So, this has been bothering me for a while.
Brahmacharya is the fourth yama, which is the first limb of yoga.
Yoga, according to Patanjali, [‘The Dude’ that wrote the authoritative text, ‘The Yoga Sutra’ = the yogic bible equivalent], consists of eight limbs or components towards enlightenment (or how to live a life of meaning).
These are the yamas (restraints), niyamas (things to cultivate), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing / life force practice and restraint), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (steady the mind), dhyana (meditation, contemplation), samadhi (bliss)…
Also – the definition of yoga that I’m using is Georg Feuerstein’s 1989 interpretation,
Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of consciousness.
I just googled Brahmacharya and went through hundreds of the pages.
The common interpretation is for straight out ‘chastity’, with other scholars exploring the relevance to married yogis as ‘right use of sexual energy’ as in, within the home and marriage…
And look, I think it’s great if you’ve given up sex and have become totally enlightened, and now you emit a sweet aroma – because you’re hormones are not sex related… I genuinely think that is awesome. I just don’t think that is what the teaching is asking of us (originally, or in this current state on the planet).
brahmacharya = brahma + charya
brahma = the ultimate reality underlying all phenomena in the Hindu scriptures. “Brahman is formless but is the birthplace of all forms in visible reality”
[type this into google -> define:brahman]
charya = vehicle… linked to chakra = wheel
Brahmacharya = vehicle to the ultimate.
Together Brahmacharya is about the movement towards God or Highest Consciousness or the Universe or Brahma or Christ or Shiva or The All Knowing or any other such concept.
How does this relate to chastity?
Short answer: I don’t think it does.
When you look at who interpreted the Yoga-Sutras originally into western languages, it was often wonderful scholars who were already affiliated with religious institutions. These were not lay people, but rather intelligent monks, priests and nuns who had devoted their lives to study and god. Most were (supposed to be) celibate already.
Again, chastity is not the issue here.
The issue is that it was interpreted within a cultural construct of the people doing the translating. So the cultural bias, experiences and viewing ‘lens’ came from the translators. Misinterpretation (through a space of no-fault or malice or intent) came from the translators. And we need to own that.
With the eight limbs of yoga, it is said that each one precedes the next… which sounds logical but is actually helpful. If you are struggling with the breathing practices (pranayama), go back to working with the postures (asana). If the postures are not sitting right, go back to the yamas and niyamas. Or at the other end of the scale, if you are not sitting in Bliss (Samadhi), go back to meditation. If that is tough, go back to concentration etc etc.
Why would things like don’t be violent (ahimsa), don’t steal (asteya), tell the truth (satya), and don’t be greedy (aparigraha) be linked with ‘never have sex ever again’ (for brahmacharya)?
Brahamcharya does not relate to chastity.
I am going to stop there, and continue to delve deeper into a darker side of this.
Brahmacharya = movement to the highest.