asks : 'What is Brahmacharya ? Is it possible to practise it to perfection? If
possible, do you do so ?'
The full and proper meaning of Brahmacharya is search of Brahman. Brahman pervades every
being and can therefore be searched by diving into and realizing the inner self.
This realization is impossible without complete control of the senses.
Brahmacharya thus means control in thought, word and action of all the senses at
all times and in all places.
A man or woman completely practising Brahmacharya is absolutely free from passion. Such a
one therefore lives nigh unto God, is Godlike.
I have no doubt that it is possible to practise such Brahmacharya in thought, word and
action to the fullest extent.
Young India, 5-6-'24
The man, who is wedded to Truth and worships Truth alone, proves unfaithful to her, if he
applies his talents to anything else. How then can he minister to the senses? A
man whose activities are wholly consecrated to the realization of Truth, which
requires utter selflessness, can have no time for the selfish purpose of
begetting children and running a household. Realization of Truth through
self-gratification should, after what has been said before, appear a
contradiction in terms.
If we look at it from the standpoint of Ahimsa (nonviolence), we find that the
fulfillment of Ahimsa is impossible without utter selflessness. Ahimsa means
universal love. If a man gives his love to one woman, or a woman to one man,
what is there left for all the world besides? It simply means, "We two first,
and the devil take all the rest of them." As a faithful wife must be prepared to
sacrifice her all for the sake of her husband, and a faithful husband for the sake of his
wife, it is clear that such persons cannot rise to the height of universal love,
or look upon all mankind as kith and kin. For they have created a boundary wall
round their love. The larger their family, the farther are they from universal
love. Hence one who would obey the law of Ahimsa cannot marry, not to speak of
gratification outside the marital bond.
Then what about people who are already married? Will they never be able to realize Truth?
Can they never offer up their all at the altar of humanity ? There is a way out
for them. They can behave as if they were not married. Those who have enjoyed
this happy condition will be able to bear me out. Many have to my knowledge
successfully tried the experiment. If the married couple can think of each other
as brother and sister, they are freed for universal service. The very thought
that all women in the world are one's sisters, mothers or daughters will at once
ennoble a man and snap his chains. The husband and wife do not lose anything
here, but only add to their resources and even to their family. Their love
becomes free from the impurity of lust and so grows stronger. With the
disappearance of this impurity, they can serve each other better, and the
occasions for quarrel become fewer. There are more occasions for quarrel, where
the love is selfish and bounded.
If the foregoing argument is appreciated, a consideration of the physical benefits of
chastity becomes a matter of secondary importance. How foolish it is
intentionally to dissipate vital energy in sensual enjoyment! It is a grave
misuse to fritter away for physical gratification that which is given to man and
woman for the full development of their bodily and mental powers. Such misuse is
the root cause of many a disease.
Brahmacharya, like all other observances, must be observed in thought, word and
deed. We are told in the Gita, and experience will corroborate the statement,
that the foolish man, who appears to control, his body but is nursing evil
thoughts in his mind, makes a vain effort. It may be harmful to suppress the
body, if the mind is at the same time allowed to go astray. Where the mind
wanders, the body must follow sooner or later.
It is necessary here to appreciate a distinction. It is one thing to allow the mind to
harbour impure thoughts; it is a different thing altogether if it strays among
them in spite of ourselves. Victory will be ours in the end, if we
non-co-operate with the mind in its evil wanderings.
We experience every moment of our lives that often while the body is subject to our
control, the mind is not. This physical control should never be relaxed, and in
addition we must put forth a constant endeavour to bring the mind under
control. We can do nothing more, nothing less. If we give way to the mind, the
body and the mind will pull different ways, and we shall be false to ourselves.
Body and mind may be said to go together, so long as we continue to resist the
approach of every evil thought.
The observance of Brahmacharya has been believed to be very difficult, almost
impossible. In trying to find a reason for this belief, we see that the term
Brahmacharya has been taken in a narrow sense. Mere control of animal passion
has been thought to be tantamount to observing Brahmacharya. I feel that this
conception is incomplete and wrong. Brahmacharya means control of all the organs
of sense. He, who attempts to control only one organ and allows all the others
free play, is bound to find his effort futile. To hear suggestive stories with
the ears, to see suggestive sights with the eyes, to taste stimulating food
with the tongue, to touch exiting things with the hands, and then at the same
time expect to control the only remaining organ, is like putting one's hands in
a fire, and then 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 practise simultaneous self-control in all directions, the
attempt will be scientific and possible of success. Perhaps the palate is the
chief sinner. That is why in the Ashram we have assigned to control of the
palate a separate place among our observances.
Let us remember the root meaning of Brahmacharya. Charya means course of conduct;
Brahmacharya conduct adapted to the search of Brahma, i.e. Truth. From this
etymological meaning, arises the special meaning, viz., control of all the
senses. "We must entirely forget the incomplete definition which restricts
itself to the sexual aspect only.
From Yeravda Mandir, Chapter III