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PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > The Gospel of Brahmacharya
The Gospel Of Brahmacharya
What chiefly distinguishes man from the beast is that man from his age of discretion begins to practice a life of continual self-restraint. God has enabled man to distinguish between his sister, his, mother, his daughter and his wife. (WGC, p. 84)
Need for Brahmacharya
Life without Brahmacharya appears to me to be insipid and animal-like. The brute by nature knows to self-restraint. Man is man because he is capable of, and only in so far as he exercises, self-restraint. What formerly appeared to me to be extravagant praise of Brahmacharya in our religious books seems now, with increasing clearness every day, to be absolutely proper and founded on experience. (A, p. 234)
I hold that a life of perfect continence in thought, speech and action is necessary for reaching spiritual perfection. And a nation that does not possess such men is poorer for the want. (YI, 13-10-1920, p. 3)
Faith in God
The laving force, which we call God, can
be found if we know and follow His law leading to the discovery of Him in us. But it is self-evident that to find out God's law requires far harder labour. The law may, in one word, be termed Brahmacharya. The straight way to cultivate Brahmacharya is Ramanama.
What is Brahmacharya? It is the way of life which leads us to Brahma (God). It includes full control over the process of reproduction. The control must be in thought, word and deed. If the thought is not under control, the other two have no value. There is a saying in Hindustani: "He whose heart is pure has the all-purifying waters of the Ganga in his house." For one whose thought is under control the other is mere child's play. The Brahmachari of my conception will be healthy and will easily live long. He will not even suffer from so much as a headache. Mental and physical work will not cause fatigue. He is ever bright, never slothful. Outward neatness will be an exact reflection of the inner. He will exhibit all the attributes of the steadfast one described in the Gita. It need cause no worry if not one person is met with answering the description.
Is it strange that one who is able completely to conserve and sublimate the vital fluid which has the potentiality of creating human beings should exhibit all the attributes described above? Who can measure the creative strength of such sublimation, one drop of which has the potentiality of bringing into being a human life? (H, 8-6-1947, p. 180)
The true brahmachari will shun false restraints. He must create his own fences according to his limitations, breaking them down when he feels that they are unnecessary. The first thing is to know what true brahmacharya is, then to realize its value and lastly to try to cultivate this priceless virtue . I hold that true service of the country demands this observance. (H, 15-6-1947, p. 192)
Control of Sense
To hear suggestive stories with the ears, to see suggestive sights with the eyes, to taste stimulating food with the tongue, to touch exciting things with the hands, and then at the same time, expect to control the only remaining organ is like putting ones hand in the fire, and expecting to escape being burnt. He, therefore, who is resolved to control the one must be likewise determined to control the rest.
I have always felt that much harm has been done by the narrow definition of brahmacharya. If we practice simultaneous control in all directions, the attempt will be scientific and possible of success. Perhaps the palate is the chief sinner. (FYM, pp. 13-14)
I have no doubt that there is a key to lock out undesirable thoughts, but every one has to find it out for himself. Saints and seers have left their experiences for us, but they have given us no infallible and universal prescription. For, perfection or freedom from error comes only from grace, and so seekers after God have left us mantras such as Ramanama, hallowed by their own austerities and charged with their purity.
Without an unreserved surrender to His grace, complete mastery over thought is impossible. This is the teaching of every great book of religion, and I am realizing the truth of it every moment of my striving after that perfect brahmacharya. (A, p. 234)
I have practiced brahmacharya for over thirty years with considerable success though living in the midst of activities. After the decision to lead the life of a brahmachari, there was little change in my outward practice, except with my wife ..
My brahmacharya was not derived from books. I evolved my own rules for my guidance and that of those who, at my invitation, had joined me in the experiment. If I have not followed the prescribed restrictions, much less have I accepted the description found even in religious literature of woman as the source of all evil and temptations. Owing as I do all the good there may be in me to my mother, I have looked upon woman, never as an object for satisfaction of sexual desire, but always with the veneration due to my own mother. Man is the tempter and aggressor. It is not woman whose touch defiles man, but he is often himself too impure to touch her
I am experimenting. I have never claimed to have been a perfect brahmachari of my definition. I have not acquired that control over my thoughts that I need for my researches in nonviolence is to be contagious and infectious, I must acquire greater control over my thoughts. (H, 23-7-1938, p. 193)
From that day when I began brahmacharya, our freedom began. My wife became a free woman, free from my authority as her lord and master, and I became free from the slavery to my own appetite, which she had to satisfy. No other woman had any attraction for me in the same sense that my wife had. I was too loyal to her as husband and too loyal to the vow I had taken before my mother to be slave to any other woman. But the manner in which my brahmacharya came to me irresistibly drew me to woman as the mother of man. She became too sacred for sexual love. And so every woman at once became sister or daughter to me. (H, 4-11-1939, p. 326)
If I were sexually attracted towards women, I have courage enough, even at this time of life, to become a polygamist. I do not believe in free love secret or open, Free, open love I have looked upon as dogs love, secret love is, besides, cowardly. (ibid)