According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Yoga is governed by a series of ethical principles known as Yamas and Niyamas. These principles are the first two limbs of the eight limbs (ashtanga: ash = eight, anga = limbs) of Yoga. Aparigraha and Brahmacharya are both Yamas, two universal moral principles. Besides, these two codes are part of almost every spiritual tradition, whether the tradition belongs to eastern or western culture. Aparigraha means non-possessiveness and Brahmacharya can be loosely translated as celibacy.
When we look at these two codes of conduct from our modern materialistic perspective, we might feel that these codes are not feasible in today’s day and time. On the contrary, these social codes play a very significant role in spiritual growth if followed by people today. How are we able to implement Yamas into our daily practice as householder yogis? Let us have a closer look at those two principles for a better understanding.
Aparigraha as explained is the quality of non-possessiveness. In other words, a life of Aparigraha is a minimalistic life. This encourages an aspirant of the spiritual path to identify the essential needs and eliminate the tendency of greed and self-indulgence which is unnecessary in life. Since we live in the age of consumerism – where indulgence is promoted, at times we miss seeing the difference between our true needs and how they differ from insatiable desires. This may be a result of our inner insecurities and a form of compensation for the mental and emotional vacuum we experience in our lives. But as soon as we begin to experience inner contentment and find happiness in minimalism, then the urge to acquire more than what we need fades away. Aparigraha is experienced once we begin to incorporate the quality of becoming non-accumulative into our lives.
Aparigraha as explained is the quality of non-possessiveness. In other words, a life of Aparigraha is a minimalistic life.
Aparigraha is about leading a very simplistic life, while constantly being in touch with our innermost needs. It teaches us that our needs are few, but our desires can be unlimited. And, if we don’t learn to manage these desires, then they will consume us. Being free from desires provides us with an opportunity to lead a very balanced, poised and happy life. When we follow Aparigraha, happiness and harmony begin to flow through us and this is not dependent on any material object. Happiness and harmony are the inner states of being, and consumerism cannot buy us these experiences. In Yoga practices, Aparigraha plays a very significant role in the spiritual development of the practitioners.
Brahmacharya can be loosely translated as celibacy and is not just abstinence from sexual life. Rather, in the yogic context, it’s about managing one’s self-indulgence through sensuous objects. It is very important to understand that Brahmacharya is not suppression of sexual instincts and desires. Brahmacharya simply means to lead a life of self-restraint and discipline.
Indulging the experiences of the senses can also be indulging in food as it also stimulates the senses. As long as we are living in the world and moving among all types of objects which affect our sense-organs, we cannot avoid the feeling of our senses enjoying pleasure. Practising Brahmacharya is the process of inculcating a discipline in life which protects us from mindless sensual overindulgences in life.
Practising Brahmacharya is the process of inculcating a discipline in life which protects us from mindless sensual overindulgences in life.
This is a form of spiritual austerity in our spiritual sadhana. It is a method to develop control over the pull of our sensorial cravings. As part of the Raja Yoga tradition, which is a tradition of mental discipline and self-reflection, any actions that fuel the vicious cycle of desires and cravings are discouraged. Brahmacharya is one such discipline which trains the practitioners to lead a life of self-reflection and self-control without being swayed by, or consumed by one’s own desires.
Aparigraha and Brahmacharya might be the most difficult to practice and indulge in a householder yogi’s life as our modern life is so much about the fulfilment of desires in any sense. Yet, it is our daily awareness, which leads us to experience the search for peace, harmony and purpose to life within through inner reflection and self-observation.
Author Bio – Sushant embarked on a journey of yoga in 1997 as a postgraduate student of Yoga Psychology from Bihar Yoga Bharati (Deemed University); known worldwide for its authentic and systematic teachings of the yogic discipline. After completing his Post Graduation in Yoga Psychology; he was involved as an intern in various projects/studies in prisons, army, hospitals and corporate for one and a half years. After an internship; he was appointed a lecturer in the Department of Yoga Psychology at Bihar Yoga Bharati until 2005, which provided him ample opportunities to explore the theoretical as well as practical dimensions of yogic knowledge.
Today he is an independent yoga teacher and co-founder of Rishikesh Yogis Yogshala and is currently living in Rishikesh. He conducts retreats and workshops on Yoga philosophy, meditations and Kriya Yoga. Connect with him on Facebook.