Karmacology: Mindful Living, Sacred Practice

Brahmacharya: The Way of Self-Control

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires, seek discipline and find your liberty.
-- Frank Herbert, Dune

Please allow me a quick disclaimer for this essay. Brahmacharya means different things to different people, and in some cases the differences can be palpably intense. In some traditions, Brahmacharya means celibacy, a life of non-sensuality, and in other traditions it can mean the physical control of the body's vital essence. I'm going to leave those interpretations to those traditions and explore the Karmic concept of Brahmacharya as it pertains to right action.

Brahmacharya is the fourth of the five Yamas, or abstentions, taught in the classic Yoga Sutras. Since there are so many differences in the teachings of this concept, it is important to go back to the root idea.

The original Sanskrit word is a combination of two ideas: Brahma denotes the Universal Supreme Entity. It is gender-neutral, referring neither to the feminine Shakti or masculine Shiva. The second word is often seen as Char, or path, and so creates the literal meaning of the Path to God. Another view sees the word Carya, which is essentially "grazing," such as the same way that a cow eats and walks at the same time. In this interpretation, Brahmacharya means living your everyday life and at the same time keeping your mind fixed on God. My favorite translation is simply Divine Conduct.

The ultimate idea of Brahmacharya, then, is to convert all actions into acts of sa'dhana' (spiritual practice or worship). The intention is to stay on the path literally twenty-four hours a day. This encompasses the previous lessons of noninjury, truthfulness and nonstealing -- all outward actions towards others -- and adds an inner dimension.

This internal lesson of Brahmacharya is self-control of the desires and the senses, moderation, and self-discipline. For some, this path to self-control may indeed lead to celibacy. For most, however, Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. This includes faithfulness in marriage, and a spirit of nurturing between everyone in our lives.

Another very important part of Brahmacharya applies specifically to our modern, media-saturated and Internet-connected realm of experience. This teaching impels us to always view other people as spiritual beings, or at the very least as human beings, rather than as objects of desire. This is the antithesis of our modern pornification and humanity's collective obsession, where women especially are objectified -- and by extension -- dehumanized.

The perspective in Karmacology is, "One who cannot control their desires will become controlled by their desires." This is way we experience the difference between (ego-based) pleasure and (soul-based) Bliss.

Asteya: Life Without Theft

The covetous man is ever in want.
-- Horace (65 BC - 8 BC), Epistles

The Sanskrit word steya means "to steal." Asteya is it's opposite: non-stealing or non-covetousness. The root meaning, and the karmic meaning, is simply, "Not taking anything that hasn't been given freely."

In the teachings of the Yoga Sutras, Asteya is the third of the five Yamas, or abstentions. It is identical to the eighth of the Biblical Ten Commandments, "Thou Shalt Not Steal."

Asteya applies, of course, to the material world and our common concepts of stealing: armed robbery, shoplifting, auto theft and muggings. In exactly the same way, asteya also cautions against taking your neighbor's newspaper, bringing pens and thumbtacks home from the office, or any of the myriad "minor thefts" that we commit, often by inventing our own justice or justification.

But asteya, just like all of the Yamas, has a deeper meaning.

Asteya also means honoring another person's trust in us. If someone entrusts you with something, or shares something with you in confidence, you cannot take advantage of him or her.

The karma, or action, of asteya also means developing consideration for how we ask for another's time and attention. If, through inconsiderate behavior, we demand another's attention when not freely given, this is also stealing.

Satya: The Way of Truthfulness

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
-- Bible, John 8:32
Satya is the second of the five Yamas, or abstentions, taught in the Yoga Sutras as part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The teaching is truthfulness, honesty and integrity, but has meaning on many levels.

Satya is a Sanskrit word that can be loosely translated into English as "truth" or "correct." It implies not only a commitment to truthfulness, but also being sincere, considerate, genuine and honest.

Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to live in accordance with ahimsa (do no harm). We must consider what we say, how we say it, and how it could affect others. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.

One of the best examples of this principle in action can be found as the first agreement, Be Impeccable with Your Word, in the book "The Four Agreements." In this wonderful collection of Toltec wisdom, Don Miguel Ruiz explains the power that we have in our words, and how we must use this power responsibly, honorably, and impeccably:

Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional poison that exists within you.
-- Don Miguel Ruiz, "The Four Agreements"
The second tenet of Karmacology is, "Do everything that you do with honesty and integrity." If you guide your actions with honesty and integrity, then you are following the path of Satya. If you are speaking words that must be whispered -- such as gossip -- or doing something that must be hidden, then reflect to make sure that your actions and words are honest and not hurtful.
Think nothing profitable to you which compels you to break a promise, to lose your self-respect, to hate any person, to suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything that needs walls and curtains about it.
-- Marcus Aurelius
This is the essence of Satya, the way of truthfulness.

Ahimsa: The Way of Nonviolence

Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

Literally speaking, ahimsa means non-violence towards life but it has much higher meaning. In its comprehensive meaning, ahimsa or non-injury means complete abstinence from causing any pain or harm to another living being, either by thought, word, or deed. Non-injury requires a harmless mind, mouth, and hand.

One of the tenets of Karmacology is, "First, do no harm." This is the initial consideration towards right action, and fits nicely with the concept of ahimsa.

Ahimsa is the first of the five Yamas, or abstentions, taught as part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga in the classic Yoga Sutras. It is, however, more than just "lack of violence" as taught in the sutras. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

So how does a martial artist reconcile the paradox between the conflict of combat and the teachings of nonviolence? My path has led me to Aikido, a martial art that embodies the principles of nonviolence and nonresistance in both philosophy and practice. One insight from my own training is that Aikido's non-violence is not a way of avoiding violence, but is rather a way of transcending violence.

As explained by the founder, O Sensei:
Aikido is nonviolence. Every human being has been entrusted with a mandate from heaven, and the victory we seek is to overcome all challenges and fight to the finish, accomplishing our goals. In Aikido we never attack. If you want to strike first, to gain advantage over someone, that is proof your training is insufficient, and it is really you yourself who has been defeated. Let your partner attack, and use his aggression against him. Do not cower from an attack; control it before it begins. Nonviolence is the true practice of Aikido.
-- Morihei Ueshiba

Aikidoists do not initiate attacks, or try to win fights or defeat opponents. Instead, their goal is to control and neutralize an attack through circular and spiral motions that blend with the energy of an attack and redirect that energy back against the attacker.

Instead of directly blocking or controlling an attack, the techniques of Aikido are designed to harmonize with the power and direction of the attack and convert it into a force that will unbalance the attacker and render him helpless. Attacks are then neutralized by the use of various anatomical locks and pins, rather than crippling kicks or blows.

A final thought on this concept of non-violence is that it must be a conscious choice, not the only remaining option, borne of helplessness. Gandhi expressed this idea as, "It is better to be violent ... than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence."

Aikido sensei Yukiyoshi Takamura had another perspective on this same idea:

A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence. He chooses peace. He must be able to make a choice. He must have the genuine ability to destroy his enemy and then choose not to. I have heard this excuse made. “I choose to be a pacifist before learning techniques so I do not need to learn the power of destruction.” This shows no comprehension of the mind of the true warrior. This is just a rationalization to cover the fear of injury or hard training.

The true warrior who chooses to be a pacifist is willing to stand and die for his principles. Only a warrior who has tempered his spirit in conflict and who has confronted himself and his greatest fears can, in my opinion, make the choice to be a true pacifist.

First line of defense against unhappiness

Our first line of defense against unhappiness is refusing to believe that we are the victims of the bad intentions of others. The formula is: Do not blame the trigger. The world is full of triggers; in fact, life is designed like that, so that we will truly practice. We can be grateful for all these triggers, as without them we might never recognize our own unfortunate reactions.
-- Ayya Khema in "Visible Here and Now"

The Shadow of Wisdom

Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before... He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.
-- Kurt Vonnegut, "Cat's Cradle"

The Essence of Karma

No matter what one does, whether one's deeds serve virtue or vice, nothing lacks importance. All actions bear a kind of fruit.
-- Buddha

If You Follow Your Bliss

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of a track, which has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.
-- Joseph Campbell

Wonder in Beauty

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder, in the shape of a leaf, the trembling of a tree.
-- Albert Schweitzer

Movement into form, through form, out of form

Creation is only the projection into form of that which already exists.
-- Shrimad Bhagavatam

Silence, Inner Discipline and Peace

In a world of noise, confusion, and conflict it is necessary that there be places of silence, inner discipline, and peace. In such places love can blossom.
-- Thomas Merton


What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow. Our life is the creation of our mind.
-- Shakyamuni

"One Day" is Now

There will come a day when you'll finally decide that you're ready to live up to your full potential. There will come a moment when you will no longer settle for less than you know you're capable of achieving. There will come a time when you'll no longer be satisfied with making excuses and rationalizations. There will come a time when your desire to move forward will outweigh your fear of the unknown. One day you'll realize that everything you do makes a difference, and you'll put that incredible power to valuable use.

There is really no reason to put that golden day off any longer. There is every reason to go ahead and make it happen for you.

You were born to do great things, to create much value, to make a real difference. The longing and frustration you feel is a constant reminder, so listen to what it has to say. Your life can be as full as you are ready to make it. Now is the day to make it great.
-- Ralph Marston

July 17, 2007, 11:11 GMT

May all beings everywhere,
Plagued by sufferings of body and mind,
Obtain an ocean of happiness and joy
By virtue of my merits.
May no living creature suffer,
Commit evil or ever fall ill.
May no one be afraid or belittled,
With a mind weighed down by depression.

May the blind see forms,
And the deaf hear sounds.
May those whose bodies are worn with toil
Be restored on finding repose.

May the naked find clothing,
The hungry find food.
May the thirsty find water
And delicious drinks.

May the poor find wealth,
Those weak with sorrow find joy.
May the forlorn find hope,
Constant happiness and prosperity.

May there be timely rains
And bountiful harvests.
May all medicines be effective
And wholesome prayers bear fruit.

May all who are sick and ill
Quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world,
May they never occur again.

May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed.
May the powerless find power
And may people think of benefiting each other.

Change the World

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
-- Margaret Mead

Square Root of One Percent

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.
-- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD - 180 AD), Meditations

In less than 24 hours -- at 11:11 GMT on July 17, 2007 -- the Fire the Grid project will bring people from all over the world together in meditation, prayer and thoughts of healing. Will it have any effect? Many, many brilliant minds throughout history have taught us the power of thought, intent and meditation. Anything is possible.

By coincidence, a new movie trailer has been posted to the Web. The Square Root of One Percent is a film David Lynch produced and directed showing the amazing effects meditation has had on lowering violent crime. It will be released worldwide in 2008. Take a peek via the rough-cut trailer now:

Scientists have named this phenomenon the Maharishi Effect: the finding that one percent (or even the square root of one percent) of the population practicing meditation improves the larger community's quality of life, as indicated by such changes as reduced crime and sickness in the larger society.

Modern research has validated the benefits of meditation by many different types of physiological, psychological, and sociological measures. The finding that meditation decreases stress can be quantified by physiological changes such as decreased cortisol (the major stress hormone), decreased muscle tension, normalization of blood pressure, increased autonomic stability, and increased EEG coherence. A variety of psychological changes also indicate decreased stress, including decreased anxiety and depression, decreased post-traumatic stress syndrome, and increased self-actualization.

The Maharishi Effect says that the stress reduction demonstrated within individuals can also extend to sociological changes, such as decreased hostility, increased family harmony, and reduced criminal behavior in incarcerated felons. Some believe that stress reduction can even impact the ecological level.

And maybe, just maybe, it can do more.


If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.
-- Albert Camus

The Vibe of 'Ready'

People who are 'ready' give off a different vibe than people who aren't. Animals can smell fear; maybe that's it.

The minute you become ready is the the minute you stop dreaming. Suddenly it's no longer about 'becoming'. Suddenly it's about 'doing'.
-- Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative: 28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

Strength of Love

There is a comfort in the strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain, or break the heart.
  -- William Wordsworth

What a Man Can Say

In the name of friendship,
don't repeat to my Beloved
all that I said last night,
out of my mind;
but if, by God, she hears it,
she'll understand what a man can say
in the dark, loud or quiet, rough or soft,
when reason is not at home.
If God let this anxiety out,
no one in the world will stay sane.
Mind, are these your dark suggestions?
Cloud, is this your sad rain?
Believers, watch your hearts.
Curious or kind, stay away.
-- Rumi


Every time we remember to say "thank you," we experience nothing less than heaven on earth.
-- Sarah Ban Breathnach

Another World

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way! On a quiet day, if you listen carefully, you can hear her breathing.
-- Arundhati Roy

I Am Only One

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.
-- Edward Everett Hale

Selfless Service

Everyone in the world should be able to sleep without fear, at least for one night. Everyone should be able to eat to his fill, at least for one day. There should be at least one day when hospitals see no one admitted due to violence. By doing selfless service for at least one day, everyone should help the poor and needy.
-- Mata Amritanandamayi Devi

The Awakened Warrior

The totally awakened warrior can freely utilize all elements contained in heaven and earth. The true warrior learns how to correctly perceive the activity of the universe and how to transform martial techniques into vehicles of purity, goodness, and beauty. A warrior's mind and body must be permeated with enlightened wisdom and deep calm.
-- Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

The birth of an idea in your mind and the birth of a celestial star in distant space -- both arise from the same latent field of cosmic energy.

We are stardust, we are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
-- Joni Mitchell

Fire The Grid, July 17, 2007, 11:11

For those who haven’t yet heard, Fire the Grid is a one-hour meditation that will take place Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 11:11 Greenwich Mean Time. For one hour, it is hoped that millions of people will sit and pray or meditate with the intention of healing the Earth and reconnecting with Source Energy.

I think we all share hopes and dreams of creating a better Earth for ourselves and our children. Future generations need an Earth that is cared for rather than polluted; an Earth where the peoples of the world are at peace with each other; an Earth where poverty and hunger are eradicated. In the hope of bringing forth these changes, one hour of meditation is not too much to ask.

The Fire the Grid idea was conceived by Canadian Shelley Yates with assistance from her guides. Her compelling story may be read at www.firethegrid.org or viewed as a series of YouTube videos, the first of which is found here:

The whole series:
1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqUAluDvuU4
2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVhVCsv56kg
3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsqOZUmaECY
4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzrPCGP60As
5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66zQg0v_gn4
6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_6ajmdt39A
7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWtJncxNeLI
8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2sR8DWTD3U

Before July 17, visit the Fire the Grid web site to make sure you have the appropriate time to meditate for your time zone.

Buddha Calling?

An interesting piece from China's English-language newspaper:

A human-shaped shadow in the middle of a rainbow halo appears on Zushan Mountain after a heavy rainfall in Qinhuangdao, North China's Heibei Province, July 1, 2007. The vision, which many tourists believed to be the Buddha, stayed for more than an hour.

SOURCE: China Daily