Brahmacharya — loosely translated to non-excess or moderation — is made up of two words, brahman which means “the divine” or “ultimate” and charya which means “the path”. So put together, brahmacharya means the path of the divine. When one is on the path of the divine, they live and make choices avoiding selfish motives. To be on the path of the divine requires us to let go of idolatry in order to continue the journey to the Self, the one that God has created us to be.
To claim that we all struggle with idolatry may sound harsh, but it does not make it any less true. The dictionary defines idolatry as, “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.” The Bible defines idolatry as anything that one puts before God.
“Do not worship any other gods besides me.” Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god.”
(On a side note, when God said that He’s a jealous God, it doesn’t mean a resentful jealousy; He’s referring to a protective, zealous, loving claim on His children.)
As a Christian living in the United States, I’m bombarded with struggles toward materialism, addiction to social media, and over-indulgence of the senses whether it be delicious foods, staying up late, binge-watching Netflix, etc. Late last year, I started thinking about living a simpler life with less things. Being that my family and I made a move from North Carolina to Texas in the middle of the pandemic (you can read all about it here), we had the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff (you don’t realize how much you’ve accumulated until you start packing for a move). Getting rid of things was a lot harder than I had expected. It felt like as we sold and gave away furniture, kitchen items, clothes, electronics, etc., we were letting go of the memories that were attached to them. We live in such a sentimental world with heightened emotions where the media tells us to “listen to your heart” and “YOLO.” But the problem of living an emotion-based life is that it causes you to put your utmost importance on pleasures of the flesh. Not that we shouldn’t enjoy a refreshing watermelon or even a delicious piece of chocolate cake, but if our attention is more on these things than on God, they become idols in our lives.
In the beginning of 2019, I had the privilege of taking a weekend certification workshop from the famous yoga teacher Nikki Myers, who said that co-dependency is also an addiction where “the belief that something outside of ourselves – people, places, things, behaviors or experiences – will bring fulfillment and joy.” I think this can be said of almost everyone. One could argue and say that if this is the case, we must get fulfillment and joy from within ourselves (and not from God). But have you ever tried to make yourself experience fulfillment and joy without anything or anyone? In my opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to not be co-dependent. You can either be co-dependent on God, or your can be co-dependent on people, places, things, behaviors or experiences for that fulfillment and joy. I believe that the latter way of living creates idolatry. As a Chrisitian who uses yoga philosophy as a tool to enhance her faith and relationship with God, I practice brahmacharya — the way of the divine (aka the way of Jesus Christ) — by choosing to find moderation while living in this world so that I can ensure I don’t become self-indulgent on the pleasures of this world.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”