When walking in the awareness of the highest reality (brahmacharya) is firmly established, then a great strength, capacity, or vitality (virya) is acquired. (Patanjali Yoga Sutra, 2.38)

What is Celibacy or Brahmacharya? according to Patanjali Yoga Sutra

“In order to attain Samadhi, the yogi takes a vow of celibacy. The word celibacy does not mean mere suppression of the sexual urge. Brahmacharya means walking in Brahman, the absolute Reality or pure Consciousness, being conscious of Brahman all the time. Brahma means shakti, the primal force within, and charya means how to direct. A brahmachari is able to master and direct his energies toward the attainment of the highest state of consciousness. Brahmacharya is not limited to the control of the sexual urge but also involves the control of mind, action, and speech. All one’s energies should be directed toward Brahman consciousness so that the mind becomes one-pointed and turns inward. This inward flow of mental energy leads to the Self, the center of consciousness.”Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, pp. 240-241

“Brahma” is the Ultimate Reality, the Creator. “Charya” is to move. Literally then the move to the ultimate reality is what is meant by Brahmacharya. That is nothing but Self realization. Brahmacharya is the fourth Yama as codified by Sage Patanjali. Yamas are restrains that we ought to follow in order to bring our sense enslavement under control. Non violence, not lying, non greediness and non possessiveness are the other four Yamas.  Practicing Brahmacharya means not distracting ourselves in the journey of life – a journey that is supposed to lead us towards our ultimate reality. So what is distracting us? Our desire for food, sleep, sex and self preservation and the way they interact to dictate our thoughts, words and actions keep distracting us from walking on the path of the ultimate reality.

The idea of practicing Brahmacharya is to evolve us from the instinctual level. The USP of being human is supposed to be that we can think and control our urges, while animals are under the laws of Nature. Yet, for most of us, most of our actions are revolved under these 4 primitive instincts. It is not bad to have food when hungry. But how many of us even feel hungry anymore? And why do we eat? Are we even aware of what that food is doing to our body and consciousness? A rise in the incidence of diet induced disorders like high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes is proof enough that mankind today ‘lives to eat and not eats to live’! And this is exactly what happens if we don’t rise beyond our instincts. It will only cause us more suffering and more misery and drain the life out of us.

Same is true for the other instincts too, but Brahmacharya is often understood to be celibacy. And a lot of people we interact with, object to such practices asking us, ‘what is wrong in enjoying life’, ’Why are Yogis against pleasure’?

Practicing celibacy does not mean suppressing desires or denying them. And Yogis are certainly not against pleasures… they just look for joys that are more intense and more enduring. In other words, traditionally, Brahmacharis neither suppressed their sexual urges nor did they deny them, they simply moved on from the level of the body to higher levels through the power of their awareness. Celibacy was a side effect of practicing Brahmacharya.

But yes, we are not Yogis for sure and many of us are yet to start conquering our desires. And for most of us, sexuality is the deepest and most intense experience of our lives. So, if we are not able to let it go, we should certainly keep in mind the other four Yamas- non violence, not lying, non greediness and non possessiveness- and try to practice them when we indulge in our sexuality. We must share the joy with love, and not extract it from the other. When we begin extracting joy from others, it can only bring us more misery and suffering by leading the way to a gamut of other unwanted emotions like jealousy, hatred, greed and anger. All these emotions are expressions of our life force in a negative way, and thus, we feel drained out when we have them.  If we use our mindfulness and constraint to prevent these from happening, then our life force will only express itself in positive ways and thus we will feel strong and positive, as codified by Sage Patanjali.

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