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Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Brahmacarya: Sexual Responsibility

The fourth Yama involves right relationship to kama,which is sensual pleasure. The word Brahmacarya means "to move in or with Brahman," thought of here as the ultimate reality. One can see this generally as walking in harmony with the Tao, or Dharma, or God's Will. According to Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra, the practice of Brahmacarya yields vitality (virya).

This practice has come to be thought of as the practice of chastity. To be chaste is not the same as to be celibate, although in some traditions, monastics do take this Yama to be one of celibacy. For householder Yogins and Yoginis, chastity is sexual relations free of manipulation, oppression, exploitation, offensiveness etc. It is the practice of "pure sex," or sexual responsbility -- conscious sexuality.

The Buddha made this his Third Precept. Here is how it is worded by Thich Nhat Hanh as the "Third Mindfulness Training:"

"Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct."

Perhaps as with no other training, I depend upon Sangha to help me with this practice, as nowhere outside of Sangha do I feel supported in my own commitment to my wife. Everywhere I turn, I feel bombarded my messages from movies, ads, novels and music that adultery is good -- exciting, full of passion. We are manipulated to root for couples to find fullfillment outside marriage (or their commited relationship) in so many movies, I cannot help but think what the message is that we are sending to our youth about the non-seriousness of our commitments.

I write this on a day that the Yoga world is focusing on the allegations of sexual misconduct of one of its biggest "celebrities." If he is truly "guilty" of this, watch how quickly some will rush to condemn and how others will just as quickly jump to defend. Both sides missing the larger point. This man is very attractive, and has been referred to as a "stud muffin" in the press. We need to look deeply and see how the culture -- OUR culture -- has contributed to the conditions that have led to his misconduct. I am sure that he is suffering, as must his wife, and the women he has had affairs with.

At all his appearances, the press is sure to mention the throng of women pressing against him. Now, I want to be very firm in saying that the ultimate responsibility for one's actions are always oneself. However, as the above training says, part of the practice of Brahmacarya is honoring the commitments of others. I have counseled more than one woman who has "dated" a married man and justified it by telling herself that since she was not married, she wasn't committing adultery. At least several of them eventually came to the realization that they were in fact responsible for not honoring the commitments of others and thus are responsible to a degree for helping break the commitment that existed between the man and his wife.

One practice is to really look deeply at the motivation of your sexual behavior. Are you looking for sexual relations to assuage loneliness? Or anger? You might like to engage this precept by resolving for the next week or so to meticulously observe how often sexual feelings arise in your consciousness. Note which mind states are associated with them, such as love, tension, compulsion, concern, loneliness, the desire for communication or connection, pleasure, aggression and so forth. This is the practice of conscious sex. And it can be amazingly transformative.


.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 1:03 PM

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