See a complete list of questions and answers on Celibacy by Dhananjay here, by topic and date
The Meaning of Brahmacharya
The importance and necessity of brahmacharya is mentioned in all scriptures related to the path of enlightenment and liberation. The major works include:
- Bhagavad Gita
- Yoga Sutras
- The 108 Upanishads
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svatmârama
- Siva Samhita
- Yoga Vâsista
- Aparokshânubhuti by Adi Sankarâcharya
Brahmacharya is the foundation for the growth of the building called liberation; no path to liberation can survive without it.
1. One completely surrenders to the Brahman, overcomes the ego and realizes himself to be a tool of the Almighty after kaivalya (self-realization leading to liberation). Such an enlightened being is the complete, real brahmachari, for he does not have the concept of a separate self. All others in the path are aspiring brahmacharis who are striving to reach that supreme state.
2. Such an enlightened being constantly lives in the Brahman itself and considers himself no different. This world which is an image akin to that in a dream no longer exists for him, though he sees it just like any of us. Just as a man who has woken up from a dream has realized the falsity of the dream characters and firmly exists in his state of wakeful reality, the enlightened sage rests firm on the bedrock of the absolute truth called Brahman, having irreversably woken up from the dream called samsara (dualistic world of maya). Upon reaching this state, his concept of a separate self vanishes. Everything becomes the one and only Brahman (sarvam khalvidam brahman). This is the meaning of overcoming the individual ego. Just as a chisel in the hands of a sculptor is an extension tool, such a sage has fully realized himself as the extension of the Almighty.
3. Follow a life of yoga and unbroken brahmacharya with God meditation for a few years as described. You will then slowly start getting an idea of what that great Lord intends for you.
Questions and Answers
Q. How at attain mental celibacy?
A. After a few years of practicing yoga and brahmacharya with meditation, the yogi becomes wise to the ways of maya and is able to discern the truth behind the false charm and impermanent beauty of the body to a larger extent. This helps him develop immunity to the spells of maya to a better extent. Till then, one has to constantly remind himself of its falsity and exert. Bahya kumbhaka (exhaling and not breathing) can be practiced for short periods of within a minute based on one's comfort if one so wishes.
Diseases which manifest during the initial years of brahmacharya are the result of karma which surfaces in the form of toxins. Such toxins have been ingrained in this or previous existences due to one's wrong actions. When the body purifies through the conserved prana via pranayama, the nâdis (astral energy channels) which are toxified and partially blocked in the non-yogi suddenly start getting cleansed. This cleaning results in those toxins surfacing. When a particular toxin surfaces, the disease or illness represented by that toxin briefly manifests and then goes away. This is how one has to undo the impurity embedded. It is inevitable and a part of karmic cleansing. Karmic diseases or illnesses are not avoidable. They are a part of one's destiny and have to be gone through.
Q. From what I understand, it takes about 12 years for the kundalini to rise completely through all chakras. Approximately how long does it take a brahmachari to rise to the 3rd chakra?
A. It need not take 12 years for kundalini to rise to the 7th or sahasrara chakra. It can occur as early as within 2 years using the right practice (as in the case of advanced souls) or may take many lifetimes as well. The time taken depends on one's evolutionary level, present efforts, and most importantly the grace of God.
Q. I read somewhere that prana or chi gets stored somewhere in the belly region; in Chinese medicine they call this place the lower dantian. When it gets filled, the energy starts going upwards thanks to brahmacharya. Can you do something else to help the process? Or must the energy go up on its own with bramacharya? In other words, do we have control over the energy?
A. Based on the kind of activity the brahmachari indulges, prana automatically channelizes in that direction. If he is a sportsman, his energy flows to the concerned muscles in abundance. If he is a scientist, towards his mental faculties, and if he is a yogi seeking self-realization, he sinks into deep meditation seeking the absolute truth. These processes are automatic.
Q. Have you ever heard of "tummo"? Apparently it's a practice that generates heat. What is its connection with brahmacharya?
A. Tummo represents the process of channelizing prana through the 3rd or manipura chakra so as to generate enormous heat both within and without the body. It is nothing but utilizing the kundalini power to generate heat. Advanced Buddhist siddhas living in high altitudes under snowy conditions such as in caves sometimes use this technique to keep themselves warm. When mastered, the yogi can sit without clothes in sub-zero freezing conditions day after day in meditation, his body being warm all the time. Due to the difference between the body temperature maintained through tummo and the atmospheric temperature at say -15 deg celcius, the snow or ice around him starts melting, resulting in a small puddle of water.
Every yogi cannot perform tummo. Only an advanced siddha who has mastery over the pancha mahabhutas (5 elements) becomes capable of the technique. It is the power of prana which is again used in this practice, and prana gets conserved by no other means than brahmacharya.
Q. As for the Urdhvaretas, are they immortal?
A. When a child reaches puberty, bindu (seed) stored in the ajna chakra starts to flow down and the downward flow of prana into the sexual organs activates, whereupon they mature. The gates for the downward flow of life energy governed by bindu are then thrown open forever. With every loss of bindu the body degrades and deteriorates. It is very difficult to close these gates again and stop the flow. When through great efforts at a life of yoga and strict brahmacharya under the grace of the Lord, the yogi stops this flow and reverses it back to the brain; he is then known to have become an urdhvaretas. I.e., urdhva-upwards, rethas-sexual fluid, meaning one who retains his seed in the brain. Bindu then stops flowing down in such a yogi, as a result of which the veerya (semen) also stops being produced. It is retained as soma (nectar) in the brain. Aging slows down drastically thereupon. The urdhvareta yogi is then the equivalent of a deva (celestial God) in rank and not a human, though occupying the physical body. This is what is meant by the term urdhvareta.
True immortality comes only when one attains kaivalya (liberation), for as long as there is no liberation, there is rebirth in the physical body or astral body which one day has to die. This body made of the elements cannot last forever (though it can be maintained for hundreds of years under certain criterions by advanced yogis) as its constituents themselves as asat (unreal). Hence being an urdhvareta does not confer eternal immortality. For that, one has to revert to his true state of the Atman which is always eternal and immortal, via liberation.
Q. If done with sincerity, do yogas and meditation open up the chakras?
Q. Do people feel a tingling sensation down the spine while meditating or praying intensely?
A. Tingling sensations along the spinal column occur when prana (vital energy) rises up during pranothana (linear movement of prana).
Q. People take that strange sensation as some divine blessing from the ultimate source (God).They strongly feel so. Are they right or misguided?
A. Isn't this life itself a blessing? This life of a human where one can understand things using intelligence, to contemplate and decipher the secrets of one's existence so as to attain liberation and eternal bliss? Such a blessing is not available to animals. All progress that one makes towards knowing his true self are blessings. Hence the sensations that occur during yogic practice carried out for self-realization can be assumed as the Lord's blessings if one so wishes.
Q. You have said that before marriage we should maintain celibacy and after marriage we should perform the act only for progency; and if the partner wants then we should perform non ejaculatory sex in the initial years for the bond between couples. So my doubt is if the partner performs non ejaculatory sex, then after the act the semen in ejaculatory mode will escape as it has no outlet and this is equal to tantrik sex (if I am wrong correct me) and voluntarily stopping the ejaculation might cause health problems. So in this way he is losing his prana while engaging in the whole act and he is refraining from ejaculation and this results in wet dream. So is it better to use the above method or is it better to ejaculate in the act (from a health point of view)? And in this method will he be having the craving for sense pleasure as in the first method?
A. Non-ejaculatory sex can be applied only for a few months so as to overcome the slavery to the sensation of ejaculation in the process of attaining to complete brahmacharya. Since there is the absence of voluntary ejaculation, and since there is no direct expulsion of veerya, the energy lost is somewhat lesser. However, wet-dreams do not reduce or stop it. Only one hundred percent brahmacharya with meditation leads to urdhvaretas. When such a life of honesty is adhered to, everything falls in place.
Q. In the other posts about forms of semen, you said that the sexual excitement takes every essence of body and produces semen.
A. Bindu (seed) under sexual excitement leads to formation of semen (which gets supercharged with prana). The net sum of all essences in the body is prana and it is prana which is lost through loss of veerya.
Q. And so I am little confused at what point of time the body takes the essence and converts into semen: a) If the sexual thoughts arises and we think of God, these thoughts alternate one after other; b) If we unintentionally see women for some seconds or minutes in magazines, newspapers, tv, etc. I want to know the exact point where it happens so that I can be extra careful.
A. The lesser the mind focuses on the sense of sexuality, the better are the chances of maintaining brahmacharya. The more the time spent on sight/fantasy/imagination, the faster becomes the loss of prana through formation of semen. The exact point cannot be determined as the whole process is seamless and quick. Such is the Leela of the Lord. The best option is to divert the mind at the very moment a sexual signal arises from within, and reinforce vairagya (dispassion).
Q. I have almost five months of unbroken brahmacharya. I am mostly confident with avoiding self-stimulation, but I am concerned about temptation with an actual woman. It seems as if I am receiving a bit more attention lately from women, almost as if I am being tested. I do not want to lose brahmacharya, but I know I would be vulnerable if an actual woman were available to me. Any suggestions?
A. Contact with women should be brief, to the point and always be limited to necessity. A sense of vairagya (dispassion) should be always kept in the mind as regards all worldly things including the impermanent body of a woman which degrades with time and is nothing but a flesh bag containing excrement. When such efforts are applied with an absolute life of yoga supported by devotion to the Lord and much meditation, things becomes easier and the boat called brahmacharya braves troubled waters.
Q. When I tried to analyse my past failures in celibacy, or I should rather call it my succumbing to indulgence, I observe that after remaining celibate for a while, the bodily heat is increasing, and I am feeling uncomfortable and sleepless, and finally reaching a point where one feels like having a break at least to get some good sleep. Also the mood of happiness due to our internal state or due to achieving anything outside, creates an escape for mind to celebrate by indulgence. How do we get out of thid kind of traps?
A. Through Srvana (reading material related to self-realization such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the words of the wise), Manana (contemplation on what has been read and learnt) and Nidhidhyasana (meditation), the mind gradually becomes poised towards unbroken brahmacharya and divinity. Wisdom becomes stronger. To achieve all these a life of yogic practice is to be adhered to with commitment. The Astangas (8 limbs of yoga) when practiced with sincerity instill the strength to ward away maya which is the cause behind breaks.
Q. I have read past answers on marriage relationships or limitation on sexual activities after getting one or two children. But the problem is when our partner demeans us or wants to further act for enjoyment or for satisfaction of her demand. So how can I or convince her on brahmacharya or what is the purpose of sex?
A. Like all other things, the nature of the partner that one gets is already decided in destiny. If the practice of yoga and brahmacharya for self-realization is genuine with God-devotion and surrender, things eventually fall in place and the partner becomes supportive.
Q. Continuous loss of semen by nighfall has made me weak, my face is glowless, eyes are sunken; earlier I used to be a smart guy, but now I have lot of health related problems. I just want to know whether I can ever become as smart as I was before, whether I can ever recover, and how long it will take to restore to my original health and looks?
A. Take up the practice of yoga and unbroken brahmacharya as explained in past answers. After a few years of such practice, things will improve and come back to normalcy by the grace of the Lord.
Q. In one of your posts I read that if we practice brahmachraya before marriage and there are breaks after marriage apart from progency, then we will face health and other problems due to long period of brahmacharya and breaking it. So I am thinking like this: (A) I will perform unbroken brahmacharya till marriage (so that I become somewhat healthy and receive other benefits) and then according to spouse's desire I break my brahmacharya for some period (2-3 years) then make her understand the purpose and start my practice again. (B) I will break brahmacharya every 40 or 50 days(so as to eliminate the problems faced in future) and then continue like this till I start unbroken brahmacharya after my marriage. Is this correct to do?
A. A person who has practiced many years of unbroken brahmacharya with deep meditation will generally not get the mind to squander his resources in a life of wanton sexuality. His indulgence gets limited to progeny automatically further to the gnyana (wisdom) he acquires from the years of practice. Also, such an honest aspirant who is spiritually evolved will most often get blessed with a wife who is also spiritually compatible to his level of progress. Give consent to marriage at the earliest with devotion to the Lord and as a part of duty. Things will work as destined and the journey called life moves on.
Q. I always used to be a calm person, at least on the outside. Since starting the practice, most of the time there is still poise but sometimes there is a burst of emotion, especially anger which seems uncontrollable for the moment. Also these mood swings are without any reason. Where am I missing out?
A. Brahmacharya increases the overall energy. When the brahmachari succumbs to lower traits such as anger, which is nothing but energy in the negative form, the intensity is higher as more energy is within store. Anger however dissipates all the saved and built up energy which is to be used for self-realization. Hence one should overcome anger through the practice of yoga and gnyana (knowledge of the absolute truth).
Q. On the course of following brahamacharya, there will be various instances where a person will be tested in terms of introduction of women. How should a brahamachari approach these situations?
A. One should carry out indriya nigraha (restraint of the senses) to the best possible extent along with a life of yoga and unbroken brahmacharya with regular meditation. This will gradually dissolve the false concept of sexuality for recreation and establish the sense of reality free from the same. Also, a mind kept occupied with constructive work and a body subjected to the yogic lifestyle help to break this situation. The initial period has to be approached with firm determination and belief in the fact that recreational sexuality ends in sorrow and is mâya (illusion and unreal). There is no other method. If a person cannot accept this truth, he will realize it the hard way. Also, it is to be remembered that the purpose behind limiting interaction with the opposite gender in the initial stages is to prevent the flaring up of past tendencies (such tendencies still being live and strong). The intention is not to run away from life situations but only to restrict downfall. Just as an ill person has to stay clear of conditions which might aggrevate his illness till he becomes healthy, the brahmachari has to the best possible extent stay clear of situations and actions which trigger the disease called recreational sexuality till he advances towards immunity from the same.
When this lifestyle is adhered to for a few years, the yogi slowly develops rtambhara prajna (truth-bearing intellect supported by correct morality) after mastering sasmita samadhi and becoming an urdhvareta. He will then not be easily tempted sexually in the presence of women, as his discriminative ability superceeds the sexual samskaras which have weakened. He can then function normally without sexual response in situations where there is the unavoidable company of women. Unless he willfully lets his guard down forgetting the Lord and Guru, he is immune to downfall from this stage onwards.
Q. What are the difference between kapalabhathika and bhastrika pranayama?
A. In kapalabhati, puraka (inhalation) is slower and gradual compared to rechaka (exhalation) which is forceful and fast with abrupt abdominal contraction. There is no kumbhaka (retention). In bhastrika, one first practices puraka and rechaka a number of times in rapid succession with force and speed. Then, a slow, deep puraka, followed by a long kumbhaka and a slow, deep rechaka. This is one bhastrika.
Q. Do you know any example of a person starting celibacy after 30 years and still being fully illumined?
A. Lord Buddha took up his quest for self realization while nearing his 30th year. Swami Sivananda was himself in his early thirties when he took to Sanyas for enlightenment. There are innumerable examples of people having taken up brahmacharya in their early thirties and having attained to the final goal. The period of 32-34 is a general pointer for the same. Hence those wishing for liberation should try for marriage as soon as they start earning through a job and get done with fathering a child, following which the path becomes clear to practice unbroken brahmacharya. The earlier this is got done with, the better.
When one's devotion to the Lord is genuine with complete surrender and honesty, it leads to unbroken brahmacharya with deep God meditation. Self-realization comes not merely by one's efforts but by the grace of God, for HE is the doer and not us. The honest brahmachari should not worry regarding the results and fruits of his practice. Our right is to the effort alone and never to the fruits. That, the Lord delivers, based on one's efforts, past karma and HIS own divine will.
Q. If you don't mind, at what age did you start your lifelong celibacy practice? Since you are married, did you follow some special regulations or code of conduct in sync with your spouse? In a married life, celibacy is bound to be more challenging than in a bachelor life.
A. Till one attains kaivalya (self-realization), one should not reveal or proclaim specific details of one's practice. When one's efforts are sincere, when there is much weight of positive samskaras from previous births towards the attainment of liberation (meaning the jiva has striven much in this direction previously), the Lord's grace shines in plenty and marriage does not become an impediment to unbroken practice. Even an unwilling wife, eventually becomes willing and helpful. The way to achieve such an environment is through dedicated effort at yoga and brahmacharya and through sincere devotion to God. Then, favorable conditions come without doubt in this very birth or in next successive births.
One's attitude should be – “Nothing is more important than devotion and respect to the Lord through yoga and brahmacharya. Never shall I fail HIM through Abrahmacharya (incontinence). I do not perform any actions for myself but only as a token of service to HIM. I will accept whatever HE offers as my destiny, constantly in HIS thought, all the while working to please HIM and stay true to my Dharma (the attainment of liberation). Let it take as long as necessary, I will not worry about time. The ever just and merciful Lord never fails HIS sincere devotees, and always awards them with liberation at the right moment”.
Q. How long does the "troublesome phase" in celibacy practice remain? I have read in a book by Swami Brahmananda that the first 3 years are most challenging and things become relatively cool afterwards on spiritual path.
A. The troublesome phase remains till one becomes a complete urdhvareta. After the yogi reaches this rank, he becomes relatively immune to the vulnerability experienced as a beginner. However, other dangers then blossom as he acquires siddhis, name, fame, wealth, etc., and becomes exceedingly attractive in the eyes of the other gender. While the earlier troubles disappear, these offerings of mâya then test him in more subtle ways. Only one who constantly reminds himself of the falsity of ahamkara (I-ness or Ego) and the reality of the Lord, and stays fixed to him with complete surrender and devotion can stay afloat from here on. Arrogance or a feeling of superiority will bring the urdhvareta down to square one in no time (as in the case of Sage Visvamitra). One is prone to downfall via such subtle tests till self-realization, as stated by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita.
Q. Is medha nadi (the astral nerve) destroyed if someone marries after 12 years of brahmchary?
A. Yogis generally do not opt for children after the completion of such 12 year practice as they would have finished their fathering objectives before the start, early in marriage. However, medha nâdi cannot get affected through procreational sexual activity with one's lawful wife even after 12 years of unbroken brahmacharya.
Q. I completed one month and a week in brahmacharya, so my question is why is life seeming a burden to me as if every door is closing? Even though I want to practice sincerely, some kind of obstacles are coming my way while practicing; I am tempted sometime to eat meat and watch porn even when I remind myself.
A. Past samskaras (impressions) and vasanas (tendencies) which are very dense and strong at the start of practice cause impediments. The process of their removal and cleansing can also cause sorrow and painful life situations. The initial 2 years or so of practice are difficult due to this reason. Efforts should be Herculean with surrender and devotion to the Almighty. One wishing progress in brahmacharya should never watch porn as this equals a voluntarily break in practice and creates bad karma which becomes difficult to remove. Persevere in yogic practice with determination and complete sincerity. Do not cheat yourself with porn. God has let your progress for a month. Watching porn after receiving such grace from the Lord amounts to cheating HIM. It is unpardonable. If the bad habit is reverted to, all bliss and advancement will get reset to zero with more negative karma than before and brahmacharya will break without doubt, leading to sorrow.
Q. In today's world, even in 'cultured' india, pre-marital relationships has become the norm. Woman are also lying about their past so that they can get a good groom. Having a boyfriend has become like a norm and a must to get social acceptance. With such an emerging culture, how can God help me? How to deal with such people? How can beginner yogis survive amidst such people, who have no qualms about losing physical dignity and do not uphold true Indian culture?
A. While the degradation from correct moral culture and ethics is no doubt on the rise, this is not a new phenomenon. Even during earlier times, only a handful of people took to the practice of yoga (union with God) while the majority took to bhoga (union with sense pleasures). The scriptures written tens of thousands of years back say – “An established urdhvareta is one in a billion”. This statement points to the rarity of finding one who is established in yoga. So samsâra (world of dualistic existence) continues as long as willed by HIM. HE (God) has made brahmacharya and yoga very difficult and unreachable. Only the very deserving and honest succeed. This world being HIS Leela (divine play), HE does not confer such progress or knowledge to one and all. That jiva which has a few or possibly one last birth remaining here on Earth, alone progresses tirelessly and attains the objective. The virtuous and pious have thus always been a minority. Hence there is no need to worry regarding the reverse ways of the world. This world and its temptations are a test for the brahmachari, for how can accomplishments be certified without tests under real conditions?
Q. Six years ago I had a relationship with a girl which lasted about 2 years. It was a intimate relationship, the longest relationship I have had. I am 26 now. Since then there has been only minor to zero sexual contact. I have a feeling that the sexual energy created in that relationship remains within this being.
A. The astral tubular connection that arises between a man and a woman further to the merger of their Linga sharira-s (astral bodies) during sexual intercourse lasts 12 years. Till this time, both are prone to receiving and transmitting thoughts and emotions via the astral tube (see a full answer on this topic here: astral-connection.htm ). An honest life of yoga and brahmacharya if carried out with devotion to the Lord will help one come to better terms with the condition and eventually win freedom from the same.
Q. You have said that anger is lust and lust is anger - please explain.
A. Both kama (desire) and krodha (anger) are the negative manifestations of prana (vital energy). It is the very same life energy that gets converted into either of these. Hence such indulgence ends in weakness and sorrow. A person who indulges in strong kama for anything perceivable by the senses loses that much pranic energy and eventually ends up irritated and agitated when the senses cannot sate that need (pleasure derieved from the senses itself being asat - unreal and imaginary). Such unsated desire then leads to krodha, which further takes the mind into a state of turmoil and makes man commit serious mistakes.
Q. Upon death, the jivatma is pulled out of the sthul sharir, and then it follows the atman to enter another body. Does that mean that we carry over whatever is in the mind to the next birth? i.e. we have to deal with whatever's embeded in the mind from various past births?
A. All the latent seeds of impressions (which are the result of past karma, which determine the mental condition and which determine this and next existences) are stored in the kârana sharira (causal body). The causal body is the only body which accompanies the Atman in its millions of births. The physical and astral bodies take form at birth and disintegrate at death. Hence these are not constant. All past desires of the mind from former births appear in this or next births and current desires of the mind are carried to the next birth (in seed form).
Q. What are you thoughts on Taoist sexual practices. As far as ideology is concerned it is very similar to brahamacharya: i.e., conservation of life force [qi] and essence [jing], but they also believe that jing can be increased in a male from sexual contact with women (men gain from getting jing from women) and they have various ways of controlling ejaculation as well. Retention of bodily fluids is fundamental to their practices; they believe the fluid that contains the maximum amount of jing is the semen, hence the stress on its conservation.
A. Taoist practices are similar to vâma marga (left hand tantra). This path is dangerous and most often leads to a downfall. Most Taoists and left hand tantriks eventually forget the objective which is kaivalya (self-realization) and get attached to bhoga (sense pleasure). Hence niskama yogis (those wishing nothing but self-realization) stay clear from it.
Q. From one of your past answers, I remember your saying that even if you don't ejaculate, the desire to have sexual contact remains, which is contrary to the objective of a brahamacharya.
A. Sexual activity for recreation involves deriving pleasure from the body and the senses which are asath (unreal) and anatma (non-atman). Hence one who practices non-ejaculatory relations and does not eventuallty take up absolute brahmacharya can never rise beyond slavery to avidya (ignorance), the cause behind embodiment of the infinite Atman. For this reason, a non-ejaculatory relationship which is practiced by married, want-to-be brahmacharis before starting absolute brahmacharya (to first overcome and become independent of the need to ejaculate in intercourse) has to eventually be put to an end and replaced with absolute brahmacharya in thought, word and deed if self-realization is the objective.