By Mas Vidal (Maheshananda)
The practice of celibacy in Indian spiritual culture is derived from ethical and moral practices that were codified as derived from the Golden Age of Vedic culture and presented as part of the Royal Path of yoga. Brahmacharya consists of two words, Brahma meaning God or creator and acharya, meaning mastery or control. Thus, the two terms imply that one can recognize this energy as a formidable force and can manage it in a proper way. Firstly, as the inherent force of all human beings, God created humans with this downward and outward force (apana vayu) to manifest and perpetuate human life. Secondly, sexual intimacy is an intimate expression shared between husband and wife for creating a family. It is also shared between those who have made the commitment of being loyal to one another. Of utmost importance is that this intimate exchange is cultivated and shared in order for one to grow in consciousness and use this force as a movement toward self-realization.
Sexual activity is not required to Realize Brahma or an enlightened state as is incorrectly presented in distortions of Tantra Yoga by many modern enthusiasts. Quite the opposite, sexual activity, as a device of the lower chakras and most specifically svadhisthana (second chakra), can increase mental disturbances such as anxiety, insecurity, and attachment, and can demonstrate gross impurities of the ego mind. The success of any individual depends on their capacity to manage their sexual energy. The same energy that creates new life is the same energy that has spawned the greatest ideas and movements of human history, like those presented by Sir Isaac Newton, Herbert Spencer, Sweden Burg, Gandhi, Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. All these people were brahmacharies, observing a life of celibacy. On areas related to bisexuality, homosexuality, masturbation, birth control, and polygamy, yogic-Hindu teachings remain unprejudiced and quiet. Sexuality is considered a central aspect of life as part of the four ideals (purushartas). Kama neither endorses nor denounces it, although it does condemn adultery and abortion, the former as an act of disloyalty, and the latter is an act that defies ahimsa. It is important to remember that what someone has done in the past matters less than whether they have learned from those experiences and whether their life now is headed in an evolutionary direction.
The world population is high, and consciousness is low; however, when world population is low, consciousness is high, as it was during the Golden Age (Satya Yuga). Sexual energy has two forms, one is lower1 and correlated to the instinctual nature that influences all human beings to behave like animals, as they often do, maintaining this attitude throughout their entire life. This form of sexual energy is a result of deceptive interpretations by ego which clouds the mind with impressions of being accepted, higher sense of self-worth, and an illusory sense of love. The ego develops superficial confidence as one becomes identified with the idea that sexual intimacy provides the power to overcome the challenges of life and create abundance. Although it may feel that one is attaining this all-conquering energy because of sexual interaction, this is a device of the ego to perpetuate the drama (lila). Sexual engagement at this level of comprehension has no end, it is never really satisfying, and has its fleeting moments producing emotional highs and lows that entangle the mind further into the world process.
Alternatively, the higher nature of the mind as purified intellect, buddhi, recognizes sexual energy as the capacity for insight, intuition, and the power of attention. Sexual energy is an expression of the soul’s vibration when it is drawn towards the heart. It transmutes one’s actions into gestures of compassion, charity, and enjoyment in transparent communication, not for the sake of opportunity, but as a reciprocal exchange that can lead to an increase in understanding. When sexual energy is transmuted into the heart it does not claim possession of any one person, nor does it associate or become identified with any particular gender label or group. Heart-centered intimacy leads one to thrive from participation in all types of relationships, sharing sentient attributes, and cultivating creativity. These are depictions of Real strength and courage as depicted by Hanuman, the monkey God, disciple of Rama.
Again, it is important to clarify that yoga is not calling for suppression of sexual energy, but rather the transmutation of it. Transmutation and suppression have two very different outcomes. For this reason, Hanuman is considered a God. He is worshipped and adored by millions of yogis and Hindus throughout the world because he symbolizes a direct path to Rama, God. Rama relied on Hanuman to attain victory over the demon Ravana, who is the ego, stealing us away from the source of all Divine virtues. Hanuman as the ideal brahmachari has gained a titanic power of awareness. A short paraphrase of one of the famous stories of the Ramayana expresses Hanuman’s devotion toward Rama and depicts the use of the body’s vital energy for seeking God.
After victory over Ravana, Rama and Sita returned to the throne in Ayodhya to enjoy a wonderful celebration. When Sita was presented the gift of a remarkable necklace of precious gems, she decided it was best to offer it to Hanuman, thanking him for all he had done for them. As members of the king and queen’s court, their family, and citizens of their kingdom looked on, they were all surprised when Hanuman began biting and smashing the necklace, trying to break open the gems. The spectators were shocked and questioned Hanuman’s behavior, they were confused as to why he would destroy such valuable gemstones, especially those given to him by Sita.
Hanuman said, “I was simply searching to see if Rama was inside any of these jewels.”
Instantly, a furious onlooker shouted, “Well, if that is the case, then why don’t you crack open your own body and see if Rama is there?”
With great confidence and dignity, Hanuman began to rip open his chest and replied, “Rama is inside of me.” Inside of his heart, Rama and Sita were seated together, symbolic of shakti and bhakti.
This colorful fable demonstrates that real love is within us, and as we follow the path of devotion to Rama (God), we are given the strength of Hanuman, the power of devotion, awareness, and loyalty. Love is not found in gems or outside of our being. The journey of seeking God changes the heart, the seat of feeling. It opens a window of spiritual expansion that causes negativity to fall away and fears to disappear; and thus, the dimension of your personality expands beyond the body-mind, and moves towards the Sun. This is the metaphor discussed in chapter three as the ascending or northern course (uttarayana) that becomes an aspirant’s entire goal of life, until one realizes that, “I am the Sun.” Brahmacharya is a practice of directing the energy of life towards its goal and is the most valuable medicine for developing bhakti (devotion) that leads to liberation. As one of the versus from the Hanuman Chaleesa2 asserts, “You (Hanuman) possess the potent remedy-the Divine Name of Rama, You are forever the Servant of Rama.” Hanuman portrays the ideals of work (Karma Yoga), devotion (Bhakti Yoga) and knowledge (Jnana Yoga) that lead to the royal path (Raja Yoga).
Brahmacharya is a core principle within the framework of living an evolutionary life because one can rise above the lower domains of human consciousness. When one dwells in the lower domains, one is often consumed by dramas, preoccupied with emotional turmoil, and this often leads to the destruction of nature, chronic diseases, and over population. Swami Rama Tirtha once addressed this topic in India3, “Dear friends if you will not be vigilant and make efforts to lessen the population, Nature will have to use her cruel process of pruning and weeding, according to Maharshi Vasishta, through epidemics (pandemics), famine, earthquakes, war etc. Do not waste your vital energy, or else you will suffer and ruin your country. Sublimate this energy into Divine bliss and spiritual power.”
Without a clear sense of who we are, it is likely the ego that will make choices to follow along with the rest of the pack. If your yoga sadhana is not dispelling fear and emotional turmoil in general, and affording you with greater discipline, then how can you live a life of dharma? Start with little things that challenge your courage and mental focus, then move onto larger things. If you maintain the idea that you, alone, are trying to accomplish something, then you create a very limited mental attitude. However, if you fill your mind with devotion for the Divine and realize you are part of a freedom-seeking cultural movement, then you begin to strengthen your capacity to surrender. Gain control of your body and sensory mind and practice Brahmacharya. See how many great things you can achieve as this tremendous power begins to move through you, supporting you with every need in life.
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Article published: June 2022
1 Lower realms of the mind are referred to as bhu (physical), bhuvaha (mental) and svaha (intellectual and unconscious) lokas.
2 Raama rasaayana tumhare paasaa, Sadaa raho raghupati daasaa, Verse 32, Hanuman Chaleesa, translation and commentary by Swami Jyotirmayananda. This famous composition was written by Saint Tulsi Das in forty verses. It has been recited by devotees who are expressing devotion to Rama (God) when focusing on overcoming adversities and gaining courage and strength.
3 Swami Rama Tirtha likely intuited the direction India’s population was headed in 1905. When he spoke on this topic in Uttara Pradesh, India’s population was 238 million compared to today’s 1.36 billion. During this time, colonialism was being challenged by the Bhakti Bengali yogis and an extensive list of Freedom Fighters like Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar V. Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, and many others were just beginning to lay the groundwork for what eventually led to India’s independence in 1947.