Brahmacharya – What is it?


The word ‘Brahmacharya’ (Brahman+Charya=Soul+Follow) indicates a lifestyle adapted to enable one to obtain the ultimate reality. Brahmacharya has two main meanings. In the broad sense it means control of the senses. More specifically it refers to celibacy or chastity. The more broad definition of brahmacharya also includes conduct that leads to the realization of the Self, or Soul, and contemplation on Soul.

Way to practice?

Many people mistakenly believe that practicing brahmacharya means suppression of the natural sexual instincts. Suppression is not what is wanted, because anything that is suppressed will eventually be released with redoubled force when an opportunity arises, the will becomes weak or when practice slackens.

The proper way to practice brahmacharya is to sublimate these natural urges into Ojas by a strong yoga practice that includes meditation, asanas, pranayama, mantras, prayers and reading of scriptures or yogic texts. Contrary to some popular ideas and incorrect psychological beliefs, celibacy improves health and all aspects of life when practiced in the proper context.

It is worth noting that most religions place emphasis on brahmacharya, considering it a higher state of religious practice, and have nuns and monks who take vows of chastity. While not everyone wants to take vows and enter a religious order, there are also guidelines for householders to practice brahmacharya within their personal relationships.

Why to Practice?

Mind, Prana, Virya (seminal energy) are three links of one chain. They are three pillars of the edifice of embodied Soul. Destroy one pillar – either mind, Prana or Virya and the whole building will fall to pieces. If you can observe Brahmacharya for a period of 12 years, you will enter into final thoughtless state spontaneously without any effort. The mind will be controlled by itself. Seminal energy is a potent energy. It is Soul itself. A Brahmachari who has practised unbroken celibacy for full twelve years will reach to this clear state immediately who knows ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (That thou art), ‘You are that’. His mind is extremely pure, strong and one-pointed. He need not have repeatedly undergone the lengthy process of hearing) and intellection.

A drop of semen is made out of 40 drops of blood. The energy that is spent in one act of copulation is tantamount to expenditure of mental energy through mental exertion for 24 hours or expenditure of physical energy through physical exertion for three days. Mark how valuable and precious is semen! Do not waste this energy. Preserve it with great care. You will have wonderful vitality and energy. When it is not used, it is all transmuted into Ojas and Tejas(spiritual energy) and stored up in the brain. Most doctors know little of this salient point. Most of your ailments are due to excessive seminal wastage.

Benefits?

There are many benefits to health and spiritual life that come from the practice of brahmacharya. Brahmacharya is considered one of the cornerstones of a serious yoga practice. The conservation of energy that comes from practicing celibacy is converted into Ojas and Tejas (spiritual energy). Eventually yogic powers can also manifest by the perfect practice of brahmacharya. There are many great yogis, sages and spiritual leaders who were established in this. From their practice of brahmacharya they had incredible amounts of energy, will-power and thought-power to do great works for the world.

A true Brahmachari in thought, word and deed has wonderful thought-power. He can move the world. If you develop strict celibacy, power of inquiry and power of grasping and holding the Truth will develop. If a man persistently refuses to yield to his lower nature and remains as a strict celibate, the seminal energy is deflected upwards to the brain and is stored up as Ojas and Tejas (spiritual energy). Thereby, the power of the intellect is intensified to a remarkable degree. The strict celibate has keen and acute memory even in old age. The celibate who has achieved the transmutation of the seminal energy will find that sexual desires no longer trouble him

Householders?

Swami Sivananda recommends that for householders moderation should be practiced. He recommends self-control in order to have one or two children who are healthy and strong. He advocates living a more selfless life of charity, goodness and kindness, including worship of God. Marriage should lead the husband and wife upwards in the spiritual path towards a life of spiritual partnership. When this is accomplished, much spiritual progress can be gained.

It is beyond all doubt that a life of Brahmacharya is glorious and marvellous. At the same time, a life of moderation in the household life is equally good and helpful for spiritual growth. Both have their own advantages. You must have great strength to tread the path either way.

                                                                     – Swami Sivananda

Reference

Mind – Its Mysteries and Control by Sri Swami Sivananda

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8 thoughts on “Brahmacharya – What is it?

  1. This is very interesting to me. I recently read up about the Brahma Kumaris and their teachings which I have the greatest admiration for. This aspect of celibacy as explained here and as practised by Mahatma Gandhi shed much light on this practice. Thank you once again Ganesh. Sharon

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