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Practice of Brahmacharya

by Swami Sivananda

As the practice of Karma Yoga is not possible without Brahmacharya, I have given here a short description of the methods by which one can be established in physical and mental celibacy.

One of the students of Dhanvantari approached his teacher after finishing his full course of Ayurveda and asked him: "O Bhagavan, kindly let me know the secret of health now." Dhanvantari replied: "This Veerya (seminal energy) is verily Atman. The secret of health lies in preservation of this vital force. He who wastes this energy cannot have physical, mental, moral and spiritual development."

If the Veerya is lost, Prana gets unsteady. Prana is agitated. The man becomes nervous. Then the mind also cannot work properly. The man becomes fickle-minded. There is mental weakness.

According to Ayurveda semen is the last Dhatu that is formed out of Majja or marrow. From food chyle (Rasa) is manufactured. Out of chyle comes blood (Rakta); out of blood comes flesh; out of flesh comes fat: out of fat comes marrow; out of marrow comes semen. These are the seven Dhatus. There are three divisions in each Dhatu. Semen nourishes the physical body, heart and intellect. That man who uses his physical body only but keeps the intellect and heart undeveloped cannot expect to attain perfect Brahmacharya. He can have Brahmacharya of the body only but not of the mind and heart. The semen that belongs to the heart and mind will certainly flow out. If an aspirant does regular prayer, Japa and meditation only, if he does not develop the heart and if he does not practise physical exercise, he will have mental Brahmacharya only. That portion of the semen which goes to nourish the heart and body will flow out. But an advanced Yogi who does higher, deep meditation will have full Brahmacharya even if he does not take physical exercise.

The ignorant man is an instrument in the hands of his Samskaras and Karmas. He slowly gains strength by understanding his real essential nature, by doing spiritual Sadhana and by removing desires and egoism.

This world is nothing but sex and ego. Ego is the chief thing. It is the basis. Sex hangs on the ego. If the ego is destroyed by Vichara or enquiry of "Who am I," the sex-idea takes to its heels by itself. Man, master of his destiny, has lost his divine glory and has become a slave, a tool, in the hands of sex and ego on account of ignorance. Sex and ego are the products of Avidya or nescience. The dawn of knowledge of the Self annihilates these two enemies of the Atman, the two dacoits who are plundering the helpless, ignorant, little, false Jiva, the illusory "I".

If the sexual energy is transmuted into Ojas or spiritual energy by pure thoughts, it is called sex-sublimation in Western psychology. Just as metals and chemicals are purified by heating, so also the sexual energy is purified and changed into divine energy by spiritual Sadhana, by entertaining sublime, soul-elevating thoughts of the Self or Atman. In Yoga he is called an Oordhvareta in whom the seminal energy has flown upwards into the brain as Ojas Shakti. There is no possibility of the semen going downward through sexual excitement.

This process is extremely difficult. It demands constant and protracted Sadhana and perfect discipline. That Yogi who has achieved perfect sublimation has perfect control over lust. There is no fear of his downfall. He is perfectly safe. He can embrace young women, and yet he will be absolutely free from any impurity. This stage is a very high stage. A very small minority only have attained this sublime exalted state. Sri Sankara, Sri Dattatreya and Jnana Dev of Alandi had reached this stage.

That Yogi who has disciplined himself through ceaseless and protracted Sadhana, continuous meditation, Pranayama and Atmic Vichara, the practice of Sama, Dama, Yama and Niyama, is also safe, although he has not attained the state of perfect sex-sublimation. He will have no attraction for women. He has thinned out the mind. The mind is starved to death. It cannot raise its hood. It cannot hiss.

That Yogi or Jnani who has attained the highest Nirvikalpa Samadhi, in whom the seeds of Samskaras are fried in toto can claim to be a perfect Oordhvareta or one who has complete sex-sublimation.

The process of sex-sublimation is very difficult and yet it is most necessary for the aspirant in the path of spirituality. It is the most important qualification for the aspirant, either in the path of Karma Yoga, Upasana, Raja Yoga or Vedanta. You must achieve this at any cost. You will surely attempt this in some future birth. But why not now?

Brahmacharya is a fundamental pre-requisite for an aspirant. If one has this qualification or merit, all other merits will cling to him. All divine qualities will come by themselves.

The practice of celibacy is not attended with any danger or any diseases or any undesirable results such as the various sorts of 'complex' which are wrongly attributed by Western psychologists. They have a wrong, ill-founded imagination that the ungratified sex-energy assumes the various forms of 'complex' in disguise, such as touch-phobia, etc. The complex is due to some other causes. It is a morbid state of mind due to excessive jealousy, hatred, anger, worry and depression brought about by various causes.

On the contrary, even a little self-restraint or a little practice of continence is an ideal 'pick-me-up'. It gives inner strength and peace of mind. It invigorates the mind and the nerves. It helps to conserve physical and mental energy. It augments memory, will-force and brain-power. It bestows tremendous strength, vigour and vitality. It renovates the system or constitution, rebuilds the cells and tissues, helps digestion and gives power to face the difficulties in the daily battle of life. A perfect celibate can shake the world, can stop the ocean waves like Lord Jesus, can blow up mountains, can command Nature and the five elements like Jnana Dev. There is nothing in the three worlds that cannot be achieved by him. All Siddhis and Riddhis roll at his feet.

It is quite possible for a man to practise celibacy while remaining in the world, albeit there are various sorts of temptations and distractions. Many have achieved this in times of yore. There are many even at the present time also. A well disciplined life, study of religious literature, Satsanga, Japa, Dhyana, pure and moderate diet, Pranayama, daily introspection and enquiry, self-analysis and self-correction, practice of Yama, Niyama, physical and mental Tapas and Sadachara in accordance with the teachings of the seventeenth chapter of the Gita-all will pave a long way in the attainment of this end. People have an irregular, unrighteous, immoderate, irreligious, undisciplined life. Just as the elephant throws sand on its head, so also they themselves bring difficulties and troubles on their own heads on account of their foolishness.

Varnashrama Dharmas are practically extinct now. Every one is a Vaishya only with greed for the accumulation of wealth by hook or by crook, by begging, borrowing or stealing. Almost all Brahmins are Vaishyas only. There is no real Brahmin or Kshatriya in these days. All want money anyhow. They do not attempt to practise the Dharmas of their order of life. This is the fundamental cause for the downfall of man. If the householder discharges the duties of his stage of life strictly, if he is an ideal Grihastha there is no necessity for taking Sannyasa. The swelling up in the number of Sannyasins at the present moment is due to the failure of the householders in the discharge of their duties. The life of an ideal householder is as much difficult and rigid as that of an ideal Sannyasin. Pravritti Marga or the path of Karma Yoga is as much difficult and rigid as that of Nivritti Marga or the path of renunciation.

Sex-sublimation is within your reach if you wish to attain it. The path is quite clear, straight and smooth, if you understand it, and if you apply yourself with patience, perseverance, determination and strong will, if you practise discipline of the Indriyas, right conduct, right thinking, right acting, regular meditation, auto-suggestion and enquiry of 'Who am I'? The Atman is Nirvikara. Feel this. Can there be any trace of lust or impurity in the eternal and pure Atman?

Thou art Nitya, Suddha, Buddha, Mukta Atman (eternal, pure, perfect, all-wise, free Self). O sweet beloved Paramananda! Feel this. Assert this birthright. Claim this hereditary property. You can even fight with that 'Old Man of the Upanishads'. Claim this birthright amidst typewriting, arranging chapter of a book and other multifarious work. This is better than the life in a cave. This is dynamic, integral Yoga of Siva. This was the Yoga of Sri Sankara and Lord Buddha also.


Mind, Prana and Veerya (semen) are one. Mind and Prana have affinity for each other like milk and water. Mind, Prana and Veerya are under one Sambandha (connection or circuit). If the mind is well controlled, Prana and Veerya are automatically controlled. He who suspends or restrains the breath, restrains also the working of the mind and the movement of semen. Again, if the Veerya is controlled, and if it is made to flow upwards into the brain by pure thoughts, through the practice of Pranayama and Vipareet Karani Mudras such as Sarvangasana and Sirshasana, the mind and Prana are automatically controlled.

He who has controlled the mind has controlled also the breath. The mind is set in motion or rendered active by two things, viz., the vibration of Prana and Vasanas (subtle desires). If one of these two dies, the other also dies by itself. Where the mind is absorbed, there the Prana is restrained; and where the Prana is fixed, there the mind is also absorbed. Mind and Prana are intimate companions, like man and his shadow. If the mind and Prana are not restrained, all the Indriyas, organs of sensation and action keep actively engaged in their respective functions.

An Akhanda Brahmachari who has not allowed even a drop of semen to come out for a period of twelve years, will enter into Samadhi without any effort. Prana and mind are under his perfect control. Bala-Brahmacharya is a synonymous term for unbroken (Akhanda) Brahmacharya. An Akhanda Brahmachari has strong Dharana Shakti (power of grasping), retentive memory (Smriti Sakti) and Vichara Sakti (power of enquiry). An Akhanda Brahmachari need not practise reflection (Manana) and meditation (Nididhyasana). Even if he hears once the Mahavakya or the great sentence of the Upanishads, he will at once achieve Atma Sakshatkara or Brahmanubhava (Self-realisation). His intellect is pure and his understanding is extremely clear. There are some Akhanda Brahmacharis, but they are very rare. You can also become an Akhanda Brahmachari if you attempt it in right earnest. Mere matted hair, application of ashes to the forehead and body cannot make one an Akhanda Brahmachari. The Brahmachari who has controlled the physical body and physical Indriyas but who constantly dwells on thoughts of sex is, as I have already pointed out, a confirmed hypocrite. He should never be trusted. He may become a menace at any time.

You will have to be very careful of reaction. The Indriyas that are under restraint for some months or for one or two years become rebellious, if you are not always careful and vigilant. They revolt and drag you out when opportunities arise. Some people who observe Brahmacharya for one or two years, become more passionate and waste the energy considerably in the end. Some become incorrigible, immoral wrecks also.

According to Yogic science, semen (Suklam or Sukram) exists in a subtle form throughout the whole body. It is withdrawn and elaborated into a gross form in the sex organ under the influence of the sexual will and excitement. To be an Oordhvareta is not merely to prevent the emission of gross semen already formed, but to prevent its formation as gross seed and absorb it into the general system. The body of a man who is a true Oordhvareta has the scent of the lotus. A chaste man in whom the gross semen is formed, may, on the other hand, have the odour of a goat. The semen dries up in those who practise Pranayama seriously. The semen energy ascends up to the brain. It is stored up as Ojas Sakti (spiritual energy) and comes back as Amrita or nectar.

More energy is wasted during coition. The whole nervous system is shaken or agitated during the act. But it is not so when the emission occurs during the state of dream. Further the actual essence does not come out during wet-dreams. It is only the watery prostatic juice with a little semen that is discharged during nocturnal pollutions. When nocturnal pollutions take place, the mind which was working in the inner astral body suddenly enters the physical body in an agitated condition. That is the reason why the emission takes place suddenly.

The energy that is wasted during one sexual act is tantamount to the physical energy that is spent in physical labour for ten days, or mental energy that is utilised in mental work for three days. Mark how precious is the vital fluid, semen!

Glory to those Yogis who have attained Oordhvareta or full sex-sublimation and who rest in their own Svarupa! May we all practise perfect celibacy through the practice of Sama, Dama, discrimination, Vichara, Vairagya, Pranayama, Japa, Dhyana and Asanas and reach the goal of life! May the indweller of our hearts grant us spiritual strength to control the Indriyas and the mind! May we all become full Oordhvareta Yogis like Sri Sankara, Sri Jnana Dev and others of yore! May their blessings be upon us!

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