What the brahmacharya?? / by vanessa

Roberto is in town taking Shiva's ayurveda workshop and so we practiced together yesterday and then went to Urth for dinner. Yoga3 is taking off for him and Chanel which is so super cool. There's a generation of us that started in the BPYI training program around the same time and where our paths are going is pretty cool. Many have opened studios and there are a number who are going on to teach their own yoga workshops around the globe. It's inspiring, really.

Which reminds me that on the path there will always be hurdles or someone along the way to tell you why it can't be done. Keep going anyway. I am awed by the fact that regardless of how big we can dream, we are still capable of more.


I've been contemplating what bramacharya really means. Brahmacharya is one of the commands of the yamas, or moral restraints (kinda like the Ten Commandments), within the Yoga Sutras, which is a really old text containing the tenets of yoga. It is generally agreed that brahmacharya can be translated as moving towards Truth, but its application is widely disputed. Many, including Gandhi, insist that the brahmacharyan must abstain from carnal pleasures (apparently I've become shy) and his diet simplified to what would amount to raw foodism. The point is not the sacrifice in and of itself; rather it's that in order to walk with God, the mind must be free of passions, or things which would otherwise control the mind -- food and sex being two common culprits. Desikachar, a son of modern yoga, simply describes brahmacharya as the act of moderation.

As translations go, I suspect that Patanjali probably meant something closer to Gandhi's understanding, though I do appreciate Desikachar for his attempt at modernizing. I don't base my suspicion on any knowledge of Sanskrit, in fact, I am ignorant. But for real, if for the past ~2000 years Sutras scholars have been saying 'it means x' then it seems to me the likelihood is that it was meant to mean x. Which doesn't mean the command is right to begin w/.

So I have a few questions. First, is the path to God only found through controlling the senses? And second, if so, is control only reached through abstaining? (This is where Desikachar steps in nicely.) And third, if so, why? It doesn't make sense to me that walking with God would be limited to those who chose not to have children, or that it was only possible after and not *while* or before having had children as Gandhi did, for example.

Anyway, I'm curious and excited to learn the answer.


P.S. As it turns out, I hadn't in fact mixed metaphors - Catwoman and Superman are both DC. (Thanks Matt!)