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Brahmacharya

I hope you are enjoying our journey together through the Yamas and that you may have encountered a new perspective on your own excursion of them. For the most part, up to this point, we have discussed Yamas that are very much in line with the West's Judeo-Christian values. Non-harming, truth, and non-stealing are very much a part of our lives and are legislated (to one extent or another). Now we come to brahmacharya. The literal translation of brahmacharya means to 'move towards Brahman.' In Hinduism, Brahman is considered to be 'the creator' or 'the divine.' So brahmacharya calls us to walk towards the divine.

Let's take a moment to address the fact that some folks may not believe in a deity figure or may have negative emotions regarding figures in organized religions. You do not have to be a religious person to observe brahmacharya.

Another common interpretation of brahmacharya relates it to celibacy. Some surmise that the misuse or overuse of sexual energy may bring about disruption to your yogic journey. This interpretation is troublesome given the sordid history of many a guru who encourages their followers to remain celibate while the guru failed to. Also, the language used has historically been rather loaded and used as a cudgel against women more often than not.

What makes sense to me is the view of brahmacharya as set forth by Deborah Adele in her book, 'The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice.' In the book, we are called to view brahmacharya by considering the sanctity or holiness of all our experiences. Again, we can mute the words' holiness', 'sanctity'; instead, we should view all of our experiences as miraculous. Think of it. Every single moment that you experience is one of a kind. Sure, you may have a monotonous job or a repetitive routine, but every single second is a unique miracle. You can alter this moment with the choices you make.

If we view each moment as a gift, a miracle, and we approach it with sacredness, we can begin to truly appreciate those moments for what they are. That's the gift that brahmacharya can grant us. By recognizing each moment as holy, then we make decisions more reverent to that belief. Suddenly, we begin to act in a way that we honor those interactions in our life. You begin to see the uniqueness in our relationships. We begin to see the merits of our nourishment. We celebrate each passing moment for what it is, a unique miracle in which we hold power. Though brahmacharya is the fourth Yama that we've discussed, we can use it to lead our interactions. If we honor brahmacharya, then we take actions that do not harm (ahimsa), we live in truth (satya), and we don't steal from the present moment (asteya).