On Brahmacharya

A Life Consistent with Brahman

Brahmacharya literally means a life consistent with Brahman. Practically it means a life that helps us realise the Brahman or the Highest state possible for man. Later this began to mean a life of purity since Brahman is ‘ever pure’. Since human beings do not understand purity in its truest sense, its intrinsic sense was lost and there was more of an emphasis on moral and ethical living.
Purity in a spiritual sense means being under the influence of the Divine alone, living in attunement to the Divine Will, in a state of equanimity, going beyond preferences, attractions and repulsions, ideological leanings, pleasure and pain. Once this is established fairly well, then one begins to become aware of the Divine Will, the sacred Fire of the Rig Veda, which at first indicates, then initiates and later conducts the action. When we do actions in accordance with the Divine Will, then quite naturally we draw the energy for action from higher and purer sources until a time comes when we are able to connect with the very Source. Then there is no waste of energy and all action becomes spontaneous, flawless and perfect.

Movements that Obscure the Divine Will

Where does sexual abstinence fall in all this? Here comes a knowledge of the forces and movements that obscure the Divine Will, throw upon IT dust and smoke and cloud as if to stifle it. If these actions are persisted in, then there may arise severe conflict and inner battle within the human system between the uplifting Divine Energy and the forces of lower nature that try to confuse us and pull the consciousness again and again back to our human-animal way of life. Classically these movements that draw the ascending consciousness down from the heights are termed as the six chief enemies, namely lust, anger, greed, delusional attachment, arrogant pride and jealousy.

But the list need not end here. The Gita describes the movements that need to be cultivated as well as rejected in great detail in Chapter 16 Daivasura Sampad Vibhaga Yoga (The Separateness of the Divine and Undivine). For example, fear, though not listed in classical spiritual literature, is the worst impurity as it leads to many other false movements. So also, ambition and desires and excitement in general pull down the consciousness. In fact, ambition stands on the same level as sexual impurity. Hence we find the insistence on mastery of these movements in spiritual literature. When we can prevent and master these things in nature then a lot of energy is released into the human system that was being ‘wasted’ in the usual human activities. This energy now needs to be handled and directed through creative activities, sports and eventually lifted up towards spiritual heights.

The Practice: A Sattwic Turn

Of all these lower forms of energy the most degrading is sex. On the other hand if converted it is the one that can open the doors to a tremendous possibility by a series of transmutation from its earthly biological energy-form into increasing vital, mental and spiritual energy. But as this energy increases it is important to direct it properly. The best way to do so is to serve the Divine or engage in works that are no more done for the ego’s sake but as a part of the Divine Service. That is why Brahmacharya needs to be practiced properly. When done wrongly, such as restraining outwardly while indulging subtly and in the mind and feelings, it can upset the system. It can begin with outer restraint but must soon incorporate the inner world of feelings and thoughts and impulsions and other movements.

As to the way, the first necessity is samyama. It means leading a life of balance and moderation. It means disciplining one’s nature with the help of buddhi and reason. It also means denying crude forms of pleasure and thereby gradually refining one’s tastes and tendencies. This is helped by leading a regulated life where there is a healthy balance of work and rest and exercise and diet. It is always good to set apart some time for contemplation and self-reflection as also for studying uplifting literature such as of Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. One needs to be also careful at this stage of the people one closely associates with and the company one keeps. All this helps in giving a sattwic turn to nature. This is usually the limit of humanity.

Towards the Complete Victory

But if one wants go further, it is only possible if the fire of aspiration is lit. It is this that lifts our human movements towards the light until the grip of desires is softened and the ego-self becomes more malleable. Then one has to proceed mainly by increasing the aspiration and offering all the movements of nature to the Divine through this psychic fire. This helps refine the nature further and also increases the psychic fire even more. This goes on until a time comes when this upward movement meets the descending current of the Mother’s Force. It is then that the yoga begins in true earnest. Her Force works relentlessly on the various elements of nature, moulding and remoulding them, chasing away all darkness from them, until they start getting transmuted into aspects of the Divine Shakti.

Once this last stage starts then one is assured of the complete victory. Until then there is always some struggle. Of course there is still a lot of work to be done and hence the struggle is there but it is no more felt as a battle that one fights with one’s own efforts but a conscious working of the Divine that one observes with gratitude and collaborates through a growing sincerity and aspiration. The process becomes swifter and smoother if there is an unreserved self-giving to Her, a calling of Her Name with a sincere will to change.

As you can see it is a long process and one needs patience and perseverance. It takes time, sometimes a really long time, and one has to keep applying the will with faith and surrender. Eventually the breakthrough comes and instead of being a slave of nature one becomes its master and walks with true freedom and experiences lasting peace and joy.

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