We have a reader question by Shradha
You said Brahmacharya means expansion of the mind. Is there anything superior than Brahmacharya and if yes, what is it?
Great question Shradha.
Brahmacharya is itself an extremely difficult practice which only few men can master. It is nearly impossible to master Brahmacharya is you live in a material world full of desires. However, there are few things which are considered even more difficult than Brahmacharya.
A Brahmachari is someone who has liberated himself from “Kaam” (desires) and is focussing on self realization/self actualizaton. However, this practice is not beneficial for others. By being a Brahmachari, the subject is not helping the world in any way. He is not adding any value to the external world, since abnegation of desires is a “Personal” cause. Mankind does not gain anything from a “Brahmachari”. The subject gains wisdom and self actualisation but he is not helping the world in becoming a better place.
The question which you have asked here was asked by Yudhisthira to Bheesma, while he was lying in his death bed.Please refer to Anushashan Parva where the entire dialogue between Yudhisthira and Bheesma is documented. It is a lengthy read but I will highlight only this question and the answer given by Bheesma
What is righteousness? O grandsire, tell me the path towards righteousness.
O king! There are various indicators of righteousness which I will tell you now. Truthfulness, compassion, self-restraint, sincerity, abstention from injury to others, the absence of wrath are the major ones.
There are people who wander all over the earth, praising righteousness but without practising what they preach and engaged all the while in sin. O king, He who gives unto such persons gold or gems or steeds, has to sink in hell and to subsist there for ten years, eating the while the faeces of such persons as live upon the flesh of dead kine and buffalos, of men called Pukkasas, of others that live in the outskirts of cities and villages, and of men that publish, under the influence of wrath and folly, the acts and the ommissions of others. Those foolish men who do give unto a Brahmana observant of the vow of Brahmacharyya the offerings made in Sraddhas (unto one’s deceased ancestors), have to go, O monarch into regions of great misery.
Tell me, O grandsire, what is superior to Brahmacharya? What is the highest indication of virtue?
O son, that abstention from honey and meat is even superior to Brahmacharya. Righteousness consists in keeping within boundaries or in self-restraint, the best indication of Righteousness is Renunciation. Those people who are freed from wrath, who are devoted to acts of righteousness, who are firm in Truth are far superior than Brahmacharis. A person who is homeless and barely gets to eat two meals but donates regularly to his fellow kinsmen is nobody than God himself. However, a person who is always hankering after material pleasures and never helps others who need his help is nothing but a lost soul, he is not worthy of being called a righteous person.
To identify a Righteous person, see what they are doing for others, for the betterment of human kind. One who serves a righteous person multiplies his merit a thousand-fold. A single righteous Brahmana possessed of wisdom and Vedic lore, observant of the duties laid down in the scriptures, distinguished by purity of behaviour, is competent to rescue a whole race.
So as we can see, the answer – Service to human kind is considered superior to Brahmacharya. Anyone whose intent is clean and is working towards the betterment of Human kind is a “righteous” person and his position is superior than a Brahmachari.
The scale is secondary here. You can be a righteous person at a small scale e.g Feed a homeless person every day, donate books to poor students, go to a slum and teach people, clean your own neighbourhood, build something which solves a fundamental problem. But you should not commercialise your offering, then your act becomes a Profilt/Loss statement. Righteousness is about Giving and helping the ones who need, not expecting anything as a result.
So for example, you eat Butter chicken every Friday, drink Alchohol, cause pollution, hate others, abuse others, torment others in some way, cut down trees to build a house, cheat in examinations and so forth. And then once a month, you go to a slum and teach poor kids. Yes you are helping mankind on that particular day but rest of the 29 days, you are abusing and destroying the world. We all are doing the same thing, just in varied scales and in different ways. We are taking all the resources from this world for our material enjoyment and giving nothing in return.
So just because you go and help mankind on a given day doesn’t make you a righteous person. You have to change the way you live, you have to abandon material desires and not harm the world in any way and also help human kind in whatever ways you can – only then you become superior than a Brahmachari.
We are living in an age where it is almost impossible to survive without tormenting others in some way. So for example, if you are a programmer, you are actually helping the organization reduce “manual” jobs. It is not a good practice, this will create unemployment and disturbance in society. If you are a doctor and have your personal clinic where you charge a hefty fee to patients, you are incurring sin. If you are a teacher and provide tuition classes to students in private, you are incurring sin. It is nothing but a form of torture, a way to “Exploit” other people indirectly.
Everybody is doing it, so it appears that this is the right thing to do – to earn wealth by fooling others in some way. If you keep doing all this and then donate some part of your money to charity, or help people who need your help, it doesn’t really count.
As we can see, righteousness has become a “conceptual” thing which exists only in theory. That’s the sad part and that’s why we see so much hatred around us, so much chaos, competition and avarice is nothing but the result of lack of righteous people. A person is considered worthy only when he has lots of wealth or is famous for some act- what a dark age we live in.
Our ignorance towards righteousness will breed more hatred and animosity will keep on increasing day by day, until the end of Kali yuga. Human kind is doomed for destruction, it’s just a matter of time.