Saturday, 10 July 2010

Tarot journey into yogic philosophy 4 - brahmacharya

One principle that I loathed the concept of when I first heard about it was the fourth yama, or yogic restraint on behaviour, brahmacharya.  Traditionally described as celibacy, one old, male Indian writer talks of how this means abstaining from sex, and even for a "householder" (ie. normal person rather than yogic monk) this includes not having sex with anyone but your wife (sic) and only on propitious days (way too complex to explain here, but to do with moon phases, time of day, her menstrual cycle - blood is seen as impure - and even which nostril they are each breathing through at the time!)

However, a lady I'll be mentioning a lot, Donna Farhi, brought this principle into a different light for me.  She describes brahmacharya as merging with the one.  This is a concept I can get behind a lot more easily.  She also suggests that the original meaning of celibacy is more to do with where you choose to direct your energy - towards sex or towards divinity.  I don't personally feel the two are mutually exclusive, being a follower of pagan beliefs that hold that every act of love is an act of worship, divinely blessed.  Nevertheless, in this way I can see the point - it's about what you do with your passion.

Anyhow, to represent this principle in terms of traditional tarot associations, I chose the World card.  In some depictions a hermaphroditic figure is shown, hence the implication of celibacy as this person does not require another, being complete in itself.  In the sense of merging with the unity of the universe, the archetype of the World also fits - it is often seen as representing wholeness, completion, perfection and spiritual encompassment.  The two wands held in the person's hands can represent all the polarities of life, united here and so directed towards a unified goal.

As before, I have also drawn a card from the Gaian Tarot to answer what I need to know about the energy of brahmacharya in my life at the moment.  My answer this time is The Sun.  In traditional decks, the Sun card often shows a child on a horse, or two children holding hands.  However, Joanna Powell Colbert, creatrix of the Gaian Tarot, has chosen to depict instead a woman dressed in red, with arms outstretched.  Behind her is a walled sunflower garden, and a fiery sun.  For some reason, until now I rather disliked this card.  It seemed perhaps too literal, showing someone happy.  When the person is a naked child, the symbolic message seems somewhat different.  However, considering the card again, in the light of brahmacharya, different thoughts come to my mind.

Perhaps, precisely, it is saying to me that I don't put enough energy into just enjoying life.  Why do I always have to complicate things?  Does there have to be a deeper meaning to everything?

Furthermore, it seems to be a message about positive thinking.  There's been quite a bit of debate about this subject of late, even in quite mainstream, academic circles.  While I don't believe that positive thinking can solve all of life's problems, nor do I think that thinking the worst helps in any way.  The pessimist's argument that it at least helps you prepare for disappointment doesn't ring true for me.

I've had quite a lot to do with doctors of late and, at least in this country, they have a tendency to paint a dark picture.  They claim that this helps get all the bad news out of the way at the start, so that then if things aren't as bad as they said you feel happy about it.  However, while if doctors tell you the worst case scenario for a sickness some people take it as a rallying cry to prove them wrong (not, therefore, thinking the worst), others feel they may as well give up.  And giving up means not activating your body's own ability to heal.  So, while for those who don't take it as a reason to think the worst this approach will be beneficial, for those who do it may seriously undermine their health and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, I don't think I fall clearly into either of the above categories, and perhaps few people consistently do.  There are days when I will rally to the challenge, and others where I will feel down.  For me, the Sun card encourages me to try to direct my energy towards the positives, to the possible joy in life.  As another of my favourite writers, Stephanie Arwen Lynch, says: "Seek joy y'all!"

Image of The World from the Radiant Rider Waite Tarot. Image of The Sun from the Gaian Tarot.

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