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Brahmacharya Rules | Steps To Celibacy by Mahatma Gandhi

 

Overview of steps to Brahmacharya

In order to observe Brahmacharya the following things are absolutely necessary: 

  1. solitude;  
  2. moderation in eating;  
  3. good books; 
  4. regular meditation; 
  5. plenty of physical and mental labour; 
  6. abstaining from spicy and intoxicating food or drinks;
  7. abstaining from shows and other things having a sex appeal; 
  8. giving up the desire for sexual intercourse; 
  9. avoiding being alone with a woman; 
  10. repeating Ramanama or some other mantra (formula).  

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXV PP- 133-34, 13-9-1924

Example of how to control senses

The Sthitaprajna

What are the characteristics of a Sthitaprajna? He is one who withdraws his senses from the objects of the senses behind the shield of the spirit, as a tortoise does its limbs under its shell. A man whose wisdom is not steady is liable to be betrayed into anger, evil thoughts or abuse. On the contrary, the man with steady wisdom will remain equally unaffected by adulation or abuse. He will realize that abuse fouls only the tongue that utters it, never the person against whom it is hurled. A man of steady wisdom will, therefore, never wish ill to anyone, but will pray even for his enemy with his last breath.

(H, 28-4-1946, pp. 110-11)

My Celibacy- Mahatma Gandhi

I have practiced brahmacharya for over thirty years with considerable success though living in the midst of activities. After the decision to lead the life of a brahmachari, there was little change in my outward practice, except with my wife.

My brahmacharya was not derived from books. I evolved my own rules for my guidance and that of those who, at my invitation, had joined me in the experiment. 

If I have not followed the prescribed restrictions, much less have I accepted the description found even in religious literature of woman as the source of all evil and temptations. Owing as I do all the good there may be in me to my mother, I have looked upon woman, never as an object for satisfaction of sexual desire, but always with the veneration due to my own mother. 

Man is the tempter and aggressor. It is not woman whose touch defiles man, but he is often himself too impure to touch her.

I am experimenting. I have never claimed to have been a perfect brahmachari of my definition. I have not acquired that control over my thoughts that I need for my researches in non-violence is to be contagious and infectious, I must acquire greater control over my thoughts.

(H, 23-7-1938, p. 193)

Gandhi on Polygamy

If I were sexually attracted towards women, I have courage enough, even at this time of life, to become a polygamist. I do not believe in free love -secret or open, Free, open love I have looked upon as dog's love, secret love is, besides, cowardly.

(ibid)

Gandhi on bramcharya in Hindi book-Self-restraint vs Self-indulgence, हस्तमैथुन पर गांधी, on masturbation & nightfall, Steps to Brahmacharya, letters


My parents ask me for Marriage

When we have any doubt concerning problems of morality, we may disregard the orders of other elders; nay, it would be our duty to disobey them. But when there is no doubt about the morality of a question, even parents' orders can be disregarded; nay, it will be our duty to do so. 

If my father asks me to steal, I must not. If I want to observe Brahmacharya and my parents' orders are to the contrary, I must politely disobey them.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. X, p. 406, 8-2-1911

Quotes on Celibacy/Brahmacharya by Mahatma Gandhi

The desire must be suppressed with the utmost effort. Improper desires will always occur. By suppressing them every time, we grow firmer in mind and gain in spiritual strength.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XII, p. 389, 17-3-1914

Hindi book translation PDF of Self-restraint vs Self-indulgence


Steps to Chastity in Young India by Mahatma Gandhi

  • The first step is the realization of its necessity. 

  • The next is gradual control of the senses. 

  1. A Brahmachari must needs control his palate. He must eat to live, and not for enjoyment. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Let the aspirant to Brahmacharya also keep his hands and feet engaged in all the waking hours in healthful activity. 
  5. Let him also fast occasionally.  
  • The third step is to have clean companions - clean friends and clean books. 

  • The last and not the least is prayer. Let him repeat Ramanama with all his heart regularly everyday, 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.  

Young India, 29-4-'26

Extract on celibacy from Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi

Many aspirants after Brahmacharya fail, because in the use of their other senses they want to carry on as those who are not Brahmacharis. Their effort is therefore identical with the effort to experience the bracing cold of winter in the scorching summer months. There should be a clear line between the life of a Brahmachari and of one who is not. 

The resemblance that there is between the two is only apparent. The distinction ought to be clear as daylight. Both use their eyesight, but whereas the Brahmachari uses it to see the glories of God, the other uses it to see the frivolity around him. 

Both use their ears, but whereas the one hears nothing but praises of God, the other feasts his ears upon ribaldry. Both often keep late hours, but whereas the one devotes them to prayer, the other fritters them away in wild and wasteful mirth. 

Both feed the inner man, but the one does so only to keep the temple of God in good repair, while the other gorges himself and makes the sacred vessel a stinking gutter. 

Thus both live as the poles apart, and the distance between them will grow and not diminish with the passage of time.  Brahmacharya means control of the senses in thought, word and deed. Every day I have been realizing more and more the necessity for restraints of the kind I have detailed above. There is no limit to the possibilities of renunciation, even as there is none to those of Brahmacharya. 

Such Brahmacharya is impossible of attainment by limited effort. For many, it must remain only as an ideal. An aspirant after Brahmacharya will always be conscious of his shortcomings, will seek out the passions lingering in the innermost recesses of his heart, and will incessantly strive to get rid of them. 

So long as thought is not under complete control of the will, Brahmacharya in its fullness is absent. Involuntary thought is an affection of the mind; and curbing of thought therefore means curbing of the mind which is even more difficult to curb than the wind. Nevertheless the existence of God within makes even control of the mind possible. 

Let no one think that it is impossible because it is difficult. It is the highest goal, and it is no wonder that the highest effort should be necessary to attain it.  But it was after coming to India that I realized that such Brahmacharya was impossible to attain merely by human effort. Until then I had been labouring under the delusion that fruit diet alone would enable me to eradicate all passions, and I had flattered myself with the belief that I had nothing more to do.  

But I must not anticipate the chapter of my struggles. Meanwhile let me make it clear that those who desire to observe Brahmacharya with a view to realizing God need not despair, provided their faith in God is equal to their confidence in their own effort:  

विषया विनिवर्तन्ते निराहारस्य देहिनः। 

रसवर्ज रसोऽप्यस्य परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते ॥  

(The sense-objects turn away from an abstemious soul, leaving the relish behind. The relish also disappears with the realization of the Highest.) Therefore His name and His grace are the last resources of the aspirant after Moksha. This truth came to me only after my return to India.  

Autobiography (1948), pp. 258-60

Mahadev Desai the chief editor of Gandhi's conversations with others

Brahmacharya is such only if it persists under all conditions and in the face of every possible temptation. If a beautiful woman approaches the marble statue of a man, it will not be affected in the least. A Brahmachari is one who reacts in a similar case in the same way as marble does. But just as the marble statue refrains from using its eyes or ears, even so a man should avoid every occasion of sin.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. I, p. 80, 19-4-1932

 

Wandering thoughts can never be a stage in spiritual development. They do trouble most of us; hence the usual emphasis laid on mental concentration. What we have to bear in mind is this. We think a multitude of thoughts which involve a waste of mental energy even as sensuality results in the waste of vital energy. 

Just as physical debility affects the mind, so also mental debility affects the body. 

Therefore, I understand Brahmacharya in a comprehensive sense and look upon aimless thinking as a breach of it. We have made Brahmacharya difficult to achieve by understanding it in a narrow sense. But if we accept the broader definition and try to restrain all the eleven organs of sense, the control of animal passion becomes comparatively very much easier.

The Diary of Mahadev Desai, Vol. 1, p. 305, 23-8-1932

 

Chastity reference from Gita by Gandhi

Brahmacharya hardly deserves the name if it can be observed only by avoiding the company of women even when such company is kept with a view to serve. It amounts to physical renunciation unbacked by the essential mental detachment, and lets us down in critical times. 

The Gita is right in saying (II: 59) that one's yearning for the pleasures of the world withers away only when he has had the beautific vision. But the converse of this statement is equally true: one must not hope for realization so long as he yearns after the fleshpots of Egypt. That is to say, the two things go hand to hand.

The yearning departs when one beholds the Supreme. Although the objects of sense have disappeared, the yearning for them has not been thoroughly uprooted. Therefore there is a possibility of desire raising its head so long as one has not seen God. After a man has seen Him desire becomes an impossibility; indeed he ceases to be masculine and becomes sexless. He is no longer a significant figure but is reduced to zero. In other words his personality melts away in that of God. 

The idea becomes clearer if in place of the words param, God, Brahma, we used the word satya or truth. There is no room here for self-deception. If there is any one in the Ashram who talks of taking the whole world for his family but harbours evil thoughts in his mind, he is a mithyachari (hypocrite) in the language of the Gita (III: 6) while we are all along thinking of a satyachari (truthful person) and how he should behave.

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. I, pp. 80-81, 19-4-1932

 

Letter to Miraben on how to control senses

Remember my definition of Brahmacharya. It means not suppression of one or more senses but complete mastery over them all. The two states are fundamentally different. I can suppress all my senses today but it may take aeons to conquer them. Conquest means using them as my willing slaves. I can prick the ear drum and suppress the sense of hearing by simple, painless operation. 

This is worthless. I must train the ear so that it refuses to hear gossip, lewd talk, blasphemy, but it is open to the celestial music, it will hear the most distant cry for succor from thousands of miles.

Bapu's Letters to Mira, p. 257, 27-4-1933


Vows other than Celibacy 

Truthfulness, Brahmacharya, non-violence, non- stealing and non-hoarding, these five rules of life are obligatory on all aspirants. Everyone should be an aspirant. A man's character, therefore, is to be built on the foundation of these disciplines. Beyond doubt, they are to be observed by everyone in the world. 

Though a businessman, one must never utter or practice untruth; though married, one must remain celibate; though keeping oneself alive, one can practise non-violence. It is difficult to be of the world and yet not to steal (to observe the rule of non-stealing) and not to hoard wealth or any other thing. 

One must, nevertheless, keep that as an ideal to be attained and have some limit in these respects; when the mind has begun to turn away from these things, one may even embrace the supreme renunciation.

To A Gandhian Capitalist, XIII, pp. 17-18, 7-22-1915


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