Brahmacharya or Celibacy in Hinduism
Lord Ayyappa says "Brahmacharya or spotless chastity is the best of all penances; a celibate of such spotless chastity is not a human being, but a god indeed... To the celibate who conserves the semen with great efforts, what is there unattainable in this world ? By the power of the composure of the semen, one will become just like Myself." - Sri Sankaracharya
The importance of Brahmacharya is clearly explained in the Yajurveda. In this modern life very few only understand this and practice it. All the Vedas and other scriptures of Hinduism lay great emphasis on Brahmacharya. In the Vedic period a student was also known as Brahmachari. By preserving the energy, strength and vitality of mind and various organs one can lead a happy, energetic and healthy life. The mind will be clear and brain will be superb for a Brahmachari. Since it is the mine of all virtues, it enhances the strength, life span and health. Brahmacharya is the dam of all pleasures of life and only learned people keep it. By the practice of Brahmacharya, their power and life increase and all sickness is destroyed. It is easy to preach about Brahmacharya, but to practice it is very difficult. One should try to be always in the company of noble people and control their senses as far as possible to get the actual reward of human life. A man is known by the company he keeps. If one always moves in the company of good, learned and noble ones, there is no doubt that he can be one among them one day.
Company is contagious and man changes his colors accordingly sooner or later. He cannot remain unaffected for long in a bad company. Best company means not only noble people but also good books written by great scholars, sages, saints, prophets, rishis, and munis. They contain vast treasures of wealth and make one so rich that the worldly riches appear very insignificant. One of the verses in the Yajurveda states that learned people who are actually endowed with divine powers should do two things in this world. One is that they should propagate the teachings of Brahmacharya and control of senses so that people may become strong and healthy leading a fully vigorous life. Next, by education and practice thereof, they should teach one and all how to develop their inner strength and power so that people may enjoy their blissful life fully in all respects.
In another verse, it is stated that such people, who abandon the company of the bad and give up all bad and evil habits, keeping away from immoral life, increase their vitality and beget good children. They strengthen and glorify their race and their country. Brahmacharya gives the power to face and solve any problem as a boat can ferry people through turbulent waters of the sea. A Brahmachari is liked and respected in all the societies and meetings. In one verse it is explained that the marriage age of a boy begins at twenty-sixth year and of a girl at seventeen, and that they should practice Brahmacharya at any cost till then before they can get married. Those who get education following the rules of Brahmacharya, shine like the sun, are quick in all what they do like a hawk and become the hallmark of respect, enjoying their life, skipping like a deer.
In the student life it is better to preserve vital fluid, which is the life thread, so that a student can utilize his energy and strength for his education and learning. In the Vedic period, students were imparted with all necessary knowledge, right from the Earth to the sun, in such a way that all divinity resided in their bodies so that in future they would become assets to their country and the world. They had harmony of the mind, heart and hand in a way that was beneficial to the society as a whole. It has been truly said that if our hearts are strong, our minds are not in vain. A person without education is a beast and so is a person without Dharma. Education and knowledge are like the two eyes of a person, which enable him to see things correctly and discern his own position. The purpose of education is to make man what he ought to be.
According to the Vedas, education on arts and material science is not enough, because a major portion of perfection can be achieved by studying spiritual sciences. The aim of life and education is that we may live a new life in the realm of self and the creation, with harmony and happiness and become virtuous. Every second of our lives should be fully utilized so that no room is left for idling. It is a well known saying that an idle mind is a devil's workshop. Of course relaxation and enjoyment are necessary along with study to keep oneself fit and fresh and ready to face any challenges of life. If proper education is not given to children, parents become their enemies, since they get isolated in society.
Teachers should take utmost care to develop, with understanding, good character and affection among their students along with studies. They should be taught that all women are like their mothers, sisters or daughters, according to their age and that they should be protected by all means. In the Vedas we are advised not to earn wealth at the cost of others' pain and suffering. It is not good to fatigue one self too much both physically and mentally. Hard-work is the keystone to virtuous earning with the sweat of one's own brow, not by lottery, speculation and gambling. Don't do anything undesirable and harmful to the society. Acquire knowledge, which can not be stolen away by thieves.
A great scholar of ancient India, Sri Pathanjali, in his teachings, explains the importance of Brahmacharya. It was studied by foreign scholars, such as Dr. Louis, an eminent physician, who opined, in his book Chastity, that most precious atoms of the blood enter into the composition of semen . So preservation of semen by practicing continence helps the better development of brain , body, and mind .Dr. Nicholas says that the best blood in the body goes to form the elements of reproduction in both the sexes .So if anybody wastes semen, he is loosing the best part of the blood and becomes weak physically and mentally. If it is preserved, he becomes strong, intelligent, scholarly, heroic and powerful.
Brahmacharya can be practiced by married people also. Chastity and fidelity are the foundation on which a strong and happy marital relationship stands and should be understood by husband and wife. In the Srimad Bhagavatham, a holy book of Hinduism, it is clearly mentioned that practice of brahmacharya is also one of the important duties in married life and it is waived only for the purpose of procreation, austerity, purity, contentment and friendliness towards all1. Ancient Rishi of India, Pathanjali, also says in his Yogasutras that CONTINENCE IS LIFE AND INCONTINENCE IS EQUAL TO DEATH. Lord Siva in the Jnanasamkalani Tantra says, "The wise do not regard the ordinary forms of asceticism as real asceticism. Continence is the highest asceticism. He who is a continent is equal to God." So especially youth, in whom the future of our country rests, should practice celibacy, as far as possible, to lead the country and countrymen to have a prosperous future.
Living examples are Sri A.B Vajpayee, ex. President A.P.J.Kalam, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi and a host of gurus, saints and sanyasins, who are doing selfless work in spreading the awareness of Dharma, virtue and self-discipline.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Hinduism and Celibacy
- Ashrama Dharma in Hinduism, Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, Sanyasa
- The Practice of Satsang in Modern Life
- The Role of Asceticism in the Development of Hinduism
- Hinduism and Education
- Hinduism and Adultery
- Hinduism and premarital relationships
- The concept of Sense Organs in the Bhagavadgita
- The yoga techniques and practices
- About the yoga sutras and Patanjali
- The History, Practice, Benefits and Types of Yoga
- Anjaneya Devotee of Lord Rama
- Bhakti, Spiritual Devotion To God
1. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.18.43
About Author: Sri Mulavana Bhattathiri is a Retired Chief Technical Examiner , to The Govt. of Kerala. He has a good understanding of Hinduism and Hindu scriptures.
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