Philosophy Podcast E22: Yoga Sutras I 12 – 15

Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 22: Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress.

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Is Brahmacharya a Life without Sex?

Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga. Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as…

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Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga.

Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as a general attitude towards life. Lets begin by exploring Brahmacharya as an aspect of yoga.

The path of yoga was codified over 2000 years ago by the yogi and scholar Patanjali. He expressed yoga as having eight yoga, aspects or limbs, like the branches of a tree. I think it is helpful to conceptualize organically, where different aspects are integrated simultaneously. Neither yoga nor life moves in a purely linear fashion.

The first two limbs of the tree of yoga are known as the yamas and niyamas. I would define the yamas as “moral & ethicalethical principles,” and the niyamas as disciplines and conduct.

Brahmacharya is one of the 5 yamas. Literally speaking Brahmacharya means ‘the conduct ‘ (charya) that leads to Brahma, which is, in yoga philosophy, the experience of the Ultimate Reality. Buddhism would call this highest reality Nirvana; Christianity uses the term: the ‘Kingdom of Heaven within.’ Different names for the same river.

The question we each must ask is “what actions and experiences of mine will move me closer to this ultimate reality and what actions and experiences will move me further away.” It is deep in our spiritual hearts and conscience that we each find the answers for ourselves.

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Brahmacharya and sexual relations

Historically speaking, in the ancient indian texts brahmacharya refers to one of the four stages of life. This first stage—brahmacharya–is the ‘student’ life. This is the period just before puberty and up until marriage. It is characterized by spiritual and secular study and strict adherence to the yamas: non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing; not-receiving gifts and strict celibacy. In the yamas this celibacy is also referred to as brahmacharya. So the word brahmacharya refers to both a stage of life and sexual abstinence.

Monasticism

In monastic traditions, both Eastern and Western, celibacy, or abstinence from sexual relations is considered one of the foundations of the spiritual life. While this is often a life-long practice limited periods of abstinence are also an integral part of many spiritual traditions.

The basic idea of sexual-abstinence is that the same energy that fuels our sexuality, including our sexual thoughts, also fuels our spiritual quest. This energy is the creative force of the universe. Each of us needs to decide how and when we will utilize abstinence in our own lives and how and when to express our sexuality.

–Sujantra

Sujantra speaks more on brahmacharya in his video Brahmacharya.

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The Roots of Yoga of Patanjali

Ancient Philosophy – Yoga is a great way to make your body and nervous system strong, balanced and flexible…

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Ancient Philosophy

Yoga is a great way to make your body and nervous system strong, balanced and flexible. Yoga is also an ancient Indian philosophical system through which you can experience uplifting and mystical states of awareness. Yoga mean ‘to yoke, to bring together.’ Through yoga you can experience the unity, the oneness of the individual and the universal. In the yoga philosophy this is called “Samadhi.” It is an awareness of the “heaven within” or nirvana. This spiritual ecstacy and the joy it brings to life is the goal of yoga.

Yoga is one of the six ancient philosophies of India. The other areas of study were: grammar, mathematics, ethics, astronomy and metaphysics. From these emerged sciences such as astrology, ayurveda, hatha yoga and modern mathematics.

The Yoga Sutras and Vivekananda

The codification of yoga was done over 2000 years ago by the sage Patanjal and is known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The writing is composed of 196 concise statements, most no more than a sentence or two. Various commentators, both ancient and modern, have elaborated these sutras. My favorite translation was written at the beginning of the 19th century by Swami Vivekananda, one of the first yogis to bring Indian philosophy to the West at the Parliament of Religions in 1893. His book is entitled Raja Yoga.

The yoga sutras are divided into 4 chapters which describe the basic principles of yoga, the actual practices of yoga, the powers that arise through yoga and an elaboration on the higher states of consciousness attained through yoga.

It is interesting to note that only 2 or 3 actual postures—asanas—, are described in the writing and both are related to asanas for meditation and pranayama. Patanjali says the postures should be “firm but pleasant” in order to free the mind from bodily awareness.

The Yamas and More

Most relevant to modern Western yogis are the sutras in chapters 2 and 3 which describes yoga as being composed or 8 limbs or aspects. It is in these sutras that Patanjali talks about the Yamas—moral injunctions; the Niyamas—daily observances; Asana—the postures with which we are so familiar in the west, Pranayama—breath control, Pratyahara—the inward turning of the senses; Dharana—concentration; Dhayana—meditation and the ultimate Samadhi—the liberation of consciousness.

Learn more about the specifics of the yoga sutras through our videos and writings. Namaste.

Sujantra

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