, and not as the master, it has been trained to be moderate. To a large extent, yoga is about finding balance. Moderation is another word for balance. How can we enjoy the world in a moderate way? Moderation requires a mind that is both disciplined yet relaxed. Too much discipline leads to rigidity and traits such as dogma, closed-mindedness and judgment arise. Whereas a mind that is too relaxed leads to inertia, laziness and a feeling of being lost in life.
Moderation leads to vitality, vigor and courage (lābhaḥ). When energy is not leaking out of our system, we are able to preserve energy and channel it to whatever life project we are working on. Too much social activity, for example, can be exhausting. Whereas having the perfect number of friends (there is no exact number, we need to figure that out for ourselves) is very invigorating and fulfilling.
We are the only ones who can tell whether we are being moderate in our lives. Are we sleeping too much, too little or getting just what we need? Are we eating too little, too much or eating the right amounts? The same goes for work, play, sex, traveling, and pretty much anything that we do. Just like Goldilocks and the three bears, we want to find the porridge, the chair and the bed that are “just right” for us.
IN THE YOGA WORLD One of the translations for brahmacarya has to do with celibacy. It is believed in many traditions that sexual energy, if saved, has the potential to be channeled into the spiritual domain. Having said that, sexual energy is a very tricky arena to control since it is such a primal instinct. Even the ancient yogis had families and procreated. They took into account that there were different phases of life with unique objectives:
i. brahmacarya – these are the years that we spend being a child and teenager, going to school and being formally educated. As long as a person is a student, they are strictly celibate so that all of their energy can be channeled towards learning.
ii. grihastha – this is the age when couples get married and raise a family together. The energy is spent on making money and taking care of the home and children.
iii. vanaprastha – once the husband and wife have raised their children and those have left the house to begin their own families, the couple focuses on their spiritual pursuits. These may include pilgrimages to holy places, staying in ashrams and dedicating themselves to their daily spiritual rituals.
iv. sannyasa – there comes a time when the husband and wife go their own ways to focus only on spirituality. Having fulfilled their worldly desires, including the sexual desires, life’s only focus becomes to seek the Absolute, the soul, the puruṣa.
In a spiritual life, whether one is a priest, nun or householder, moderation allows us to focus all of our energy in the path of connecting with our hearts. Ideally, every thing we do and say is coming from a place of love, from the heart. The spiritual path focuses on self-awareness so that gradually, more and more, we can live life from a place of light, from a place of pure love.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON DassiMa deserves every letter in her spiritual name: she is a giver. This amazing woman has dedicated her life to service. She does it with firmness yet so much grace. She is tender yet keeps her boundaries. She is kind, yet honest. She tells stories yet she has moments of silence. She is a doer and spends her time giving but she also takes care of herself. I had the privilege of spending the past 6 days with this beautiful human being. Dassi, thank you for the morning walks, making sure I was okay, inviting me to all the adventures we had and for simply being a role model of service and devotion. You are a bright light in this world! Ram Dass is a lucky man 🙂
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will discuss the power of non-greediness!