Brahmacharyashrama (ब्रह्मचर्याश्रमः)

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ब्रह्मचर्यधर्मः || Brahmacharya Dharma

Manusmrti elaborates both on the personal as well as social duties of brahmacharya.

आचारधर्मः || Code of Conduct

  • Adhyayana or self study is the primary duty of a student in the Brahmacharyashrama. Hence, it is said,

    चोदितो गुरुणा नित्यं अप्रचोदित एव वा । कुर्यादध्ययने यत्नं आचार्यस्य हितेषु च । । २.१९१ । ।[1]

    codito guruṇā nityaṁ apracodita eva vā । kuryādadhyayane yatnaṁ ācāryasya hiteṣu ca । । 2.191 । ।

    Meaning: Both when ordered by his teacher, and without a (special) command, (a student) shall always exert himself in studying (the Veda), and in doing what is serviceable to his teacher. (2.191)[2]

In Brahmacharyashrama, the stage of gaining knowledge, the importance of a Guru is unparalled. Hence, the behaviour of students towards their Gurus is specifically elaborated in detail inorder to educate the young minds about the value of a Guru in life.

  • Respectful behavior towards gurus is regarded as one of the foremost duties of a brahmachari. Talking of respecting superiors, Manu says,

शय्यासनेऽध्याचरिते श्रेयसा न समाविशेत् । शय्यासनस्थश्चैवैनं प्रत्युत्थायाभिवादयेत् । । २.११९ । ।

ऊर्ध्वं प्राणा ह्युत्क्रामन्ति यूनः स्थविर आयति । प्रत्युत्थानाभिवादाभ्यां पुनस्तान्प्रतिपद्यते । । २.१२० । ।[1]

śayyāsane'dhyācarite śreyasā na samāviśet । śayyāsanasthaścaivainaṁ pratyutthāyābhivādayet । । 2.119 । ।

ūrdhvaṁ prāṇā hyutkrāmanti yūnaḥ sthavira āyati । pratyutthānābhivādābhyāṁ punastānpratipadyate । । 2.120 । ।

Meaning: One must not sit down on a couch or seat which a superior occupies; and he who occupies a couch or seat shall rise to meet a (superior), and (afterwards) salute him. For the vital airs of a young man mount upwards to leave his body when an elder approaches; but by rising to meet him and saluting he recovers them. (2.119 and 120) He further adds that he who habitually salutes and constantly pays reverence to the aged obtains an increase of four (things), (viz.) length of life, knowledge, fame, (and) strength. (2.121)[2]

अभिवादनशीलस्य नित्यं वृद्धोपसेविनः । चत्वारि तस्य वर्धन्ते आयुर्धर्मो यशो बलम् । । २.१२१ । ।[1]

abhivādanaśīlasya nityaṁ vr̥ddhopasevinaḥ । catvāri tasya vardhante āyurdharmo yaśo balam । । 2.121 । ।

Elaborating further on the guidelines it says,

शरीरं चैव वाचं च बुद्धीन्द्रियमनांसि च । नियम्य प्राञ्जलिस्तिष्ठेद्वीक्षमाणो गुरोर्मुखम् । । २.१९२ । ।

नित्यं उद्धृतपाणिः स्यात्साध्वाचारः सुसंवृतः । आस्यतां इति चोक्तः सन्नासीताभिमुखं गुरोः । । २.१९३ । ।

हीनान्नवस्त्रवेषः स्यात्सर्वदा गुरुसन्निधौ । उत्तिष्ठेत्प्रथमं चास्य चरमं चैव संविशेत् । । २.१९४ । ।

प्रतिश्रावणसंभाषे शयानो न समाचरेत् । नासीनो न च भुञ्जानो न तिष्ठन्न पराङ्मुखः । । २.१९५ । ।

गुरोस्तु चक्षुर्विषये न यथेष्टासनो भवेत् । । २.१९८ । ।

नोदाहरेदस्य नाम परोक्षं अपि केवलम् । न चैवास्यानुकुर्वीत गतिभाषितचेष्टितम् । । २.१९९ । ।

उदकुम्भं सुमनसो गोशकृन्मृत्तिकाकुशान् । आहरेद्यावदर्थानि भैक्षं चाहरहश्चरेत् । । २.१८२ । ।[1]

śarīraṁ caiva vācaṁ ca buddhīndriyamanāṁsi ca । niyamya prāñjalistiṣṭhedvīkṣamāṇo gurormukham । । 2.192 । ।

nityaṁ uddhr̥tapāṇiḥ syātsādhvācāraḥ susaṁvr̥taḥ । āsyatāṁ iti coktaḥ sannāsītābhimukhaṁ guroḥ । । 2.193 । ।

hīnānnavastraveṣaḥ syātsarvadā gurusannidhau । uttiṣṭhetprathamaṁ cāsya caramaṁ caiva saṁviśet । । 2.194 । ।

pratiśrāvaṇasaṁbhāṣe śayāno na samācaret । nāsīno na ca bhuñjāno na tiṣṭhanna parāṅmukhaḥ । । 2.195 । ।

gurostu cakṣurviṣaye na yatheṣṭāsano bhavet । । 2.198 । ।

nodāharedasya nāma parokṣaṁ api kevalam । na caivāsyānukurvīta gatibhāṣitaceṣṭitam । । 2.199 । ।

udakumbhaṁ sumanaso gośakr̥nmr̥ttikākuśān । āharedyāvadarthāni bhaikṣaṁ cāharahaścaret । । 2.182 । ।


  • Controlling his body, his speech, his organs (of sense), and his mind, let him stand with joined hands, looking at the face of his teacher.(2.192)
  • Let him always keep his right arm uncovered, behave decently and keep his body well covered, and when he is addressed (with the words), ’’Be seated,’’ he shall sit down, facing his teacher. (2.193)
  • In the presence of his teacher let him always eat less, wear a less valuable dress and ornaments (than the former), and let him rise earlier (from his bed), and go to rest later. (2.194)
  • Let him not answer or converse with (his teacher), reclining on a bed, nor sitting, nor eating, nor standing, nor with an averted face.(2.195)
  • Within sight of his teacher he shall not sit carelessly at ease. (2.198)
  • Let him not pronounce the mere name of his teacher (without adding an honorific title) behind his back even, and let him not mimic his gait, speech, and deportment. (2.199)
  • The Brahmachari is also ordained to fetch a pot full of water, flowers, cowdung, earth and Kusa grass, as much as may be required (by his teacher), and daily go to beg food. (2.182)

This is ordained as his constant behaviour also towards other instructors in science, towards his relatives to whom honour is due, towards all who may restrain him from sin, or may give him salutary advice. Infact, the son of the teacher who imparts instruction (in his father’s stead), whether younger or of equal age, or a student of (the science of) sacrifices (or of other Angas), deserves the same honour as the teacher.(2.206 and 208)[2] Because,

यथा खनन्खनित्रेण नरो वार्यधिगच्छति । तथा गुरुगतां विद्यां शुश्रूषुरधिगच्छति । । २.२१८ । ।[1]

yathā khanankhanitreṇa naro vāryadhigacchati । tathā gurugatāṁ vidyāṁ śuśrūṣuradhigacchati । । 2.218 । ।

Meaning: As the man who digs with a spade (into the ground) obtains water, even so an obedient (pupil) obtains the knowledge which lies (hidden) in his teacher. (2.218)[2]

  • Obedience towards Mata, Pita and Guru is declared to be the best form of austerity. By honouring them all that ought to be done by man, is considered accomplished; It is clearly considered the highest duty, every other act is a subordinate duty. (Manu 2.229 and 237) Hence it is said,

तयोर्नित्यं प्रियं कुर्यादाचार्यस्य च सर्वदा । तेष्वेव त्रिषु तुष्टेषु तपः सर्वं समाप्यते । । २.२२८ । ।[1]

tayornityaṁ priyaṁ kuryādācāryasya ca sarvadā । teṣveva triṣu tuṣṭeṣu tapaḥ sarvaṁ samāpyate । । 2.228 । ।

Meaning: Let him always do what is agreeable to those two ie. mother and father, and always (what may please) his teacher; when those three are pleased, he obtains all (those rewards which) austerities (yield).[2]

Because, all duties are considered to be fulfilled by him who honours those three; but to him who honours them not, all rites remain fruitless. (Manu 2.234)[1]

Personal habits

According to Manusmrti, a student who resides with his teacher must observe the following restrictive rules, duly controlling all his organs, in order to increase his spiritual merit. (2.175)

  • Every day, having bathed, and being purified, he must offer libations of water to the gods, sages and manes, worship (the images of) the gods, and place fuel on (the sacred fire). (2.176)[2]

नित्यं स्नात्वा शुचिः कुर्याद्देवर्षिपितृतर्पणम् । देवताभ्यर्चनं चैव समिदाधानं एव च । । २.१७६ । ।[1]

nityaṁ snātvā śuciḥ kuryāddevarṣipitr̥tarpaṇam । devatābhyarcanaṁ caiva samidādhānaṁ eva ca । । 2.176 । ।

  • Let him abstain from honey, meat, perfumes, garlands, substances (used for) flavouring (food), women, all substances turned acid, and from doing injury to living creatures; From anointing (his body), applying collyrium to his eyes, from the use of shoes and of an umbrella (or parasol), from (sensual) desire, anger, covetousness, dancing, singing, and playing (musical instruments); From gambling, idle disputes, backbiting, and lying, from looking at and touching women, and from hurting others. (2.177,178 and 179)[2]

वर्जयेन्मधु मांसं च गन्धं माल्यं रसान्स्त्रियः । शुक्तानि यानि सर्वाणि प्राणिनां चैव हिंसनम् । । २.१७७ । ।

अभ्यङ्गं अञ्जनं चाक्ष्णोरुपानच्छत्रधारणम् । कामं क्रोधं च लोभं च नर्तनं गीतवादनम् । । २.१७८ । ।

द्यूतं च जनवादं च परिवादं तथानृतम् । स्त्रीणां च प्रेक्षणालम्भं उपघातं परस्य च । । २.१७९ । ।[1]

varjayenmadhu māṁsaṁ ca gandhaṁ mālyaṁ rasānstriyaḥ । śuktāni yāni sarvāṇi prāṇināṁ caiva hiṁsanam । । 2.177 । ।

abhyaṅgaṁ añjanaṁ cākṣṇorupānacchatradhāraṇam । kāmaṁ krodhaṁ ca lobhaṁ ca nartanaṁ gītavādanam । । 2.178 । ।

dyūtaṁ ca janavādaṁ ca parivādaṁ tathānr̥tam । strīṇāṁ ca prekṣaṇālambhaṁ upaghātaṁ parasya ca । । 2.179 । ।

  • Let him always sleep alone, let him never waste his manhood; for he who voluntarily wastes his manhood, breaks his vow. However, a twice-born student, who has involuntarily wasted his manly strength during sleep, must bathe, worship the sun, and afterwards thrice mutter the Rik-verse (which begins), “Again let my strength return to me.” (2.180 and 181)[2]

एकः शयीत सर्वत्र न रेतः स्कन्दयेत्क्व चित् । कामाद्धि स्कन्दयन्रेतो हिनस्ति व्रतं आत्मनः । । २.१८० । ।

स्वप्ने सिक्त्वा ब्रह्मचारी द्विजः शुक्रं अकामतः । स्नात्वार्कं अर्चयित्वा त्रिः पुनर्मां इत्यृचं जपेत् । । २.१८१ । ।[1]

ekaḥ śayīta sarvatra na retaḥ skandayetkva cit । kāmāddhi skandayanreto hinasti vrataṁ ātmanaḥ । । 2.180 । ।

svapne siktvā brahmacārī dvijaḥ śukraṁ akāmataḥ । snātvārkaṁ arcayitvā triḥ punarmāṁ ityr̥caṁ japet । । 2.181 । ।

Begging for Alms

भैक्षेण वर्तयेन्नित्यं नैकान्नादी भवेद्व्रती । भैक्षेण व्रतिनो वृत्तिरुपवाससमा स्मृता । । २.१८८ । ।[1]

bhaikṣeṇa vartayennityaṁ naikānnādī bhavedvratī । bhaikṣeṇa vratino vr̥ttirupavāsasamā smr̥tā । । 2.188 । ।

It is said that, He who performs the vow (of studentship) shall constantly subsist on alms, (but) not eat the food of one (person only); the subsistence of a student on begged food is declared to be equal (in merit) to fasting.(2.188)[2]

Some of the guidelines stated in this regard are,

  • A student, being pure, shall daily bring food from the houses of men who are not deficient in (the knowledge of) the Veda and in (performing) sacrifices, and who are famous for (following their lawful) occupations. (2.183)[2]

वेदयज्ञैरहीनानां प्रशस्तानां स्वकर्मसु । ब्रह्मचार्याहरेद्भैक्षं गृहेभ्यः प्रयतोऽन्वहम् । । २.१८३ । ।[1]

vedayajñairahīnānāṁ praśastānāṁ svakarmasu । brahmacāryāharedbhaikṣaṁ gr̥hebhyaḥ prayato'nvaham । । 2.183 । ।

  • Let him not beg from the relatives of his teacher, nor from his own or his mother’s blood-relations; but if there are no houses belonging to strangers, let him go to one of those named above, taking the last-named first; Or, if there are no (virtuous men of the kind) mentioned above, he may go to each (house in the) village, being pure and remaining silent; but let him avoid Abhishastas (those accused of mortal sin). However, at his pleasure he may eat, when invited, the food of one man at (a rite) in honour of the gods, observing (however the conditions on his vow), or at a (funeral meal) in honor of the manes, behaving (however) like a hermit. (2.184, 185 and 189)[2]

गुरोः कुले न भिक्षेत न ज्ञातिकुलबन्धुषु । अलाभे त्वन्यगेहानां पूर्वं पूर्वं विवर्जयेत् । । २.१८४ । ।

सर्वं वापि चरेद्ग्रामं पूर्वोक्तानां असंभवे । नियम्य प्रयतो वाचं अभिशस्तांस्तु वर्जयेत् । । २.१८५ । ।

व्रतवद्देवदैवत्ये पित्र्ये कर्मण्यथ र्षिवत् । कामं अभ्यर्थितोऽश्नीयाद्व्रतं अस्य न लुप्यते । । २.१८९ । ।[1]

guroḥ kule na bhikṣeta na jñātikulabandhuṣu । alābhe tvanyagehānāṁ pūrvaṁ pūrvaṁ vivarjayet । । 2.184 । ।

sarvaṁ vāpi caredgrāmaṁ pūrvoktānāṁ asaṁbhave । niyamya prayato vācaṁ abhiśastāṁstu varjayet । । 2.185 । ।

vratavaddevadaivatye pitrye karmaṇyatha rṣivat । kāmaṁ abhyarthito'śnīyādvrataṁ asya na lupyate । । 2.189 । ।

  • Having brought sacred fuel from a distance, let him place it anywhere but on the ground, and let him, unwearied, make with it burnt oblations to the sacred fire, both evening and morning. (2.186)[2]

दूरादाहृत्य समिधः सन्निदध्याद्विहायसि । सायंः प्रातश्च जुहुयात्ताभिरग्निं अतन्द्रितः । । २.१८६ । ।[1]

dūrādāhr̥tya samidhaḥ sannidadhyādvihāyasi । sāyaṁḥ prātaśca juhuyāttābhiragniṁ atandritaḥ । । 2.186 । ।

  • He who, without being sick, neglects during seven (successive) days to go out begging, and to offer fuel in the sacred fire, shall perform the penance of an Avakirnin (one who has broken his vow). (2.187)[2]

अकृत्वा भैक्षचरणं असमिध्य च पावकम् । अनातुरः सप्तरात्रं अवकीर्णिव्रतं चरेत् । । २.१८७ । ।[1]

akr̥tvā bhaikṣacaraṇaṁ asamidhya ca pāvakam । anāturaḥ saptarātraṁ avakīrṇivrataṁ caret । । 2.187 । ।

समावर्तनं गुरुदक्षिणा च ॥ Samavartana and Gurudakshina

According to Manusmrti, the vow of studying the three Vedas under a teacher must be kept for thirty-six years, or for half that time, or for a quarter, or until the (student) has perfectly learnt them. It says, a student who has studied in due order the three Vedas, or two, or even one only, without breaking the rules of studentship, shall enter the order of householders. (Manu 3.1 and 2)[3]

The initiation to the Grhasthashrama happens after the student having bathed, with the permission of his teacher, performs, according to the rule, the Samvartana. Samavartana is the rite to be performed at the completion of one's education just before returning home from the preceptor's house. It is said, a person who is thus, famous for the strict performance of his duties and has received his heritage, the Veda, from his father, shall be honoured, sitting on a couch and adorned with a garland, with the present of a cow and the honey-mixture.[4]

तं प्रतीतं स्वधर्मेण ब्रह्मदायहरं पितुः । स्रग्विणं तल्प आसीनं अर्हयेत्प्रथमं गवा । । ३.३ । ।[3]

taṁ pratītaṁ svadharmeṇa brahmadāyaharaṁ pituḥ । sragviṇaṁ talpa āsīnaṁ arhayetprathamaṁ gavā । । 3.3 । ।

The concept of Gurudakshina is highly respected in the Bharat's Gurukula tradition. Manusmrti says, with the permission of his teacher, when he is about to take the final bath (the ritualistic bath for samavartana signifying completion of studies), he is advised to procure a present for the venerable man (his guru) according to his ability, which may be a field, gold, a cow, a horse, a parasol and shoes, a seat, grain, or even vegetables, and thus give pleasure to his teacher. (Manu 2.245 and 246)[1]

नैष्ठिकब्रह्मचर्यम् || Naishthika Brahmacharya

A student is given the opportunity to choose to live his entire life in the teacher's house as a Brahmachari. However, with a few instructions. It is said,

यदि त्वात्यन्तिकं वासं रोचयेत गुरोः कुले । युक्तः परिचरेदेनं आ शरीरविमोक्षणात् । । २.२४३ । ।

आचार्ये तु खलु प्रेते गुरुपुत्रे गुणान्विते । गुरुदारे सपिण्डे वा गुरुवद्वृत्तिं आचरेत् । । २.२४७ । ।

एतेष्वविद्यमानेषु स्थानासनविहारवान् । प्रयुञ्जानोऽग्निशुश्रूषां साधयेद्देहं आत्मनः । । २.२४८ । ।[1]

yadi tvātyantikaṁ vāsaṁ rocayeta guroḥ kule । yuktaḥ paricaredenaṁ ā śarīravimokṣaṇāt । । 2.243 । ।

ācārye tu khalu prete guruputre guṇānvite । gurudāre sapiṇḍe vā guruvadvr̥ttiṁ ācaret । । 2.247 । ।

eteṣvavidyamāneṣu sthānāsanavihāravān । prayuñjāno'gniśuśrūṣāṁ sādhayeddehaṁ ātmanaḥ । । 2.248 । ।

Meaning: If (a student) desires to pass his whole life in the teacher’s house, he must diligently serve him, until he is freed from this body. (A perpetual student) must, if his teacher dies, serve his son (provided he be) endowed with good qualities, or his widow, or his Sapinda, in the same manner as the teacher. Should none of these be alive, he must serve the sacred fire, standing (by day) and sitting (during the night), and thus finish his life.[2] And the fruit of such diligence is given as freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

एवं चरति यो विप्रो ब्रह्मचर्यं अविप्लुतः । स गच्छत्युत्तमस्थानं न चेह जायते पुनः । । २.२४९ । ।[1]

evaṁ carati yo vipro brahmacaryaṁ aviplutaḥ । sa gacchatyuttamasthānaṁ na ceha jāyate punaḥ । । 2.249 । ।

Meaning: A Brahmana who thus passes his life as a student without breaking his vow, reaches (after death) the highest abode and will not be born again in this world.[2]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 Manusmrti, Adhyaya 2
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 The Laws of Manu, Translated by G.Buhler, Chapter 2
  3. 3.0 3.1 Manusmrti, Adhyaya 3
  4. The Laws of Manu, Translated by G.Buhler, Chapter 3