4. Yama - Sexual Purity | Brahmacharya
Summary of the Fourth Restraint
Practice divine conduct, controlling lust by remaining celibate when single and faithful in marriage.
Before marriage, use vital energies in study, and after marriage in creating family success.
Don’t waste the sacred force by promiscuity in thought, word or deed.
Be restrained with the opposite sex.
Seek holy company. Dress and speak modestly.
Shun pornography, sexual humour and violence.
The Fourth Restraint
Brahmacharya / ब्रह्मचर्य
Brahmacharya, sexual purity, is a very important restraint among the Ancient Śaivite ethical principles known as Yamas and Niyamas, because it sets the pattern for one’s entire life.
Following this principle, the vital energies are used before marriage in study rather than in sexual fantasy, e-pornography, masturbation, necking, petting or sexual intercourse.
After marriage, the vital energies are concentrated on business, livelihood, fulfilling one’s duties, serving the community, improving oneself and one’s family, and performing sādhana.
For those who do not believe in God, Devas, guru or the path to enlightenment, this is a difficult restraint to fulfil, and such people tend to be promiscuous when single and therefore unfaithful in marriage.
The rewards for maintaining this restraint are many:
Those who practice brahmacharya before marriage and apply its principles throughout married life are free from encumbrances—mentally, emotionally and physically.
They get a good start on life, have long-lasting, mature family relationships, and their children are emotionally sound, mentally firm and physically strong.
Those who are promiscuous and unreligious are susceptible to impulses of anger, have undefined fears, experience jealousy and the other instinctive emotions.
The doors of the higher world are open to them, but the doors of the lower world are also open.
Even the virgin brahmacharya who believes firmly in God, Gods, guru and the path to enlightenment and has a strict family must be watched and carefully guided to maintain his brahmacharya. Without this careful attention, the virginity may easily be lost.
Brahmacharya for the monastic means complete sexual abstinence and is, of course, an understood requirement to maintain this position in life. This applies as well to any single individual who has taken the celibacy vow, known as brahmacharya vrata.
If brahmacharya is compromised by the brahmachārī, he must face the consequences and reaffirm his original intent. Having lost faith in himself because of breaking his vrata, his self-confidence must be rebuilt.
It should be perfectly clear that it is totally unacceptable for men or women who have taken up the celibate monastic life
to live a double standard and surround themselves with those of the opposite sex—be they fellow āśramites, personal aides, secretaries or close devotees—or with their former family.
Nowadays there are pseudo-sannyāsins who are married and call themselves swamis, but, if pressed, they might admit that they are simply yoga teachers dressed in orange robes, bearing the title “swāmī” to attract the attention of the uninformed public for commercial reasons.
There is great power in the practice of brahmacharya, literally “Godly conduct.”
Containing the sacred fluids within the body builds up a bank account through the years that makes the realization of God on the path to enlightenment a reality within the life of the individual who is single. When brahmacharya is broken through sexual intercourse, this power goes away. It just goes away.
Brahmacharya in Family Life
The observance of brahmacharya is perhaps the most essential aspect of a sound, spiritual culture. This is why in Śaivism boys and girls are taught the importance of remaining celibate until they are married. This creates healthy individuals, physically, emotionally and spiritually, generation after generation.
There is a mystical reason:
In virgin boys and girls, the psychic Nāḍis, the astral nerve currents that extend out into and through their aura, have small hooks at the end. When a boy and girl marry, the hooks straighten out and the Nāḍis are tied one to another, and they actually grow together.
If the first sexual experience is premarital and virginity is broken, the hooks at the end of the Nāḍis also straighten out, but there is nothing to grow onto if the partners do not marry.
Then, when either partner marries someone else, the relationship is never as close as when a virgin boy and girl marry, because their Nāḍis don’t grow together in the same way. In cases such as this, they feel the need for intellectual stimuli and emotional stimuli to keep the marriage going.
Youth ask, “How should we regard members of the opposite sex?”
Do not look at members of the opposite sex with any idea of sex or lust in mind. Do not indulge in admiring those of the opposite sex, or seeing one as more beautiful than another.
Boys must foster the inner attitude that all young women are their sisters and all older women are their mother. Girls must foster the inner attitude that all young men are their brothers and all older men are their father.
Do not attend movies that depict the base instincts of humans, nor read books or magazines of this nature. Above all, avoid pornography on the Internet, on TV and in any other media.
To be successful in brahmacharya, one naturally wants to avoid arousing the sex instincts. This is done by understanding and avoiding the eight successive phases:
fantasy, glorification, flirtation, lustful glances, secret love talk, amorous longing, rendezvous and finally intercourse.
Be very careful to mix only with good company—those who think and speak in a cultured way—so that the mind and emotions are not led astray and vital energies needed for study used up.
Get plenty of physical exercise. This is very important, because exercise sublimates your instinctive drives and directs excess energy and the flow of blood into all parts of the body.
Brahmacharya means sexual continence, as was observed by Mahatma Gandhi in his later years and by other great souls throughout life.
There is another form of sexual purity, though not truly brahmacharya, followed by faithful family people who have a normal sex life while raising a family.
They are working toward the stage when they will take their brahmacharya vrata after sixty years of age. Thereafter they would live together as brother and sister, sleeping in separate bedrooms.
During their married life, they control the forces of lust and regulate instinctive energies and thus prepare to take that vrata. But if they are unfaithful, flirtatious and loose in their thinking through life, they will not be inclined to take the vrata in later life.
Faithfulness in marriage means fidelity and much more: It includes mental faithfulness, non-flirtatiousness and modesty toward the opposite sex.
A married man, for instance, should not hire a secretary who is more magnetic or more beautiful than his wife.
Metaphysically, in the perfect family relationship, man and wife are, in a sense, creating a one nervous system for their joint spiritual progress, and all of their Nāḍis are growing together over the years.
If they break that faithfulness, they break the psychic, soul connections that are developing for their personal inner achievements.
If one or the other of the partners does have an affair, this creates a psychic tug and pulls on the nerve system of both spouses that will continue until the affair ends and long afterwards.
Therefore, the principle of the containment of the sexual force and mental and emotional impulses is the spirit of brahmacharya, both for the single and married person.
Rules for Serious People
For virtuous individuals who marry, their experiences with their partner are, again, free from lustful fantasies; and emotional involvement is only with their spouse.
Yes, a normal sex life should be had between husband and wife, and no one else should be included in either one’s mind or emotions:
Never hugging, touching another’s spouse or exciting the emotions; always dressing modestly, not in a sexually arousing way; not viewing sexually oriented or pornographic videos; not telling dirty jokes—all of these simple customs are traditional ways of upholding sexual purity.
The yama of brahmacharya works in concert with asteya, non-stealing. Stealing or coveting another’s spouse, even mentally, creates a force that, once generated, is difficult to stop.
In this day and age, when promiscuity is a way of life, there is great strength in married couples’ understanding and applying the principles of sexual purity:
If they obey these principles and are on the path of enlightenment, they will again become celibate later in life, as they were when they were young.
These principles persist through life, and when their children are raised and the forces naturally become quiet, around age sixty, husband and wife take the brahmacharya vrata, live in separate rooms and prepare themselves for greater spiritual experiences.
Married persons uphold sexual purity by observing the eightfold celibacy toward everyone but their spouse. These are ideals for serious, spiritual people. For those who have nothing to do with spirituality, these laws are meaningless.
We are assuming a situation of a couple where everything they do and all that happens in their life is oriented toward spiritual life and spiritual goals and, therefore, these principles do apply.
For sexual purity, individuals must believe firmly in the path to enlightenment. They must have faith in higher powers than themselves. Without this, sexual purity is nearly impossible.
One of the fastest ways to destroy the stability of families and societies is through promiscuity, mental and/or physical, and the best way to maintain stability is through self-control.
The world today has become increasingly unstable because of the mental, physical, emotional license that people have given to themselves.
The generation that follows an era of promiscuity has a dearth of examples to follow and are even more unstable than their parents were when they began their promiscuous living.
Stability for human society is based on morality, and morality is based on harnessing and controlling sexuality.
The principles of brahmacharya should be learned well before puberty, so that the sexual feelings the young person then begins to experience are free of mental fantasies and emotional involvement. Once established in a young person, this control is expected to be carried out all through life.
When a virgin boy and girl marry, they transfer the love they have for their parents to one another:
The boy’s attachment to his mother is transferred to his wife, and the girl’s attachment to her father is transferred to her husband. She now becomes the mother. He now becomes the father. This does not mean they love their parents any less.
This is why the parents have to be in good shape, to create the next generation of stable families. This is their dharmic duty. If they don’t do it, they create all kinds of uncomely karmas for themselves to be faced at a later time.