Question: What is the key to success in brahmacharya?
Swamiji: It is how you look at it!
First of all it is how you understand it. Brahmacharya is the diversion to a higher purpose and utilisation of the basic, quintessential energy potential of the universe located in the individual being. It is the individualised or microcosmic aspect of the illimitable, infinite, primordial Cosmic Power that is the macrocosmic aspect or the dynamic aspect of the one non-dual Reality. As you know, the static aspect is Brahman which is the transcendental, non-dual Reality. And the kinetic or the dynamic aspect is that same thing in manifestation or expression, in movement.
The individualised aspect of this Primordial Power, located in all beings, is this latent potential for unbroken continuity of life and existence. This potential is practically everywhere. Just because you may be in a position to describe it and define it or explain it in terms of modern physics or chemistry doesn’t in any way alter the actual metaphysical or philosophical fact of its real nature. Physically you may explain it in terms of pressure etc., but that is only an explanation of something that is already a transforming, ongoing process of continuously being and becoming, being and becoming.
This creative potential, creative power, is present throughout the botanical and animal kingdoms. It is this alone that manifests as all the different forces in the individual human being—the power of acting, the power of thinking, the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, to digest, to breathe—everything. And it is this that is equally present in both sexes as the sex energy. Therefore, this being the key to life, one can imagine its importance, and one can also imagine its precious quality.
If one can understand it in this way—realise its real, sacred cosmic nature, as the microcosmic aspect of the macrocosmic sakti or Cosmic Power—one takes a healthy attitude of reverence for it. It is not something to be just spat away like spittle. A person may spend away nickels and dimes, but if he has gold coins he will not so easily part with them. So reverence is a fruit of this understanding. Furthermore, the aspirant recognises and sees clearly: "There is something very important that I have to do. I have a great goal to achieve and I require all the energy at my disposal to put into my spiritual quest. I cannot afford to divert it into other channels in order to obtain a lesser achievement." As Swami Krishnanandaji used to say, "It is better to aim at a lion and miss it than to aim at a jackal and hit it."
So the first key to success in brahmacharya is to recognise and understand the sacred and precious nature of the energy potential one has. When one has this clear perception that it is meant to be conserved, preserved and directed towards the greatest of all attainments, then one has a desire to be brahmachari. It is seen as a very positive process.
A second key to success, and a way of looking at both brahmacharya and the sex function, is even more fundamental, and it is one of the two factors that to a large extent have been personally utilised by me. It is to clearly perceive that first and foremost what they call the male sexual organ is not a sexual organ at all. It is only a urinary drainpipe. That is what it is, and that is its main function from the moment a child comes out of his mother’s womb and sees the light of day, right up to the last breath, till one departs from this world.
Actually, if you look at it, sex is not in that part of our anatomy at all. Sex is not in the urinary organ; sex is in the mind of a person. So it is a question of your mental attitude. If you are convinced and train your mind to think of it in a sane and rational manner—it’s only an eliminatory thing; its main purpose is not that which dominates the world and drives it crazy—then you’re already free of it. It doesn’t obsess you any longer because you don’t think of it in the way in which most of our unfortunate human society has been made to think.
Part of the reason for the world’s obsession with sex and why it has become such a big problem—premarital sex, adultery, promiscuous sex—is its exploitation by commercial interests and their advertising. To sell merchandise, they blow up the girl-meet-boy phenomenon—a girl’s body is meant to be enjoyed, and therefore she has to cultivate a body that can attract as much as possible—as if sex was the only important thing in life. They completely distort its basic purpose. The sooner that this is recognised, the easier will become the possibility of brahmacharya. Because when you come to think of it, the main function of the sex act is the important, indispensable process of procreation.
From a higher metaphysical sense the husband and wife are cooperating with the Creator for perpetuation of the species so that creation will continue. That is its main function, not the experience of enjoyment that accompanies it. That is a secondary offshoot of it. Then why was this function made so enjoyable? It had to be. The procreative function, the perpetuation of the species, was done through the sex act, and if it was not combined with a super experience of pleasure and enjoyment, no one would indulge in it, and its purpose would be nullified. So Mother Nature in all Her wisdom combined these two, namely, the sex act and pleasure.
But if the mind is diverted into higher things, automatically brahmacharya becomes easy. You can succeed in brahmacharya if the mind is totally taken up by something so wonderful, so big, it absorbs you and elevates you, and the mind is simply gripped by it. When you want an infinitely higher enjoyment, then you say: "My discarding this is not any discarding. My discarding the smaller enjoyments of the physical aspect of my being is not at all any renunciation to boast about." On the contrary, you are being shrewd and wise because you want to go after something infinitely more wonderful. It is like throwing away pieces of glass if someone says, "I’ll replace them with diamonds." That is another way of looking at the whole phenomenon of celibacy from the point of view of the spiritual life and the highest attainment of illumination and enlightenment.
The third key to success is also something that I myself have used right from the very beginning, and I think it is the ultimate answer. The real secret of success in brahmacharya, the real key, is what I’m just now going to state.
The moment you begin to think that I am Atman unborn, nameless, formless, I have neither body nor mind, I am satchidananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute), Self-sufficient, I am of the very nature of Bliss Absolute—if you thus totally shift your consciousness to your reality, to your essential, eternal, true identity, then, finished! Brahmacharya is no longer a problem. The problem of brahmacharya ceases to exist except only once in a while due to old impressions. If some factor outside of you happens to act as a stimulus, then an idea may come.
Mind you, it is not only what your mental-intellectual mechanism thinks about yourself, it is also your feeling about yourself. If both your thinking and feeling are elevated to such a height, elevated to that dimension—it’s not only a question of height, it’s a different dimension altogether—and you move into that dimension, this lower dimension ceases to be of importance, ceases to have any impact upon you. It is there; it may function, but you are not at all affected by it in any way.
Once you start cultivating staying put in the consciousness of your own essential identity, then brahmacharya is no longer a problem. It is solved. So the ultimate key to success in brahmacharya is atma bhav, to become absolutely convinced that you are something totally beyond body, mind, senses etc. The mind, due to its habitual wrong thinking, may periodically bring in a contrary idea that "I am so and so." Be indifferent to it. Dismiss it as nonsense. Refuse to entertain it. Don’t pay any attention to it. Just be. Abide in your own Self. This is the master key more than anything else.
If you want to put it in devotional terminology, there is a nice little composition by Swami Yogananda. It goes something like this: "I am the bubble, You are the sea. Let me cease to be the bubble, make me the sea." And so the devotee prays to God: "I am Your child, what You are, that I am. You are divine, so I am divine. You have no body, so I have no body. I am pure Spirit, all pervading, like You. Take me up into Your state of consciousness."
So the devotee puts it in a different way. But the ultimate key to success in brahmacharya is the Vedantic process of shifting your consciousness—rejecting the body consciousness and becoming established in your true Self-awareness as something where there is neither male, nor female, nor body, nor sex, nor personality.