Is Celibacy a must in Yoga?

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. This article summarizes verses 14-36 from Chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Verses 14-15: Celibacy is walking in Consciousness

"Brahma" means Brahman or Universal Consciousness and "acharya" means walking. Thus brahmacharya means walking in Brahman. One might be tempted to think the Bhagavad-Gita recommends celibacy, but Brahmacharya has a far deeper meaning then practicing celibacy or sexual restraint. 

In the preceding verse you are instructed to sit unmoving with your head, neck and trunk aligned and focus your attention at the space between the nostrils. This point known as "nasikagram" is the space between the left and right nostrils. The left and right nostrils lead to the two nadis or energy channels flowing along the spine known as Ida and Pingala. Ida is the feminine energy and Pingala the masculine energy. They symbolize the two dualities: male and female. When your attention is focused at that space between the two nostrils, both the nadis become active leading to the flow of energy in the centralis canalis along the spine known as the Sushumna. The activation of Sushumna is also called Sandhya, the wedding of sun and moon, here all dualities vanish. The idea of male and female loses its meaning for the practitioner who enters the non-dualistic state or at least gains some glimpses of that non-dualistic state. 

A celibate is a person who goes beyond gender differences and sees all human beings as consciousness. Thus Brahmacharya has a far deeper meaning then mere sexual restraint. It is attaining a glimpse of non-dual reality and being absorbed in That. 

Such a yogi finds it very simple and natural to unite with the higher Self. When the mind is not externally busy or moving, it enjoys contemplation. Contemplation is the natural state of the mind, it is not distracted and not outward going, it retreats within and rests in itself. Then the Self is revealed. 

Verses 16-17: Regulating food and sleep

There are many paths in Yoga and many instances of extreme practices, some of which are self torture in the name of austerities. 

Torturing mind and body is a form of violence. It also disturbs the body and mind and is not useful for meditation or attainment of higher states of yoga. Regulation of food and sleep are important for the body as well as the mind. The one whose food and sleep are balanced, eliminates many sorrows. A balanced lifestyle is very important and is one of the stepping stones long before we start meditation practices or reading esoteric books. Without a healthy and balanced lifestyle, we cannot really progress. 

Verses 18-20:  What is a steady mind?

A steady mind is a mind without movement, this is only possible when all the four aspects of the mind are well coordinated. There are four aspects known as Manas, Buddhi, Chitta and Ahamkara. 

Verses 21-23: Limitless eternal joy

Limitless joy is beyond the senses and sensory objects. This is joy without a reason. Think of the happiest moment in your life.  Perhaps the happiest moment for you was when you fell in love for the very first time or got your first salary. As your life experiences increase, this might change and then it may be the day you get married or the moment you hold your baby in your arms. Imagine that this moment of happiness would last for ever. Now imagine that the reason for this joy just drops away. There is no reason any more, but the feeling of intense joy continues, not just a little longer but forever and eternally. This is the experience of Samadhi and when you can remain established in it, you become a Witness. This is known as Sakshatkara or Self realization. Having known such limitless joy, how can you value something else as higher?

Verses 24-28: Follow Buddhi

It is the first steps that are hard, because the mind is totally untrained. Once the mind is well trained and steady, purification is possible and attainable becomes a real possibility.

How can one train the mind and coordinate the four functions of the mind. The simple yet challenging solution: Follow Buddhi.  The mind may wander outwards, but listen to Buddhi and follow it’s guidance. It may be difficult initially but as you keep listening to the voice of Buddhi and keep following it, slowly it becomes easier and the mind gets steadier.

Verses 29-32: Seeing Consciousness everywhere

Yoga means union. The individual Self, Atman is united with the Universal Self, Paramatman. The one established in Yoga sees consciousness or Atman in all beings. In fact, he sees all the beings in consciousness. Everything is consciousness. He will see all beings as manifestation, that is, taking different forms. You can make different people, animals, plants and objects out of clay. Eventually all the forms and figures go back in to a formless mass of clay. Similarly we are all made of consciousness. The world around us is made of consciousness. This consciousness manifests in different forms and the one who sees this at all times, is the highest of yogis.

Verses 33-36: Doubt, a great obstacle

All those who may have observed and studied the mind with or without experience of meditation know that the mind is very powerful, fickle and difficult to restrain or direct. Arjuna is well aware of the power of the mind. Doubts assail him. Even an adhikari, the most qualified of students doubts himself and his abilities to master the mind. Doubt is one of the obstacles in the list of nine obstacles mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (YS I.30).

Verses 35-36: Practice and Non-attachment

Sri Krishna’s response is reiterated in the Yoga Sutras.  The mind can be trained and directed with Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (non-attachment). A well trained mind can attain Yoga with appropriate methods. The emphasis is on appropriate methods. Even the best of students may be handicapped by the method of sadhana. The Yoga Sutras talks of three kinds of methods: mild, medium and speedy.


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