Yasna 31.7 and Mind/Spirit as the basis of the universe

Authentic Gatha Zoroastrianism

We read in the ancient Várshtmánßar commentary of the poetic gathas concerning Yasna 31.7 and the creation of the worlds:

About establishing the universe through spirit/mind (maínögíg dahishna), through the original thinking power of Ahúrmazd (fratüm minishna í Aúhrmazd;) The above passage relates to mañ.tá paöúrúyæ in the gathic original, “the pristine formulation through spirit/mind, and the original measuring.”

Ahúrmazd first creating the universe in mind/spirit (Aúhrmazd dám fratüm maínögíg ávöridan), and after passing/undergoing of the spiritual stage, the physical making of the existence (ud pass ham stih kardan;)

And establishing the worlds by Ahúrmazd in mind/spirit, (Ud madam-ich dahishna í Aúhrmazd dám pavan maínög,) then from that their formation in the physical form (fraz bréhínídan zyash öl stih;)

And the blending, molding of mind/spirit into the physical form, (ud maínög öl stih gú-míkhtan;)

And advancing the universe thereby, (ud padash dám rúbág-ínídan;)

And harboring Vohüman and Virtue into the…

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Pagan and Vegetarian (musings)

This development is, of course, not unconnected with the Pythagorean revival in philosophy. But by then the Pythagorean ban on eating meat had been reinforced by a philosophical tradition going back to Theophrastus and Xenocrates, the heads of Lyceum and Academy respectively in the late fourth century B.C. Theophrastus’ work On Piety (much of which has been preserved in Porphyry’s On Abstinence) presented a systematic argument against animal sacrifice, with an interesting theory on the prehistory of divine worship. Theophrastus cited Empedocles on the Golden Age (when Aphrodite ruled instead of Zeus, and “the altar was not drenched with the unspeakable slaughter of bulls”), and he claimed that the original offerings to the gods were made exclusively from the fruits of the earth.

Theophrastus emphasizes the anatomical and psyholocial features that we share with the animals, above all, sense perception and feeling. He thus offers, for the first time, a philosophical basis for the notion of a moral community between us and the animals. On this view, we have the right to kill dangerous animals, but only in the same way that we have a right to protect ourselves against criminal human beings. Xenocrates, on the other hand, was concerned not only to protect animals but also to preserve the human being from contamination: animal food will assimilate the eater to the souls of irrational beasts. In Xenocrates we recognize a forerunner of the NeoPythagorean asceticism. Xenocrates; successor Polemon defended a similar view, and abstinence from meat became characteristic of the Platonic school. The writing of Xenocrates and Polemon are lost, but the Platonist case for vegetarianism, on a wide variety of grounds, is abundantly preserved in the writings of Plutarch, notably On the Eating of Flesh, Whether Aquatic Animals are more Intelligent than Land Animals, and On the Use of Reason by Brutes

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=5vi10r5k5eEC&pg=PA149&lpg=PA149&dq=pythagoras+banned+animal+sacrifice&source=bl&ots=0Lc1ia16G6&sig=g5KztIOdp5JJR7iEl4hEid6NJWw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8TGdU8aIM8WlkQXykoHQBQ&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=pythagoras%20banned%20animal%20sacrifice&f=false

Diodorus Siculus reported that the Druids were “philosophers and theologians,” “skilled in the divine nature,” and able to communicate with the gods. Julius Caesar wrote that they had philosophical and religious beliefs pertaining to the “powers and spheres of action of the immortal gods”; that they had “much knowledge of the stars and their motion, of the size of the world and of the earth, of natural philosophy.”

Strabo and Cicero said the Druids had the knowledge of nature which the Greeks called physiologia. Other ancient writers linked the Druids with the Pythagoreans. Diodorus, Ammianus and Valerius Maximus associated the Druidic belief in immortality with the theory of metempsychosis, making Druids “members of the intimate fellowship of the Pythagorean faith.” Some went further and derived the Pythagorean school of philosophy from the Druids. Iamblichus, for example, maintained that Pythagoras was acquainted with the Celtic mysteries, a statement confirmed by Clement of Alexandria, who in about AD 200 wrote that philosophy had been studied by the Druids before the Greeks.

http://www.theosophical.org.uk/theosophical-articles/mythology-ancient-spiritual-traditions-2/ancient-wisdom-of-wales-series-2/celts-and-druids-who-were-they-by-e-a-holmes/

One of the few things that both the Greco-Roman and the vernacular Irish sources agree on about the druids is that they played an important part in pagan Celtic society. In his description, Julius Caesar claimed that they were one of the two most important social groups in the region (alongside the equites, or nobles) and were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices, divination, and judicial procedure in Gaulish, British and Irish society.[21]

Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor referred to the Druids as philosophers and called their doctrine of the immortality of the soul and reincarnation or metempsychosis “Pythagorean”:

Others have invoked common Indo-European parallels…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druid

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So if the Pythagoreans practiced vegetarianism + forbade animal sacrifice… and they learned from or were Druids… and the Druids kept the Lore / Law for all Celtic society I think it would be a reasonable assumption that the entire Celtic society in origin were vegetarian… and there are common Indo-European parallels

The Avesta of Zoroaster (Iran)

The Vedas of India + Thule…

The inhabitants or people of Thule are described in most detail by Strabo in his Geographica, having preserved fragments of the account of Pytheas who was an alleged eye-witness in the 4th century BC:

…the people (of Thule) live on millet and other herbs, and on fruits and roots; and where there are grain and honey, the people get their beverage, also, from them. As for the grain, he says, since they have no pure sunshine, they pound it out in large storehouses, after first gathering in the ears thither; for the threshing floors become useless because of this lack of sunshine and because of the rains.[25]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thule

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8: Creative Energy

 

Lord Shiva said to Goddess Parvati,”O Parvati ! What is there on this earth which cannot be accomplished if one has control over his sexual fluid?”

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In the Aryan-Hindu religion, it is taught that if the virya or spiritual manhood is lost or wasted this results in spiritual death and if withheld and conserved leads to life. The modern writer Sivananda Sarasvati explains this teaching: “The seed is dynamic energy which has to be converted into spiritual energy,” and “He who seeks divine realization with true zeal should observe strict chastity.” As a result of the conservation of virile energy in this way, para-normal powers appear in the aspirant: the creation of a special “magnetic aura”, a “personality that inspires a kind of holy awe,” and the power of influencing other people by words or a mere look (La Practique de la meditation, Paris, 1950).

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Plato established a hierarchy of the forms of eros, rising from the sensual and the profane up to the peaks of the sacred (Symposium, 14-15; 26-29; Phaedrus, 244-45; 251-57b) and culminating in the eros through which “the mortal seeks to live forever and become immortal” (Symposium 26).

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From: Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother – The transmutation of sexual energy

http://auromere.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/the-transmutation-of-sexual-energy/

The sex-energy can be controlled and diverted from the sex-purpose and used for aesthetic and artistic or other creation and productiveness or preserved for heightening of the intellectual or other energies. Entirely controlled, it can be turned into a force of spiritual energy also. This was well known in ancient India and was described as the conversion of retas into ojas by Brahmacharya. Retas, the sex-fluid, consists of two elements, one meant for sex-purposes, the other as a basis of general energy, and if the sex-action is not indulged and the sex-fluid is prevented from being spent away, it turns into ojas. The whole theory of Brahmacharya is based upon that by the Yogis.

This is a list of Sanskrit terms to help understand the next question:

Retas = sexual fluid.

Tapas = spiritual heat felt in the body during meditation.

Ojas = spiritual vigor which is felt after union with and immersion into cosmic energies.

Tejas = spiritual light observed within.

Vidyut = electrical power which courses through the body during Yoga.

The fundamental physical unit is the retas, in which the tejas, the heat and light and electricity in a man, is involved and hidden. All energy is thus latent in the retas. This energy may be either expended physically or conserved. All passion, lust, desire wastes the energy by pouring it, either in the gross form or a sublimated subtle form, out of the body. On the other hand, all self-control conserves the energies in the retas, and conservation always brings with it increase. But the needs of the physical body are limited and the excess of energy must create a surplus which has to turn itself to some use other than the physical. According to the ancient theory, retas is jala(fluid), full of light and heat and electricity, in one word, of tejas.

The excess of the retas turns first into heat or tapas which stimulates the whole system, and it is for this reason that all forms of self-control and austerity are called tapas ortapasya, because they generate the heat or stimulus which is a source of powerful action and success.

Secondly, it turns to tejas or light, the energy which is at the source of all knowledge.

Thirdly, it turns to vidyut or electricity, which is at the basis of all forceful action whether intellectual or physical.

In the vidyut again is involved the ojas, or pranashakti, the primal energy which proceeds from ether. The retas, refining from jala to tapas, tejas and vidyut and from vidyut to ojas, fills the system with physical strength, energy and brain-power and in its last form of ojas rises to the brain and informs it with that primal energy which is the most refined form of matter and nearest to spirit. It is ojas that creates a spiritual force or virya, by which a man attains to spiritual knowledge, spiritual love and faith, spiritual strength. It follows that the more we can by Brahmacharya increase the store of tapas(heat), tejas(light), vidyut(electric) andojas(vigor), the more we shall fill ourselves with utter energy for the works of the body, heart, mind and spirit.

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One of the disciples of Socrates asked his teacher, “My Venerable Master, kindly instruct me how many times a house-holder can have copulation with his legal wife?”

Socrates replied, “Only once in his life time”

The disciple said,” Oh my Lord! This is absolutely impossible for worldly men. Pray, kindly prescribe an easy path.”

Then Socrates said, “A house-holder can have copulation once in a year.”

The disciple replied, “O Venerable Sir, this is also a hard job for them. You must prescribe an easier course.”

Socrates then replied, “Well, my dear disciple, once in a month. This is suitable. This is quite easy. I think you are satisfied now.”

The disciple said, “This also is impossible, my revere master. Householders are very fickleminded. Please prescribe an easier course.”

Socrates said, “Twice in a month. But this will cause an early death.”

The disciple said, “This also is impossible, for they cannot remain for a single day without sexual intercourse.”

Then Socrates said, “Well said, my dear child. Do one thing now. Dig a grave and purchase a coffin and winding sheet for the corpse before hand. Now you can spoil yourself any number of times you like. This is my final advice to you.”

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The Germans differ much from these usages, for they have neither Druids to preside over sacred offices, nor do they pay great regard to sacrifices. They rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon; they have not heard of the other deities even by report. Their whole life is occupied in hunting and in the pursuits of the military art; from childhood they devote themselves to fatigue and hardships. Those who have remained chaste for the longest time, receive the greatest commendation among their people; they think that by this the growth is promoted, by this the physical powers are increased and the sinews are strengthened. And to have had knowledge of a woman before the twentieth year they reckon among the most disgraceful acts; of which matter there is no concealment, because they bathe promiscuously in the rivers and [only] use skins or small cloaks of deer’s hides, a large portion of the body being in consequence naked.

C. Julius Caesar. Caesar’s Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869. Harper’s New Classical Library.

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Marriage

The age at first marriage among ancient Germanic tribes, according to Tacitus, was late for women compared to Roman women:

The young men marry late and their vigor is thereby unimpaired. The girls, too, are not hurried into marriage. As old and full-grown as the men, they match their mates in age and strength, and their children reproduce the might of their parents.

http://theruine.wordpress.com/category/germanic-culture/

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Goths were described as brave, generous, patient, chaste, affectionate in family but–according to the Romans–faithless in treaties. They were tall and athletic with a fair complexion, blue eyes and curly yellow curly hair worn long and streaming (Bradley 107, 92, 97).

http://www.echomolise.org/Goths.html

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From: http://www.dadashri.org/vedantabrahmacharya.html

After Dhanvantari, founder of Ayurveda (Herbal Medical Science) taught all details about this science, his students inquired about its keynote (essence). In the reply, master asserted,” I tell you that Brahmacharya is truly a precious jewel. It is the one most effective medicine-nectar indeed- which destroys diseases, decay and death. For attaining peace, brightness, memory, knowledge, health and Self-realization, one should observeBrahmacharya, the highest Dharma, the highest knowledge, greatest strength. Of the nature of Brahmacharya is verily this Atma and in Brahmacharya it resides. Saluting Brahmacharya first, the cases beyond cure, I cure , Aye’ Brahmacharya can undo all the inauspicious signs.”

How is semen formed ?

According to Ayurveda, from the digested food chyle is formed. Out of chyle comes blood. Out of blood comes flesh. Out of flesh comes fat. Out of fat comes bone. Out of bone comes marrow. Out of marrow comes semen. Conversion of Dhatu at every step takes a period of five days. Thus semen is the last Dhatu that is formed out of food. It takes approximately 30 days and 4 hours to complete this cycle. Scientists believe that an intake of 32 kgs. of food produces 800 gms. of blood which in turn forms only 20 gms. of semen. Now, you can see how precious the semen is

Modern medical opinion

Eminent European Medical experts also support the statements of the Yogis of India. Dr. Nicole says, “It is a medical and physiological fact that the best blood in the body goes to form the elements of reproduction in both the sexes. In a pure and orderly life, this matter is reabsorbed. It goes back into circulation ready to form the finest brain, nerve and muscular tissues. This vital fluid of man carried back and diffused through his system makes him manly, strong, brave and heroic. If wasted, it leaves him effeminate, weak and physically debilitated and prone to sexual irritation and disordered function, a wretched nervous system, epilepsy and various other diseases and death. The suspension of the use of the generative organs is attained with a notable increase of bodily, mental and spiritual vigour.”

The cause of magnetic personality

According to Dhanvantari, the sexual energy is transmuted into Ojas or spiritual energy by pure thoughts. It is called sex sublimation in western psychology. Sublimation is not a matter of suppression or repression, but a positive dynamic conversion process. It is the process of controlling the sex energy, conserving it, then diverting it into higher channels and finally converting it into spiritual energy or Ojas shakti.

Ojas is the cause of attractive personality. If you see any person who is outstanding in his works, whose speech is impressive and thrilling, has lustrous eyes and a magnetic aura on his face and awe-inspiring (charishmatic) personality, be sure that he has stored up Ojas in his brain. This stored up energy can be utilised for divine comtemplation and spiritual pursuits (Self-realisation).

http://www.dadashri.org/vedantabrahmacharya.html

From: http://www.oldandsold.com/articles08/marriage-1.shtml

The Importance Of Virility

( Originally Published Early 1900′s )

No one can estimate the value of strong manhood. It is a physical asset that is beyond valuation, and beyond price. Vigorous manhood may come to one naturally through inheritance, and in the first flush of youth one may enjoy the turbulent exaltation that comes with the supreme force of superb virility without giving any special thought to the matter; but you can rest assured that if this splendid possession is retained even to middle age, you must have adhered, at least to a reasonable degree, to the laws that govern the retention of manly powers.

The advantage of being a perfect man—vigorous, resourceful, fearless! Who can describe it? Can we attempt to define this glorious possession in mere words? No! Manhood is the crowning glory of a masculine career. Some reach the zenith of its splendid heights through good birth. Others,less fortunate, are compelled, to a certain extent, to develop these valuable powers. But whether you have cultivated and developed them, or have come by them through the blessing of vigorous inheritance, the importance of the knowledge associated with the development and maintenance of virile manhood cannot be too strongly emphasized. Every man should desire to know the rules of health which favor the building of a high degree of virility. He should know those laws which must be observed in order to retain his manhood. There is no phase of life in which knowledge is more sadly needed.

In taking up a subject of this character it is necessary, in the first place, that we should approach it from the proper point of view. It is absolutely essential that we should regard it with pure minds rather than from the militant morality and foul-minded viewpoint of the prude. The impure mental attitude toward sex and sex problems, with the prudery and ignorance that have grown out of it, has been responsible for more human suffering, weakness and tragedy than all the wars of the world.

“To the pure in heart, all things are pure.” But to the prude the most sacred facts of life are vulgar and impure. Prudery is simply the _expression of an unclean_ state of mind suppressed artificially and in its very nature depends upon pruriency and a perverted mental attitude toward the most holy of all functions. The more conspicuous the pose of prudery, as a rule, the greater is the impurity of mind thereby indicated.

Remember that there is nothing and can be nothing inherently unclean in sex. The sexual life is simply one of the great forces of -nature. It represents merely the divine plan by which life is perpetuated upon the earth. If there is anything sacred in this world, it is surely the function of reproduction. It is the highest of all functions. It is the most important of all functions. These facts are beyond the possibility of contradiction. And for this reason there can be nothing inherently evil in sex passion. Let us have a clear and definite under-standing upon this point. The sex instinct is simply the race instinct, the instinct of racial self-preservation.

There is nothing impure in sex, but there is in the abuse of it. Indecency is simply a question of behavior, and cannot possibly be an attribute of any part of the body. The body has been rightly termed the “Temple of God.” Impurity, if present, lies in the contemplating mind, and not in the body, or in any part of it. Sex passion has often been referred to as our animal nature or lower nature. This conception is the natural result of the perverted point of view that has been fostered through prudery. The minds of civilized men and women have been saturated with this form of mental poison, but it requires only a little common sense to see not only the absurd but even the blasphemous character of such a view. The sex instinct is the source of all that is sweet, beautiful and ennobling in the love of man and woman. It is the divine force that brings them together, and that holds them together. It is only the abuse of the function that one needs to be ashamed of—a question of misbehavior. And it is only when the mental attitude is wrong, and sexuality is without restraint, that it becomes sensuality.

With this fundamental understanding as to the proper attitude of mind toward the whole subject, we may consider the various problems associated with it seriously, earnestly and honestly.

To be strongly sexed means to be thoroughly alive, to be vital, to be vigorous in every other respect as well. To be strongly sexed does not mean the possession of mere localized strength in the reproductive system, for sex is related to the entire organism, the mind as much as the body. Remember that sexuality is not merely a physical quality. It is a quality expressed as much in the mind and spirit as in the emotional body. It pervades one’s entire being. And it is partly for this reason that the subject is of such all-embracing importance.

The importance of the sexual glands as a factor in the all-round strength of the body and mind is not generally understood. For in addition to their special function of reproduction they supply what is often called an “internal secretion,” the importance of which in the general bodily economy cannot be overestimated. In this respect they are like the so-called ductless glands, which have an importance in the bodily processes out of all proportion to their size. The thyroid gland, for instance, has a function in the regulation of various processes so important that when it is lacking in childhood, or its function seriously impaired, the result is a lack of physical and mental growth, lack of resistance, and a form of idiocy known as cretinism. Another tiny ductless gland, the pituitary body, has a similarly mysterious but profound influence on growth, strength and health. In the same way the sexual glands in both sexes are vitally related to the strength and growth of the body as a whole.

How important these sexual glands are, and just what virility means in relation to strength of mind and body,is made clear by the condition of those deprived of them in childhood. The operation of removing the testicles is known as castration, and a person so emasculated is known as a eunuch. Castration is a practice not uncommon in parts of the Orient. It is usually performed upon the persons of slaves. The lesson taught by the eunuch is found in his lack of all manly qualities, both physical and mental. His high-pitched, childish voice, undeveloped body; physical weakness, lack of vital resistance and short life all indicate clearly the importance of the glands of which he has been deprived. The beard does not grow, as in the case of the virile man, the voice does not change, the muscles lack density and firmness and the nerves are weak—all of these conditions indicating a lack of general constitutional vigor due to the loss of the “internal secretion,” the substances normally supplied to the living fabric by the testicles.

And what is, perhaps, of even greater importance, the effect upon the mind is just as serious as upon the body. The eunuch is never more than the merest child mentally. He lacks courage. He lacks ambition. He lacks the power of mental concentration. He lacks every mental quality that distinguishes men of great virility.

The same lesson is to be gained from a study of castrated animals. Compare the meekness and weakness of the ox with the spirit and power of the fiery bull. Compare the spirit and physical energy of the stallion with the mild qualities and lesser strength of the gelding. It is well known that horses are castrated simply to make them tame and safe for driving. Emasculated pigs produce fat in larger quantities than normally, which means that they are less firm and vigorous than in their natural state, and constitutionally inferior. When fawns are castrated before the appearance of their horns the latter do not grow at all. The mere question of horns may not seem important, but such conditions indicate deep-seated constitutional deficiencies, and they accompany similar deficiencies of mind and spirit. Certainly you, reader, would not wish to undergo such an operation in order to make you “tame” and capable of “easy and safe driving.”

These facts are all important as showing the value of virility. Any weakening of this power means a weakening of mental capacity, a diminution of courage and of all other qualities that go with superior manhood. Weakened sexuality means a lack of ambition, a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of energy—in fact, a lack of everything that makes life worth living.

Now, castration is not practiced in civilized communities. But there are abuses and vices which accomplish gradually the same result, that is to say, as is attained suddenly by this operation. It is partly the purpose of this book to make clear the influence of these abuses. Those who might shrink with horror at the suggestion of such unsexing by operation, do, nevertheless, proceed at times to gradually bring about a similar result. The fact is that any abuse of the organs of sex will tend to impair their power. This lesson cannot be too strongly emphasized and these abuses will be, considered in detail in later chapters.

It is absolutely necessary to live a clean life and a normal life in order to maintain the health of the sexual glands and the superb mental and physical powers that go with them. This is more important in youth than at any other period, though the rule applies throughout one’s entire adult life. One cannot violate the laws of life in this respect and escape the punishment. It is necessary to reach maturity with these powers unimpaired, and thereafter to continue to avoid abuses in order to attain and retain the mental alertness and energy, the courage, the self-confidence, the ambition, and also the physical stamina that characterize true manhood.

If you are not a man, what are you? To be a male and not a man, to wear the clothes indicative of the male sex and realize that you are masquerading—a hypocrite, a pretender—is indeed a torturous experience. But remember that if you really are a man in every sense of the word, then you are in possession of all the forces that go with superior virility—for virility is nothing more than the physical _expression of manly qualities. You cannot possibly possess these superior qualities without being virile. It may be definitely and positively stated that every superior quality of mind and body is to a large extent dependent upon the characteristics and emotions associated with strongly sexed manhood.

Glory of Brahmacharya/Benefits of Brahmacharya:

Brahmacharya is the basis for morality.

It is the basis for eternal life.

It is a spring flower that exhales immortality from its petals.

It is the substratum for a life of peace in Atman.

It is the firm support for Brahma-Nishtha, which is eagerly longed for by sages, aspirants and Yogic students.

It is the shield for waging war against the internal Asuras—lust, anger and greed.

It opens the door of liberation (Moksha).

It contributes to perennial joy, to the uninterrupted and undecaying bliss. Even Rishis, Devas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras serve at the feet of a true Brahmachari.

Brahmacharya is the only key to open the Sushumna and awaken Kundalini.

It brings glory, fame, virtue and Mana-Pratishtha. The eight Siddhis and the nine Riddhis roll under the feet of the true celibate. They are ever ready to obey his command.

Just as the oil comes up in a wick and burns with glowing light, so also, the Veerya or semen flows up by the practice of Yoga Sadhana and is converted into Tejas or Ojas. The Brahmachari shines with Brahmic aura in his face.

By the practice of Brahmacharya, longevity, glory, strength, vigour, knowledge, wealth, undying fame, virtues and devotion to the truth increase.

Lord Siva said: “Celibacy alone is the supreme penance. Of course, other penances (such as keeping fast and silence etc …) are good in their place, but they are all inferior toBrahmacharya. That Urdhvareta saint who has done penance over the restraint of the sexual organ is not a human-being but God.”

Atharva Veda declares: “Celibacy is the supreme religious observance.”

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa said: “One should strive to totally eradicate lust; if somebody succeeds in doing so, then a new fine nerve named ‘medha’ gets awakened in him/her. That nerve makes the sexual energy, which was earlier flowing downwards, to flow upwards (towards the brain). After this nerve gets opened, one attains the supreme knowledge of the God or God-Realization.”

http://swamivivekananda-thegreathindumonk.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/glory-of-brahmacharyabenefits-of.html

9: Natural Law

“For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.” (Rep. III, 22, 33)

Cicero

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemisia_%28genus%29#Medicinal

Artemisia /ˌɑrtɨˈmziə/[2] is a large, diverse genus of plants with between 200 and 400 species belonging to the daisy family Asteraceae. Common names for various species in the genus include mugwortwormwood, andsagebrushArtemisia comprises hardy herbaceous plants and shrubs, which are known for the powerful chemical constituents in their essential oilsArtemisia species grow in temperate climates of both hemispheres, usually in dry or semiarid habitats. Notable species include A. vulgaris (common mugwort), A. tridentata (big sagebrush), A. annua (sagewort), A. absinthum (wormwood), A. dracunculus (tarragon), and A. abrotanum (southernwood). The leaves of many species are covered with white hairs.

Most species have strong aromas and bitter tastes from terpenoids and sesquiterpene lactones, which exist as an adaptation to discourage herbivory.[3] The small flowers are wind-pollinated.[3] Artemisia species are used as food plants by the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species.

Some botanists split the genus into several genera, but DNA analysis[4] does not support the maintenance of the genera CrossostephiumFilifoliumNeopallasiaSeriphidium, and Sphaeromeria; three other segregate generaStilnolepisElachanthemum, and Kaschgaria, are maintained by this evidence. Occasionally, some of the species are called sages, causing confusion with the Salvia sages in the family Lamiaceae.

The name “artemisia” ultimately derives from the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman Diana), the namesake of Greek Queens Artemisia I and II.[5] A more specific reference may be to Artemisia II of Caria, a botanist and medical researcher who died in 350 BC.[6]

Cultivation and uses

The aromatic leaves of some species are used for flavouring. Most species have an extremely bitter taste. A. dracunculus (tarragon) is widely used as a culinary herb, particularly important in French cuisine.

Artemisia absinthium (absinth wormwood) was used to repel fleas and moths, and in brewing (wormwood beer, wormwood wine). The aperitif vermouth (derived from the German word Wermut, “wormwood”) is a wine flavored with aromatic herbs, but originally with wormwood. The highly potent spirits absinthe and Malört also contain wormwood.

Artemisia pycnocephala (beach sagewort) flowers

Artemisia californica (California sagebrush) leaves

Artemisia mauiensis (Maui wormwood)

Artemisia nilagirica (Indian wormwood)

Artemisia pontica (Roman wormwood)

Artemisia arborescens (tree wormwood, or sheeba in Arabic) is a very bitter herb indigenous to the Middle East used in tea, usually with mint.

A few species are grown as ornamental plants, the fine-textured ones used for clipped bordering. All grow best in free-draining sandy soil, unfertilized, and in full sun.

Artemesia stelleriana is known as Dusty Miller, but several other species bear that name, including Jacobaea maritima (syn. Senecio cineraria), Silene coronaria (syn. Lychnis coronaria), and Centaurea cineraria.

Medicinal

Artemisinin (from Artemisia annua) and derivatives are a group of compounds with the most rapid action of all current drugs used to treat malaria.[7] Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative (artemisinin-combination therapies) are now standard treatment worldwide for malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum.

Culture

Artemisia has been mentioned and used in popular culture for centuries. A few examples are:

  • In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular character says “Wormwood, wormwood” to comment on the bitter implications of what the Player Queen has just said.