Brahmacharya & Sex

Brahmacharya & Sex

Brahmacharya is one of the Yamas of Yoga and key to many conceptions of spiritual practice. It is commonly translated to mean celibacy. Celibacy is thus deemed necessary for real spiritual progress. However, while a small percent of people are natural monks, for most people abstinence is more a form of resistance or denial. That is actually a barrier to progress rather than a help. And there are ample examples of failure in both east and west, often to the detriment of people around them. Healthy expression denied becomes it’s shadow: abuse. Celibacy is not a householders way. It is not natural for most people.

On this blog, I’ve been translating Brahmacharya as moderation, based on an interpretation of the Sanskrit root words.

I’ve also seen it observed that Brahmacharya means the one who’s teacher is Brahman.

Another place the word comes up is in association with dharma, in ashrama, the stages of life. The first stage is student, the learning youth. The word used – Brahmacharya. In other words, a student of Brahman. If one’s studies include spiritual content, it makes perfect sense.

And of course, other traditions use sex as a spiritual practice.

Last Updated on December 8, 2015 by

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  1. Pingback: Yoga Articles -

  2. Baswell Graham

    If a visitor dared to relate a suggestive story in the hermitage, Master would maintain an unresponsive silence. “Do not allow yourself to be thrashed by the provoking whip of a beautiful face,” he told the disciples. “How can sense slaves enjoy the world? Its subtle flavors escape them while they grovel in primal mud. All nice discriminations are lost to the man of elemental lusts.”
    Students seeking to escape from the dualistic maya delusion received from Sri Yukteswar patient and understanding counsel.
    “Just as the purpose of eating is to satisfy hunger, not greed, so the sex instinct is designed for the propagation of the species according to natural law, never for the kindling of insatiable longings,” he said. “Destroy wrong desires now; otherwise they will follow you after the astral body is torn from its physical casing. Even when the flesh is weak, the mind should be constantly resistant. If temptation assails you with cruel force, overcome it by impersonal analysis and indomitable will. Every natural passion can be mastered.
    “Conserve your powers. Be like the capacious ocean, absorbing within all the tributary rivers of the senses. Small yearnings are openings in the reservoir of your inner peace, permitting healing waters to be wasted in the desert soil of materialism. The forceful activating impulse of wrong desire is the greatest enemy to the happiness of man. Roam in the world as a lion of self-control; see that the frogs of weakness don’t kick you around.”

    Autobiography of a Yogi

  3. Hi Baswell
    Thanks for your comment. What you describe is the teaching for a renunciate or monk. Shankara sought to revive the monastic tradition but it’s come to dominate some paths now. The pendulum has swung too far. The majority of people are not monks and are ill-suited to the approach. Forcing against or denial simply creates vasanas that interfere with spiritual progress and creates suffering. As the article notes, they also lead to the repressed busting forth, creating problems. We’ve seen many examples of this.

    This does not mean I’m suggesting indiscriminately acting on urges. My point is simply the path of moderation. The avoidance of either extreme.

    I can also note that the vast majority of Vedic sages (I’m less familiar with other paths) were householders.

    Ayurveda has a similar approach, in their case suggesting what moderation means for a specific dosha.

    Moderation is also the way of dharma. Following a monks path when it is not your role is adharma. One will succeed at neither.

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