Brahmacharya actually means the ‘conduct of the Absolute’. ‘Brahman’ is the Supreme Being; ‘Charya’ is conduct, or behaviour. How God behaves—that is called Brahmacharya, finally. The attitude of the Supreme Being towards the universe and all beings is Brahmacharya, and to the extent that we are able to participate in this attitude, it may be said that we are also following that canon. The idea behind this significant term Brahmacharya, translated as the conduct of the Absolute, is that it is a gradual adjustment of the powers of one’s personality towards larger and larger dimensions of impersonality, because, the Absolute or Brahman is the Supreme Impersonality conceivable and existent.
Whenever there is a specialized outlook in any particular direction, along the channel of an object or a group of objects, living or non-living, consciousness moves in that direction. No matter what our interest is in that direction, our mind moves. When the mind moves, the Prana also moves. When the Prana moves, the energy also moves. So, one follows the other. So, in some measure, we cease to be ourselves for the time being when we admire something, love something, or are attracted towards something. The object may be conceptual, visible or audible, it makes no difference; we get transferred.
In all these processes of sensory or intellectual absorption, outside oneself, there is a channelizing of force of which we are constituted and which forms our strength. As long as we do not sell ourselves to any outside object, do not participate in anything external, we stand by ourselves. Otherwise, in some percentage, we cease to be ourselves and become another. We are shaken up in our whole system, because of the desire of the personality to move outside itself. As milk gradually becomes curd by an internal shaking of itself, the subject can turn into the object. And love of any kind is nothing but the transference of the subject into the object in some measure, be that object perceptible or merely conceptual. The very thought of the object disturbs the mind.
The thought of an object is of two kinds, called the Aklishta Vritti and the Klishta Vritti by Patanjali. Anything we like or dislike evokes a Klishta Vritti in the mind. A thing in which we are not particularly interested either way evokes an Aklishta Vritti in the mind. For the purpose of Yoga, both these Vrittis have to be subdued. Neither the Klishta nor the Aklishta is a desirable thing from the point of view of Mano-nirodha (control of the mind) or Chitta-vritti-nirodha (control of thoughts), which is Yoga.
The objects of the world speak in a language which we understand in our own way. They get transformed into a meaning when they enter into the mind of individuals; and each ndividual has his own or her own reading of any particular object. Every object sings a song and we listen to this music, but its meaning is different for different persons.
Objects of the world are not intended for being loved or for being hated. They exist as we also exist. So, studying things in an impartial manner, we find that loves and hatreds are outside the scheme of things. They are not in the order of nature. They do not exist in nature at all.
So, a lack of Brahmacharya means nothing but the presence of interests other than the interest in Yoga. The distracting object may be anything. If we have got a strong interest in something which distracts our attention, the energy goes. Any kind of leakage of energy in any direction, caused by any object or any event or context, is a break in Brahmacharya. A burst of anger is a break in Brahmacharya, though one does not normally think so.
The Individual – A Pressure Center
We are centers of pressure or stress. Every individual is such a center, which seeks to break down this pressure, overcome this stress, by adopting some means which it thinks is the proper one under the circumstances. But, the understanding of the way in which this stress is to be removed depends upon one’s own stage of evolution. We are perpetually in a state of mental stress and nervous pressure from childhood to doom, and the whole of our life is spent only in trying to find out ways and means of relieving ourselves of these stresses and strains, and we have our own way of doing it. The way in which we try to relieve ourselves of these stresses and strains—this way is called the expression of desires. What is called desire is the method we adopt to relieve ourselves of our tensions, nervous and psychological.
The stress or the strain has arisen on account of a separation of the individual from Nature. The world has cast us out as exiles. Our internal desire, finally, is to unite ourselves with Nature which is our mother or our parent. The relief that we are seeking from our stresses and strains is ultimately a desire or a longing to become one with our parent, from whom we have been cut off or isolated. Our desire is to possess everything. And the desire to possess is called love. What goes by the name of love of any kind in this world is a desire to possess things, which are considered as instruments capable of relieving us of our stresses and strains. Forgetfulness of the tension or the stress for the time being is imagined to be a way of relief from the stress itself. When a larger stress swoops down upon us, the lesser stress is forgotten. All our pains, sorrows and complaints vanish in a minute, in a trite, when we are about to be drowned in a river, for instance. We do not complain about anything at that time. Everything would seem to be all right if only we could be saved from possible drowning. Because, that is a problem larger than all the other little problems about which we are constantly complaining in life. So is the case with our asking for the fulfillment of our desires by contact with things.
Our desire is not for the contact. That is the whole point, though it appears that the senses tell us to come in contact with various things in the world for the relief of our tension. We are not asking for things. Nobody wants anything in this world finally. But, it appears as if we are wanting them, due to a mischievous interpretation given to these circumstances by our senses, by externalizing our internal anguish for a communion with all things. All loves, all desires, are urges for communion with things. While our urge within is a holy and pious impulse to come in union with all things, with Nature as a whole, this impulse is thrown in the direction of space and time and is externalized by the powers of the senses. The senses have only one work to do, to externalize everything. So, even our desires are externalized, while really our desire is for something else. That is the reason why we are not satisfied, no matter what objects are given to us, we are always disillusioned in the end. Whatever be our possession, it is not going to satisfy us finally.
There is a basic blunder in the very attitude of the mind in imagining that what it seeks through the fulfillment of desires lies outside it. The other blunder is, that in its movement towards the so-called external things, it has lost its energies. It has weakened itself. The Self, when it becomes the non-self, becomes a corpse, becomes dead. So, a person who has desires is a weakling. He has no strength at all. He has neither physical strength nor mental strength. The more the unfulfilled desires, the greater is the weakness of the body and the mind.
By Swami Krishnananda