Brahmacharya in Yoga (योगे ब्रह्मचर्यम्)
In Ayurveda the word Brahmacharya (Samskrit: ब्रह्मचर्य) is used to indicate one's state of control over all Indriyas (इन्द्रियाणि | Sensory and motor organs). At most places, it refers to 'celibacy' since that involves control over all organs at a time. Every person has 5 sensory and 5 motor organs through which he/she interacts with the outer world. It is believed that the ultimate knowledge or brahmajnana (ब्रह्मज्ञानम्) can be obtained only when the person achieves control over all indriyas and turns inwards. Thus the state or the conduct which involves control over body, mind and senses that is necessary for gaining brahmajanam is called as brahmacharyam. Ayurveda has given it high importance by counting it as one of the 3 supporting pillars of life. Thus brahamcharya plays significant role in sustaining one's life by regulating strength and vitality.
The word brahmacharya stems from two Sanskrit roots. First is 'Brahman' (Samskrit : ब्रह्मन्) and second is 'Charya' (चर्य).
- Brahman : Brahman in general signifies the Absolute, Eternal, Changeless, Infinite element without attributes, qualities beyond name and form, yet all encompassing the universe called variously as Brahman, Purusha and Satya. Brahman is referred to as the supreme self. Brahman (ब्रह्मन्) is derived from the dhatus बृहँ and बृहिँ in the meaning of वृद्धौ (vrddhi) - बृंहति वर्द्धते निरतिशयमहत्त्व-लक्षणवृद्धिमान् भवतीत्यर्थः - to expand, grow, enlarge, one which is beyond comparison. It is used to explain the concept of the transcendent and immanent ultimate reality, Supreme force which is attribute-less.
- Charya : The term Charya refers to a specific code of conduct, to practice something, to go after or to follow a specific path.
Thus, brahmacharya means "to follow a code of conduct to grow, expand or to follow a path to seek the absolute nature of universal consciouness"
In bharatiya shastras and specifically in Ayurveda, the term brahmacharya is a concept with a more complex meaning indicating an overall lifestyle conducive to the pursuit of sacred knowledge and spiritual liberation. Control over all other sense organs, motor organs and one's mind is the integral part of Brahmacharya.
परिभाषा ॥ Definitions
Commentators on Ayurveda treatises have clearly explained the expected meaning of the word brahamcharya in Ayurveda. Acharya Chakrapani, the commentator on chaarka samhita explains the term as follows,
ब्रह्मचर्यशब्देन इन्द्रियसंयमसौमनस्यप्रभृतयो ब्रह्मज्ञानानुगुणा गृह्यन्ते| (Cha su 11.35, chakra)
brahmacaryaśabdena indriyasaṁyamasaumanasyaprabhr̥tayo brahmajñānānuguṇā gr̥hyante|
Meaning: By the word Brahmacharya, control over all organs (indriyas) and satisfaction or piece of mind like tendencies which are favorable for attaining brahmajnana are understood.
Acharya Dalhana, the commentator on sushruta samhita, has explained the meaning of brahamcharya with following sutras,
ब्रह्मचर्यम् इन्द्रियसंयमो वेदाध्ययनं वा| (Dalhana, su chi 28.28)
brahmacaryam indriyasaṁyamo vedādhyayanaṁ vā|
Meaning: Brahmacharya means control over senses or study of vedas.
ब्रह्मचर्यं स्त्रीसेवानिवृत्तिः| (Dalhana, Su 20.6)
Meaning: Brahmacharya means sexual abstinence.
ब्रह्मचर्यं समस्तेन्द्रियसंयमः| (Dalhana, Su su 2.6)
Meaning: Brahmacharya is control over all indriyas (sensory and motor organs).
ब्रह्मचर्य संकल्पना ॥ The true meaning of Brahmacharya
“Brahman” (ब्रह्मन्) means “the divine” or “ultimate,” “charya” (चर्य) means “the path.” If you are on the path of the divine, you are a brahmachari (ब्रह्मचारी)To be on the path of the divine means you have no personal agendas of your own. You simply do what is needed. You have no personal ways of deciding where you should go in your life, what you should do, or what you like and dislike; all these things are simply taken away from you. If you do this unwillingly, it can be an absolute torture. If you do it willingly, it makes your life so wonderful and beautiful because there is nothing to bother you anymore. You simply do what is needed; life is so simple. Once you have given yourself like that, you do not have to bother about the spiritual path or worry about your spirituality. It is taken care of. You do not have to really do anything about it.
Ayurveda has put forward the concept of 3 supporting pillars of life. These are called as 3 upastambhas. It is stated that, strength, immunity and growth of any individual is dependent on well-regulated support of 3 factors namely Ahara (आहारः | food), nidra (निद्रा | sleep) and observance of bramhacharya (celibacy/control of senses). These are called supports or pillars of one’s Ayu or life.
त्रय उपस्तम्भा इति- आहारः, स्वप्नो, ब्रह्मचर्यमिति; एभिस्त्रिभिर्युक्तियुक्तैरुपस्तब्धमुपस्तम्भैः शरीरं बलवर्णोपचयोपचितमनुवर्तते यावदायुःसंस्कारात् संस्कारमहितमनुपसेवमानस्य, य इहैवोपदेक्ष्यते॥ (Char Samh 11.35)
traya upastambhā iti- āhāraḥ, svapno, brahmacaryamiti; ebhistribhiryuktiyuktairupastabdhamupastambhaiḥ śarīraṁ balavarṇopacayopacitamanuvartate yāvadāyuḥsaṁskārāt saṁskāramahitamanupasevamānasya, ya ihaivopadekṣyate॥ (Char Samh 11.35)
Meaning: Three supporting pillars of life: Ahara (food), nidra (sleep) and observance of bramhacharya ( celibacy/control of senses). By the wisdom of well regulated support of these three pillars one can get body with strength, good complexion and proper growth and this continues throughout life, provided person does not get involved in regimens which are detrimental for health, these are discussed in this chapter.
Thus, Brahmacharya plays integral role in one’s health and wellness and therefore it is regarded as one of the 3 supports of life.
ब्रह्मचर्यं तथा आयुः संबंधः ॥ Association with ayu
Brahmacharya is one of the 3 supporting pillars of life. But even among them, Brahamcharya is identified as the best (thing to follow) in order to get longevity. At the same time infidelity is considered to be the worst (thing to follow) for longevity.
ब्रह्मचर्यमायुष्याणां, परदाराभिगमनमनायुष्याणां, (cha.su 25.40)
Also, at another instance Acharya Charaka has opined that brahamcharya is also the way that one must follow or the code of conduct one should observe if the ultimate aim of moksha is to be achieved.
ब्रह्मचर्यमयनानामिति (cha su 30.15) अयनानामिति मार्गाणाम्|
brahmacaryamayanānāmiti (cha su 30.15) ayanānāmiti mārgāṇām|
Meaning: Celibacy is the most effective factor in the path for self-realization.
ब्रह्मचर्यं सत्त्वगुण संबंधः ॥ Sattva guna association
Brahmacharya is natural tendency and quality of the humans having sattva guna (सत्त्व गुणः) abundance. Sattva guna has been considered as virtue or guna of manas (मनः). As sattva is illuminating by nature it helps person to obtain real knowledge ( ब्रह्मज्ञानम् Brahamjnanam). And thus those having abundance of sattva have natural tendency of having control over all Indriyas (इन्द्रियाणि) and observe the conduct of Brahmacharya. Such type of constitution is called as 'Rshi sattva' (ऋषी / आर्ष सत्त्व) that shows following traits,
इज्याध्ययनव्रतहोमब्रह्मचर्यपरमतिथिव्रतमुपशान्तमदमानरागद्वेषमोहलोभरोषं प्रतिभावचनविज्ञानोपधारणशक्तिसम्पन्नमार्षं विद्यात् ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)
ijyādhyayanavratahomabrahmacaryaparamatithivratamupaśāntamadamānarāgadveṣamohalobharoṣaṁ pratibhāvacanavijñānopadhāraṇaśaktisampannamārṣaṁ vidyāt ॥ (Char Samh 4.37)
Meaning: Dedication to holy rituals, study, sacred vows, oblations and celibacy, welcoming nature to the guest. Has freedom from self-importance, self-esteem, affection, detestation, lack of knowledge, greed and annoyance. The person is capable of intellectual excellence and eloquence, power of understanding and retention. The individuals having such qualities should be known as Arsha in mind.
सद्वृत्तांतर्गतम् ब्रह्मचर्यम् ॥ Sadvrutta
Sadvrutta (सद्वृत्तम्। the good code of conduct) is a code of good conduct put forward by Ayurveda Acharyas for maintaining personal as well as social health. Sadvrutta provides guidelines on various day-to-day activities and throws light on their role in various aspects of health. In this code of conduct to be followed for healthy and fulfilling life observance of Brahmacharya has been given great importance.
ब्रह्मचर्यज्ञानदानमैत्रीकारुण्यहर्षोपेक्षाप्रशमपरश्च स्यादिति||२९|| (cha. su 8.29)
Meaning: One should follow the path of brahmacharya (celibacy), knowledge, charity, friendship, compassion, cheerfulness, detachment and peace.
एकान्ततः पथ्यतमम् ब्रह्मचर्यम् ॥ Invariably favorable for health Activities Ekantataha pathyatama
Acharya Sushruta has listed few lifestyle components or activities that are invariably suitable for anyone in order to get health and well-being. Brahmacharya is counted as one among these activities.
तथा ब्रह्मचर्यनिवातशयनोष्णोदकस्नाननिशास्वप्नव्यायामाश्चैकान्ततः पथ्यतमाः ||६|| (Su su 20.6)
tathā brahmacaryanivātaśayanoṣṇodakasnānaniśāsvapnavyāyāmāścaikāntataḥ pathyatamāḥ ||6|| (Su su 20.6)
Meaning: Brahmacharya, sleeping at place that is sheltered from the wind, bathing with warm water, sleeping at night time and exercise are invariably healthy activities.
जनपदोध्वंसकाले ब्रह्मचर्यपालनम् ॥ Role of Brahmacharya during Janapadodhwansa
Janapadodhwansa refers to destruction of human settlements or communities by means of natural and man-made calamities including epidemics. While explaining the measures for holistic management of Janapadodhwansa, 3 modalities of chikitsa (चिकित्सा। treatment) have been described by Acharya Charaka. It includes Daivavyapashraya chikitsa (दैवव्यपाश्रया चिकित्सा), Yuktivyapashraya chikitsa (युक्तीव्यपाश्रया चिकित्सा) and satvavajaya chikitsa (सत्वावजय चिकित्सा). It is said that these treatment measures help for sustenance and survival of life and are rewarding in those who do not have niyata mrutyu (नियत मृत्युः। fixed predestined time of death during that critical time). In that, under satvavajaya chikitsa (सत्वावजय चिकित्सा) is proposed which focuses on the favorable code of conduct and behavior of individuals residing in area affected by Janapadodhwansa to protect themselves from Janapadodhwansa. Following Brahmacharya is counted this list of do's during janapadodhwansa.
...सेवनं ब्रह्मचर्यस्य तथैव ब्रह्मचारिणाम्||१६|| ...(Cha vi 3. 16-17)
...sevanaṁ brahmacaryasya tathaiva brahmacāriṇām||16|| ...(Cha vi 3. 16-17)
Meaning: ...Service to those observing brahmacharya (celibacy) and following it...
रसायनसेवनकाले ब्रह्मचर्य महात्म्यम् ॥ Rasayana and brahmacharya
In Ayurveda, Rasayana is defined as the means of procuring the best qualities of different dhatus (धातवः। body building tissues) in sharira (शरीरम्।). Rasayana therapy also improves longevity, memory, intelligence, health, youth, complexion, voice, motor power and sensory responsiveness. This is achieved by use of various herbs and their formulations called as Rasayana medicines. When consumed in an appropriate way, these herbs can adorn that individual with all these positive health benefits but their best effects can be obtained only when certain code of conduct is followed simultaneously. This code of conduct includes Brahmacharya as one of the major component. This has been explained by Acharya Charaka as follows,
तपसा ब्रह्मचर्येण ध्यानेन प्रशमेन च| रसायनविधानेन कालयुक्तेन चायुषा||७|| स्थिता महर्षयः पूर्वं, नहि किञ्चिद्रसायनम्| ग्राम्यानामन्यकार्याणां सिध्यत्यप्रयतात्मनाम्||८|| (Cha.chi 1/3.7-8)
टीका- सम्प्रति रसायनस्य तपोब्रह्मचर्यध्यानादियुक्तस्यैव महाफलत्वं भवतीति दर्शयन्नाह- तपसेत्यादि| कालयुक्तेन चायुषेति अनियतकालयुक्तेन चायुषेत्यर्थः, नियतकालायुषं प्रति तु न रसायनं फलवदित्युक्तमेव| स्थिता इति दीर्घकालजीविनः| विपर्ययेण तपःप्रभृतिविरहे रसायनस्याफलतामाह- न हीत्यादि||७-८||
tapasā brahmacaryeṇa dhyānena praśamena ca| rasāyanavidhānena kālayuktena cāyuṣā||7|| sthitā maharṣayaḥ pūrvaṁ, nahi kiñcidrasāyanam| grāmyānāmanyakāryāṇāṁ sidhyatyaprayatātmanām||8|| (Cha.chi 1/3.7-8)
Commentary- samprati rasāyanasya tapobrahmacaryadhyānādiyuktasyaiva mahāphalatvaṁ bhavatīti darśayannāha- tapasetyādi| kālayuktena cāyuṣeti aniyatakālayuktena cāyuṣetyarthaḥ, niyatakālāyuṣaṁ prati tu na rasāyanaṁ phalavadityuktameva| sthitā iti dīrghakālajīvinaḥ| viparyayeṇa tapaḥprabhr̥tivirahe rasāyanasyāphalatāmāha- na hītyādi||7-8||
Thus if one wishes to get best effects from Rasayana treatment one must strive to follow this code of conduct which includes Brahmacharya observance.
शिष्यचर्यायाम् ब्रह्मचर्यस्य महात्म्यम् ॥ Role of brahmacharya in the life of shishya
In Sushruta samhita, while describing the qualities, desired conduct of a shishya (disciple), practice of Brahmacharya has been listed as one of the criteria.
......सत्यव्रतब्रह्मचर्याभिवादनतत्परेणावश्यं भवितव्यं,... (su su 2. 6)
......satyavratabrahmacaryābhivādanatatpareṇāvaśyaṁ bhavitavyaṁ,... (su su 2. 6)
Meaning: Truthfulness, brahmacharya, respectful salutation should be definitely practiced.
विविधरोगचिकित्सासु ब्रह्मचर्यम् ॥ Role in management of various rogas
The practice of Brahmacharya is believed to be beneficial for speedy recovery from some illnesses. Jwara (ज्वरः), Yakshma (यक्ष्मा), various Vatavyadhis (वातव्याधी), Karnarogas (कर्णरोगाः) and Karshyam (कार्श्यम्) are few such medical conditions where observance of Brahamcharya is believed to be beneficial for speedy recovery and cure.
पुण्य-आयुवृद्धिकृत् गणः ॥ Punya-ayu vruddhi krut gana
The lifestyle factors or the activities of a human being in daily life that have positive impact on longevity and also that add into one's punyam (पुण्यम् moral merits) have been listed in groups by Acharyas. In both these groups practice of Brahmacharya is included by Acharya Sushruta and Vagbhata. Thus Brahmacharya can be considered as that code of conduct which adds to one's punyam (पुण्यम्) and increases the longevity of that person.
दानशीलदयासत्यब्रह्मचर्यकृतज्ञताः| रसायनानि मैत्री च पुण्यायुर्वृद्धिकृद्गणः||१२०|| (A.h.Sha. 3.120)
dānaśīladayāsatyabrahmacaryakr̥tajñatāḥ| rasāyanāni maitrī ca puṇyāyurvr̥ddhikr̥dgaṇaḥ||120|| (A.h.Sha. 3.120)
आयुष्यं भोजनं जीर्णे वेगानां चाविधारणम् | ब्रह्मचर्यमहिंसा च साहसानां च वर्जनम् ||२८|| (Su. chi 28.28)
āyuṣyaṁ bhojanaṁ jīrṇe vegānāṁ cāvidhāraṇam | brahmacaryamahiṁsā ca sāhasānāṁ ca varjanam ||28|| (Su. chi 28.28)
ब्रह्मचर्यस्य प्रशंसा ॥ Benefits
Brahmacharya is one of the 3 supporting pillars of the life. It is the invariably favorable code of conduct for one's lifelong health and wellness. Its practice helps in achieving longevity. Thus looking at its finest benefits in one's life, Acharya Vagbhata has praised it and expounded its supreme health benefits in the following verse.
धर्म्यं यशस्यमायुष्यं लोकद्वयरसायनम्| अनुमोदामहे ब्रह्मचर्यमेकान्तनिर्मलम्||४|| (A.H.U.40.4)
dharmyaṁ yaśasyamāyuṣyaṁ lokadvayarasāyanam| anumodāmahe brahmacaryamekāntanirmalam||4|| (A.H.U.40.4)
Meaning: Brahmacharya is favorable for dharma, honored, promotes longevity, elixir for both worlds and it is approved as invariably virtuous.
टीका: ...तत्र नैःश्रेयसिकं मार्गं समनुसृत्य ब्रह्मचर्योपदेशश्च कोशकारदृष्टन्तश्च क्लेशनाशकृच्च| ...
Commentary : ...tatra naiḥśreyasikaṁ mārgaṁ samanusr̥tya brahmacaryopadeśaśca kośakāradr̥ṣṭantaśca kleśanāśakr̥cca| ...
Meaning: Brahmacharya is considered invariably virtuous especially when following Nishreyasa path of dharma.
Dharma served as that foundational principle for people of all traditions that arose on Bharatavarsha (भारतवर्ष). It is generally defined as ‘the principle of righteousness’ or ‘duty.’ The practice of brahmacharya is believed to be favorable conduct in the context of dharma. Since practice of brahmacharya is always rewarding in the terms of health it is called as rasayana. Further, it is that state of the individual where one has achieved control over all the indriyas. Asatmendriyartha Samyoga (असात्म्येन्द्रियार्थसंयोगः । Inappropriate contact of objects with senses) is counted as one of the 3 causes of disease development of any kind. Thus, practice of brahmacharya prevents this cause of illness and subsequently helps one to prevent diseases and stay healthy. This is the reason for which brahmacharya is considered invariably virtuous especially when following Nishreyasa (निःश्रेयसः) path of dharma.
- Shabdakalpadruma (See ब्रह्म)
- Available from Brahmacharya – Its True Meaning and Significance on isha.sadhguru.org
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyayam 11 Sutram 35)
- Charaka samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 4 Sutram 37)
- Sushruta Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 4 Sutra 87-88)
- Vidyanath R, Nishteswar K. A handbook of history of Ayurveda. Varanasi: Chowkambha Sanskrit Series Offi ce;2006:1-386
- Charaka samhita (Chikistasthanam Adhyaya 3 Sutram 314)
- Charaka Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutram 187)
- Sushruta Samhita (Chikitsasthanam Adhyaya 4 Sutram 26)
- Sushruta samhita (Uttartantram Adhyaya 21 Sutra 3)
- Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutra 33)