Brahmacharya is about chastity. No, don't close the book and toss it aside! This yama doesn't mean telling your spouse the fun is over and you now need separate beds. Brahmacharya is about virtue, and not just when it comes to sex. Many great yogis are householders, which means they are married ... with children.
Brahma means "truth," and car means "to move," so brahmacharya essentially means "to control the movement of truth." Lust and desire, in their many forms, obscure truth. Developing the inner strength to control our lusts and desires helps us to see truth more clearly. In other words, brahmacharya is a movement toward responsible behavior and a higher truth beyond the physical, the force of "I want" in life. The Bhagavad Gita describes this yama in the following way:
"While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment, lust develops, and from lust, anger arises. From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion, bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool."
Being virtuous means holding the opposite sex in high esteem and nurturing respect for someone you love. It also means holding yourself in high esteem and refusing to let your body be swayed by its every whim, desire, and want, whether that desire is for a person or for power or for a pound of Hershey's Kisses. Refusing to let your body be swayed by desire certainly doesn't preclude sex, a good promotion, or chocolate, for that matter. Instead, this yama encourages the kind of restraint and attitude towards those things we tend to desire that will help keep our minds clear and focused.
Engaging in meaningless physical contact may only lead you away from the possibility of encountering someone who could become a life partner.
The brahmacharya yama is often described as being about sex, and technically, it does preclude sexual lust—the one-night stand, using people sexually (including yourself), and all the other things we typically associate with the word "lust." Letting your desire for sex consume you is no way to become self-aware or calm and centered! But brah-macharya also encompasses lusts and desires of all kinds. At the very heart of this yama, desire itself, no matter its object, is what keeps us from seeing truth. To master our desires is to gain self-awareness.
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