Reading about and studying pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), as an aspiring yogi and a blog writer I found myself asking the question: In the sphere of yoga philosophy and promoting pratyahara, what is the difference between the Baghavad-Gita and our everyday media outlet, Elephant Journal article, evangelical, activist, or [insert person/organization furthering a philosophy here]?
Sacred texts such as the Bible and the Bhagavad-Gita use imagery of war and battle, metaphors of murder, and weaponry and violence as symbols to make their points. CNN.com posts destructive and violent pictures and videos because they feel it is relevant to reporting the news.
What’s the diff?
In the Gita, deity Krishna speaks from a worldly standpoint in Sloka 1:31, “Furthermore, looking at your own duty, you will see no reason to waver. For certainly there is nothing higher than a righteous war.”
Is God advocating the Crusades or jihadist suicide bombings here? Of course not, and the deeper themes of the Gita are apparent to the keen student.
In the Bible, one might consider the Song of Solomon. This oft-deemed controversial book illustrates, in poetry, a relationship between a man and woman from courtship to the act of sex. Chapter 8:10 describes, “Dear brothers, I’m a walled-in virgin still, but my breasts are full—And when my lover sees me, he knows he’ll soon be satisfied.”
What’s the deal? Is God trying to rile our libido? Likely not in the sense that we typically may, um, sense. While interpretations of this book run the gamut, Christian tradition generally understands this love poem as a representation of the relationship between God and his church, or between the God and the individual soul.
But the question remains (to those who are seeking Samadhi I suppose)…since we are NOT God (well, in the fully enlightened sense at least)…and if pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) is part of our practice as yogis, spiritual beings, maybe Elephant Journal writers or positivity promoters…and if moving higher than our animal-selves is part of our spiritual path, is it OK to use and invite this kind of imagery, even for what we might consider a positive end, into our own and other’s thoughts and senses?
I’m not sure, but I think the answers may have to do with intent of delivery. When inspiring the Bhagavad Gita or the Bible, God didn’t have an ego-filled agenda. At any given period in time (ie: always) humanity may be warring, sexually primitive, animalistic, and basically charged to respond to input that drives our senses. We are attached to our corporeal senses, and our unrestrained emotions. So God meets us where we are by using allegory, parable, and imagery that our sense attachment can grasp. It is up to us to learn to open to the messages beyond the sense attachment, beyond the metaphor.
So, what about us?
The Gita encourages un-egoic intent in Sloka 1:47, “As for you, do the work that comes to you—but don’t look for the results. Don’t be motivated by the fruits of your actions, nor become attached to inaction.”
Do our means justify a karmic conclusion, or an egoic end?
Did CNN seek the stronger sensory shocking images because it is truly contributing to a deeper understanding of important news…or because they want ratings?
Do pro-life organizations display graphic images of abortions procedures to convey their convictions?
Did you attach that sexually charged image to your blog article or use *s for swear words in your title because you want to save souls and only further a cause? Or do ya kindof want clicks…and you KNOW people click on tits and ass and cusses?
Did I just type the phrase “tits and ass” and highlight it because it was super pertinent to my position, or because I thought you might laugh and I would feel ego-cool about the idea of possibly making you laugh?
I can ONLY answer the last question for myself. I admit it. I want clicks, and lets be honest, people want sex and destruction. The numbers don’t lie…look left. As of this posting, the most-popular-of-all-time articles on EJ incorporate title words such as “Naked, Better Sex, Playboy, XXX, hot videos, and Pervy“. I work hard on my articles and blog posts, and I check my stats. My ego wants sating, so I often succumb to using sense attraction. (See: blog title above!) But there is a part of me that simply wants to further the philosophies, ideas, and causes that I find significant. I’m working on it, trying to keep it in my awareness.
I’m not judging anyone or any organization, regarding. Just asking the question of myself.
And maybe asking you to ask yourself too. While we can’t control anyone else’s reactions, we can consider integrity in our intentions.
You may be calling me a prude. That’s ok, but I prefer pratyaharan please.