Now, can you differentiate what is spiritual from what is sensual?

When the parents are spiritually united sexually, the first child is a divine child. It is a pure flower of pure love and pure communion. But after the first child,  can you maintain the same communion as you had in that first flowering of your love? If that love can be maintained throughout your life, it is a divine love. If the love changes, and if the wife or the husband splashes out on somebody else, like when you splash water, then you must understand whether that is a true spiritual love, or a sensual love. It has to be experienced. It is subjective. Each one can feel whether it is only a sensual pleasure, or a spiritual divine communion of love between two people.

There is a moral concept in the philosophy of yoga which has led to a great deal of misunderstanding. This is the fourth aspect of yama, known as brahmacharya. According to the dictionary, ‘brahmacharya’ means celibacy, religious study, self-control and chastity.

All the treatises on yoga explain that the loss of semen leads to death and its retention to life. Patanjali also emphasises the importance of continence of body, word and mind. He explains that the preservation of semen produces valour and vigour, strength and power, courage and bravery, energy and the elixir of life; hence his injunction to preserve it through a concentrated effort of will.

Nevertheless, the philosophy of yoga is not intended only for celibates. Nearly all the yogis and sages of ancient India were married and had families. The sage Vasistha, for example, had  a hundred children and was nevertheless considered a brahmachari because he did not seek only pleasure in sexual relations.

Brahmacharya is thus not a negative concept, nor an enforced austerity, nor a prohibition. Actually, the sages who were married would determine by a study of the stars what was an auspicious day to have sexual relations, so their progeny would be virtuous and spiritually minded. This discipline was considered to be a part of brahmacharya.

Today, in the name of freedom, everyone behaves like a libertine, but the life of a libertine is not true freedom. The five principles of yama constitute social ethics. Each individual should observe a certain discipline within society. Only freedom combined with discipline is true freedom.

For me, brahmacharya is happy married life, since the married man or woman learns to love their partner both with the head and the heart, whereas the so-called brahmachari, who claims to be celibate, may love nobody but cast a lustful eye on whoever he or she might meet.

– B. K. S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga

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