This month the residents of the Institute picked Brahmacharya as a spiritual practice, one of the principles given in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. While Brahmacharya is often considered the conservation of sexual energy, the literal meaning is “path to Brahman” or “path to the Universal Consciousness.” This teaching then, calls us to examine how we use our time and energy–is it really in harmony with our spiritual path?
One way to understand the path of Yoga is an effort quiet the mind and all of its habitual thought patterns sufficiently enough to experience a deeper sense of Peace that lies within us, beyond the level of mind and thought. Since our thoughts can be so compelling and we tend to identify with them so fully, most of us find it difficult to focus the mind to this degree without the proper preparation.
Our founder, Swami Satchidananda, once compared this effort to the effort of a rocket ship to propel itself beyond the force of gravity. Both things take sufficient power. In the case of Yoga, we need a very clear, refined energy to steady the mind in meditation. We also need a lucid mind to see how we suffer from attachment to the things that we believe will make us happy. Brahmacharya, when applied to our whole way of living, develops this kind of sharpened awareness.
Brahmacharya normally refers to sexual energy since it is such a potent form of enegy, powerful enough to create a new life. When sexual energy is expressed in a loving, committed relationship, it builds a beautiful bond between the partners. When it is expressed in a selfish way, or without respect for the precious nature of this energy, it is depleting and becomes an obstacle to spiritual growth.
In a broader sense, it is easy to spend a lot of energy on things that aren’t ultimately beneficial or are actually draining, like watching TV or playing video games. It can be very interesting to reflect on what we truly value and let go of activities that are primarily a means of seeking pleasure or escape from life, and are no longer important to us. Even activities that are beneficial, when taken to extremes, end up disturbing or depleting our energy. You might ask yourself, “Am I serious about my spiritual growth?…..am I giving sufficient time and energy to foster that growth?…..what practices and teachings do I incorporate regularly to actively support that growth?” Let’s see what we can learn by exploring this in our lives.