Brahmacharya: Why we are not really experiencing or practicing yoga. Part 1
Thought that may get your attention. Although my constant shedding light upon truth of yoga isn’t winning me a popularity award, this system of yoga is complete. When we bend it to our own desires we lose the benefits of the path of yoga and create catastrophes to ourselves, our community, and on a much bigger scale… the world.
In light of the publicized scandal of John Friend and the Anusara cult (as well as the ongoing huge amount of “yoga teachers” sleeping with students and other teachers), I figured I would demystify what brahmacharya is so that there can be more insight into the depth of what is yoga.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Book 2 verse 30
“Ahimsa (nonviolence, Satya (truth), Asteya (abstention from Stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Aparigraha (abstinence from avariciousness) are the five Yama (forms of restraints).”
Mundaka Upanishad “This soul is realized only through constant practice of truth, discipline, perfect knowledge and continence. ”
Brahmacharya means to walk in the path towards god. There are 8 different types of Brahamacharya. It means celibacy, sexual continence. It is threefold of mind or thoughts, speech, and action. It is one of the main fundamental pillars of yoga because of its large interpretation. It is also what can define a true yoga practice from all others.
Brahmacharya is abstaining from all kinds of Maithuna or sexual enjoyment forever, in all places and in all conditions, physically, mentally and verbally. – Swami Sivananda
Vasanas (subconscious inclination; conditioning, tendencies, or self-limitations; predispositions and habits) grow from lustful look. You have no lustful look when you see your mother or sister although they are well-dressed and decorated with ornaments and flowers. You look at them with affection and pure love. This is Suddha Bhavana. There are no lustful ideas. You will have to develop such a pure love or Bhavana when you look at other ladies also. Looking at a woman with lustful heart is equivalent to sexual enjoyment. It is one form of Maithuna. That is the reason why Jesus said: “If you look at a woman with lustful heart, you have already committed adultery in your hears.” Though the first seven kinds of Maithuna do not cause the actual loss of semen, yet the semen is separated from the blood and tries to escape when opportunity comes either in dreams or in other ways. In the first seven kinds man enjoys mentally.
“Rasad raktam tato mamsam mamsanmedhah prajayate
Medasosthi tato majja majjayah sukrasambhavah”
“From food comes juice or chyle, from chyle blood, from blood flesh, from flesh fat, from fat bones, from bones marrow and lastly from marrow semen.”
Semen is the quintessence of food or blood. One drop of semen is manufactured out of 40 drops of blood according to the medical science. According to Ayurveda, it is elaborated out of 80 drops of blood. Just as sugar is all-pervading in the sugar-cane, butter in milk, so also semen is pervading the whole body. Just as the butter-milk is thin after butter is removed, so also semen is thinned by its wastage. The more the wastage of semen the more is the weakness.
In Yoga Shastras it is stated “Maranam bindupatanat jivanam bindu-rakshanat”
Falling of semen brings death; preservation of semen gives life.
Semen is the real vitality in man. It is the hidden treasure for man. It imparts Brahma-Tejas to the face and strength to the intellect.
If the spermatic secretion in men is continuous, it must either be expelled or reabsorbed. As a result of the most patient and persevering scientific investigations, whenever the seminal secretions are conserved and thereby reabsorbed into the system, it goes towards enriching the blood and strengthening the brain.
All waste of spermatic secretions, whether voluntary or involuntary, is a direct waste of life-force. It is almost universally conceded that the choicest element of the blood enters into the composition of the spermatic secretion. If these conclusions are correct then it follows that a chaste life is essential to man’s well-being.
Ayurveda and celibacy
Ayurveda help us to put sex in perspective. It advises judicious indulgence in sex. Emphasising our faculty of disrimination concerning quality and quantity. Sexual union is portrayed as an experience with more profound implications than pleasure. It instructs us how to make sexual union a sacred consciousness expanding experience that opens up our heart to love ourselves and all beings with increased awareness. It also teaches that sexual desire is ultimately a yearning for an unconditional loving relationship between ourselves and the divine. A spiritual connection that will satiate all our desires. From an ayurvedic view, unrestricted sexual activity is regarded as one of the acts most detrimental to health not because sex in itself is bad, but because it strains the nerves, exhausts the bodily tissues, increases vata (air and ether), thus creating dryness and irritability in a person and decreases ojas, the essence of immunity and vitality. Excess loss of sperm does cause low immune function, weak digestion, lassitude, and mental dullness.
Individuals who do not regulate their sexual impulses are more prone to loss of strength, weak immune function, and various diseases owing to depletion of vitality. Those who regulate their sexual energy will have increased memory, power, intelligence, health, and longevity.
“The Encyclopedia of Physical Culture” quotes the impact of the loss of semen: “One ounce of semen is estimated by some authorities as being equivalent in energy to sixty ounces of blood.” Perhaps that can explain why men often collapse into an exhausted sleep after ejaculation, feeling sapped of energy. While if ejaculation is avoided for a long period of time the sperm undergoes autolysis, breaking up and reabsorbing into the body to contribute towards a more youthful, vigorous body, and clarity of mind.
Four phases of life:
Ayurveda divides life into four main phases during which the role of sex changes. The purpose of these phases is to bring an individual fulfilment and satiation of their material desires so they may then transcend material attachments and ultimately attain spiritual enlightenment.
The typical phases of life are as follows:
1) Youth Brahmacharyam > Birth up to 25 years, > celibate student phase
2) Prime Gaarhasthyam > 25 years to 50 years, > family life
3) Maturity Vaanaprastham > 50 years to 65 years, > retire from worldly duties
4) Sunset years Sanyasam > 65 years until death, > renunciation
BRAHMACHARYAM Birth – 25 yrs
Brahma means the knowledge leading to self-realisation and charya means regimen. This is the stage of life where one learns to control one’s senses in order to focus on study and attain a ripened understanding about life. Brahmacharya is also the third rule of social conduct (Yama) advised in the eight-limbed path of yoga.
Control of sexual energy is of special significance in teenage years when the libido hormone testosterone is at its peak. Sexual stimulation at this time will promote testosterone which is linked with hostility and agitation. Reducing sexual stimulus will help to stabilise testosterone and re-direct sexual energy to develop the mind and body. Physical, mental, and spiritual maturity is developing during this time. It is the time to build one’s character, establish positive habits, and develop insight into one’s role in society. This is a period of concentrated learning in order to gain wisdom that will enable one to navigate through life’s stormy weather.
Ayurveda advises complete sexual abstinence during this period so that one can channel sexual energy into pursuits of mental and physical development. Emotionally one is deemed too immature to deal with the psychological implications and responsibilities entailed by a sexual relationship.
GARHASTHYAM 25 – 50 yrs
When one feels emotionally and physically mature enough for the responsibilities of marriage it’s the right time to seek out a partner. Traditionally this is the only context for sexual relations. Through the sanctity of marriage one obtains blessings from divine forces, family and friends. Swami Sivananda warns that anyone we wilfully have sex with will one day be our spouse, either in this life or future lives. He says we will have to continue this relationship until a harmonious relationship is established. This may be one of the reasons that divorce rates are very low in India, there is a feeling that unresolved problems with one’s spouse will simply come in another form. The ideal marriage according to Ayurveda is when a woman loves and revers her husband as a guru and in turn he loves and revers her as a goddess. Neither are considered spiritually superior, but that the act of loving is the means to transformation and the purpose of marriage is to help one another to become greater than they could alone.
” To unite your physical existences and your material interests, to associate yourselves so as to face together the difficulties and successes, the defeats and victories of life – this is the very basis of marriage – but you know already that it does not suffice. To be one in aspiration and ascension, to advance to the same step on the spiritual path- such is the secret of a durable union”.
VAANAPRASTHAM 50 – 65 yrs.
Retiring from worldly duties and living in a secluded peaceful place, concentrating on spiritual practices is known as Vaanaprastham. Traditionally this is the phase of life when a married couple begin to gradually strip away all their material entanglements, turning to spiritual practices with increased dedication. The Vedic concept of the goal of life is to transcend material suffering and attain a blissful state of self-realisation. In order accept a new spiritual reality in life one must purify the heart of selfish desires such as anger, hate, greed and lust.
Vaanaprastham is the period during which work and family obligations are slowly reduced in preparation for the period of total renunciation or sanyasam. One’s children are mature and independent by this time and one is financially secure. The body is starting to show signs of aging, a reminder that death is inevitable and preparation to face it must begin. Vaanaprastham is the phase of life when one starts to seriously prepare for this reality, a time when one may retire from employment and dedicate one’s time to philanthropic pursuits leaving plenty of time for contemplation and meditation.
Any superfluous material possessions may be given away at this time and a couple may choose to move to a simple, peaceful dwelling, keeping possessions to a minimum. During this time interest in sexual activity naturally declines as one has come to a state of sexual satiation and developed a greater attachment for less sensually oriented pursuits.
Society today is highly suspicious and even panicked at the hint of any weakening of the sexual drive, this is why there are so many interpretations of what brahmacharya is. People who have naturally raised their energy and interests above that of sexual pleasure and developed a higher consciousness are revered as the highest models of wisdom. With age, interest in sex naturally declines, despite many deluded people’s attempts to retain their sexual drive with the use of endangered animal’s parts such as tiger’s penis’ and rinosaurus’ horns as aphrodisiacs. A constant preoccupation with sex is not healthy; nor is it in humanity’s highest interest.
SANYASAM 65 to death
“As advancing age cools his passions he turns to think of his creator, to study religious subjects and to acquire divine knowledge.”- Ananga Ranga by Kalyana Malla
Sanyasam means “selecting the most appropriate path.” This is when the inward journey really begins. At this time the husband and wife see each other purely as partners in the journey to self- realisation. They will have minimal contact in physical matters and aim to spend their time whole heartedly propagating and investigating the highest spiritual truths of life. Sometimes they may choose to live separately as they fully absorb themselves in spiritual practices and pilgrimages to holy places. This is the time for burning up one’s vasanas or innate material desires.
Not everyone is expected to enter the sanyasa phase of life as it requires a strong dedication and desire to devote oneself fully to spiritual life. Traditionally this path is only taken up by true spiritual warriors, those driven to experience the rare nectar of complete spiritual surrender.
Some rare souls choose to skip the gaarhasthyam and vaanaprastham phase of life and take to the austere, celibate life of sanyasam for their whole lives. Such people are known as goswamis (male) or goswaminis (female) which means “masters of the senses.” Most people are in the unfortunate position of being godas’ (servants of the senses), having to pamper to their sense’s every whim just to feel some relief from suffering caused by the same sensual indulgences. Renounciates don’t see their path as austere or difficult as they experience transcendental pleasure far superior to enjoyment offered through any temporary, limited material pursuits.
Yoga and celibacy
In the West, we have turned yoga into anything that we want it to be (because that seems to be spirituality in the west, just superficial). There is even a book in the Western world called,’If the Buddha dated.” Enough said. But because of this superficiality, yoga has lost all of its roots and is maintained only as an exercise class or practice that has very little to do with yoga at all much less having any of the results that yoga can bring. In this, the West has turned brahmacharya into watching our sexual energy. This is not true in the case of yoga. Brahmacharya is an integral piece to the structure of yoga as well as yogic psychology. The release of sexual attachment, lust and desires is a higher path and is not for the faint of heart. What is even more telling, is that when I mention to anyone in India about how we Westerners have turn Brahmacharya into watching our sexual energy, their jaws drop and the most common comment is, “Don’t they know?” No they don’t is the correct answer.
Relationships of a sexual manner take much energy, time and responsibility. In our culture, the normal everyday person cannot even think of being celibate. This says so much. If fact, a recent study from Ohio University showed that men think about sex 19 times a day which is about every 1.26 hours. The study, which involved 163 female and 120 male college students, all ages 18-25, found that, in confirmation of the old stereotypes, men do think about sex more than women, who have sex on the brain about 10 times a day, but nowhere near as frequently as the oft-quoted, origin-unknown “every seven seconds” has lead people to believe. And men don’t think about sex much more than they think about food (18 times a day) and sleep (11 times a day), the research showed. That last part about food and sleep says alot about bramacharya as well.
If you were to just for a moment, think about what life would be like without those nagging attachments of desires. This may start to give you a picture of what could be possible.
In brahmacharya, the sexual energy is transmuted into a higher energy for the spiritual path. Another way of saying it would be to suppress the natural urges of the sexual organs and the activities of other organs leading to it. Only someone that has lived this life can really speak about it and what benefits it brings. Merely supressing the sexual organs themselves are not enough. The other organs also play into this. The eyes, ear, nose, tongue, and skin all connect to the activity of the sexual organs. As it is what we perceive, with those organs, outside of us to which we create the desires for. Refraining from just the sexual act is not continence. Thinking of, talking about, joking, looking intently, secret talk, resolve, attempt and execution are all part of the game and are the eight forms of sexual indulgence.
In taoism, chinese medicine, ayurveda as well as all the other spiritual related medicines and lifestyles you find some form of brahmacharya. The seed is looked at as being connected to your life energy. Sex is draining to this energy and so is the thought, speech, and actions that come of having sexual relations in your life. Save the seed and build your energy. It is needed for higher realms of spirituality.
A good note to add is that brahmacharya is not something that is ever forced. It comes at a time in someones life when it is accepted. To force Brahmacharya will have dire consequences. We can see the downfall of this with the priests in the catholic church. When this energy is suppressed unnaturally, when the mind is not properly prepared or ready, it ends in expression in all sorts of perverse manners. Unnatural, repressive celibacy can create serious psychological damage and a perverted attitude towards sex as Krishnamurti elucidates “Chastity of the monk with his vow is worldliness as long as his urges are present.” The correct yoga practice (not just an asana practice) also suppresses these desires. There are even asana like brahmacharyasana that help with this.
You might want to ask yourself, at what level do these things become relevant to your life, what stage of practice, how old are you, etc? Then is it practical? Does it make sense? This is where Brahmacharya begins. And then also, will it come about in the course of your practice? If you’re devoted to practicing yoga, then yes. If you are at least paying attention, you’ll come to understand it all by yourself and at the right time. The big question is are you actually a yogi and living a authentic yogic path or a house holder who is unable to live the yogic lifestyle.
Okay, another and harder question. Why is it so necessary to be pretending to be something that one is not? Is this not identification and ego in its own and is all of that opposite to what yoga stands for?
Brahmacharya is ultimately about self-preservation, physical, mental, emotional. It’s about energy and saving your seed. It’s about noticing a preoccupation with your sexual/sensual Self and others, its beauty or its complications, and while there’s no Self-denial, you’re also not carried away by desire.
Hatha yoga is about Kundalini and that awakening has it’s very foundation in the arousal and re-direction of energy. Kundalini is in fact then arguably one’s sexual energy redirected beyond the dictates of programmed biological evolution for higher evolutionary purposes. Even in the Kundalini Yoga corners, is this actually taught or is it just a cool practice to get high and continue to walk the same path one has in the mundane world?
Brahmacharya is part and parcel to the practice of pratyahara or withdrawing the senses. As soon as the sensory world is cut off from effecting the mind the true path is just beginning. This is why it is in the first step of yamas and niyamas. This comes before asana. Without this foundation of the yama and niyama being built upon all spiritual progress on the path of yoga is not attainable. It becomes a form of narcissism, as we see today.
Now this may seem strict or judgmental or whatever as many of our “bhoga yogis” may put it. I can only say, the proof is in the pudding and that only once this is attained can anyone really have any valid thing to say about it.
Brahmacharya also speaks to desires. This is why I have stated that it is a main pillar of yoga. Only in practicing continence can the mind truly be free from desires. In the Bhagavad-Gita, it is mentioned that senses, Manas (mind) and Buddhi (intellect) are the seats of passions. Pranamaya Kosha (the vital force sheath) is another seat. Desire is all-pervading in the body. Every cell, every atom, every molecule, every electron is surcharged with passion. There are under-currents, cross-currents, inter-currents and submarine currents in the ocean of passion. You must completely annihilate each one of them. This is (moksha) liberation and all that yoga is about.
This brings me to the topic of John Friend and his behavior as well as a look at what yoga is in the modern world. If the yama and niyama were being followed and if John Friend was actually teaching or living a true yoga lifestyle instead of a bastardized version of his own making (with its own style name), then clearly none of this would have happened. It has happened with many people who are calling themselves yogis. Bikram Choudary with his several rape allegations and his very grandiose delusional responses to it, “Sometimes students, they commit suicide. Lots of students of mine, they commit suicide because I will not have sex with them.” and Rodney Yee, just years back, as well as other rock star “yogis’ and “yoginis” that we all know but their names will remain unlisted here. This are all of the same western yoga game.
There are also a bunch of new articles being written from this JF thing. Alot I think may open your eyes. Here is one.
Anyway we look at it, the correct deep teachings of yoga are not being taught here in the West and we see the results of it. From the outside, even from the uneducated in yoga, you can see that something is seriously wrong with the western yoga world with all the scandals that continue to happen. There is a ton of interpretation by the ignorant and unexperienced about what yoga is. Be careful what you read, hear, are taught and believe. Even here, from me, question what i have written and experience it for yourself. This is the path.
Below, I have linked a couple longer reads on the subject by Sivananda.
and one more read for you is :
Call it something else! The yogis are turning in their graves.