Introspective Yoga: Containing Brahmacharya

I've been covering the yamas, part of yoga ethics, and this week we are talking about brahmacharya - sexual chastity or containment of energy. See last week's blog here.

The concept of brahmacharya is so deeply intriguing to me, because of the different ways it could be interpreted.

Here's a really great quote from Ravi Ravindra about the deeper meaning of brahmacharya, the one that's deeper than asking you to be celibate.

"Brahmacharya is almost always translated as sexual chastity or continence, but it literally means 'dwelling in Brahman.' Brahman literally means the Vastness. To dwell in the Vastness, which is possible only when one is freed of self-occupation and me-me-me, is the real brachmacharya."

I think brahmacharya encourages us to find a bit of the Vastness in our spiritual practices and daily life. Instead of lusting, or rushing into some self-occupied task, brahmacharya is asking us to consider the use of our energy. 

This brings me back to the koshas, or layers of being. (This topic deserves it own full-length blog someday.) In kosha theory, we have five different layers of being, each one a bit more subtle until it reaches the Universal Self, atman. Yep, as in, we are all stardust and we are all one - Universal Self.

  1. Annamaya kosha - physical body
  2. Pranayama kosha - vital body
  3. Manomaya kosha - mental body
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha - wisdom body
  5. anandamaya kosha - bliss body

Now back to brahmacharya and using your energy for the subtle realms. Lately, I've been trying to consciously step away from the hustle and find time for being. Literally, just some time to be a human being in all its glory and ugliness. Some time to watch my thoughts come and go, some time to acknowledge my energy levels, some time to be in my moods - whether it's angst or excitement, etc. 

This practice of mine is brahmacharya, as it requires me to contain my energy for being, and not give it to constant doing. And although I always have something to do, it's a lot more rewarding to put that ego driven to-do list on hold and explore the Vastness.

Let me ask you, how can you use your energy to get deeper into the subtle realms? That's how you start practicing brahmacharya. No need to give up sex!

I'll let you go with one more quote.

"Brahmacharya is not against sex. If it is against sex then sex can never disappear. Brahmacharya is a transmutation of energy: it is not being against sex, rather it is changing the whole energy from the sex center to the higher centers. When it reaches to the seventh center of man, the sahasrar, then brahmacharya happens. If it remains in the first center, then sex; when it reaches to the seventh center, then samadhi. The same energy moves. It is not being against it; rather, it is an art how to use it." --Rajneesh

Next week we will explore the last yama, aparigraha or non-greediness/non-clinging.