Loving, Liking, and Bhramacharya
Today, and perhaps always, there is so much confusion between liking and loving, desiring and choosing. Framing our relationships in light of energy is clarifying— a kind of guilty free morality that uplifts and inspires.
In English, “like” originated as a verb that meant suitable, pleasing, and was used for objects (ie: this hat likes me well= this hat suits my head, looks good for my face). Later, we objectified ourselves, and how we say: I like the hat/ I make this hat look good. Or: I like that girl; I make her look good.
We can also double-tap to express “like” without words, which translates on touch screen into a heart, which used to be a symbol for love.
Love was originally a noun that became a verb. Think of what that means. An object came to life, into action. The latin adore (similar to the Bengali adhor, or loving affection) comes from the root ad-, which expresses “to” or towards. Towards what? The Divine. Adoration began as a word for worship, high praise.
Love has a sense of divinity, the eternal, ever present; likes and dislikes are mixers of past into the present, which today’s preferences are based on past experiences guiding future expectations of pain/pleasure (see: social media algorithms that take your double-tapping data to present more of what you like, narrowing your vision and giving you the expectation that apps will bring you pleasure).
In liking, there is a foundational presumption of stability or sameness: what we like/enjoyed in the past informal what we like/want in the present: either a past-like future (in which case we make the same choices again and again; the same hats; the sam girls) or a un-past-like future (in which case we make different choices; hats; girls… this latter option works best when the change comes from within, otherwise the center point remains the same and dissatisfaction with hats and girls can go on for eternity.)
Want and desire travel together. Desire can be for
1. the known,
2. the unknown and get-to-knowable, or for
3. the unknowable, the unattainable/divine.
When we desire and obtain what we already know, it is for comfort, the sense of sameness/stability. When we desire and obtain what was unknown but becomes known, we often lose the desire, which shifts towards a new unknown.
The only way to lose desire for the unknowable, the unattainable, is through forgetting.
Perhaps the yogis thought of all this before I did. The ancient seers made bhramacharya foundational to the yoga life, the first step that comes before practicing asana and pranayama.
The literal translation is to be a follower of the creative manifestation of the divine: charya (follow) Bhrama (the first, the creator). With the waves of cultural changes and sexual repression, this was increasingly translated as “chastity”, and to be student like (celibate, focused on studies). This “PG 13” kind of interpretation belies the yogic teachings of tantra, and the Ayurvedic respect for Ojas, the vital energy that is also sexual energy.
Bhramacharya is a principle of lifestyle, timeless and evolving, both. It makes more sense to consider what it is to be god-like, to be divine, to be impeccable with your energy, your life force. Then we can be rational, analytical, looking at our energy and elevating our daily life experience without the morass of morality/guilt.
Where is our energy? Centered in our center, our hara. When we lose energy, we feel uncentered. The biggest pull on our energy is struggling against what is, which includes attachments (often confused with love).
For the mind, the struggles that dissipate energy are: stress, indecision, narrow-vision work, distraction, and internet absorption (ancient yogis didn’t have to work with that one).
For the body, the dissipations of energy are tension, repression, workouts, digestion, and healing (this is often focused and positive while draining in the short term).
When we give energy to others, it can be in the form of helping and caring, concern and worry, and healing. When we love, the energy flows evenly in both directions so there is no attachment, no loss of energy, and often an increase, a flux, of good vibes, the love-high. This is how we also move past the duality of masculine/feminine to see that in relationship, we are purely undifferentiated energy.
We feel the flux of energy between ourselves and others when we have a shared purpose, a shared vision/perception of the world. Within ourselves, we amplify our own energy by synchronizing mind and body, through breath, through flow state. When we practice asana and pranayama well, we increase our energy. Bhramacharya is important in that it stops the cycle of energetic ups and downs.
How do we seal the energy leaks? We have to see what dissipates stored power, while simultaneously creating the space/structure for storing power (clean, strong body-mind) and filling ourselves with good energy through yogic practices. We know we are centered in good energy when we experience high function immunity, keen perception of the world (including people), and vigorous energy to do what (or whom!) you desire.
With keen perception, you know what actions are true, and what will cause pain/pleasure cycles. Practicing yoga founded in bhramacharya means that you clearly see your energy, and how to elevate yourself beyond plateaus and cycles of desire/craving.