The Unnaturalness of Celibacy
Brahmacharya is probably the most misunderstood principle of the whole Yamah & Niyamas. In typical yogic literature, it is a call for celibacy. They say that by preserving your sexual energy, you can build up a powerful reservoir to use in spiritual practice.
Despite thisinterpretation not being the real meaning of Brahmacharya, the basic principles it espouses are true, though they come with many caveats. First of all, conserving your sexual energy can turn into repression of libido, which is essentially an oppression of your own human and sexual nature. This is terrible, and can have tremendous adverse effects both on the body and on the psyche. It’s a billion times better to act naturally rather than to repress your sexual energy.
“The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.”Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation)
Unless you are practicing a form of energetic alchemy, which transforms sexual desire into spiritual desire by elevating the life-force from the lower energy centers (root and sacral chakras) into the higher energy centers (thirdeye and crown chakras), then the conservation of sexual energy (Brahmacharya—as it’s usually understood) is not for you. It will not be natural. There’s no escaping this. Yoga accomplishes this energetic alchemy through the practice of lifeforce control (pranayama, or similar techniques). Kriya Yoga achieves this through many of its techniques such as Kriya Pranayama and Maha Mudra; Kundalini Yoga accomplishes this through Kriya Supreme Fire; Tibetan Buddhism through Tummo breathing/Inner Fire awakening; Taoism through different forms of microcosmic or macrocosmic orbit and qi (prana)
control/cultivation, etc. Even if you are practicing these techniques, the amount of sexual energy that is successfully transmuted into a burning desire for enlightenment and spiritual purposes may be relatively low. It depends on your spiritual maturity, lifestyle, and proficiency in applying the techniques. To simplify this understanding, let’s suppose that 10% of your libido is transmuted into spiritual energy. What about the other 90%? If it remains, then this means that there will still be a strong desire for sex (i.e., there is still a lot of sexual energy in your system). Thus you need to be mindful of your bodily needs and functions and act accordingly. There must be no repressing whatsoever. This doesn’t mean seekers should release their sexual tension twice a day, or that they should practice strict celibacy. Always aim for the naturalness of the body. Learn to listen to your body. Typically, if you are consistent in doing your spiritual practice, libido and sexual energy will reduce over time (not necessarily reaching “zero” though), while spiritual hunger, desire, and energy will increase proportionally. That being said, it may also happen that you successfully transmute a “percentage” of your sexual energy into spiritual energy, but due to the nature of energy and kundalini practices, your sexual energy still increases. In other words, when successfully transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy, new sexual energy may be generated through the process as a side effect. This could fuel even more transformation into spiritual energy, but it could also simply increase your base-level of libido. Since sexual energy is just a grosser form of spiritual energy, the art of energetic alchemy is the refining of this sexual energy into its subtler essence—spiritual energy. The reason that new sexual energy may be generated as a by-product is due to the refining process tapping into typically untouched and dormant reservoirs of energy in the lower chakras. This explains why some seekers may believe that they’re not successfully transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy: because their libido increased or stayed the same. But now you know that this may not be the case. This is why it may be unwise to have “sleepovers” with ungrounded, immature practitioners in Kundalini-type retreats—you never know what such excess of sexual energy may do to their still “infantile” consciousness. I cannot overstress this enough: listen to your body and act naturally. Of course, you need to have some self-discipline and attentiveness, but don’t turn the teaching of preservation of sexual energy into a hideous suppression. I can’t tell you how many times readers have reached out to me and confided that they were having a hard time controlling their libido. Well, if you oppress and judge it puritanically, you’re not doing yourself any good. The practice of transmutation of sexual energy is important and beginners should 100% abide by it through consistently following their main sadhanas of Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, etc. Having said so, that’s not what the real Yama of Brahmacharya is about. The real meaning of Brahmacharya is abiding in pure Consciousness. Brahman is a Sanskrit name for God, pure Consciousness or true Self. Charya means conduct, engaging, or following. Brahmacharya is living as God, being aware of God at all times. This is a much deeper understanding of this Yama, which requires a great deal of spiritual maturity to employ Here is Sri Ramana Maharshi’s response on this subject: “Devotee Question: Isn’t brahmacharya necessary? Ramana Maharshi answer: Brahmacharya means ‘living in Brahman’. It has no connection with celibacy as is commonly understood. A real brahmachari finds bliss in Brahman, the same as Self. Devotee: Is naishthika brahmacharya (life-long celibacy) essential as a sadhana for Self-Realisation? Bhagavan: Realisation itself is naishthika brahmacharya. The vow is not brahmacharya. Life in Brahman is brahmacharya and it is not a forcible attempt at it. To live and move in Brahman is real brahmacharya; continence, of course, is very helpful and indispensable to achieve that end. But so long as you identify yourself with the body, you could never escape sex-thought and distraction. It is only when you realise that you are formless Pure Awareness that sex-distinction disappears for good and that is brahmacharya, effortless and spontaneous.”
Let’s understand how to employ the Yama of Brahmancharya to its maximum potential. We all live our lives as if we were going to live forever. But life goes by in the blink of an eye, and we, as the “I-ego,” as the personality we believe ourselves to be, will have an end. It doesn’t last forever. We may try our best to delay the inevitable, but inevitable means exactly that: unavoidable, inescapable, certain, or sure to happen. Death is inevitable—we’ll all have to face it. There’s no possibility of escape. So, right in this very lifetime, we have to discover the timelessness; we have to uncover what is before life, during life, and after life. Sit down and ponder on one of your earliest memories. Try your best to do this for a few minutes. What does that memory bring up for you? What do you feel? What is it exactly? I want you to take 10 to 20 minutes to sit or lie down and become aware of that old childhood memory (it may be pleasant or unpleasant, but this type of interpretation is irrelevant to the exercise), preferably of when you were between 4 to 10 years old. Notice whether you feel that you are the same being or not. Are you the same now as you were in those events that you are remembering right now? You are most definitely different. There may be no similarities at all. Perhaps you neither like nor dislike the same things now that you used to like and dislike back then; you probably don’t have any similar habits; your thinking mind and intellect are totally dissimilar to what they were; your personality has totally changed; your understanding and view of the world are like night and day; and above all, your sense of identity and cognition back then feels very distinct. But let’s take a step back and ponder: Is awareness feeling different, or are you identifying it with its contents and calling it different? Can you notice that regardless of how it feels, that which is aware remains the same? The personality (alongside all of its facets) and body which you used to refer to as “I” have changed, but the awareness that is aware of both didn’t change. The sense of being aware is the same. It ever was, is and will be the same. The awareness with which you remember these old events now is the same with which you were experiencing them back then. Only the contents of awareness change, not the awareness itself. “Being aware” doesn’t change. With this in mind, for the next couple of days, I want you to recognize that despite its contents, despite what’s going on in your life, despite what happened back then in your memories, despite how you currently feel, your sense of “being aware” is always the same. It is timeless. Discover this timelessness! It’s a recognition of the background of consciousness and an abidance and surrendering “into” it. Abiding as consciousness itself (i.e., being aware of being aware) is the true meaning of Brahmacharya.
“All this is Brahman. Everything comes from Brahman, everything goes back to Brahman, and everything is sustained by Brahman. One should therefore quietly meditate on Brahman.”Author
Abiding in the Unlocalizable
Whenever you look for consciousness or for the “I Am” presence, there is always the danger of objectifying it. Because of your long-held habit of constantly identifying “I” with an object, when you go to look for it, you may feel that the “I” is located somewhere in your body, or that it may have some sort of quality or tactile or kinesthetic sensation. If you do find the “I” somewhere (e.g., you feel it in the head or in the heart), that doesn’t mean the “I” is actually there. The “I,” which is equated with consciousness or awareness, is that which is aware of what you are aware of. If you find the “I” located somewhere in your body or psyche, then that’s not the “I,” but rather an ego-knot which awareness (“I”) is aware of. This is precisely the same as if it felt like you found some sensory quality to the “I” (e.g., you feel that it is fuzzy, cloudy, solid, dense, or translucent). In fact, that’s not the “I,” but rather an ego-knot which awareness (“I”) is aware of and what is an “ego-knot?” It’s that which may accompany the sensation of “I” or of “being” when we try to practice “finding” and “abiding” in it, but it’s the “false” part of “I.” By this, I mean the following: The “I” that we typically believe we are is a mixture of awareness, thoughts, sensations, feelings, and perceptions. It is a mixture of “awareness” and “that which awareness is aware of” (though they’re not two different things, I am simplifying to convey a point). If I believe I am a singular entity, a person, and whose personality could be described as “moody,” “shy,” and “smart,” then whenever I think of “I,” I will experience/feel a conglomerate of consciousness (chit, sentience, that which is aware) plus that which is insentient (jada, that which is an object of awareness), which includes my identity (composed of countless attributes such as “moody,” “shy,” and “smart,” and so on). This “cocktail” can be called “I-ego,” ego-mind, or just ego, depending on the context. If you abide as “I” by just being, then you, as consciousness, are focusing on consciousness. This is the correct nondual practice of Atma-Vichara (Self-Inquiry). But if you, as consciousness, focus on the insentient part (the apparent attributes of “I”), then you may end up dissolving those psychological facets in your mind (which is a great purifying practice), but it is not proper nondual practice. It leads to emotional and psychological improvement and evolution, but it doesn’t necessarily help to transcend the false self, the “I-ego.” Whenever there is a persistent emotional, psychological, traumatic or subjective issue, there’s a corresponding “energetic knot” within our energy/pranic system. Spiritual practice can dissolve such knots and oftentimes, merely by just focusing on them, our power of detached witnessing and mindfulness can dissolve them into infinite expanse. Vipassana-style meditations, where one observes bodily and mental processes, frequently involve this type of psychological release as well. Moreover, doing proper yoga asanas or simply consciously tensing and releasing certain body parts can also bring psychological relief by releasing tension in the muscles, because there’s often a counterpart in the physical body to the energetic knots (i.e. a “physical knot”). All of this can result in an astonishing psychological purification, but it must not be confused with the “I” or “I am” presence that I refer to. You can integrate both types of practices, but don’t replace the latter for the former. When I say to look for consciousness or awareness or to look for a sense.of beingness or “I am” presence, I’m referring to the unlocalizable and unqualified experiencer of all experiences—that which is “aware of,” but is in itself, nothing at all. When you find this unfindable “I,” which, paradoxically, is only possible by being it, there may be accompanying sensations, perceptions, or feelings that fill this empty awareness. These sensations may be related to mental phenomena, psychological issues, or really anything at all. It’s okay if this happens, but just continue to “focus” on the “non-objectifiable” part of “I,” which is empty awareness. For example, if you look for “I” or consciousness and abide in the spaciousness of being, but feel a small perception or sensation in the middle or back of the head, in the heart, or anywhere at all, as if it were a translucent, fuzzy or even dense “speck,” this is perfectly fine. Such sensations may accompany this practice until the very end when everything totally drops away. But they are not what the “I” truly points toward— awareness. That’s where you have to be!