Brahmacharya means to follow Brahman. To seek supreme reality, self, and god. In this aspect, Brahmacharya is inherently Hindu. It also represents fidelity when married, simple living, and celibacy when unmarried. Brahmacharya is also taken more seriously by many ascetics, including being complete celibate and emphasizing chastity for obtaining moksha.

However, Brahmacharya is a concept that exists in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism for monastic life that includes complete celibacy and no marriage.

Brahman is the universal spirit of Hinduism, the “divinity” that is at the core of each being, but also represents absolute reality and the universal-self.

Charya is a word that means following conduct, following, engaging, and is usually translated as virtuous.

Together, these words form the concept of following dharma towards moksha, or liberation. This concepts form the 4th Yama in the Hindu tradition and one of Mahavira’s eight teachings. It is a concept that follows alongside dharma, providing guidelines to act upon.

Okay, so let’s adapt this concept to modern life. If you are acting in a divine way, you aren’t doing anything that doesn’t feel great to you, this can include whatever you want it to include. You avoid pain and suffering. Other people’s judgement of the lifestyle that you choose is irrelevant to your own happiness, so forget about what people think about how you live. You can do whatever you want or need to do to make yourself happy, as long as it doesn’t intrude upon the divinity of other people. Understanding that each being is divine and contains this magic spark of life and that they are free to express that in whatever that being chooses to is important to being able to express your divinity.

Obviously this can apply to a wide variety of things. Suburbs made of concrete and tar do not respect the divinity of the land they are on. The trees around the developments have to be implemented and instead of cultivating and terraforming in congruence with the growth of the land, it is chopped away and replaced and completely controlled. We are not respecting the divine nature of the self-sustaining natural ecosystem by replacing it with our structures and squares that aren’t made in conjunction with prosperity for the land that it is on.

It also applies to relationships. How often do you feel great after a one night stand? What kind of bonds do you want with the romances in your life? How is it that we always remember our freaking roommates?!? How can you possibly be happy living with another person? I think a lot of relationship things come down to compatibility. Can the two people stand each other while they change over time? Do they explore together, or drive around in circles separately? What do they want out of life? What are their values, or what do they consider important? All of these things have to be compatible, not necessarily the same. When you find someone who has values, habits, beliefs, etc. that are compatible with your own, you can feel a sense of overwhelming calm, as if it was meant to be. Sometimes you can forget what it was like before you knew that person. I think this is all a side-effect of the human condition, of our own divinity, if you will.

But anyways, what does that mean, compatibility? Hell if I know, but I think it means that you don’t over-react to each other, that you live in somewhat similar circumstances. Tolerance is key, but honestly, it sucks. Shared passions I think make the greatest compatibility.

Find someone else that is compatible really comes down to the search. How you go about looking for love. Friends can become great lovers. So can expedited friendships that immediately turn into relationships. No need to rush things, everyone is already thinking about sex way too much in this country. People tend to find each other when they are following their passions. A lot of times, this is at work. I think that understanding that the other being is divine is key to the core respect of the relationship, or at least understanding that they are the same as you in so many ways. Even if you don’t use the word divine, instead maybe “hypercomplex”, “ultrasmart”, “understanding”, etc. I think divine is a great word to describe human capacity and potential. It is the only word that really encapsulates the tremendous power of it all, of human existence.

After all, we are closer to the size of mountains than the size of atoms. We are not insignificant cosmically, especially the complex molecules of our bodies regulatory systems. Whether you believe in divinity, or nothing, I believe we are talking about the same thing.

You see, to believe there is nothing is to deny the sense and all prior experience. To believe in something is order with the way of the cosmos. So if we make the assumption that the cosmos is, then the next question, inevitably, is what is the source of the cosmos. The only possible answer to this, is the cosmos itself. So the universe is its own source. To believe that a god created this source is to lack accounting for the source of god. So Hindus believe that Brahmacharya is to act in accordance with the universal laws of dharma, or the universe. Celibacy is definitely not necessary to truly be immersed in Brahmacharya.


The Eight Limbs of Yoga (part 7: Dhyana)

dhyana meditation

Dhyana is a type of meditation, like the other 2 last limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga Dharana and Samadhi. It is used to describe a specific meditation based on simultaneous awareness and detachment from the environment and the body. The transcendence of this meditation is Samadhi, which is the ultimate bliss of the 8th limb of yoga. This is when the consciousness detached from the body, reaching a higher state of feeling and awareness. Samadhi is ultimately obtained in Savasana, which is why emphasis is based on the posture in most Indian school of yoga.

Dhyana has similar meanings in Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions, meaning a focused meditation where one is aware of their surroundings, but detached from them as purely an observer. What does that mean? Essentially it means that the outside world has little influence upon the state of the practitioner. They are aware of the world, but uninfluenced by the fluctuations of the universe around them, fully detached and content with the internal sensations and peace that has been cultivate. This is an advanced state of meditation that Zen Buddhist have many practices for; this state is typically referred to as a precursor for Samadhi, or complete bliss.

In Buddhism, there are four levels of Dhyana, called the jhanas by the Sutta Pitaka, a Buddhist holy book, each of which increases the depth of meditation. Each level refers to a different state of meditative absorption where the practitioner is taken into a deep state of meditation, or an altered conscious state. Each focuses on creating more equanimity between thoughts and greater balance through destroying blockages in the thoughts. The jhanas are a set of meditative practices leading to increased serenity and are mentioned as the meditative exercises that the Buddha used underneath the bodhi tree and during the period where he taught about the eightfold path. Buddhists believe that a foundation of morality, proper conduct, and a removal of the five hindrances lead to the availability of the jhanas within meditation. One must scale the four jhanas in meditation in order to reach Samadhi, or the supreme state of bliss.

The Hindu definition of Dhyana is a bit different. Dhyana is the seventh limb of yoga and obtained after Dharana, or single pointed focus. This is the stage of awareness and detachment, simultaneously. The Dhyana meditational exercises are taken up to bring about increased self-knowledge, to assist in separate the maya (illusion) from reality to gain moksha, or liberation from Samsara. Dhyana is also a specific system that Sri Krishna gave to Arjuna within the Bhagavad Gita, being the fourth system of yoga after Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti yoga. In Dhyana, the meditator is not aware that they are meditating, but is only aware of existence. Dhyana comes after Dharana because the object of the senses becomes one with the meditator and not a separate object. This is a pure detachment from the physical world, leading to a relaxed concentration of the senses until the exercises of Jnana lead to Samadhi, or bliss.

Dharana is an integral part of the Samyama (the last 3 limbs of yoga), detaching the mind from its physical bindings in the world. The jnanas, or stages of Dhyana, are fairly elusive, but they build the serenity of the practitioner until thoughts are actually linked to reality. It could be inferred that this means that the constructive nature of the mind if let go to actually perceive reality for the first time, which then leads to the blissful state of Samadhi. Self-knowledge, it seems, are the last steps up the ladder of the 8 limbs of yoga.

The seventh limb of yoga is very interesting and quite complex; I expect traveling to India will give me new insights into how the exercises of Jnana and Dhyana can be completed to raise consciousness to the blissful state of Samadhi. Simultaneous awareness and detachment is powerful, using these concepts in your own yoga practice may change things quite a bit. Stay tuned for the final limb of yoga, Samadhi, the final step on the path to enlightenment.