Literally speaking the word ‘Brahmacharya’ is a compound Sanskrit word which can be split as ‘Brahmani Charyathey iti’. The word ‘Brahman’ means the Almighty lord, while ‘Charathi’ means to surrender and perform as per his wishes, so as to soon attain self-realization. One who practices the same is called a ‘Brahmachari’, immaterial of what his marital status is.
The concept of abstinence from sexuality in thought, word and deed is a byproduct of Brahmacharya that helps one achieve this surrender and not Brahmacharya itself.
Coming to the practical and effective meaning, ‘Brahmacharya’ is a state of body, mind and consciousness in which a man essentially adopts a state free from sexual thoughts, actions and attitude for recreation. It is a state adopted by man to free oneself from the dualities of Earthly life and embrace the unipolar state of ‘Ananda’ or bliss whose best representation is the Blessed Lord.
In case of a married house holder, sexual activity assumes righteousness when indulged with the following objectives:
1. In producing wanted offspring (children).
2. In creating a healthy marital bond with newly weds during the initial period of wedded life.
As a wedded couple progress in time through their marriage, nature ideally programs them to rely less on sexual activity in maintaining this marital bond and shift to more substantial parameters such as kindness, true love, understanding, companionship and togetherness. Thereby, while a single unmarried Brahmachari is required to abstain from all forms of sexuality, a house holder or ‘Grihasta’ is allowed sexual contact only with his wife to produce wanted offspring (procreation and not recreation or pleasure).
A householder wishing to adopt the ‘Brahmacharya’ mode of life should work towards achieving this state of mind and action in his marriage, whereby he acquires the same benefits a single unmarried true ‘Brahmachari’ begets in his path of self-realization.
‘Brahmacharya’ to know the self, & the means required are dealt with here.
Brahmacharya or spiritually based continence is one of the important components of ‘Yama’. ‘Brahmacharya’: – “Brahmani-charyathey-ithi” – “To surrender one’s Ego and go with the will of the Almighty.”
Basically, ‘Brahmacharya’ means celibacy.
The broader meaning of “Brahmacharya is “Brahmani-charyathey-ithi”: “To act on the spiritual platform.”
“By the practice of ‘Brahmacharya’, longevity, luster, strength, vigor, knowledge, beauty, fame, piety, and devotion to truth increase.” (-Cited from Practice of Brahmacharya by Sivananda Swami; original source unknown.)
Practice of ‘Brahmacharya’ gives good health, inner strength, peace of mind, fortitude, and long life. It helps to conserve physical and mental energy. It augments memory, willpower, clear thinking, power of concentration, and ability to grasp philosophical subjects. It bestows physical strength, vigor, vitality, courage, boldness, and strength of character. To one who practices ‘Brahmacharya’, divine knowledge comes as if naturally. His words convey meaning and authority and leave an impression on the hearers.
Conversely, those who do not practice ‘Brahmacharya’ must always remain in illusion.
“Brahmacharya’ is very, very essential. When one becomes detestful to sex life, that is the beginning of spiritual life.”- Srila Prabhupada:
“Without becoming Brahmachari, nobody can understand spiritual life.”
“The vow of Brahmacharya’ is meant to help one completely abstain from sex indulgence in work, words, and mind—at all times, under all circumstances and in all places.” – Yajnavalkya Smriti
There are eight aspects of ‘Brahmacharya’, as described in Sridhara Swami’s commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam
One should not:
1. Think about the opposite sex.
2. Speak about sex life.
3. Dally with the opposite sex.
4. Look lustfully at the opposite sex.
5. Talk intimately with the opposite sex.
6. Decide to engage in sexual intercourse.
7. Endeavour for sex life.
8. Engage in sex life.
Sex is so overwhelmingly present in the material world that the question must arise, Where has this sex desire come from?
The answer is that sex originates from God. In the spiritual world, Krishna and His consorts are spontaneously attracted to each other and engage in pastimes of love together. This is called Adirasa, the original and real sex desire, the super most platform of spiritual exchange. This adirasa is free from all material contamination and is as different to mundane sex attraction as gold is to iron.
To understand the principles of Brahmacharya means to understand that sexual desire and sexual pleasure are creations of God which truly give life when used according to manufacturer’s specifications.
In fact, celibacy is not exactly the right word to describe Brahmacharya. Celibacy could be repression of sex, but Brahmacharya is transcendence of sex: you are so grown up that the toys you used to play with are no more relevant to you – they have dropped of their own accord.
Lord Vyasa discusses Brahmacharya in his commentary on the Yoga Sutra: Brahmacharya means using Samyama – holding together, tying up, binding, integration – the process of dharana (fixed attention, dhyana, and samadhi) on the secret sexual organ. “Performing Samyama on the sexual organs is known as niskama karma yoga. Niskama karma yoga is called Brahmacharya (celibacy).
This divine knowledge is the mother of all knowledge. It is mysterious and secret. After solving this mystery, no other knowledge remains to be revealed. Countless sadhakas (practitioners) who understand the importance of Brahmacharya try very hard to practice it. But the Brahmacharya which is expected of the seeker of divine knowledge is unattainable by ordinary persons. It is, therefore, said in the scriptures:
“Of all austerities, Brahmacharya is the ultimate. One who has mastered Brahmacharya is no longer a human, but a god. ” Brahmacharya is the greatest form of austerity. Other austerities exist, but are inferior. One who has practiced austerity by performing Samyama(practice) on the sexual organs is a great saint, not an ordinary person. He is a god on earth.”
As a girl or a boy reaches puberty, she or he is burned by the fire of the senses. This sensuality upsets that youth. But as soon as Saktipata is given to that individual, the downward path opens up. This path must be closed, and the Sakti (divine energy) made ascendant. This is as difficult a task as making the river Ganges ascend to heaven. Without total renunciation, the yogi cannot travel this difficult path.
Brahmacharya has a primary and a secondary (incomplete) variation.
The primary form is to be observed by the celibate student, hermit, and the renunciant.
The second variation is to be observed by householders.
“The husband and wife should have sex for the purpose of procreation sixteen days after the start of menstruation, except for holy days. This is considered to be Brahmacharya for the householder.”
If one does not understand the importance of Brahmacharya he is a fool, even though he may be a learned man. The development of an individual’s personality is impossible without Brahmacharya. Therefore, Maharsi Patanjali says in his Yoga Sutra:
“Brahmacharya pratlsthayam virya labhah”
On being firmly established in Brahmacharya, vigor is gained. (Yoga Sutra, Sadhanapada, Sutra 38).
Once someone becomes steady in celibacy, he becomes powerful. This powerful individual can achieve the ultimate truth, then fame, money, and other material goods come to him automatically.
“Siddhe bindau mahadevi kim na siddhyati bhutale”
O Goddess, when one has mastered the sexual fluids, what power is not at his command?
After the mastery of sexual fluids all powers are the slaves of the Urdhvareta saint. The saint becomes an Urdhvareta only by the practice of yoga. It is the Urdhvareta who achieves God. A god’s divinity is achieved only through Brahmacharya.
“Brahmacharyena tapasa deva mrtyumupaghnata”
Through the penance of Brahmacharya, the gods have destroyed death.
How can disease enter the body of an Urdhvareta who has destroyed death!
“Lord Krishna declares the importance of sexual fluids in the Srimad Bhagavadgita:
“Bijam mam sarvabhtitanarn viddhi partha sanatanam”
Know me to be the primeval seed of all existence, O Partha. (Bhagavadgita, 7:10) “The world is created from the powerful seed of the great Creator.
Lord Sivaji says:
“Aham binduh sivo binduh”
I am the bindu (drop, ovum); Siva is the bindu.
“The Durga Saptasati states:
“Ya devi sarvabhutesu saktirupena sansthita.”
The Goddess resides in all beings in the form of sakti (divine energy). “Sexual energy is itself Durga, the goddess of power. “The great saints observed celibacy for attaining God. This jewel is found in the Srimad Bhagavadgita:
“Yad icchanto brahmacharyam caranti”
One who desires to reach his goal observes Brahmacharya. (Bhagavadgita, 8:11)
“Yogiraj a Goraksanatha describes the importance of sexual fluids as follows:
“The beloved fades in the absence of a husband and the yogi fades when he loses his sexual fluids.”
It is also said:
“Maranam bindupatena jivanam bindu dharanat.”
The loss of sexual fluids leads to death, and the sublimation of sexual fluids rejuvenates.