Holistic Living - The Value of Celibacy
by Swami Veda Bharati
When one is established in brahmacharya, one gains virya, say the yoga sutras
In Sanskrit the word for passionate desire, kama, expresses a special truth. On one hand, some of its synonyms are ‘an-anga’ the limbless, bodiless force, ‘mano-ja’ or ‘manasi-ja’, the mind-born. These words recognize the mind and not the body as the origin of desire. But another synonym is ‘manmatha’, that which intensely churns up. As we have said previously, no other force so intensely churns and mixes the mind-prana-senses-body within oneself, and between two individuals, as the onset of kama. It is thus the direct opposite of separating purusha from prakriti. That is why celibacy is considered such a highly prized, though difficult to attain, trait or state of mind.
If it is attained with certain success, the Yoga Sutras tell us, then: Brahmacharya-pratishthaayaam veerya-laabhah When one is established in brahmacharya, one gains virya. -YS of Patanjali 2.38
The word virya, in contrast with popular interpretation, is explained by the commentator acharyas to mean ‘the power to grant spiritual initiation’, ‘the power to make direct mind to mind transfer of knowledge from the guru to disciple’.
It is truly for this reason that the yogis practice celibacy. This writer knows of even the village priests in India, and in the worldwide Indian diaspora, who maintain celibacy during the days or weeks that they are performing religious rites, or reciting texts like the Bhagavata Purana or the Ramayana to flocks of thousands. The writer also knows of householder gurus who cancel the diksha (yoga initiation) sessions if they have failed to maintain celibacy for a minimum period of one to three nights before undertaking such sessions. Even the yajamanas, lay participants of Vedic yajnas in modern times, are required to maintain celibacy before and during the participation in sacred fire offerings.
These are devices for one to learn to conserve pranic and spiritual energy, and to become a conqueror, to know that one has the strength to overcome desires.
Such conquest will not happen if it was a mere repression of desire but it enhances the prana if the restraint is joyful, and replaces indulgence with a sacred observance that inspires. A mere repression alone will lead to psychological aberrations as is happening in contemporary society.
In our ashrams, those on even a temporary vow of celibacy are taught how to reabsorb the energy conserved through brahmacharya. There are practices like siddhaasana, mula bandha, ashvini mudra, and agnisara to facilitate this. Other practices include concentration on breath arising from the navel centre – and other concentrations in manipura chakra, the umbilical centre of consciousness, and more advanced kundalini practices into which one has to be initiated. These channel all commonly downward flowing energies into upward channels.
Well, not all our readers are ready to take even temporary vows of celibacy. For the householders there are possibly three kinds of indulgences in sensual pleasures: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic.
Let your indulgences be sattvic ones. In these, one does not rush merely to expend energy; one truly and deeply sees the dampati, the married couple as a representation of Shiva and Shakti (hence Kalidasa expressed the dilemma as to whether the word dampati should be singular or dual). One’s only sentiment is: may my pleasure be in the fact that I have given pleasure. Such a sattvic giving enhances prana, and makes one joyful.
Outside of such an attitude, a rushed satisfaction of personal desire is rajasic; it exhausts and leads to no subsequent joyfulness.
As to the tamasic kama, it lacks all aesthetics, all appreciation of beauty, is devoid of creativity, leads to no joyfulness, is part of stagnant relationships.
The word kama occurs in Indian traditions in two contexts: As the first in the list of six enemies, kama (unbridled passion), krodha (anger) etc. As sandwiched between dharma (virtue) and moksha (spiritual liberation).
It is the second context we aspire for. It is there that aesthetics enhances spiritual realization, creativity, joyfulness and pranic health.
A mind that enjoys such sattvic pleasure soon becomes a playground of the gods.