Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dangers of Dilution

We had a discussion in our philosophy class yesterday about the word Brahmacharya. It was pretty in-depth in its scope. I was reminded of something this morning as I soaked in the tub with two of my yoga sutras books in tow. There is a danger in diluting the definition of Sanskrit words. Some things can get lost in translation.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2:38 reads:

Brahmacharya Pratistayam Virya Labhah

Brahmacharya = Celibacy or Continence
Pratishthayam = Having established
Virya = Vigor
Labhah = gained

In class on Friday night we were discussing this verse. We spent a considerable amount of time on this topic. We read from multiple translations and they all have something to offer to the subject matter. The crux of the matter here is the word Bramacharya. It is sometimes translated as moderation, continence or celibacy (the latter being the most common translation amongst writers of Indian origin). I must admit that when I read the word continence I think about those Depends or Detrol commercials. What is incontinence? It is not being able to retain. So continence must its opposite. In this case however we are talking about sex, or sexual energy. Not just the physical act of sex but even the mental focus on sex. Where your consciousness goes, the energy follows. When brahmacharya gets translated as moderation, the essence of it gets lost in translation. It is my own personal feeling that celibacy is not a palatable word or practice for many if not most westerners. This is why I believe western writers translate the word to mean moderation. However, by doing so I believe that they dilute the meaning and effectiveness of the practice (no matter how well-intentioned they are). A vow of brahmacharya is not for the feint at heart. It is a withdrawal of the energy from the sexual center and transforming it. It is powerful creative energy. Ultimately we can use the energy to create children, ideas, art, music and a myriad of different things. Sexual energy is creative energy and by withdrawing it from the sex center we can find ourselves transformed on so many different levels. This is the wisdom of the sages of old. By keeping the teaching free of dilution you are able to grasp and utilize the power that is stored and created by the practice of brahmacharya. Celibacy is nothing to be feared. Our western culture expends a lot of energy talking about sex, snickering about other people and whom they have sex with and being told that we are sexual beings and to be free and open with sex. We are not taught how sacred sex is. Not in a religious dogmatic, “thou shalt not” kind of way, but in an energetic way. Energy gets shared and mingled before the physical act of sex. You transmit energy from the eyes of one to the other. Just think, you can give your beloved a look that says it all without speaking. This is a very potent powerful energy. Think of what you can do with that energy if transferred to other creative endeavors. In my own personal practice (years ago) I practiced brahmacharya for several months, during that time I used that energy for meditation and the devotional practice of Chanting. I learned to play the harmonium and devoted lots time to playing and singing, this took me within to a place of peace that passeth understanding. It can be channeled into writing for writers, art for the artist or whatever moves you creatively. Try it without judgment for a predetermined period of time and practice your chosen creative expression during this period. Come up with one thing that you focus on so as not to scatter your efforts. In this way you will see, like the yogis of old, that brahmacharya is a powerful force for creativity.

This is yoga off the mat!


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