Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brahmacharyam (In Yama, the 1st step) = The conquest of Maya = What is it & what is it not? =Yoga sutras = of Patanjali = why self control?


Brahmacharyam is especially an EASTERN concept – an Indian concept at that. It is regarded as another major pillar of Yama, the first step of Ashtanga Yoga.

An Individual’s life, especially a man’s life, is divided into 4 stages. Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vaana prastha and Sanyaasa. These are called 4 stages or four Asramas of life. In modern idiom, these equate to student life, Married life, retired life, renounced life.

An individual must necessarily be a Brahmachari in his student life. Brahmachari means – a celibate, one who has given up sexual life - in thought, word and deed. But, this is not enough to be a Brahmachari. He must strive to learn and understand the eternal truth and the existential truth both – from a competent Guru. Brahman means the eternal truth (God in common terms); chari means, one who treads this path. Brahmachari literally therefore means one who treads the path of eternal truth.

In the ancient days, students had to go to a Guru, get accepted by him as disciple after proving their sincerity and devotion and then learn all that the Guru teaches them. They stayed in the Ashram of the Guru till their study is completed.

Therefore, contact with opposite sex is not only not possible but is strictly forbidden for the students. Control over self must be attained before one is regarded as FIT FOR MARRIAGE or Grihastha Asrama. In fact, control over Self is one of the major subjects taught by Gurus. Yoga also is a subject devoted to self control.

Sexual Indulgence, if one does not go through Brahmacharya Asrama,  is known to take away one’s self control – and surrender it to the person of one’s interest in the opposite sex. 

But, one who has gone through Brahmacharya Asrama takes total control over his life into his hands. His subsequent marriage and begetting of children etc – do not deprive him of his self-control. He will also not get into illegal and extra-marital sex affairs at any time.

The Brahmacharya period normally ends before actually entering into youth – unless his studies continue beyond this period also. At any time later in life, if one wants to learn some special skills, faculties etc, one again has to go to a Guru, stay in his Ashram and practice Brahmacharyam – during the period of his studies. 

When one wants to be a Yoga Sadhaka – Brahmacharyam is a necessary attitude to instill. It is a part of the first step of YAMA.

After all, what is the definition of Yoga? Yogah Chittha Vritthi Nirodhah. We started our journey of the Patanjali Yoga sutras with this Definition. 

Sex Urge - in thought, word or deed is one of the most potent killers of self control and induces self-dominating chittha vritthis in us. We no more can retain self control and surrender it to any person on whom our sexual interest rests. Some people are known to surrender it entirely – and become a slave of the opposite sex in general. The potency of sex urge in man is so well known – that its control and proper direction is itself taken as a special subject of study.

We have heard the story of how Manmatha (the God of love or cupid) tried to conquer even Lord Siva through his Love-weapons – which crate the sex-urge in man and woman. Lord Siva turned him into ashes and finally allowed him to remain alive without shape and form. But Manmatha’s power over mortals is extraordinary and quite well known. Also known is the fact that a determined Yogi can awaken the Siva in him to conquer the God of Love. This was made clear in verse.1.23 which says – “Eeswara pranidhanaadwaa”. This means that you can achieve yoga through surrender to Eeswara. This in turn means - awaken HIM in you.

What causes the surrender of a man to the attractions of the opposite sex? The causative factor, in modern science, is called (sex) Hormones. But, in ancient days, it is regarded as a divine Maya

Procreative Urge is created in every human being by this divine Maya, and some pleasure also invested in it – so that people indulge in sex at the appropriate time of life when they are strong and intelligent - and the human race is maintained through it. For the woman, apart from the sex pleasure, the pleasures of motherhood are added – for the same purpose. But for the addition of these pleasures – man will not himself involve in procreative act and woman will not take up motherhood. 

But a Brahmachari is different – and he knows how to keep this Maya (acting as his sex urge) under his total control. There are of course many other ways – Maya acts on all the beings.

How does Brahmachari control his sex instincts totally. Yoga sutras themselves have already prescribed the method. This method is called “witnessing.” Stand back from yourself and witness your instincts; witness your mind where these urges are arising; witness its horrific effect on your self; witness the  fleeting nature of these so called pleasures; witness also how other people look even to your eyes when they are acting under these instincts; This witnessing process itself brings your mind back under your control.Verses 1.3 and 1.4 of Yoga sutras tell us succinctly that when you remain a Saakshi or witness, your are your real self. Else, you are carried away by the chittavritthis.

Let us look at a beautiful story illustrating the effect of Maya when one does not remain a Saakshi. The divine sage Narada was of course, an accomplished Brahmachari, a great devotee and a Great Yogi – who was not subject to Maya of any form right from his birth – whether of sexual attraction or the other emotional disturbances like anger, hatred etc.

Once he visits Lord Krishna, the giver of Bhagavad Gita, when Krishna’s wives were all playing with him.

Narada says, “Krishna! I have heard so much about your Maya and how it takes away all reason and intelligence from people’s minds and dazzles them in their lives. Why don’t you show me also how your Maya works?”  Krishna says, Narada- you are a Great devotee of me and a Yogi too. You need not experience Maya.

But Narada insists that being a devotee – he must also know the Lord’s Maya, which he has not experienced from his Birth. Krishna finally consents and says, let’s us go and see how my Maya is working.  They walk for a few days across forests and come across a desert. While walking on the desert, Krishna says – Narada! You are always walking in all the worlds and you are accustomed to walking. But, I am not accustomed to so much walking. I am tired. Why don’t you bring me some water from the hut we see over there. I will rest for a few minutes till then.

Narada accepts and goes to the hut. He taps the hut door and the door is opened by a young, beautiful girl. She asks him, who he was and why he has come. Narada looks at this young, beautiful, alone girl in the hut for a few minutes. 

The more, he looks at her, the more he finds her a very special and strange person. He hasn’t seen a more beautiful girl in heaven or any of the worlds he has travelled so far. Lord Indra is a fool to have married his wife, Sachidevi, when such a beautiful girl is here on earth. None of the wives of any God possess so much beauty. He knows it – having seen all of them. Is being Narada greater than being Lord Indra? No…. But,… If I marry this most beautiful girl here on earth, am I not more fortunate than any of the Gods, including Indra? 

Narada’s mind is reeling with all these thoughts. Think fast. Do something. His mind is telling him and urging him now. Yes. He now wants to be better than Lord Indra by marrying this Girl. Instant love takes over him. He proposes to her immediately. The girl too was about to agree. But, then, in comes her old father into the hut. Her father says – Narada, you are always roaming all over the universe. Unless you promise to stay here and take care of my daughter – how can I give my daughter in marriage to a permanent nomad like you.

Narada finds this a reasonable condition, accepts it and gets married to the Girl. The old father goes away on a pilgrimage journey after the marriage. Narada and his beautiful wife live happily and soon, beget a son and daughter. They are now as old as five and three respectively. They are all very happy; more happy than any one in heaven can be.

But, bad days do come. One morning, they wake up to find that a huge flood is approaching the place very fast. The flood waters are rising in height every minute. Narada tells his wife – this place is low. It is not safe. Let us go to a higher place quickly. Narada  takes his son on his shoulders. His wife takes the daughter on her shoulders.

They both leave the hut and start walking fast towards a higher, safer place. But, the flood waters are faster. They come so fast and high that Narada’s and his wife’s strength start failing them. Narada takes immediate decision and tells his wife – look, if you are safe, we will again beget as good a daughter. But, you are important. Leave the daughter and walk faster. With reluctance, his wife obeys him. The daughter is washed away in the floods.

But, now, Narada finds his load of his son also too much. He again decides - if we two reach safely, we can again beget a son and a daughter. You and I are important. So, Narada leaves his son also in the floods, takes hold of his beautiful wife’s hand and starts walking towards the safer place. But, the flood waters are gaining too much in speed very fast. 

Soon, the wife also is unable to walk on the earth. Her feet are floating. Narada grips her hand firmly – as firmly as his physical strength allowed him. But, the flood waters prove stronger. The wife also is washed away from Narada’s grip  by a huge wave. Narada is even unable to locate her in the flood waters. 

Narada stands shocked to the core of his heart. He weeps profusely but, any way walks to the higher, safer place, weeping and alone. His whole world lies shattered and utterly destroyed. His most beautiful wife is gone. His son and daughter are gone. Life has become so lonely and unbearable now. What is the point of living now? Narada keeps his head on his knees  and is weeping uncontrollably.

Just then, a gentle hand taps his shoulder and says, Narada, Narada, what happened? Why are you weeping?

Narada lifts his head and sees Krishna innocently asking him this. Narada flies into a rage. He says – I am your best devotee, and here you are – you have allowed my wife to be killed, my son and daughter to be killed – and razed my heaven like life into shambles in these floods. Why, why..what have I done wrong to You?  To your best devotee, is this what you do? You could have stopped the floods. You did not. Why?

Lord Krishna smiles and asks – what floods? What wife? What son? What daughter? What are you speaking of? I asked you a few minutes ago to bring a glass of water. Here, you are – weeping for the loss of a wife, a son, a daughter! What are you talking of? What are you doing without bringing me water?

Narada lifts his head and sees all round. There is no desert. No trace of any floods. No hut. No trace of his beautiful wife, son or daughter. Narada and Lord Krishna are still sitting on the steps of Krishna’s garden. Lord Krishna is pointing merely at the well and the hut at the other end of the Garden-and asking for water. Narada shook his head well and tried to think. Nothing could be put cogently in its place. 

He suddenly recalls his own request to Krishna to show him his Maya. Now Narada asks – Krishna, please. Enough is enough. Please bring me out of your Maya. Krishna smiles. Narada is brought out of the Maya again. 

The puranas are full of beautiful stories of how powerful is Maya and how it can be conquered. Lord Krishna with his eight wives and 16,000 Gopikas – is  considered the Greatest Brahmachari and is named “Yogeswara”. Siva, with his consort, Gauri – is considered Adi Yogi and yogeeswara. All Yogis like Vasista lived with their wives and begot several children also. So what is Brahmacharyam and what is Yoga? 

Internally, Maya is equated with our “Chittha Vritthis.” All Maya happens in them and through them only. If the Chitta Vritthis are under control, Maya is your servant, you are the Master, you are in Brahmacharyam and you are the Yogi. 

But, while you are still a Sadhaka, rigorous self control needs to be practiced. It is preferable to stay away from persons and objects which take away your self control. As the Sadhaka tries to conquer them – initially they try to pull him back into them, but, later, render all out support to him.

The whole path of Yoga is full of great benefits for the Yogi. The third chapter – vibhuti pada – is full of descriptions of these benefits, which are in the nature of Gradual mastery over Chitta Vritthis (or Maya). 

But, every time – the sex urge comes into you- you must ask the question -Now, am I the Master of myself? Do not allow any one outside of you to be your Master. Be your own Master. Even Guru says – I too am not your master. Be your own Mater! That, in essence, is Brahmacharyam.

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