Greatly Inspiring Brahmacharya (Celibacy) Quotes

Compiled by Gopal Krishna


Continued from Mahatma Gandhi Part 1

Paragraph numbering is unchanged from the original compilation. Footnotes [in maroon] are the responsibility of this website.

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi
(1869-1948) Wikipedia

From True Celibacy

(Young India, 25 Jun 1925) [1]

[1. Ref. paragraphs 43-46: ]

43. A man who consciously sins with his mind, even though he may not sin with his body, is not a celibate. One who cannot remain unmoved at the sight of a woman, however beautiful she may be, is not a celibate. One who keeps his body under control from sheer necessity, does well, but is not a celibate. We may not degrade sacred words by a loose use of them. True celibacy has important results which can be verified. It is a difficult virtue to practice. Many attempt it, but few succeed.

44. Plea for Humility. It must be taken for granted that those who cultivate truth, ahimsa, brahmacharya, must be humble. Truth without humility would be an arrogant caricature. He who wants to practice truth knows how hard it is. The world may applaud his so-called triumphs. Little does the world know his falls. A truthful man is a chastened being. He has need to be humble. A man who wants to love the whole world including one who calls himself his enemy, knows how impossible it is to do so in his own strength. He must be as mere dust before he can understand the elements of ahimsa. He is nothing if he does not daily grow in humility as he grows in love.

45. God Triumphs in Us, Never We. A man who would have his eye single, who would regard every woman as his blood sister or mother, has to be less than dust. He stands on the brink of a precipice. The slightest turn of the head brings him down. He dare not whisper his virtue to his very own. [2] For, he knows not what the next moment has in store for him. For him, "pride goeth before destruction and haughtiness before a fall." [3] Well has the Gita said: "Passions subside in a fasting man, [but] not the desire for them. The desire goes only when man sees God face to face." And no one can see God face to face who has aught of the 'I' in him. He must become a cypher if he would see God. Who shall dare say in this storm-tossed universe: "I have won?" God triumphs in us, never we.

[2. So Gandhi may have set himself up for a fall by proclaiming his celibacy so publicly, demanding it from his married followers even while he was sleeping with their wives.]

[3. Proverbs 16:18.]

46. Ours is Merely to Make the Attempt. Let us not lower the values of these virtues so that we may all be able to claim them. What is true of the physical world is true of the spiritual. If, in order to gain a worldly battle, Europe sacrificed several million lives during the late War, itself a transitory event, what wonder that in the spiritual battle millions have to perish in the attempt so that one complete example may be left to the world.

It is ours merely to make the attempt in the uttermost humility. The cultivation of these higher virtues is its own reward. He who cashes any of them loses his soul. Virtues are not to trade with. My Truth, my Ahimsa, my Brahmacharya are matters between myself and my Maker. They are not articles of trade. Any man who dares to trade with them will do so at his peril. The world has no standard, no means wherewith to judge these things. They defy scrutiny and analysis. Let us, therefore, cultivate them for our own purification.

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Royal Road to Self-Realization

(Young India, 1926) [4]

[4. Ref. paragraphs 47-51: ]

47. On Brahmacharya. (adapted from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 30) I am being inundated with letters on brahmacharya and means to its attainment. Let me repeat in different language what I have already said or written on previous occasions. Brahmacharya is not mere mechanical celibacy; it means complete control over all the senses and freedom from lust in thought, word, and deed. As such it is the royal road to self-realization or attainment of Brahman.

The ideal brahmachari has not to struggle with sensual desire or desire for procreation; it never troubles him at all. The whole world will be to him one vast family; he will center all his ambition in relieving the misery of mankind and the desire for procreation will be to him as gall and wormwood. He who has realized the misery of mankind in all its magnitude will never be stirred by passion. He will instinctively know the fountain of strength in him, and he will ever persevere to keep it undefiled. His humble strength will command respect of the world, and he will wield an influence greater than that of the sceptered monarch.

48. Attraction Between Man and Woman. But I am told that this is an impossible ideal, that I do not take count of the natural attraction between man and woman. I refuse to believe that the sensual affinity referred to here can be at all regarded as natural; in that case the deluge would soon be over us. The natural affinity between man and woman is the attraction between brother and sister, mother and son, or father and daughter. It is that natural attraction that sustains the world. I should find it impossible to live, much less carry on my work, if I did not regard the whole of womankind as sisters, daughters, or mothers. If I looked at them with lustful eyes, it would be the surest way to perdition.

49. Procreation–A Natural Phenomenon. Procreation is a natural phenomenon indeed, but within specific limits. A transgression of those limits imperils womankind, emasculates the race, induces disease, puts a premium on vice, and makes the world ungodly. A man in the grip of the sensual desire is a man without moorings. If such a one were to guide society, to flood it with his writings, and men were to be swayed by them, where would society be? And yet we have the very thing happening today.

50. Purpose of Marriage. Supposing a moth whirling round a light were to record the moments of its fleeting joy and we were to imitate it, regarding it as an exemplar, where would we be? No, I must declare with all the power I can command that sensual attraction even between husband and wife is unnatural. Marriage is meant to cleanse the hearts of the couple of sordid passions and take them nearer to God. Lustless love between husband and wife is not impossible. Man is not a brute. He has risen to a higher state after countless births in brute creation. He is born to stand, not to walk on all fours or crawl. Bestiality is as far removed from manhood, as matter from spirit.

51. Means of Attainment. In conclusion I shall summarize the means to its attainment.

a. The first step is the realization of its necessity.

b. The next is gradual control of the senses. A brahmachari must needs control his palate. He must eat to live, and not for enjoyment. He must see only clean things and close his eyes before anything unclean. It is thus a sign of polite breeding to walk with one's eyes towards the ground and not wandering about from object to object. A brahmachari will likewise hear nothing obscene or unclean, smell no strong, stimulating, things. The smell of clean earth is far sweeter than the fragrance of artificial scents and essences. Let the aspirant to brahmacharya also keep his hands and feet engaged in all the waking hours in healthful activity. Let him also fast occasionally.

c. The third step is to have clean companions: clean friends and clean books.

d. The last and not the least is prayer. Let him repeat Ramanama with all his heart regularly every day, and ask for divine grace.

None of these things are difficult for an average man or woman. They are simplicity itself. But their very simplicity is embarrassing. Where there is a will, the way is simple enough. Men have not the will for it and hence vainly grope. The fact that the world rests on the observance, more or less, of brahmacharya or restraint, means that it is necessary and practicable. [The original Gujarati article appeared in Navjivan, 4-4-1926. This is a translation by Mahadev Desai.]

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The Law of Continence

(Young India, 25 Aug 1927) [5]

[5. Ref. paragraphs 52-56: ]

52. Let no one desirous of leading a pure and chaste life think that the practice of it is not worth pursuing because the expected result is not attained in a moment. And let no one expect perfection of body after successful practice of continence even for a long time.

The majority of us, who endeavor to follow the rules laid down for observing continence, labor under three handicaps. A.) We have inherited imperfect bodies and weak wills from our parents, and B.) by an incorrect life we find ourselves to have further debilitated both our bodies and wills. When a writing advocating purity of life attracts us, we begin the reformation. Such reformation is never too late. But we must not expect the results described in such writings; for, those results are to be expected only from a strictly regulated life from early youth. [6]

[6. Gandhi began his attempts at brahmacharya some time before he took the full vow at about the age of 40, as recounted below.]

And the third handicap we labor under is, C.) that in spite of the exercise of all the artificial and outward restraint, we find ourselves unable to restrain and regularize our thoughts. And let every aspirant after a pure life take from me that an impure thought is often as powerful in undermining the body as an impure act. Control over thought is a long, painful and laborious process. But I am convinced that no time, no labor and no pain is too much for the glorious result to be reached. The purity of thought is possible only with a faith in God bordering on definite experience.

So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity
That when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey her.
-- Milton

53. By the use of the term continence is meant the voluntary and entire abstinence from sexual indulgence in any form and having complete control over the passions by one who knows their power, and who but for his pure life and steady will, not only could but would indulge them.

54. The advantages of a strictly continent life are: The nervous system is invigorated and strengthened. The special senses-the sight, hearing, etc., are strong, delicate, and acute. The digestive system is kept normal and man knows not what a sick day is. The brain is enlarged and perfect, memory grows strong, and the perceptive and reflective faculties increase in power. The soul in its exercise reaches up and commingles with the Spirit of God. The reproductive element is preserved in all its life-renewing and life-giving power until full ripeness of years.

55. The following are to be strictly avoided by those whose desire it is to lead a pure, chaste, and continent life:

a. Tobacco in all its forms. All manner of alcoholic liquors. Tea, coffee, and chocolate. Late suppers and over-eating. Sweetmeats, candies, etc. White bread when it is possible to get the graham. Pork and all fat and salt meats, sausages, pickles, etc. Salt except in moderate quantities, pepper, mustard, spices, vinegar, and other condiments. Mince and other pies and all manner of pastry.

b. All constriction of dress about the body.

c. Feather beds and pillows and heavy bed covering. Unventilated and unlighted bedrooms. Remaining in bed in the morning after waking. Uncleanliness of the body, Turkish and Russian baths.

d. Idleness and inaction of body and mind. Companions of doubtful or bad natures. Irresolute will.

e. Drugs and patent medicines. Quack doctors.

56. The things below enumerated you are requested to observe, use and enjoy, if you would live a healthy life, a continent life, a happy and a long life:

a. The cultivation of a firm and determined will.

b. The active morning and evening exercise of the religious sentiments.

In the right and faithful observance of these laws, man will find all the requirements necessary to the growth of perfect health, purity of body, nobleness of soul, and, above and over all, continence.

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Mastery over Taste

(Speeches & Writings of M. Gandhi, p. 382) [7]

[7. Ref. paragraph 57: ]

57. A man who wants to control his animal passions easily does so if he controls his palate. I fear this is one of the most difficult vows to follow ... I may say this: unless we take our minds off from this habit (slavery to the palate), and unless we shut our eyes to the tea shops and coffee shops and all these kitchens, and unless we are satisfied with foods that are necessary for the proper maintenance of our physical health, and unless we are prepared to rid ourselves of stimulating, heating, and exciting condiments that we mix with our food, we will certainly not be able to control the over-abundant, unnecessary, and exciting stimulation that we may have.

If we do not do that, the result naturally is, that we abuse ourselves and we abuse even the sacred trust given to us, and we become less than animals and brutes.

Eating, drinking, and indulging in passions we share in common with the animals; but have you ever seen a horse or a cow indulging in the abuse of the palate as we do? Do you suppose it is a sign of civilization, a sign of real life that we should multiply our eatables so far that we do not know where we are; and seek dishes until at last we have become absolutely mad and run after the newspaper sheets which give us advertisements about these dishes?

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Walls of Protection

(Harijan, 15 June 1947) [8]

[8. Ref. paragraph 58-59: ]

58. Let us ask ourselves what wall should be erected to protect Brahmacharya. The answer seems clear. It is not Brahmacharya that needs walls of protection. To say this is easy enough and sounds sweet. But it is difficult to understand the import of the statement and more so to act accordingly.

It is true that he who has attained perfect Brahmacharya does not stand in need of protecting walls. But the aspirant undoubtedly needs them, even as a young mango plant has need of a strong fence round it. A child goes from its mother's lap to the cradle and from the cradle to the push-cart-till he becomes a man who has learnt to walk without aid. To cling to the aid when it is needless, is surely harmful.

Brahmacharya is one out of the eleven observances. [9] It follows, therefore, that the real aid to Brahmacharya are the remaining ten observances. The difference between them and the walls of protection is that the latter are temporary, the former permanent. They are an integral part of Brahmacharya.

[9. The observances are as follows: 1) Satya-Truth, 2) Ahimsa-Nonviolence, 3) Brahmacharya-Celibacy, 4) Asteya-Non-stealing, 5) Aparigraha or Asangraha-Non-possession, 6) Sharira-Shrama; Physical Labour or Bread Labour, 7) Asvada-Control of Palate, 8) Abhaya-Fearlessness, 9) Sarva-Dharma-Samanatva-Equal respect for all Religions, 10) Swadeshi-Duty towards Neighbour and 11) Asprishyatanivarana - Removal of Untouchability. -ref essay at ]

Brahmacharya Is a Mental Condition. The outward behaviour of a man is at once the sign and proof of the inner state. He who has killed the sexual urge in him, will never be guilty of it in any shape or form. However attractive a woman may be, her attraction will produce no effect on the man without the urge. The same rule applies to woman. But he or she who has not conquered lust, should not turn the eyes even towards a sister or a brother or a daughter or a son. This advice I have given to friends who have profited by it.

Rules for Would-Be Brahmachari. There are certain rules laid down in India for the would-be Brahmachari. Thus, he may not live among women, animals and eunuchs; he may not teach a woman only or even a group; he may not sit on the same mat as a woman; he may not look at any part of a woman's body; he may not take milk, curds, ghee or any fatty substance, nor indulge in baths and oily massage.

I read about these when I was in South Africa. There I came in touch with some men and women who, while they observed Brahmacharya, never knew that any of the above-named restraints were necessary. Nor did I observe them and I was none the worse for the non-observance.

I did give up milk, ghee and other animal substances, but for different reasons. I failed in this attempt after two or three years after my return to India. If today I could find any effective vegetable substitute for milk and ghee, I would gladly renounce all animal products. But this is another story.

59. A Perfect Brahmachari. [ ... ] Self-indulgence and hypocrisy are sins to be avoided. 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.

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Ashram Observances In Action

(Ch. 4 of 12: Brahmacharya or chastity, pp. 48-57.) [10]

[10. Ref. paragraph 60-68: ]

60. This observance does not give rise to ever so many problems and dilemmas as ahimsa does. Its meaning is generally well understood, but understanding it is one thing: practising it is quite another thing and calls forth all our powers. Many of us put forth a great effort but without making any progress. Some of us even lost ground previously won. None has reached perfection. But everyone realizes its supreme importance.

My striving in this direction began before 1906 when I took the vow. There were many ups and downs. It was only after I had burnt my fingers at times that I realized the deeper meaning of brahmacharya. And then I found that expositions made in books cannot be understood without actual experience, and wear a fresh aspect in the light of it.

Even in the case of simple machine like the spinning-wheel, it is one thing to read the directions for plying it, and it is another thing to put the directions into practice. New light dawns upon us as soon as we commence our practice. And what is true of simple tangible things like the wheel is still more true of spiritual states.

61. A brahmachari is one who controls his organs of sense in thought, word and deed. The meaning of this definition became somewhat clear after I had kept the observance for some time, but it is not quite clear even now, for I do not claim to be a perfect brahmachari, evil thoughts having been held in restraint but not eradicated. When they are eradicated, I will discover further implications of the definition.

62. Ordinary brahmacharya is not so difficult as it is supposed to be. We have made it difficult by understanding the term in a narrow sense. Many of us play with brahmacharya like fools who put their hands in the fire and still expect to escape being burnt.

Very few realize that a brahmachari has to control not one but all the organs of sense. He is no brahmachari who thinks that mere control of animal passion is the be-all and end-all of brahmacharya. No wonder if he finds it very difficult. He who attempts to control only one organ and allows all the others free play must not expect to achieve success. He might as well deliberately descend into a well and expect to keep his body dry.

Those who would achieve an easy conquest of animal passion must give up all unnecessary things which stimulate it. They must control their palate and cease to read suggestive literature and to enjoy all luxuries. I have not the shadow of a doubt that they will find brahmacharya easy enough after such renunciation.

63. Some people think that it is not a breach of brahmacharya to cast a lascivious look at one's own or another's wife or to touch her in the same manner; but nothing could be farther from the truth. Such behaviour constitutes a direct breach of brahmacharya in the grosser sense of the term.

Men and women who indulge in it deceive themselves and the world, and growing weaker day by day, make themselves easily susceptible to disease. If they stop short of a full satisfaction of desire, the credit for it is due to circumstances and not to themselves. They are bound to fall at the very first opportunity.

64. In brahmacharya as conceived by the Ashram those who are married behave as if they were not married. Married people do well to renounce gratification outside the marital bond; theirs is a limited brahmacharya. But to look upon them as brahmacharis is to do violence to that glorious term.

65. Such is the complete Ashram definition of brahmacharya. However there are men as well as women in the Ashram who enjoy considerable freedom in meeting one another. The ideal is that one Ashramite should have the same freedom in meeting another as is enjoyed by a son in meeting his mother or by a brother in meeting his sister.

That is to say, the restrictions that are generally imposed for the protection of brahmacharya are lifted in the Satyagraha Ashram, where we believe that brahmacharya which ever stands in need of such adventitious support is no brahmacharya at all.

The restrictions may be necessary at first but must wither away in time. Their disappearance does not mean that a brahmachari goes about seeking the company of women, but it does mean that if there is an occasion for him to minister to a woman, he may not refuse such ministry under the impression that it is forbidden to him.

66. Woman for a brahmachari is not the "doorkeeper of hell" but is an incarnation of our Mother who is in Heaven. He is no brahmachari at all whose mind is disturbed if he happens to see a woman or if he has to touch her in order to render service. A brahmachari's reaction to a living image and to a bronze statue is one and the same. But a man who is perturbed at the very mention of woman and who is desirous of observing brahmacharya, must fly even from a figurine made of metal.

67. I now come to a point of vital importance which I have reserved for treatment towards the end of the discussion. We are told in the Bhagavadgita (II : 59) that "When a man starves his senses, the objects of those senses disappear from him, but not the yearning for them; the yearning too departs when he beholds the Supreme", that is to say, the Truth or Brahma (God).

The whole truth of the matter has here been set forth by the experienced Krishna. Fasting and all other forms of discipline are ineffective without the grace of God.

What is the vision of the Truth or God? It does not mean seeing something with the physical eye or witnessing a miracle. Seeing God means realization of the fact that God abides in one's heart. The yearning must persist until one has attained this realization, and will vanish upon realization.

It is with this end in view that we keep observances, and engage ourselves in spiritual endeavour at the Ashram. Realization is the final fruit of constant effort. The human lover sacrifices his all for his beloved, but his sacrifice is fruitless inasmuch as it is offered for the sake of momentary pleasure.

But the quest of Truth calls for even greater concentration than that of the human beloved. There is joy ineffable in store for the aspirant at the end of the quest. Still very few of us are as earnest as even the human lover.

Such being the facts of the case, what is the use of complaining that the quest of truth is an uphill task? The human beloved may be at a distance of several thousand miles; God is there in the tabernacle of the human heart, nearer to us than the finger nails are to the fingers. But what is to be done with a man who wanders all over the wide world in search of treasure which as a matter of fact is buried under his very feet ?

68. The brahmacharya observed by a self-restraining person is not something to be despised. It certainly serves to weaken the force of the yearning for the "fleshpots of Egypt." One may keep fasts or adopt various other methods of mortifying the flesh, but the objects of sense must be compelled to disappear. The yearning will get itself in readiness to go as this process is on. Then the seeker will have the beatific vision, and that will be the signal for the yearning to make its final exit. The treasure supposed to be lost will be recovered.

He who has not put all his strength into his effort has no right to complain that he has not "seen" Brahma. Observing brahmacharya is one of the means to the end which is seeing Brahma. Without brahmacharya no one may expect to see Him, and without seeing Him one cannot observe brahmacharya to perfection. The verse therefore does not rule out self-discipline but only indicates its limitations.

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Key to Health

(Ch. 10 of 10: brahmacharya, 1942) [11]

[11. Ref. paragraph 69-80: ]

69. Brahmacharya literally means that mode of life which leads to the realization of God. That realization is impossible without practicing self-restraint. Self-restraint means restraint of all the senses. But ordinarily brahmacharya is understood to mean control of sexual organs. This becomes natural for the man who exercises self-restraint all round.

It is only when observance of brahmacharya becomes natural to one that he or she derives the greatest benefit from it. Such a person should be free from anger and kindred passion. The so called brahmacharis that one generally comes across, behave as if their one occupation in life was the display of bad temper.

70. One notices that these people disregard the ordinary rules of brahmacharya and merely aim at and expect to practise physical brahmacharya. They fail to achieve their object. Some of them become almost insane while others betray a sickly appearance. They are unable to prevent the discharge and if they succeed in restraining themselves from sexual intercourse, they think that they have attained all that was needed.

Now mere abstention from sexual intercourse cannot be termed brahmacharya. So long as the desire for intercourse is there, one cannot be said to have attained brahmacharya. Only he who has burnt away sexual desire in its entirety may be said to have attained control over his sexual organs. There is something very striking about a full-fledged brahmachari. His speech, his thought, and his action, all bespeak possession of vital force.

71. Such a brahmachari does not flee from the company of women. He may not hanker after it nor may he avoid it even when it means rendering of necessary service. For him the distinction between men and women almost disappears.

No one should distort my words and use them as an argument in favor of licentiousness. What I mean to say is that, a man whose sexual desire has been burnt up ceases to make a distinction between men and women. It must be so. His conception of beauty alters. He will not look at the external form. He or she whose character is beautiful will be beautiful in his eyes.

Therefore, the sight of women called beautiful will not ruffle or excite him. Even his sexual organs will begin to look different. In other words, such a man has so controlled his sexual instinct that he never gets erections. He does not become impotent for lack of the necessary secretions of sexual glands. But these secretions in his case are sublimated into a vital force pervading his whole being.

It is said that an impotent man is not free form sexual desire. But the cultivated impotency of the man, whose sexual desire has been burnt up and whose sexual secretions are being converted into vital force, is wholly different. It is to be desired by everybody. It is true that such a brahmachari is rare to find.

72. I took the vow of brahmacharya in 1906.[12] In other words, my efforts to become a perfect brahmachari started 36 years ago. I cannot say I have attained the full brahmacharya of my definition, but in my opinion I have made substantial progress towards it. If God wills it, I might attain even perfection in this life. Anyway, there is no relaxation of efforts nor is there any despondence in me.

[12. Gandhi was born in 1869 so he would have been about 37 years old, although he says in paragraph 60 above that he made lesser attempt before then.]

I do not consider 36 years too long a period for effort. The richer the prize, the richer the effort must be. Meanwhile, my ideas regarding the necessity for brahmacharya have become stronger. Some of my experiments have not reached a stage when they might be placed before the public with advantage. [13] I hope to do so some day if they succeed to my satisfaction. Success might make the attainment of brahmacharya comparatively easier.

[13. His "experiments" consisted of sleeping naked with young women.]

73. But the brahmacharya on which I wish to lay emphasis in this chapter is limited to the conservation of sexual secretions. The glorious fruit of perfect brahmacharya is not to be had from the observance of this limited brahmacharya. But no one can reach perfect brahmacharya without reaching the limited variety.

74. And maintenance of perfect health should be considered almost an utter impossibility without the brahmacharya leading to the conservation of the sexual secretions. To countenance wastage of a secretion which has the power of creating another human being is, to say the least, an indication of gross ignorance.

A firm grasp of the fact that sex is meant to be used only for procreation and not for self-indulgence, leaves no room whatsoever for indulging in animal passion. Assimilation of the knowledge that the vital fluid is never meant for waste should restrain men and women from becoming crazy over sexual intercourse. Marriage will then come to have a different significance and the way it is treated at present will appear disgusting.

Marriage ought to signify a union of heart between two partners. A married couple is worthy of being considered brahmacharis if they never think of sexual intercourse except for the purposes of procreation. Such an intercourse is not possible unless both parties desire it. It will never be resorted to in order to satisfy passion without the desire for a child. After intercourse which has been performed as a matter of duty, the desire to repeat the process should never arise.

75. What I am saying may not be taken as copy book wisdom. The reader should know that I am writing this after a long personal experience. I know that what I am writing is contrary to the common practice. But in order to make progress we have often to go beyond the limits of common experience. Great discoveries have been possible only as a result of challenging the common experience or commonly held beliefs. The invention of the simple match stick was a challenge to the common experience, and the discovery of electricity confounded all preconceived notions.

76. What is true of physical things is equally true of things spiritual. In the early days there was no such thing as marriage. Men and women, as in the case of animals, mated promiscuously. Self-restraint was unknown. Some advanced men went beyond the rut of common practice and discovered the Law of Self-Restraint.

It is our duty to investigate the hidden possibilities of the Law of Self-Restraint. Therefore, when I say it is the duty of every man and woman to take the marital relations to the state indicated by me it is not to be dismissed as utterly impracticable. If human life is molded as it ought to be, conservation of vital fluid can become a natural thing for everyone.

77. The sexual glands are all the time secreting the reproductive elements. This secretion should be utilized for enhancing one's mental, physical, and spiritual energy. He who would learn to utilize it thus, will find that he requires very little food to keep his body in a fit condition. And yet he will be as capable as any of undertaking physical labour. Mental exertion will not tire him easily nor will he show the ordinary signs of old age.

Just as a ripe fruit or an old leaf falls off naturally, so will such a brahmachari, when his time comes, pass away with all his faculties intact. Although with the passage of time the effects of the natural wear and tear must be manifest in his body, his intellect instead of showing signs of decay should show progressive clarity. If all this is correct, the real key to health lies in the conservance of vital energy.

78. I give here the rules for the conservation of vital force as I know them.

1. Sexual desire has its root in one's thought. Therefore, complete control over thought is necessary. The way to achieve it is this. Never let your mind remain idle. Keep it filled with good and useful ideas. In other words keep thinking of whatever duty you have on hand. There need be no worry about it, but think out how can you become an expert in your department and then put your thoughts into action. There should be no waste of thoughts. Japa (repetition of God's name) is a great support when idle thoughts haunt you. Contemplate God in the form you have pictured Him unless you know Him as formless. While japa is going on, no other thoughts should be allowed to enter one's mind. This is the ideal state. But if one cannot reach it and all sorts of uninvited thoughts invade one's mind, one should not become disheartened. Namajapa should be continued faithfully and in the confidence that ultimate victory is bound to follow.

2. As with our thoughts, so with our reading and talking. These should be healthy and clean. Erotic literature should be avoided. Idle, indecent talk leads to indecent action. It is obvious that one who does not wish to feed his animal passions will avoid occupations which tend to include them.

3. Like the mind, the body must also be kept well and usefully occupied, so that the fatigue of the day may lead to refreshing dreamless sleep. As far as possible, work should be in open. Those who for some reason or the other, cannot undertake physical labour, should make it a point to take regular exercise. In my opinion, a brisk walk in the open is the best form of exercise. During the walk the mouth should be closed and breathing should be done through the nose. Sitting or walking, the body must be held erect. To sit or stand otherwise is a size of laziness, and laziness is the enemy of self-restraint. Yogic exercises-asanas-are also useful. This much I can say from my personal experience, that one who keeps his hands and feet, eyes and ears, healthily occupied does not have much difficulty in controlling the animal appetite. Everyone can test this for himself.

4. A Sanskrit text says that a man becomes what he eats. A glutton who exercises no restraint in eating is a slave to his animal passions. One who has not been able to control his palate, will never be able to control the other senses. If this is true, it is clear that one should take just enough food for the requirements of the body and no more. The diet should be healthy and well-balanced. The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse bin holding the foods that the palate demands. Food is meant to sustain the body. His body has been given to man as a means of self-realization. Self-realization means realization of God. A person who has made this realization the object of his or her life, will never become a slave to the animal passion.

5. Man should look upon every woman as his mother, sister, or daughter. No one ever entertains impure thoughts with regard to his mother, sister, or daughter. Similarly, women should look upon every man as her father, brother, or son.

79. I have given more hints than these in my other writings, but they are all contained in the five given above. Anyone who observes them should find it easy to overcome what has been called the greatest of all passions.

A person, who has real desire for brahmacharya, will not give up the effort because he or she regards the observance of these rules as impossible or at least within the reaches of one in a million. The effort is a joy in itself. To put it in another way, the joy of possessing perfect health is not to be compared with any other, and perfect health is unattainable by slaves. Slavery of one's animality is perhaps the worst of all.

80. A few words about contraceptives will not be out of place here. The practice of preventing progeny, by means of artificial methods, is not a new thing. In the past such methods were practiced secretly and they were crude. Modern society have given them respectable place and made improvements. They have been given a philanthropic garb.

The advocates of contraceptives say that sexual desire is a natural instinct – some call it a blessing. They therefore say that we should not suppress the desire even if it were possible. Birth control by means of self-restraint is, in their opinion, difficult to practice. If a substitute for self-restraint is not prescribed, the health of innumerable women is bound to suffer through frequent pregnancies. They add that if births are not regulated, over population will ensue; individual families will be pauperized and their children will be ill fed, ill clothed, and ill educated. Therefore, they argue, it is the duty of scientists to devise harmless and effective methods of birth control.

This argument has failed to convince me. The use of contraceptives is likely to produce evils of which we have no conception. But the worse danger is that the use of contraceptives bids fair to kill the desire for self-restraint. In my opinion it is too heavy a price to pay for any possible immediate gain. But this is not the place to argue my point. Those who would like to pursue this subject further should procure the booklet called Self-Restraint v. Self-Indulgence, [14] read and digest what I have said therein and then do as their heads and heart may dictate.

[14. See part 1, paragraph 27-37 ]

Those who have not the desire or the leisure to read the booklet will, if they follow my advice, avoid contraceptive as poison. They should try their best to exercise self-restraint. They should take up such activities as would keep their bodies and minds fully occupied and give a suitable outlet to their energy. It is necessary to have some healthy recreation when one is tired by physical labour. There should not be a single moment of idleness for the devil to creep in.

In this way, true conjugal love will be established and directed into healthy channels. Both the partners will make a progressive rise in their moral height. The joy of true renunciation, once they come to know it, will prevent them from turning to animal enjoyment.

Self-deception is the greatest stumbling block. Instead of controlling the mind, the fountain of all animal desire, men and women involve themselves in the vain endeavor to avoid the physical act. If there is a determination to control the thought and the action, victory is sure to follow. Man must understand that woman is his companion and helpmate in life and not the means of satisfaction of his carnal desire. There must be a clear perception that the purpose of human creation was wholly different from that of the satisfaction of the animal wants.

[ end of Gandhi part 2 ]

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