We have another reader question by Aniket
You said Brahmacharya means expansion of the mind. Can one not achieve expansion of the mind by living a daily life, working, getting married, producing children? Is it mandatory to remain celibate and let go of everything and become a monk? Can one become a Brahmachari without letting go? Can women become Brahmachari?
Brahmacharya is not just celibacy. Celibacy is just one part of Brahmacharya but celibacy is not Brahmacharya in its entire form. Just because a man is celibate does not mean he is a Brahmachari.
Brhamacharya = Brahman + Charya = Brah (“expansion”) + man (“mind”) + charya (“path”)
Brahmacharya is a virtue which the subject adopts to understand the ultimate reality. The subject can understand this without Brahmacharya too, it is not mandatory that everyone has to become a Brahmachari to reach self actualization. However, Brahmacharya is a virtuous path which helps the subject understand his own identity. The foundation of “Yoga” lies in perfect observance of Brahmacharya.
Point of view of The Bhogi and the Yogi
There are two types of people – Yogi and Bhogi.
A Bhogi is the person who spends his time enjoying the pleasures of the world. A subject who has trapped himself in material desires and thinks that the fulfillment of material desires is the way to attain self realization. He is just a slave of money and material pleasures, not realizing that the acquisition of more money will breed more desires in his head and eventually he will become a victim of his own desires. He hops from one thing to another, one job to another job to another job, one business to another business, recklessly accumulating things and craving more for it. This is how most people live their life.
The other types are Yogis. These people are very few in number because they have realized that accumulation of useless things is not the goal of life. There is more to life than eating, sleeping and making money.
From a Yogi’s point of view, a bhogi is just a puppet of passion. He is nothing but a sophisticated slave, spending all his time and energy in accumulation of things.
- He gets education so he can get a job (slavery)
- He works all the time accumulating money for his desires (slavery)
- He comes home to feed his wife, children and fulfill their needs (slavery)
- He works hard to earn money so that he can build a house, buy a car, have a bank balance or become super famous (slavery of his own imagination).
The moment a man becomes an object of his own passion, his intentions are geared towards the fulfillment of those passions and he never realizes his own identity. He lives just to fulfill useless desires which can never give him bliss or sustainable happiness. In short, he lives in maya and then one day, he dies.
From a Bhogi’s point of view, things like “Self realization”, “God”, “renunciation” are very terrifying. This is because he is attached to objects. He is always afraid of losing (losing money, status, partner, respect, other people’s opinion about him). He cannot let go. He is selfish. He is lusted by his own desires and the fulfillment of these desires has become his habit. Now he is not in control, his desires are controlling him and dictating his actions.
This is when Brahmacharya comes in.
Brahmacharya is attaining and maintaining “Self Control”
A Bhogi can become a Brahmachari, but its extremely hard to maintain it with time.
A married man who has a wife and children can become a Brahmachari and this does not mean that he has to remain celibate. All he needs to attain is “Self control”, live a life of moderation, control his desires and spend time understanding the bigger purpose of life.
However, it is difficult for a married man to attain self control if he continues to live in a life full of “Maya”. Sooner than later, he will be inflicted by desires and then all his efforts will go in vain.
- Today the married man lives in self control. Tomorrow, his child comes and asks for an expensive toy which he cannot afford. Now he will start thinking about how he can make more money and fulfill his child’s need. He is “attached” to his child.
- Today the married man lives in self control. Tomorrow, he sees his wife seducing him for affection, love and requesting sex. He gets inflicted by desires and loses his self control. He is “attached” to his wife.
- Today the married man lives in a rented house. Tomorrow, his family members tell him that all the neighbors live in their own house and that they need to build their own too. Now the man will think about taking a loan from bank, earn more money, repay the bank in 20 years and traps himself. He is “attached” to the needs of the family.
- Today the married man makes a living and is living a content life. Tomorrow, this man will have a daughter or son and then he will think that 20 years later, he will have to spend money on his children’s education and marriage. So he must work hard and accumulate money for his children. He is “attached” to the upbringing of his children.
Self control is eventually lost when you live the life of a householder and have attachments dictating your actions. The fact that you want self control does not mean your wife and children will also want self control. They might want to live the life of a Bhogi (not Yogi) and since you are the guardian, you will have to provide for them. And in this process, you will certainly lose self control.
A Brahmachari is Simply a Rocket
Everything that you see around you has some energy inside it (“Pranah”). Some objects are able to produce energy while some are gross. Human beings are able to produce energy by converting energy from gross objects such as food, water, milk. This energy is stored inside the body and it is upto the subject to decide how he wants to utilize this energy.
The human body is basically an energy system. You can keep it with many openings and transact with the world in a certain way or you can make this into a close-circuit system so that it becomes integrated. A rocket goes up because it is firing only on one side. Suppose it fires on all the sides, it is not going to go anywhere, it will just dissipate itself. Or it will go somewhere without direction and fall apart. What we are trying to make out of a brahmachari is just that he fires only on one side. One that fires only on one side is going to go straight up and there is a particular purpose to creating such a system.
- An athlete eats lot of food and spends his energy in exercising and building a healthy body. So the energy stored in rice is utilized in building a good physique.
- A common man eats food everyday and spends his energy in work and sensual pleasures e.g sex, romance. So the energy stored in all the food is converted into energy and is eventually dissipated, through labor and sex, leading to nothing but few moments of bodily gratification.
- A Brahmachari eats food everyday and stores his energy inside his body and brain. He never indulges in sex and never thinks about fulfilling material or emotional desires. So this energy that is stored inside him is utilized in the understanding of his own identity.
Since the Brahmachari does no transactions with this world, all his energies are focused towards one objective. Hence, Brahmacharya is a focused method to attain self realization.
A woman can become a Brahmachari, but it is very difficult to maintain
It is not just that men can only become a Brahmachari. A woman can become a Brahmachari but it is very very difficult for women to achieve and maintain that state.
Quoting from AtharvaVeda
ब्रह्मचर्येण कन्या युवानं विन्दते पतिम्
Brahmacharyen Kanya Yuvan Vidante Patim
– The girl who graduates from Brahmacharya and has the suitable knowledge of her own identity gets a suitable husband
A woman has sexual desires 16 times more than a man. She looks calm and composed from the surface but from the inside, she is craving for affection and love. A woman is “Mayavi”, you can never be sure what is going inside her head just by observing her behavior and actions. Also, it is impossible for a man to completely fulfill the desires of a woman. In her lifetime, a woman needs at least 3 partners to satiate her hunger. Indian sages were aware of this fact and the Indian treatise Kamasutra is a guide for men to please women in different forms. A man is naive and he has little knowledge of a woman’s need.
A man is like a shade of tin. When the sun is shinning, the tin shade becomes excessively hot. However, right after sunset, this tin shade is cool. It takes very less time for a man to reach his extremes. A woman is like a heap of hay which is stacked one over another. It takes time for the haystack to become hot but once it crosses a threshold, it will burn like a house on fire.
A man is physical in behavior so long he has lot of semen (veerya) inside his body. When the man has no semen, he will have no desires of romance and will repel his partner. However, such is not the case with women.
Unlike men, the reproductive system of women is inside their body and the semen produced is always regulated by her system and the bucket is never empty, which means a woman has no end of sexual desires. This is “Rajaveerya” and her system continuously keeps this fresh through proper regulation, this is the reason why women have more emotional cravings, compared to men. The hormonal influx inside a woman is always happening and there is no such state when her bucket is completely empty. Her needs are entirely different and not entirely physical.
Since emotional craving is always happening inside a woman’s head, it is difficult for a woman to achieve brahmacharya. A chaste woman can lead the life of a Brahmachari, only after she has attained control of her physical body through Yoga and attained control of her emotional cravings through “Japa“. You will see some women taking “Diksha” from their guru, this is done to lower her emotional cravings and give the woman true knowledge that all the cravings inside her is just a function of how her system has been built by nature. We have examples such as Savitri, Anasuya who were Brahmachari and led a pious chaste life.
A woman who has abandoned emotional cravings, has no desires to attract a partner or have the company of a man she desires, has no intentions to beget a child from a man, has regulated her bodily needs through Yoga can become a Brahmachari. However, this practice should begin right before she enters puberty. She must be given the knowledge by a Guru before she is 13 and she must act upon this knowledge until the end of her fertility period (45-50). A woman peaks at 23-28 and this is the time when she will be craving for a partner the most and due to this continuous craving, she will eventually become a victim of “Maya”. She will attract males through her beauty and it will become impossible to repel this action.
This is the time when the woman lives in maximum delusion, is mostly sad due to the lack of a partner and longs for affection from a man. She spends her time making herself more attractive, is concerned about the deceptive form of love and is engulfed in emotional cravings. She never understands that this emotional craving is completely imaginary, it will fade with time and this craving is just a function of her bodily changes, which is not at all in her control. Hence, a woman should start the practice of Brahmacharya earlier than a man and before her body takes over her mind.
References and further reading
— advice to Brahmacharis
— A thorn chewing civilization
–– The gospel of Brahmacharya