The Bible vs. Playboy: Exploring Intention of Sense Imagery.

Via Clare Polencheck
on Aug 9, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

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. 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?

Is this art, or selling socks, or helping animals? (The can of worms that will never be closed…)

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.


About Clare Polencheck

Clare L. Polencheck is a yoga instructor who strives to live and write from a Christian-Yogic spiritual perspective, and is humbled to share tidbits of her lessons as a teacher of asana, a student of her students, and a pupil of Universe. Learning to go with God’s flow is her dharma code.


11 Responses to “The Bible vs. Playboy: Exploring Intention of Sense Imagery.”

  1. tanya lee markul says:

    Great discussion! I'm not completely sure what it means to move beyond our animal-selves (I don't mean to derail the context of your blog at all, I am just curious). Perhaps it holds a meaning beyond the metaphor?! 🙂 I find sometimes that it's difficult to say whether something is this or that….perhaps it's easier (at least for me) to ask the question – does it distract me from my instincts, my essence, my 'path'. I don't know…just a thought. 🙂

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  2. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  3. yogiclarebear says:

    Hey Tanya. Did you check out the link that I stuck on "animal-selves"? Swami Satyananda Saraswati talks about the nature of awareness in humans vs. animals…ie that animals don't have the capacity to be self aware. They are driven by nature compulsion, instinct only. Mate, run, chase, bite…instinct with no forethought. Man can pause…examine his inward reactions, and choose action based on that examination. That is what I meant by "animal selves." The part of our lowest evolution that reacts without consideration.

  4. yogijulian says:

    how about option three: these books were written by primitive human beings trying to find god in the midst of war, superstition, lust and other features of their daily life…

    it is a stretch to interpret the song of solomon as not being about sex at all – but rather about god and the church – and the claim that scriptural god-inspired blood thirstiness is somehow better (holier) than modern day news reporting on war because of some imagined "intention" is quite an apologist tap dance!

  5. You seem to be assuming that we all agree that the Gita, Bible, and other "sacred texts" are the word of "God."
    Personally, I don't, and the idea that they are–the root of fundamentalism (and every fundamentalist, from the devout pacifist to the jihadist/crusader/abortion clinic bomber considers him/herself a "keen student") and responsible for so much killing and oppression throughout the centuries and throughout the world–is, to my mind, far more obscene than any pornography could ever be. These texts are valuable works of ancient literature, which certainly contain a lot of valuable wisdom, as well as horrifying amounts of sexism, homophobia, caste-prejudice, and justifications for every atrocity imaginable. As such, they're worthy of study, not worship.

  6. tanya lee markul says:

    Thanks Clare – I am going to check out that link for sure. I just feel sometimes that humans often put other species below them and I just don't feel that way. I often think we take a very egoic and limiting interpretation of the world around us – especially when it comes to animals and nature. We believe animals are limited because they doesn't live the way we do and we limit them with our mere observation and tests. I often feel that if we lived more like animals perhaps we'd be more in balance with the world around us (and I don't mean from a pure 'fight or flight' point of view) . I'm not saying you are doing this at all, just sharing what's on my mind. 🙂

  7. yogiclarebear says:

    Hey YfC,

    I don't mean to assume that, but that is my perspective. "If" that is assumed, or "if" these are taken as [insert "god" terminology], then these are some considerations. (See above response to yogajulian!)

  8. yogiclarebear says:

    Hey yj! Yes thank you for that perspective. That is another consideration that might work in the greater point of exploring pratyahara practices.

    As I stated above, there are many interpretations of the Song of Solomon. This was one that found to be more widely accepted among Christian churches.

    I'm not sure what you mean by apologist? I am not so much defending any view or belief on the God-written-ness of these texts, but rather working under that commonly held viewpoint or perspective to make a case about pratyahara. Not saying this is everyone's perspective…but if it IS, these might be some considerations. It would be silly for me to assume that everyone believes that the Bible or the Gita was written by God, and I can see that I could have used better wording to outline that, so none would become offended or feel excluded. Thanks for your comment, I hope I’ve made some clarifications, and I greatly appreciate and am humbled to be more attentive to my “assumed assumptions.”


  9. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  10. […] public media, and personal integrity, in a scope of yoga and spirituality. Read below, or at Elephant Journal. image via […]

  11. […] The Bible vs. Playboy: Exploring Intention of Sense Imagery. […]