An Introduction to brahmacharya/celibacy: what it is, its benefits, and how to learn more
–from A Brief Sanskrit Glossary
“Brahmacharya is restraint of the sex organ and other senses,” says Vyasa. From this we see that brahmacharya has a twofold nature: control and continence. An understanding of these aspects of brahmacharya is essential for the aspiring yogi.
Spirit has two aspects: consciousness and energy. Consciousness is constant, whereas energy is cyclic. It is the movement of energy that produces (and is) our experience of relativity, and it is the development of energy that is the process of evolution.
Therefore the conservation and application of energy is the main determinant of success or failure in spiritual endeavor. Diffusion and dissipation of energy always weakens us.
Hence brahmacharya is a vital element of Yoga, without which we cannot successfully pursue the greater life of Higher Consciousness.
Basically, brahmacharya is conservation and mastery of all the energy systems and powers of our being. This is especially true in relation to negative emotions, for tremendous energy is expended through lust, anger, greed, envy, hatred, resentment, depression, fear, obsession, and the rest. Further, they are both the causes and the symptoms of losing self-control, a major aspect of brahmacharya.
Positive emotions on the other hand actually enhance and raise our energy and physical levels. The cultivation of (true) love, compassion, generosity, cheerfulness, friendliness, and suchlike make us stronger and calmer–essential aspects of brahmacharya.
It is noteworthy that the word “virtue” is derived from the Latin word virtus–power–which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word virya, which means both power and strength.
Sexuality is usually considered the main focus of brahmacharya because it has such a powerful grip and influence on the human being. It is considered that if sex is mastered, all the senses will be mastered as well. There is simply no way to convince those addicted to and enslaved by sex that continence is supreme wisdom. But a few facts can be meaningful to the sincere seeker.
The life of the senses stifles the life of the spirit by carrying away the discrimination of the intellect, as Krishna says:
“When the mind is led about by the wandering senses, it carries away the understanding like the wind carries away a ship on the waters.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:67)
The basic life-force, the prana, is dissipated through any intense activity of the senses, thus weakening the inner being.
But sexual indulgence is incalculably more destructive of consciousness than any other form of sense experience, for it expends the life-force to a degree far, far beyond that of other sense experiences. Both body and mind are depleted through sexual activity.
Now that you know what Brahmacharya is, read these articles to learn about how to maintain brahmacharya, its benefits, and its vital importance for the yogi:
- Twelve Pointers For Maintaining Brahmacharya
- The Role of Celibacy in Spiritual Life–by Swami Chidananda
- The Foundations of Yoga
- Mahatma Gandhi on Brahmacharya (Celibacy), Part 1
- The Wondrous Effect of Gandhi’s Brahmacharya Vow, Part 2
- 3 Factors for Maintaining Brahmacharya
- Practice of Brahmacharya-by Swami Sivananda
- Podcast: The Yoga Life 3: Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha, and the Great Vow