Darshana Upanishad 1.14 defines Brahmacharya as brahmabhāve manaścāraṃ brahmacaryaṃ parantapa. It means the constant application of the mind in the path of becoming Brahman is Brahmacharya.’
Shandilya Upanishad defines Brahmacharya as brahmacaryaṃ nāma sarvāvasthāsu manovākkāyakarmabhiḥ sarvatra maithunatyāgaḥ. It means ‘the abstinence from all forms of the bodily union by the mind, speech, and body.’
In the commentary of Chandogya Upanishad, Sri Sankara defines Brahmacharya as ‘the renunciation of desire for women‘.
If he opts to choose grihastha ashrama after Brahmacharya ashrama, he is called Upakurvana Brahmachari. Upakurvana Brahmachari maintains celibacy until his studies are over and Naishtika Brahmachari maintains celibacy for the whole of his life.
According to Vasista Smriti, he should hand over all his Bikhsha (food procured as alms) to his Guru and eats only what his Guru gives. He should never sleep on a cot. He should not use perfumes.
Naishtika Brahmachari is otherwise known as Askalita Brahmachari or Nitya Brahmachari. Skalitha means ‘that has slipped or escaped’. Askalita means ‘that has not been slipped or escaped’. A person who has not slipped in Brahmacharya is Askalita Brahmachari. It may be interpreted in yet another way; Askalita Brahmachari is one whose sexual fluid has not been slipped away from him.
It is not a surprising fact that Lord Sri Krishna was a Naishtika Brahmachari, though he kept himself in the company Gopikas. In their earlier birth, Gopikas were the devotees of the Lord. To fulfill their pious wishes of his devotees, the Lord allowed him to be loved and embraced. His love for them is pure and transcendental in nature. For Him, they are devotees and there is no question of any carnal desires in him. Lord Krishna has never attached himself in the ethereal body.
Take the example of Sri Hanuman who is a Nitya Brahmachari. His tremendous strength and intellect are attributed to Brahmacharya. If you have difficulty in believing this, take the case of Swami Vivekananda who was also a Brahmachari. His strength of memory and wisdom were just the result of Celibacy.
In India, there were hundreds and hundreds of Siddhas and Saints who practiced celibacy and excelled in spirituality. Invariably all religions of India prescribe celibacy as their moral code of conduct.
But modern science has yet to understand the glory of celibacy.
Brahmacharya helps the yogi to conserve the sexual energy and diverts it for spiritual development. It is the best instrument for spiritual progress. It boosts the practice of Pranayama and Yoga.
Take the life of any founder of Religion like Sri Buddha, Sri Mahavira, Sri Jesus Christ, Sri Adi Sankara, Sri Ramanuja and the like. They are all celibates. Understand their power of influence which is the outcome of the strength of Celibacy.
Mahatma Gandhi practiced Brahmacharya in his later part of life. His influence on people and others were due to the power of Brahmacharya. One could not ignore the influential power of speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda in the parliament of world religions.
At the physical level, energy is not wasted. It is conserved which improves health and immunity. It fills the body with Ojas which is a form of energy that gives focus and vitality. The vitality generated by means of Brahmacharya helps the yogi to reach the next level.
At the mental level, Brahmacharya improves focus and concentration. Other benefits include good memory, courage, and emotional stability. Negative mental tendencies like anger, passion, creed, worries, distractions, and irritability diminish and cease to exist. It improves confidence and will power. It generates internal peace and harmony. The intellect becomes sharper and more insightful.
The glory of Brahmacharya could not be expressed in words. It should be realized. The vitality and wisdom will increase million-fold.
Brahmacharya in Yoga
Verse 2.38 of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali says, “brahmacharya pratiṣṭhāyāṁ vīrya-lābhaḥ.” It means, “by the mastery of Brahmacharya, vitality is gained.”
Swami Vivekananda when commenting the above verse says, “the chaste brain has tremendous energy, gigantic will power, without that there can be no mental strength. All men of gigantic brains are very continent. It gives wonderful control over mankind. Leaders of men have been very continent, and this is what gave them power. Therefore the yogi must be continent.”
Maharishi Vyasa while commenting on the same verse says, “On attaining continence, vitality is gained. By the attainment, the yogi raises to perfection. He attains irrepressible qualities or powers. On becoming perfected, the yogi is able to infuse wisdom to his disciples.”
Verse 1.64 of Hatha Yoga Pradapika says,
“tathā hi ghorakṣha-vachanam
It means, “it is stated by Gorakksha that one should keep himself away from evil-minded, fire, women, traveling, early morning bath, fasting, and bodily strain.”
Besides verses 2.88 to 91 state, “the yoga who protects the bindu (sexual fluid) overcomes death. His life is prolonged by its preservation. A pleasant smell is emitted by the body of the yogi who preserves bindu. For him, there is no fear of death until the bindu is established in his body. The bindu is under the control of the mind. Life depends on the bindu. Hence bindu and mind should be protected by all means.”
The type of Brahmacharya to be taken depends on the goal of the yogi. If liberation is the goal of the yogi, Naishtika Brahmacharya is more suitable. For lesser goals, less vigorous Brahmacharya or moderation is enough.
Samadhi happens only when the conserved sex energy is brought up to Sahasrara Chakra. In the case of sexual indulgence, precious energy is wasted. If the yogi conserves the energy, he can bring that up to higher centers. If the container has a big hole at the bottom, it can not be filled.
Brahmacharya is the concept of yoga that has been misunderstood by the modern world. Modern yoga is nothing more than postural yoga. It is confined to Asana or yoga poses, not even a full-fledged hatha yoga stream. Brahmacharya is not a pre-condition for them. At the same time without it, they could not advance beyond a certain point in the yogic path.
Approaches to yoga have become narrower. Earlier people pursued the path of yoga for spiritual progress and liberation. Now people approach yoga for health, fitness, mental peace or something like that. Hence Brahmacharya and other Yama are not relevant to modern yoga.
In ancient India, Brahmacharya was the precondition for the student of any discipline. It was not limited to the study or practice of yoga alone. Now the student life has changed drastically and the approaches to yoga too.
Brahmacharya and Ayurveda
According to Danvantri, sexual energy is the Atman itself. The secret of health depends on the preservation of this vital energy. For those losing this vital energy cannot have physical, mental, and spiritual developments.
In Ayurveda, Ahara (diet), Nitra (sleep), and Brahmacharya (continence) are called Trayostambh (three pillars) of health. They are the essential pillars that promote a healthy lifestyle. By Ahara, we can control both Nidra and Brahmacharya. The cognitive capacity of the brain is increased by the practice of the three.
The rules of Ayurveda prohibits sex until the age of twenty-five. It claims that the body is not fully functional in physical, psychological, and emotional levels. It is allowed only during that too not immediately after a meal. The frequency should be once in a fortnight during summer and weekly thrice during other seasons.
Seminal fluid is the last Dhatu (humor) that is formed out of Majja (marrow). One drop of seminal fluid is made up of forty drops of blood. Those who waste will have unsteady and agitated Prana that results in mood swing, memory loss, and emotional imbalance.
Sattvic food is good for maintaining Celibacy. Rajastic and Tamasic foods should be avoided. Fruits, milk, and ghee are good examples of Sattvic food. Non-vegetarian food should be avoided.
Brahmacharya in Hinduism
Celibacy in Chandogya Upanishad
The fifth section of the eighth chapter of Chandogya Upanishad highlights the importance of Brahmacharya.
Celibacy in Bhagavad Gita
In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 14, Sri Krishna says,
praśhāntātmā vigata-bhīr brahmachāri-vrate sthitaḥ
manaḥ sanyamya mach-chitto yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
In the next verse, he says, ‘such a yogi of pure mind attains liberation and takes repose in me with supreme peace.’
In Chapter 8, Verse 11, Sri Krishna says,
yadakṣaraṃ vedavido vadanti
viśanti yadyatayo vītarāgāḥ ।
yadicchanto brahmacaryaṃ caranti
tatte padaṃ saṅgraheṇa pravakṣye
It means, “that word which the scholars of Veda utter, desiring which great sages of renunciation practice celibacy, I shall explain that process in short.”
He continues in the next verse, “the process is that of detachment from all the sensual engagements. One establishes himself in that yoga by shutting all the doors of senses, fixing the mind in the heart, and placing Prana at the top of the head.”
In verses 3.37 to 41, Sri Krishna gives the ill-effects of lust. Lust is the immediate cause of frustrated desire. Anger arises from frustrated desire. Lust is the underlying cause of these. As fire is hidden in the smoke, as the mirror is hidden in dust, as the embryo is covered in the womb, the universe is covered by different degrees of lust.
The knowledge of man is covered by his eternal enemy lust which cannot be satisfied and burns like a fire.
Lust takes abode in senses, mind, and intellect. By doing so, it covers the real knowledge of a person and bewilders him.
Hence O Arjuna! Destroy this destroyer of knowledge and realization by regulating your senses.
Celibacy in Agni Purana
Agni Purana lists eight-fold activities of restriction for better mastery of Brahmacharya. One should abstain from
- thinking of sexual activities and women
- talking about them
- making jokes about them
- imagining of sexual activities
- supporting someone interested in
- enticing someone interested in
- participating in such activities.
Celibacy in Srimad Bhagavatam
According to verse 5.5.12 & 13 of Srimad Bhagavatam, one should detach himself from his family and practice celibacy. Sex with one’s own wife is accepted as Brahmacharya as per scriptural injunctions. But illicit sex is against the religious principles and it prevents the progress of spiritual consciousness.
Brahmacharya in Jainism
According to Somadeva, the ten concomitants of sexual desire are wine, meat, gambling, music including songs and dances, bodily decoration, intoxication, libertines, and aimless wanderings.
In Upasakadasanga, five transgressions of the vow celibacy are given. They are
- a woman leading a disorderly life
- a widow or harlot
- caressing sexual organs to influence desire
- excessive desire for sex drive even in relation to one’s own wife
- arranging marriages of those who are not family members.
Brahmacharya in Buddhism
- right view
- right resolve
- right speech
- right conduct
- right livelihood
- right effort
- right mindedness
- right Samadhi
- Ganganatha Jha, The Yoga Dharsana – the translation of Vyasa Bhasya of Yoga-sutra of Patanjali, Rajaram Tukaram Tatya, 1907.
- Swami Vivekananda, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, https://www.pdfdrive.com/the-yoga-sutras-of-patanjali-by-swami-vivekananda-e17534288.html.
- Ganganatha Jha, Chanogya Upanishad with Sankara Bhasya (English), Oriental Book Agency, Poona, 1942.
- Dayanand Bhargava, Jaina Ethics, Motilal Banarsidass, 1968.
- Dada Bhagwan, Celibacy attained with understanding, Mahavidegh Foundation, 2005.