Preserve the vital force (Veerya) very, very carefully. Veerya is God in motion or manifestation—Vibhuti. Veerya is all power. Veerya is all money. Veerya is the essence of life, thought and intelligence.
“Preserve the vital force very, very carefully. Veerya is God in motion or manifestation—vibhuti, veerya is all power. Veerya is all money. Veerya is the essence of life, thought and intelligence.”
Brahmacharya, which is the third of the five niyamas of Maharshi Patanjali, gets mentioned in practically every one of the scriptures of Sanatana Vaidic Dharma (Eternal Religion)—the Bhagavata, the Ramayana and all the Puranas. It is also in all the Yogas—Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga.
In the Hindu tradition three great principles or qualities have been laid down as fundamental practices for spiritual development. They are ahimsa, satyam and brahmacharya (non-injury, truthfulness and chastity).
Yadi moksham icchasi chetthaatha
Vishayan vishavat thyaja
Brahmacharyam ahimsa cha
“If you desire your highest blessedness, give up like poison desire for sensual enjoyment and pleasures and like nectar receive into your life the triple virtues of chastity, non-injury and truthfulness.”
Down the ages this has come to be the cardinal doctrine of the Higher Life.
Within the context of the Christian faith, the prophetic religion that formed itself around the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, faith, hope
are lauded as cardinal virtues. Within the context of this religion, there is also Sannyas
(order of renunciation)—the Christian monastic tradition. In this monastic tradition, three great vows are indispensable, they are poverty, chastity
. That is the monastic vow. That is the vow of the monks and priests in seminaries as also the vow of the nuns in convents.
This also existed in pre-Christian Roman times when for the mystical Oracle of Delphi, it was only virgins who were qualified to perform the high task of divining the will of God and guiding man. This they proclaimed in a state of spiritual trance. These unmarried maidens were dedicated to God and this task, and it was believed that it was only in the pure minds and hearts of these virgins that God revealed His sacred Will. They were called Vestil Virgins of Delphi. So, the tradition of brahmacharya—chastity, self-control, sex purity did not commence from Christianity, it must have already been there within the tradition of Judaism as well.
Long before that, during the time of Buddha—who preceded Jesus by more than 500 years—the doctrine of chastity was a necessary preparation and foundation for the life of renunciation, asceticism and Yoga for the seeker after the Great Reality or for attainment of Enlightenment and Wisdom. This foundation was recognised by Buddha. The Young prince living in a palace with his young wife and baby-Rahul, left everything and went into the forest. That great renunciation, great tyaga
was wonderfully brought out by Sir Edwin Arnold
in his Light of Asia,
a poetical presentation of Buddha’s great life, career and attainment.
Thus, it is something that has been handed down to humanity from time immemorial. It is a part of the global heritage from various diverse directions and sources. Far back, even before Zoroaster or Buddha, the ancient prophets of the Upanishads
proclaimed the same thing. We hear mentioned in the Vedic age of Indra and Virochana approaching Brahma for instructions, and Brahma sending them back to observe brahmacharya for so many years
—“Then come and ask me, I shall give you some knowledge, part of my knowledge.”
So they go and observe the vow of celibacy for so many years and come back. Then He gives them a part of the Truth. After that He says—“Now go back and observe celibacy for some more years and come back.” Because, it is necessary to grasp the concept of That which is beyond the grasp of the mind and the senses, beyond speech and thought. They were unable to grasp it.
A gross mind which is identified with the body, with the senses and with the sense appetites, and which is enslaved by the pleasure principle only, is unfit to think of abstract and abstruse ideas and concepts. A mind that has become gross due to the progressive increase of rajas and tamas, becomes unfit and naturally spiritual life and practises are a far cry to that individual. Mind must become attenuated, it must become very fine. There should be no grossness—desires, attachments and cravings in it. A certain psychic fineness of the antahkarana (inner being) is said to be essential and indispensable for rising higher into sublime ideas, thoughts and processes of viveka (discrimination), vichara (enquiry) and atma sadhana (enquiry into the Self). Therefore, this process of purification, the rising from the gross to the subtle, is the essence of the concept of brahmacharya.
The sage, Rishya Sringa, was established in brahmacharya.
When a whole kingdom was threatened by famine, due to a drought, the king was deeply concerned, people were in great fear and anxiety. Then some sages advised that if this great man, who was established in the vow of absolute celibacy and continence, could be brought to the kingdom, into the royal city, then the heavens would bless them with rain. So they induced him to come. Thus the famine and possible death due to starvation of countless people was averted.
Long, long ago, our Puranic scripture, Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana
has given the highest place for a great lady who was a paragon of virtue and chastity and total fidelity to her husband. Never did a thought of any other man cross her mind even in dream or imagination. So much so that the three great cosmic deities, the Creator, the Preserver and the Dissolver—Brahma, Vishnu
had to admit her greatness and confess that they had failed in trying to shake her from her firm adherence to chastity when they tried to test her—she was given a crucial test, maybe to glorify this great quality of chastity. She became immortal—Sati Anasuya, the mother of the Trimurtis
incarnated as one avatara—Sri Dattatreya, who is regarded as the Adi-Guru.
Even so, the great world mother, Jagan-Mata Sita Janaki—the queen and wife of Lord Rama—became immortal as an example of the great virtue of pativrata (faithful wife). And therefore the couple, Maryada Purushottam Bhagavan Sri Ramachandra and Jagan Mata Sita Janaki are regarded as the ideal for the second ashramam—the grihastashrama, forever and for all times to come, for all those that believe in the Vedas and the Vedic way of life.
For 14 years Laxmana observed the vow of perfect celibacy and therefore it was he alone who was able to ultimately give victory to the side of Rama by destroying Indrajit (Meghanada) the invincible and invulnerable son of Ravana.
In the cultural history of India, the name of Bhishma evokes awe, wonder and admiration in the hearts of each and every individual who has heard about him and the great vow he took in order to fulfil the desire of his father. It has gone down in history as Bhishma Pratigna.
He became a lifelong Brahmachari, and was one of the most invincible of warriors in the whole narrative of the Mahabharata.
Just as the determination, the resolution, and the austerity performed by Bhagirath, another scion of the royal race and royal family, has gone down in history as something unprecedented, unparalleled, unique. We speak of Bhagiratha prayatna
Now, we cannot simply brush aside all these facts as so much foolishness or so much meaningless. These were not normal people, they were supernormal extraordinary personalities who had acquired Supreme Wisdom, great intuition and attained towering heights of Self-realisation.
Sages like Vyasa and Valmiki, were not infantile, irrational idealists—they were Tattva-vettas, Brahma-jnanis
and therefore we would only be demonstrating our emptiness, our bankruptcy in vichara
if we question the rationality of the principles and teachings of these great ones.
So it seems to be important that not only in the context of Satya Sanatana Vaidic Dharma but in the context of all the great living religions of the world today there is something deeply scientific and meaningful and of great importance in the observance of these principles. And you will find that Zoroaster, Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, they might not have propagated any Yoga path or Sadhana system, but they gave forth great teachings for attaining Blessedness by fulfilling the highest purpose of human existence namely love of God.
All these are indications of the concept of conserving a certain dynamic force in the human biological being and converting and sublimating this force upon which your existence, my existence—the existence of all of us physically, has been dependent. I am here, Chidananda, sitting and talking to you through the Grace of Gurudev. This has been possible because my parents produced for me this physical vehicle into which I could come at the time of prarabdha
(pre-fixed birth). Even so, because the parents of Buddha, Raja Shuddhodana and mother Yasodhara had prepared the wondrous body for the Tathagata, we have the inspiring teachings of this great Master who built up a large following, a great religion, philosophy, and meditational system.
And it is therefore this concept of conserving a dynamic biological force within the human system and converting it into a higher subtler force through sublimation, conservation, preservation and taking it higher into the psyche in the form of a very, very refined subtle energy, psychical energy called ojas
means that which is radiant, that which shines, that which is effulgent. This wise technique, a scientific method of converting the gross into the subtle; physical into the spiritual; psychic into the spiritual was evolved by the great sages.
Because provision was made by the Cosmic Intelligence Power that we call para-Brahman and the Cosmic Force that we call Para-shakti, Adi-shakti, Maha-shakti, it has been possible that different species of living creatures, different species of plant life, botanical life, has lived, developed and evolved through the ages. This perpetuation of the species is the law of life in the entire universe, in every form of life, not only human, animal or sub-animal—insect, reptile, fish—but even in the botanical world. How there is cross pollination and how the flower is the means of carrying out this act of reproduction, it is an intricate, mysterious marvel! Those who study it will be amazed at the wonderful science behind it, will marvel at this unknown mysterious Cosmic Intelligence that has brought this process about. One is struck with awe and admiration when one begins to go deeper into the process of how life is perpetuated on every level, every plane and every field of life, even from the most rudimentary life of a single cell, how it splits, divides itself and multiplies.
How wonderful that a seed is able to germinate due to the presence of two factors, so that the power of these factors gives it that mighty force of even breaking through rock, breaking through the pressure of heavy soil over it—a tiny, tender little thing like a seed that has just germinated. What a miracle! What great force! It cleaves the earth ten times harder than its tender shoot, and surfaces. If by chance a seed has been deposited on the top of a concrete terrace, when it germinates it even breaks through bricks and cement walls and displaces them and puts forth its own life.
This act of multiplying and reproducing is present everywhere. It saturates and permeates the whole universe because from the angle of cosmology, the entire universe is the outcome of such a primal first wish for multiplication. “I am One, may I become many.” Thus the Vedas
say that there was one imponderable, mysterious Being. What that Being was, who knows, because that Being was one without a second. So, a second not being present, not existing how can there arise the question of anyone cognizing that Being? Who was there to cognize when that—Ekameva’dvitiyam Brahma
(God) alone existed. And in that mysterious Being there arose this germ of an idea. He thought: “May I become many. I am One, may I become many.” That is how they try to explain the genesis of the advitiya
and the aneka
from the Ekameva’dvitiya.
And, therefore, the concept of multiplication is at the very heart and essence of existence because it arose from Brahma and therefore it is present everywhere. In the Bible it is put in a different way. God created man and told him: “Go forth and multiply.” And, if you delve into the scriptures of all religions, you will find that somewhere or the other this fact is there.
Therefore, the great Cosmic Intelligence and Power called God or Paramatman,
the Supreme Soul or the Universal Spirit, permeates and indwells everything that exists. And thus when there is a provision made in a certain period of life then it takes on the nature of a very, very sacred act. Because, ultimately the atman
is not created, what is created by the parents, human or sub-human, is only a vehicle for the entry into the earth plane of a spirit, a nucleus of consciousness. And the creation of this receptacle is an act wherein the partners in a marital state co-operate with Brahma, the creator—Srishtikarta Brahma.
So they take on a certain part of Brahma’s function. Therefore it is sacred.
It is this force of brahmacharya that is the invaluable force that gives success in sravana (hearing), manana (reflection) and nididhyasana (concentration). It gives success in the practice of the nine modes of Bhakti—Sravana, kirtana, smarana, archana, vandana, pada-sevana, dasya, sakhya, and atma-nivedana. It makes possible the successful practice of Raja Yoga—yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. It makes for a fruitful practice of asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, kriya leading into samadhi of the Hatha Yoga system. It is this force that brought forth Ravindranath Tagore, Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi, Beethoven, Bach, Albert Schweitzer, Joan of Arc and Mother Theresa. It is this marvellous force that brought forth sage Valmiki and all the other great towering figures in history. Their miracle was because of this secret of conservation, preservation, sublimation and sublime application towards a higher purpose.
The profligate who wastes his vital power and becomes a nervous wreck falls prey to various diseases. He is like the foolish multi-millionaire’s son who throws away his money in drinking, gambling and other extravagances, purchasing a dozen cadilacs, houses and land in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Isles of Capri and Monte Carlo and then afterwards becoming bankrupt and reduced to a beggar, why? Whatever was given to him was squandered. It was lost. Not knowing its value, he became reduced to abject poverty. What a deplorable, pitiable state!
Energy and strength are necessary for all processes and all activities. The higher the activity, the greater the need of energy. Diesel can drive certain vehicles. Petrol can only drive certain vehicles. Neither diesel nor petrol can make an aeroplane fly, they have to have high octane fuel for making aeroplanes fly. Therefore, crude energy is enough for physical functions. A more subtle type of energy is necessary for intellectual functions—going to the university and studying for a law, science or nuclear science degree. An altogether different type of highly refined, extremely subtle force is necessary for the process that takes you across the barrier of the relative and launches you into the Absolute.
—it is that subtlest of the subtle, most refined process that brings you face to face with the Supreme Reality—God-realisation. It is the stage of Yoga next to Super-consciousness or samadhi,
(Spirit) attains awareness of His own ever-free, independent, all-perfect nature distinct from prakriti
(matter). And therefore, it is only one step next to the threshold of Super-consciousness, Self-realisation, Aparoksha Anubhuti.
For that process, you can just imagine how subtle and how refined the mind has to be. And so the gross potential has to be first of all refined. It is like mining ore from the bowels of the earth. The ore contains gold, but it is not gold. It has to be refined and sifted until pure gold is brought out. So the biological sex-force has to be transmuted into a subtle psychic spiritual force called ojas.
Duties of Householders
All this talk about brahmacharya must not give us the impression that in Hinduism and in the Hindu religion, sex has no place and celibacy is the only thing that is insisted upon and lauded as the highest virtue. That would be a mistake, a misconception. In the Varnashrama Dharma, pattern of life formulated and given for the individual born into the Hindu faith (Vaidica Dharma), brahmacharya is insisted upon as total abstinence from sex life, from any form of physical and mental manifestation of sex life, for three of the four ashramas. But in the Grihasthashrama (householders’ life) the exercise of sex life is regarded as sacred, and elaborate rules and regulations have been drawn up for it.
A great deal of advice, guidance and instructions have been given for the second ashrama, where it becomes not only a right and permitted but is elevated to the sacred duty of the householder. It has been given as the most important duty to perpetuate the particular family lineage, and it is considered a sacred duty to contribute one’s mite towards the generation of tomorrow. So, it has been recognised as an important function of the human individual, and this lifelong partnership is regarded as one of the most sacred aspects of human life. Here it has been carried to the level of the yajna (sacrifice). In the samskaras (four stages of life) this particular aspect of yajna is there in order to support life. Just as the eating function of the individual has been taken to the level of a yajna, saying it is ahuti, not an offering to an outer fire in a yajna kund but a daily sacred offering to agni (the inner gastric fire)—to that agni each morsel of food is offered as ahuti; so this is a sacred yajna—the offering of the ahuti of the life principle into the partner in order to perpetuate the family lineage.
But then it is made legitimate, permissible, a duty. If you do not perform that duty, dire consequences are foretold by the scriptures—that if you do not have a progeny, and there also if you do not have a male progeny, the parents will go to hell, a special hell reserved for them. And, therefore, Sanatana Vaidica Dharma
has even permitted that if a Brahmin
has not a putra santana
(male child) he may take another wife. He can even take four wives. Where the male offspring is very important to a royal household, a king can marry several wives. So Hinduism is not anti-sex or a negation of the human nature and human function. On the contrary where it is necessary it is regarded as the highest duty.
Brahmacharya in Modern Society
Brahmacharya is that way of living your life, that way of conduct and behaviour that will ultimately and gradually lead you towards Brahma jnana—grant you Brahma jnana. In a specific way, it has come to mean purity in sex life. But, this is an insufficient meaning. Mahatma Gandhi said that no attempt to keep oneself under control and in mastery only from the point of view of one’s carnal passions or physical appetites will ever be successful unless simultaneously one tries to keep all one’s senses under control. Absolute establishment in brahmacharya, absolute sex purity is possible only if one is a self-controlled person in a completely integral sense of the term.
You must have your ears under control. You must have your eyes under control. You must have your hands and feet under control. You must have your tongue also under control. Then there is some possibility of being established in sex purity. And Gurudev’s concept of brahmacharya is not only limited to the physical restraint of the body and its passions but includes mental brahmacharya as well. He said: “You must be established in perfect brahmacharya, physically as well as mentally so that even in dream, any gross or carnal thought should not arise in your mind.”
How is it that so much importance is given to the sex function in modern materialistic society today. People are obsessed and dominated by it. This is human perversion. The Upanishads
speak about the nine-gated city which is the abode of the mysterious Brahman
—it is this body. Any medical person will tell you that the activity of the body processes are made up of anabolism and catabolism—combinedly spoken of as metabolism. Anabolism is the building process, catabolism is the breaking down process. The breakdown process naturally leads to the accumulation of debris (mala
Accumulated debris is unwanted matter and naturally if it accumulates it threatens life. It has to be eliminated.
For intake, provision has been made through the mouth—you eat and drink and if you want to communicate you have to speak. Because life needs oxygen you breathe through the nose. If you want to get knowledge you have to see and you have to hear also. Then there are the two excretory exits through which we eliminate waste matter. The actual most important function of these two lower extremities is elimination which starts at birth and ends only at the point of death. From the first breath the jivatma
takes as a physical entity until the last breath leaves the body, the eliminating function goes on. So these are actually eliminating exits. Out of this entire life-span the reproductive function is performed for only a small period. If we strictly adhere to the injunctions of the Vedas
that period is restricted to one-tenth of the life-span.
Otherwise, for the rest of the time—morning, noon, evening, night and if it is winter even at midnight, these exits are used only for drainage. You cannot imagine an architect designing a house or a building without drainage through the bathroom and kitchen sinks, otherwise filth will accumulate and you will have to leave the house. So, you can understand if toxins and waste material are not eliminated from the body, toxic waste will accumulate and soon there will be general toxemia and the person will die.
Long ago when I was a student someone with right understanding told me that these lower extremities are just for drainage. But, if instead of that, you through your peculiar type of imagination focus upon it with some other concept which is only a very specialised function and which is exercised for only a brief period in order that the human species does not become extinct, you become obsessed and enslaved by it
Why is the pleasure principle linked with the exercise of any sense organ? It is absolutely indispensable, for if it is not coupled with the pleasure principle, the very impulse to exercise it will not be there and therefore will not be indulged in.
The one great problem of modern society is the sexual behaviour of people. This is going from bad to worse over the past several decades. Those who have some contact with Western society knows what aberrations are going on in this field—especially in the marital field. We know of divorces without limit, a thing which society looked upon with great outrage in the Victorian Era. People were scandalised if a man left his wife and went off with another woman or if a woman left her husband for another man. It was a major scandal. It was a shame! Now, it is the order of the day. Special courts have even been established for dealing with divorce cases only.
Why is this so? The secret of this is how one views the other sex. How does man view woman? How does woman view man? Swami Vivekananda was asked what is the distinctive quality or feature of Indian society as distinct from Western society—he was one who had made a vast practical life study of Indian people and Indian Society, having criss-crossed the whole country by foot, going into villages, towns, cities and families, so these things were familiar to him. Two things he said: One is the concept of Guru-shishya
relationship, the second was that in Western society the woman is a wife, she is Mrs. So and So… So the wife-hood of a woman is the dominant factor in Western society, whereas in Indian society she is primarily a mother—a mother figure, and her wife-hood is nobody’s concern except the man whom she has lawfully wedded as his life’s partner.
And the common term for addressing a woman in the whole of India from Cape Comorin to Himalayas, from Nagaland to Punjab is mother, mataji, amma.
In public she is always addressed as amma.
If a husband refers to his wife he never calls her by name, he always refers to her as the mother of my son, the mother of my daughter. And when visitors are there he refers to her as his child’s mother—Ramu’s mother. Thus he brought out the central unique feature of Indian society as distinct from Western society.
This gives us a key—what the normal, spontaneous, natural idea of man to woman should be. A man, if he is normal and has a certain level of refinement in his psyche, when he sees a woman the thought should come to him of some human relationship. There is a human relationship between one human being and another human being, so the only thought should be on the basis of some type of human relationship. Therefore, a man is to a woman either a brother, a cousin, a nephew, an uncle, a father or a husband and woman is to a man either a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a niece or a mother. But, if the first thing that comes into the mind is: “I am a man and here is a woman,” then there is something fundamentally and basically wrong in the make-up or bringing-up of that person. If a woman looks at a man and says: “Here is a male, here is a man,” then if this is the only idea that is evoked with regard to the other sex, it means that there is something missing, there is something fundamentally wrong which is not correct and right within that consciousness.
And what is the anatomy of this error in view, in attitude, in approach, in the feeling itself? The anatomy of this error is an obsession
with the physical level of the personality.
A person is a physical, biological being, he is a mental, intellectual, psychological being. He is also a vital, living being, which is neither physical only or psychical only. He has a pranic
level where he has hunger, thirst, a feeling of heat and cold. He has a psychological level, and in this psychological level there is a spontaneous, uncontrolled part which keeps constantly in a state of activity in the form of thoughts, memory, imagination, sentiments, emotions, attitudes, moods, over which he has no control at all, it is spontaneous. And there is another part which is a purposeful exercise of a certain part of the antahkarana
That purposeful exercise is in the form of observation, perception, discrimination—grasping the distinction between what you perceive, and something other than what you perceive. So, it is a specialised performance, a specialised function that takes place and it is usually purposefully initiated and carried out also. It is called the intellectual process of reasoning, discriminating, inquiring, reflecting and perceiving in a special way. This is the higher prakriti
(nature), the buddhi
(intellect). Both of them together go to make up the inner psychological level of your being. And then a refined higher level of the buddhi
functions as an awareness of what is allowed and what is not allowed as a human being.
“I have a great background. I have inherited a culture. I am not an isolated phenomenon. I am connected with the past. And there is something in me of the totality of the past—their ideals, their views, their attitudes, their concepts of right and wrong. So all these things are functioning within me.” And so each one comes here with a certain inbuilt awareness of what is beautiful, what is ugly, what is noble, what is ignoble, what is proper, what is improper, what is right, what is wrong, what ought to be done, what ought not to be done. And this sense of the ideal and what is correct and right, is called the moral sense or ethical sense. This is a higher operation than even the intellectual level of our being. This is an ethical man, a moral man.
And if in your consciousness there has come about a certain refinement, and that refinement brings about your normal consciousness to be in a state of identifying yourself with your ethical level, ethical personality, then your whole life takes on a different plane. Whereas, if there is an essential crudeness in the consciousness within, and it tends to normally and habitually identify itself with the grossest aspect of your human personality—the physical, biological, body aspect, then the entire human reaction comes upon the physical, biological level only. Spontaneously, first and foremost it is the biological level that makes itself felt, demonstrates itself and expresses itself and in this way looking at another only as a physical being and qualified by a certain sex.
If you think: “I am this body, this physical body, physical mechanisms,” and therefore being rooted in this awareness, mainly rooted in this consciousness of yourself, naturally you think of all other beings upon this concept, upon the same level. If someone appears before you, it is a physical body that appears before you, and your reaction to it is also a biological animal reaction. Then naturally it creates a problem right upon the physical level itself.
It needs therefore a refinement of consciousness. Gradually you have to educate yourself to shed—like one shakes off a lose slipper and puts on a new one—one has to shake off the old remnant. There was a certain human race thousands of years ago when there was no intellectual development, no mental development, no evolution, leave alone spiritual development. These beings therefore lived in a state of one hundred per cent body consciousness only, just as the animals live. The animal level of consciousness is totally identified with the body. And if man’s consciousness is predominantly on the level of the animal consciousness, he is far from spiritual evolution, and all tall talk about Yoga, sadhana, samadhi,
Super-consciousness or Ecstasy is only talk. It is so much of ideas—so much of words. If you have a good command of words you can talk about these ideas, you can give expression to them. But, if you are always rooted and caught in the net and coils of a gross physical awareness only, and your whole reaction to the outer world of physical things is also upon the physical biological level, then there is a great deal of spade-work to do.
The main function of the lower extremities is drainage, cleansing, elimination. That is their function. But if this is set aside and not given its rightful place and some special function alone is exaggerated and blown-up out of all proportion, and the mind becomes hooked on this wrong exaggerated aspect of the eliminatory instrument, then this causes problems.
The Cosmic Intelligence Power and its manifest counterpart prakriti
(nature), has built in a mechanism within all living creatures, that there is a time when this principle of appropriation is not at all manifest, not at all functioning. In an infant and in a child it is not there at all. In its joy of living it is completely extroverted. Children have less body consciousness than adults, so in one way we are grosser than them. Therefore there is a distinct period when this inner element, this inner principle of sex is not at all felt, it is absent. But then, at a certain age, gradually it is made to start manifesting in various ways.
First of all in physical ways. Various symptoms appear—little moustaches come, little hoarseness of voice manifests, and a vague awareness of certain strange feelings within the body. These are pre-puberty changes. It is a period when the being gradually goes into pre-adulthood in the form of adolescence. It is the most sensitive part of the human beings’ life, and it is then that the individual requires wise guidance, a good atmosphere, right type of company, ideas and environment. Unfortunately in this modem world, everything that is inimical, harmful and undesirable alone forms the outer atmosphere and environment of the society of today.
Our ancients went out of the way to see that the contrary would be the case. They wanted the growing individual to be surrounded by helpful, elevating and ideal surroundings. For this, they formulated a certain mode of life in this period and gave it the most significant term—Brahmacharya Ashrama.
In this first quarter of his life he is sent away from the family, from the city, from all sorts of temptations and attractive things. He goes into an ennobling, elevating natural atmosphere—waking up in the morning with the beauty of sunrise, soft breezes and birds singing, breathing unpolluted air, drinking pure water and—surrounded by natural flora. He is sent to a Gurukula
where a sage and his wife, well learned in scriptures and leading an ideal life of moderation, self-control, good conduct, with noble character and purity take care of them.
They live in a family with an ideal daily routine. That was the proper foundation laid down for the whole life. In such a wonderful atmosphere the students thrived. They became ideal individuals. They shone with a certain splendour of purity. They had strong, stalwart limbs and well-formed bodies. They were early risers, did their exercises and bathed in forest streams. They did all types of service—cutting and gathering firewood for the Guru
and for his wife’s kitchen, cutting grass and gathering leaves for the Guru’s goshala,
tending the cows, working in the fields. And at the same time they studied—two or three hours of instruction in the morning, two or three hours in the afternoon, and then satsanga
at night. Thus they grew up completely protected from all demeaning influences.
So, it is the one-hundred per cent opposite pole to the modern environment in which a student has to struggle even in primary class, with unfavourable circumstances. Everything around them—the people, the sights, the sounds, the environment, the polluted atmosphere and wrong company—everything negative. So it is an uphill task! Therefore, all the more necessity for raising one’s voice and shouting from the house-tops, proclaiming the great message of brahmacharya,
self-control, moderation, pure thoughts, pure words, pure company—purity in thought, word and deed; pure literature to read—not touching anything that is degrading, yellow literature, blue films and advertisement boards which you can see from half a mile away, either of some very, very compromising attitude of people or someone with a pistol shooting others. All this is likely to bring a wrong type of inner evolution.
After all, the human mind is a marvellous camera, whatever it sees, it takes in. It is like a super computer. You do not have to feed in data, it feeds of itself. The whole world is its source and this human computer becomes filled with ashlila
(dirt), it becomes a garbage can due to the very atmosphere the individual has been put in. So, how much more necessary, how great is the need for giving the right type of instructions—opening their eyes and making them aware to what they should be closed; having ears, what they should not hear; having eyes, what they should not see. How to go amidst this atmosphere untouched, that is the great lesson that is necessary.
Therefore, there is a need for a re-orientation of your own consciousness because it is in terms of the level of your consciousness that you will relate yourself and see and build up your attitude towards other persons and things and beings outside you in the environment, in the universe. You are a person, living in this universe. You cannot try to isolate yourself. You cannot try to cut yourself off. There has to be inter-changes, otherwise you will develop an inner sickness. You will become neurotic and self-centered. That also is not a healthy thing. That has to be avoided. There has to be normal human intercourse and at the same time it should be upon a firm healthy basis. Such a firm, healthy basis can come only on the basis of your own level of consciousness.
If your level of consciousness is a completely gross, ignorant, body-based consciousness, physical consciousness, naturally you are going in for trouble, you are only inviting such a vibration from others. You will see others, understand others, relate yourself to others only on this self-same gross biological idea of yourself. If this has to be changed, you have to raise your level of consciousness to a higher level of consciousness. “I am a spiritual being, or I am at least a mental-intellectual machinery having a physical body—but not a physical body having a mind and intellect.”
This complete change of your own awareness of yourself, your own idea of yourself is to be brought about and established. That is the key to success in brahmacharya
which is the basis of all attainment. If you feel yourself as a gross biological, physical body, your entire approach, your entire relationship with the outer physical world will be upon this plane, and you can well imagine what will be the result of it upon yourself. Every human being will be to you a gross biological physical body only. This relationship will plague you day and night. You will be obsessed only with this physical consciousness. And until you, with various devices, face yourself from this level, no amount of reading, no amount of satsanga,
no amount of imagining yourself to be something else, is going to help you in any way. You have to turn the key and suddenly raise the level. Once this level is transcended, the whole subject of brahmacharya
takes on a new direction. Then things have to be tackled upon a different level.
The root cause of all sin is body consciousness. Therefore, if you want to be free of body consciousness you start with your body level. Be rooted in brahmacharya.
Brahmacharya is the sense of total mastery of all your senses, self-control and all that is necessary to bring about self-mastery—purity of food, purity of company, purity of reading, nobility of thoughts, having self-restraint (nirodh
in your mind. If any negative down-playing thought comes, instantaneously it must be thrown out. It should not be allowed to remain for a single moment, not even a split second. That type of self-restraint, samskara
(impression) has to be cultivated, created within your antahkarana
If an undesirable person tries to enter an exclusive club or restaurant, there are people called bouncers at the door, they will catch hold of him and bodily lift him up and throw him out of the door. He cannot gate-crash and get in. So you must have your own psychological, ethical bouncers within you for all gross gate-crashers in the form of wrong thoughts. In the same way, there are machines in the mint and also in sophisticated factories where they select fruits and nuts for export market—they go up a conveyer-belt and different sizes are separated. Anything that is of bad quality gets eliminated and only the best is retained.
In the same way there should be created within your mind a device where anything that is sub-standard, opposed to your spiritual or ethical ideal, automatically gets eliminated, thrown out. These are all methods to elevate your consciousness.
Brahmacharya is total purity—a complete view, different view of looking at things and people and experiences, and more than anything else, a total and different view of looking at yourself. Ultimately others are what you are to yourself. The first change has to come within you, then that change can also begin to come in others.
In a very knowledgeable part of Gurudev’s teachings on brahmacharya.
He has said: “Change the angle of vision.”
It is a psychological thing—change of angle of vision. He has given a number of beautiful instances how a change of angle of vision can bring about a total revolution in your perception and naturally in your reactions. When the perception itself becomes changed, your reaction to perception will also become different, not what it was before.
We should make a promise to the Lord and a promise to ourselves that we will enter into a glorious new life with an absolutely changed vision and completely transformed awareness of ourselves, lining our consciousness from obsession with the gross body and its parts to a level of consciousness where there is an inner awakening, where there is a great light within and we shine with a renewed awareness of our true spiritual identity—I am a Hindu, I am an Indian. I am an inheritor of a great ethical tradition, ethical heritage. I must be a living embodiment of this heritage. I must make myself a personification of dharma
. I must become a channel of this great ethical view of life, way of life.
God bless you to make use of the wisdom you have received as your great heritage of the past. My prayers with each and everyone of you in this sublime and noble task of self-culture unto perfection.
Advantages of Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya is a magic word, a key to success in all walks of life. It is a radiance that shines through one’s thoughts, speech and activities. It is tejas and ojas. It is verily Para Shakti, Bhagavati, the Divine Mother Herself in manifestation. It is dynamic divinity, it is God in motion. It is a vibhuti of God. God is manifest in this cosmos, in this cosmic phenomenal process as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara. He is present in human society in the form of their respective shaktis—Parvati, Lakshmi and Saraswati, whom we adore every year during the nine nights of Navaratri. And the same Cosmic Being that manifests as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara, that vigorously acts in this phenomenal universe of man as Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati, that same Cosmic Being is residing within us as the great kundalini shakti at the muladhara chakra—the basic centre among the six centers situated along the spinal column, culminating in the seventh centre, the 1000 petalled lotus in the crown of the head (this is the area within the psychic body corresponding to the physical crown of the head).
And the most significant of all aspects of kundalini shakti
is the energy, the creative force, the creative energy. And therefore, creative energy is said to be God in motion. It is divine vibhuti.
It is a manifestation of Para Shakti.
The control of one’s senses and the resolution to preserve, conserve, transform, convert and sublimate this gross physical force into a subtle mental, intellectual force and ultimately sublimate it into a pure spiritual force that shines in one as intense aspiration, as the power to concentrate, as good thoughts and meditation that leads to Super-consciousness. All this and more the power of continence can do for the human being. Most of the great intellectual giants and geniuses have been persons of great character, self-control and concentration—Vivekananda, Dayananda Saraswati, Mahatma Gandhi.
(control) say the Upanishads
. The uncontrolled one can hardly comprehend the subtler than the subtlest or attain jnana.
It is not for the vacillating or the weak. Therefore, Swami Vivekananda stressed a great deal on one’s strength—inner mental strength, strength of character, strength of self-control, strength of body and mind.
The basis of this pervasive purity of life—of thoughts, of imagination, of actions, of Brahmacharya
—is character. If one has a lofty character, that strength of character enables him to hold on to a high level and standard of living. The basis of character is self-control. The basis of self-control is wise living, avoiding all that is adverse to self-control and wisely, with viveka
(discrimination) and vichara
(enquiry), ordering one’s life in such a way that one always is amidst auspicious surroundings and always wisely avoids temptations. They say: “Discretion is the better part of valour.”
Therefore one must know how to be and when to be valorous and strong, and when and how to avoid being foolhardy, when to be discrete. There is a saying: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Therefore, discretion is the better part of valour. Such discretion, such self-control, such wise-living can arise only from alertness, a vigilant alertness, an inner alertness, to see where one is going, to know what will happen if one goes in that direction, and to be able to pull back if it is the wrong direction and go in the right direction.
The basis of such wise self-control are principles for living adopted after much consideration. The basis of such principles is to have a lofty ideal. “I must become like this. I must become like So and So.” The basis of lofty idealism can enable one to achieve any victory and shine. The basis of such idealism is keen aspiration. First of all you must desire it.
The basis of a successful academic career in the university is high distinction in the examination. The basis of high distinction is study, study, study—burning the midnight oil, avoiding all sorts of wasteful activities, avoiding the company of frivolous, hedonistic people and cultivating the company of serious-minded people and keen attention in the classroom when the professor is explaining some new principles or new lesson and lots of homework. This means determination. And the basis of such study and a scholarly attitude towards one’s education is seriousness, a desire to succeed, and an aspiration: “I must have top marks, I must be among the first.” So, this urge, this keen aspiration becomes something instinctive. It is healthy, it is correct. Zeal, fervour, aspiration are highly laudable. This is a positive, creative, constructive urge. There should be aspiration.
Such aspiration comes from an understanding—that
is what is worthwhile having. What is merely external show, if I run after it, I will make a fool of myself. All glitter, external glitter, a fleeting momentary, pleasurable sensation, a titillating of some nerves, leaving one ashamed. Any sense indulgence is just a confession of one’s bankruptcy of wisdom, of sagacity, of lack of deep thinking.
This keen aspiration arises when we know that the Supreme Being alone is the fulfilment of all desires and cravings in our quest for happiness. That is ananda
(bliss)—sweeter than the sweetest, more nectarine than anything else in this world; the beauty of the beauties, incomparable! You develop a deep faith in this truth, in this central fact of life, that in the Supreme alone you can obtain fulfilment, the attainment of the highest happiness, not anywhere else. If you thus know that these contact born sensations and pleasures are only the wombs of pain, you would not succumb to them. Such knowledge comes from satsanga (company of the wise), Guru Vakya (Guru’s words), svadhyaya (study of scriptures). Successful svadhyaya is there where there is deep faith.
You can never be wrong if you have deep Guru bhakti,
if you have deep faith, absolute trust in the words of the Guru’s teachings. It is the right approach to life. Therefore it is said in the Gita,
a person is what his faith is. “Tell me what he believes in—I will tell you what he is. Tell me what company he keeps—I will tell you what that person is.” In this way, as is your faith and firm belief, so will be your chesta
Develop, therefore, firm faith in the teaching of the Guru, the scriptures, what you hear in satsanga.
And due to constant hearing in satsanga,
be convinced of the emptiness of fleeting names and forms, fleeting things which attract you, that seem to be real, but are not real. And being convinced, you will be wise, you will be alert, you will become fired with idealism, a great aspiration, “I must know the Supreme Being, that should be my goal, nothing less, I will not opt for anything less than the Supreme Experience. I want God-realisation. I want atma jnana,
I want Self-realisation.”
When this aspiration comes and with this idealism before you, it makes you not live a haphazard, aimless, principleless, characterless life. Idealism makes you strictly adhere to certain noble and sublime principles. And a principled life is the basis of self-control, self-mastery. Such self-mastery is the basis of character. It is character that is the basis of brahmacharya. Brahmacharya
is the basis of Immortality, Divine Perfection. Brahmacharya is the basis of Liberation. Brahmacharya
is the basis of a radiant Divine life lived with great enthusiasm, great fervour. Such a Divine life is the heart of Gurudev’s gospel—His teachings, His message to mankind, His wisdom teachings for all time to come.
God bless you in pondering these fundamental truths about yourself, your life, your character, your conduct, the ideals you have inherited from the past and the sublime way you must make your future by the wise practical way you deal with your present—supported and ennobled by the past. If the present is wisely applied, your future can be a thing of beauty, a joy to you, a joy to others and satisfaction to your own endeavour. May you shine as an ideal human being where everything is in its place, in its right proportion. Our ancients were never kill-joys or cynics. They said enjoy,
not for a little time and afterwards become nervous wrecks and go into an asylum or a hospital permanently. But they said enjoy,
and live to be a 100 years. One can enjoy and live to be a 100 years only if one is wise and moderate in one’s environment, not unwise and immoderate in one’s life.
Books on Brahmacharya
Gurudev has written a whole book on Brahmacharya only. Another holy man who propagated spiritual living—character, conduct, ethics, and morality, building up of the body, health, culture, physical culture, and of the same name—Swami Sivananda of Amaravati, near Nagpur in Maharashtra. He also has written a complete book on the subject of Brahmacharya titled: Brahmacharya Hechi Jeevan (Brahmacharya alone is Real life). It was written in Marathi and has been translated into many languages—Kanarese, Hindi, English.
of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission has also written a whole book on Brahmacharya
under the caption: The Creative Power of Continence.
Another teacher who became very well-known later on and who used to visit the Scandinavian countries regularly, Sri Swami Narayanananda Saraswati who had his Ashram on the Dehradun Road in Rishikesh, has also written one or two knowledgeable books on the self-same subject.
[TWENTY IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS, A Series of talks on Swami Sivananda’s Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions.]