Continuing on from last week’s Sex Blog (which received some interesting comments), I decided to write on the opposite Yogic perspective in regard to sex and sexual energy, Brahmacharya.
Brahmacharya is one of the possible practices in Yoga. It literally means “going after (charya) God (Brahman)”. It deals with the specific use of sexual energy (which for the sake of this blog we will name as the sexual: organs, fluids, sensations, feelings, experiences and thoughts of an individual) for practice in Yoga. Practitioners who chose to attempt Brahmacharya might show it by practicing celibacy when single and monogamy while in relationship. A practitioner of Brahmacharya might even remain celibate in a committed relationship. In other cases, particularly in the instance of a monastic lifestyle, the practitioner might renounce sex and marriage altogether. Whether or not this recommendation of Brahmacharya is practiced strictly or in a more liberal way, “going after God” and celibacy have been entwined in practice in many World Religions and spiritual traditions, including Yoga, for thousands of years.
It appears that the majority of the individuals who renounce sex for God often don’t find the satisfaction and fulfillment they are looking for. And many appear to behave in ways that are misaligned to their stated intention.
This makes me wonder:
“For whom is ‘going after God’ an appropriate and useful context for celibacy?” And if in fact it is not useful, “what is an appropriate context for celibacy on a spiritual or transformative path?”
Within the realms of human interaction, one of the most dynamic tensions we experience is relating with the opposite sex. When you combine this with the fact that for most living things sex (or procreation) is the strongest motivator; it looks like Nature is giving us an obvious, although humorously hidden-in-plain-sight lesson on what an appropriate context for celibacy might be on a spiritual/transformative path…
‘To grow into a mature and appropriate relationship toward the “opposite” sex.’
The practicality of this view is astonishing. Not only does the practitioner have an unending capacity to grow in this, but the very change in motivation for relating to the opposite sex tends to produce the type of respect and vulnerable connection a long-term thriving relationship requires. And, the bottom line is that it is the very rare practitioner who is genuinely ready to give up sex for God. Eventually, it seems, most of us would reach an impasse where when faced with the choice of “God” on one hand, and a fantastic, tantalizing, juicy sexing on the other, “God” just ain’t gonna cut it.
From the practitioners that I know who attempt it, it looks like the most common form of Brahmacharya is to practice celibacy when single and monogamy when in a sexual relationship. In addition to sex, the practice of celibacy also includes the non-engagement of all sorts of heavy petting, sexual cuddling, internet porn, psychic sex, etc.
For the Yoga practitioner working with Brahmacharya, the act of sexual monogamy becomes something far greater than it might initially seem. It is not done for the mere mentalized ‘rightness’ of it; but rather as an expression of the practitioner’s one-pointed commitment to seeking the Divine in relationship. It is not that one is monogamous or celibate for the seeking of God, rather that the act itself is the seeking. Sexual intercourse in this relationship does not necessarily fall outside the practice of Brahmacharya, provided it is not excessively wasteful, harmful, or abusive.
For the celibate practitioner, sexual energy is directed not outwardly toward another. It can then be directed inwardly, i.e. ‘toward the Divine Presence’. It is still my conjecture that in the beginning, celibacy is best for the purpose of cultivating a healthy, kind, and respectful relationship toward the opposite sex. I also feel that after years of investigation into one’s sexuality and discovering the reality of how it plays out in the world, one might grow into a natural letting go of worldly sexual aim and be willing to direct the entirety of sexual energy to the inward path.
On the path to “God”, The Yoga tradition recommends that one sincerely see and feel into their motivation for actions; ‘awareness’ of the ‘actions themselves’ is not enough, for there is far too much unknown and ignored territory to rest in one’s current knowing of self. Furthermore, the recommendation to renounce the outward use of sexual energy, seems best done as all Yogic renouncing is best done, when the mind/body is prepared and ready for it.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.