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Yama 4 - Brahmacharya

Bodhinatha spoke on the yama of brahmacharya, purity and chastity, today. He described it as the harnessing of the instincts, including sexual desire, stressing the value of remaining celibate until marriage. When this is done, a marriage is more secure, the bond between man and wife stronger than if promiscuity has been experienced before marriage. The key to following brahmacharya is not to think of members of the opposite sex as sexual objects, rather men should think of women as their sisters and mother, and women should think of men as their brothers and father. Good also to avoid sexually explicit movies and literature, porn on the web, etc.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to

Unedited Transcript:

We are getting ready for a trip. Leaving tomorrow for a three-week trip to California, Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore. Going the wrong direction, so we can be at Venita Katir's Arangetram. The family invited us and they said there would be five hundred Hindus there and a wonderful chance to meet them all. So we said, "We will go, even though it is the wrong direction!" Looking forward to that journey.

This morning, we are continuing our talks on 'Yamas and Niyamas', Hinduism's code of conduct, the twenty principles for good behavior. And, lo and behold today's topic is 'Brahmacharya'. How can that be? Isn't that amazing? There are twenty possibilities right? Actually there are more, there are a few extra talks in this series, probably twenty-six possibilities. So that means, the percentage chance is about 4% that this talk would be on the day we had a brahmacharya vrata, which of course, is quite rare at Kadavul Hindu Temple.

Today's lesson on 'Good Conduct' is on the fourth yama of Brahmacharya, which is to 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 humor and violence.

Let us look at some common examples of not following this yama.

First example. We regularly use the internet to access pornographic sites to stimulate us, a common problem.

Second example. As a college student, we choose to have sexual relations with those we date.

Third example. As a middle aged married man, we flirt with the women at work.

Fourth example. We regularly watch movies that include explicit sexual acts.

As we know, all of the yamas focus on harnessing a tendency of the instinctive mind. In the case of Brahmacharya, divine conduct, the instinctive tendency we are focusing on harnessing is of course, sexual desire.

The Tirukural addresses the need of controlling lust in Chapter 15, 'Not Coveting Another's Wife', verse 147 puts forth the ideal. "He is decreed a worthy householder who holds no desire for the womanly charms of another's wife."

Let us look first at the reasons for observing Brahmacharya.

The fundamental reason for observing Brahmacharya before marriage is it creates a stronger, more mature relationship between husband and wife. Those who are promiscuous prior to marriage are susceptible to impulses of anger, have undefined fears, experience jealousy and other instinctive emotions.

Gurudeva explains the mystical reason behind this quite beautifully, He states that, "In virgin boys and girls the psychic nadis, the astral nerve currents that extend out into and through the aura have small hooks on the end. When a boy and girl marry the hooks straighten out and the nadis are tied one to another and they actually grow together. If the first sexual experience is premarital and the virginity is broken, the hooks at the end of the nadis also straighten out but there is nothing to grow on to, 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 nadis 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."

For monks and other single individuals intent on pursuing deeper realizations and higher consciousness, Brahmacharya is important for another reason. Gurudeva explains that , "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. This is called transmutation of the sexual energy. If Brahmacharya is broken through sexual intercourse, this power goes away. Therefore trying to pursue the higher goals of meditation without practicing celibacy, will clearly not lead to success."

Let us look next at some of the keys to successfully practicing brahmacharya before marriage.

First key. 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.

Second key. 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.

Third key. 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 lead astray and vital energies needed for study used up.

Fourth key. Get plenty of physical exercise. This is very important because exercise sublimates your instinctive drives and directs excess energy and the flow of blood to all parts of the body.

Fifth key. Do not tell or even listen to sexual jokes or stories.

Sixth key. Avoid arousing the sex instincts by understanding and avoiding the eight successive phases - fantasy, glorification, flirtation, lustful glances, secret love talk, amorous longing, rendezvous and finally intercourse.

Seventh key. Take a pledge to remain celibate until marriage, the brahmacharya vrata, before your parents.

For those who are married, here are a few suggestions for remaining faithful, from Gurudeva, of course.

The first suggestion. Never hug or touch another's spouse. Hard to do in Hawaii!

Second suggestion. Always dress modestly, not in a sexual arousing way.

Third suggestion. Observe the eight-fold celibacy towards everyone but their spouse.

Fourth suggestion. A married man should not hire a secretary who is more magnetic or beautiful than his wife. Very practical suggestion from Gurudeva!

Finally, let us look at the practice of celibacy for those who are married. There is another form of sexual purity, though not truly brahmacharya, followed by faithful family people who have a normal sexual life while raising a family. They are working towards the stage when they take their brahmacharya vrata after 60 years of age, when the sexual forces naturally become quiet. Thereafter, they would live together as brother and sister, sleeping in separate bedrooms. This, of course, is for the purpose of intensifying their spiritual progress and having deeper spiritual experiences. During their married life, they control the forces of lust and regulate instinctive energies and thus prepare to take that vrata later in life. But if they are unfaithful, flirtatious and loose in their thinking through life, they will not be inclined to take the vrata when they are older.

In summary: Practice divine conduct, controlling lust by remaining celibate when single and faithful in marriage. Before marriage, use vital energies for 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 humor and violence.

Aum Namah Sivaya.