(Uttama Brahmacarya Dharma)
'The ills of life are cured, if you root out lust from your heart.'
Brahmacarya is a word with a very wide scope. It means maintaining sexual purity by assuming the strict aspect of celibacy. (Brahma) means soul, which is chaste, enlightened, eternal and blissful. To become fully engrossed in soul is Brahmacarya - celibacy.
The opposite of (Brahma) is (Abraham) - sexuality. It is of several forms -match-making (bringing about marriages as a hobby), unnatural gratification, indulging in voluptuous speech, and visiting immoral married and unmarried women, are all different forms of Unchastity or sexuality.
The vow of chastity is an ornament of a man and a woman both; it is a garland woven by auspicious virtues and is a gateway to heaven. Chastity is the most precious jewel of a lady. "The impenetrable fence which protects a woman is her virtue of celibacy; no other fence can safeguard her as well." Indeed, chastity thy name is woman.
Observance of chastity keeps the body healthy and free from sickness; and it develops the mind i.e., sharpens the intelligence. All people honor a chaste man in this world and such a man become entitled to enter heaven or attain salvation. Non-observance of chastity makes one suffer many types of miseries in this world; also, he or she is destined to go to hell in the next births. An unchaste person always lives awe-stricken lest his/her immoral deeds should come to limelight, and on being caught red-handed he/she has to suffer great humiliation and undergo different types of punishments. In truth, 'Too much indulgence in sexual pleasures brings physical as well as spiritual ruin.'
The root of self-restraint or abstention from sensual pleasures is good conduct; and both self-restraint and good conduct are dependent on chastity. The persons who realize the need and glory of celibacy in human life come to know the significance of self-restraint and good conduct very well. The capability of sustaining the life force in the body is celibacy. It alone generates vitality, radiance and luster in the body. The American saint Thoray has said, "Chastity is the flower of life tree; genius, purity and velour are its numerous fruits." Self-restraint is attained only through good conduct and chastity.
A monk came to take meals at the house of a Seth. After taking meals the holy saint dwelt upon the significance of chastity in his sermon. On hearing the importance and glory of celibacy, Jin Datt, the son of the Seth, took the vow to observe celibacy during the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of every month. On the other hand, Jin Datta, the daughter of the Seth of Ujjain City, had taken a vow to observe celibacy during the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) of every month. Ignorant of each other's pledges, as the chance would have it, Jin Datt and Jin Datta were tied in wedlock. The wedding ceremonies were performed on the 13th day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha). Thereafter, Jin Datt returned home with his newly wedded bride.
On the first night when all wedding ceremonies were over Jin Datta fully adorned with proper make-up entered her bedroom in the grand palatial building. During sweet conversation Jin Datt disclosed to her, "My darling! I have taken a vow of observing celibacy during the bright fortnight of every month. Therefore, we shall be able to celebrate the honeymoon night only after four days, not before that. Don't get worried and restless. It's a matter of only three or four days." In reply to the loving words of her husband, Jin Datta said, "My lord! What a strange contradiction! I have also taken a pledge to observe celibacy during the dark fortnight. So you enter into another wedlock and marry any other damsel. I shall now get initiated as a female ascetic and try for my spiritual uplift."
At this Jin Datt said to her, "My dear! When you are so eager for your spiritual uplift despite being a lady, why should I get indulged in the mud and mire of sensuous pleasures, being a man. We both shall observe the vow of life-long celibacy while living under one and the same roof in our home. But this decision should not leak out." Thus, taking a firm pledge of celibacy, which is as difficult to observe as walking on a sharp edged sword, they both began to live together happily and peacefully practicing rigorous celibacy.
Once a princess suffered from leprosy. All treatments to cure her failed. One day the princess chanced to see a monk. After paying homage to the monk with full reverence, the princess asked the holy sage to tell her a remedy to get rid of her incurable malady. The compassionate sage spoke, "My daughter! A happy newly wedded couple named Jin Datt and Jin Datta, who have been practicing the rigorous vow of celibacy for long, lives in your city. If you shower over your body water purified by the touch of their hands, you can get rid of your disease."
Soon after, in order to act on the advice of the saint, the princess went to Jin Datt's house. All the members of Jin Datt's family were taken aback on hearing the words of the princess. As soon as water touched with the hands of Jin Datt and Jin Datta was poured over the princess, her skin disease was cured in no time. Flowers rained from the sky at this miracle. Ultimately, the happy couple Jin Datt and his wife Jin Datta got initiated to Jain monkshood. This example shows without doubt that only practicing the vow of celibacy attains self-restraint and good conduct.
Shuchi bhumigatam toyim, shuchirnari pativrta
Shuchirdharmpro raja, brahmchari sada shuchi
I.e., The underground water is pure. A wife loyal to her husband is chaste. A king dedicated to religion is always just and merciful; above all a celibate's life is sacred forever.
Supreme chastity is the last of the ten universal virtues. Just as when a temple is built, a golden canopy is installed on the cupola at its peak; likewise the virtue of celibacy is at the pinnacle of the ten supreme virtues. Stating celibacy as the true nature of the soul, the Acharyas have said:
"Brahmans atmni charti iti brahmcharya"
I.e., One who always remains engrossed in his holy soul only; one who practices celibacy free from transgression; in truth, he alone is a celibate. A monk who avoids company, jokes and foul bodily play with mean persons, renounces ten kind of 'Abraham' -sexual indulgence.
Kinds of Celibates
Q. How many kinds of celibates are there?
A. There are five kinds of celibates:
(i) Upnaya - Donning the sacred threads
(ii) Avalumh - Sub-ordinate or dependent
(iii) Adiksha - Non-initiated
(iv) Goodh - Fully devoted
(v) Naishthik - Dedicated or having perfect faith
Q. (i) Who are called 'upney' (sacred threads donned) celibates?
A. The persons (apostles) who wear on their body the sacred threads in a manner ordained by the holy teachers and study the Jain scriptures; and thereafter observe the vows meant for the house-holders, are called 'God' (sacred threads donned) celibates.
(ii) Who are called avlamb celibates?
A. The persons, who assume the appearance of ascetics; donne clothes ordained for them by the holy teachers; study and follow the Jain scriptures in practical life and thereafter observe the vows meant for the house-holders, are called 'Avalumb' (sub-ordinate or dependent) celibates.
(iii) Who are called 'Adiksha (non-initiated) celibates?
A. The persons who neither assume the appearance nor donne clothes ordained for celibates, but study and follow the Jain scriptures in practical life and thereafter observe the vows meant for the house-holders, are called 'ago' (non-initiated) celibates.
(iv) Who are called 'gurh' (fully devoted) celibates?
A. Persons, who get initiated to monkshood in adolescence, study and follow Jain scriptures. But on the insistence of their kith and kin, or being incapable in bearing severe tortures, or forced by some special royal decree, or by their own sweet will, discard the nude state as that of Lord Jinendra and still observe the vows meant for the house-holders, are called 'by' (fully devoted) celibates.
(v) Who are called the 'neshtik' (dedicated or having perfect faith in the omniscient lord, the scriptures and the holy teachers) celibates?
A. The persons, who can be distinguished by the tuft of hair on their head at the time of meditation. Their chest is adorned with the sacred threads. Their loincloth of red or white color is always tied round their waist. They always subsist on alms; which are learned in scriptures and observe all vows of ascetics; and who are always engaged in prayer and worship of Lord Jinendra, are called 'neshtik' (dedicated) celibates.
Sukh Deva was a life long celibate by birth. It is said that as soon as he grew young he went away to the forest to perform penance. At the time of his departure, his father Vyas Deva gave him counsel and spoke, "My son! The name and fame of our grandfather has survived as a result of the noble deeds of our father, and our father's glory has survived due to our good deeds. Likewise, our fame and glory will remain immortal in the world owing to your virtuous deeds. But alas! The name of our family will be extinct on your becoming an ascetic. If you are bent upon doing penance, first enter into wed-lock like your ancestors and then perform penance in the company of your spouse."
But Sukh Deva turned a deaf ear to his father's appeal and spoke, "Dear father! You are mistaken to think that a son makes his father's name immortal. The name and fame of a person depends on his or her virtuous deeds. The fame and glory of the truthful, religious minded persons and celibates alone shines in the world for ever like that of the sun and the moon, even if they do not have sons and grandsons."
Saying so Sukh Deva set out for the forest. The great sage Viase followed him to bring him back. On the way the queens, princesses and ladies of the royal family of the historic city were bathing in the river Narmada. These ladies did not put on veils and go in seclusion on seeing the young Sukh Deva. But later on when the old sage Viase passed by that side, all these ladies at once put on veils out of the feeling of shame. Seeing this sage Viase was amazed and he asked the ladies, "My daughters! What is the reason that on seeing me you covered yourselves, but went on bathing unperturbed naked in the river despite seeing the nude young Sukh Deva passing from here?" In reply the females said, "O great sage! You are fully aware of all secrets of a woman and you yourself were a victim to sexual desires. That is why on seeing you we covered ourselves. But Sukh Deva is totally ignorant about sexology. Therefore, we did not deem it proper to put on veils on seeing the innocent nude Sukh Deva." On hearing this eye opening word, sage Viase returned to his hermitage.
Bhartrahari writes about celibacy in the following lines:
Krishna kanr khaj shrawanrahit puchvikli
Vrinr puti kiln krimikul shteravritnu
Koshuha Kshama jinro ptharjakpalarpit gala
Shunimanvaiti shva hatmapi ch hastaiv bhavan
A very old lean and thin dog, starving for two days; whose wounded body was bleeding and covered with pus; who was blind of one eye; who was lame and crippled; whose ugly face with fattened throat was hanging down, lay in the road in this miserable plight. The pedestrians in the road suspecting an immediate end of the dog, which was in the last stage of life, thought if the dog died in the mid-road, the environment would be filled with pestilence (foul smell). Therefore, the dog must be shifted elsewhere, before it breathed its last. Meanwhile a bitch passed by that side. On seeing her, the almost dead dog got up overpowered with a passionate desire of lust and began to chase her.
In fact, celibacy is the only superb vow in all the three worlds. He who observes this vow attains a sacred state of existence. It has been said:
Samudra tarnai yadvad, upao no pakirtit
Sansar tarne tadvat, brahmcharne prakittat
I.e., Just as a boat or ship proves a helpful means in going across the sea, likewise celibacy is a very fine and easy means to cross the ocean of the world. The lustful desire for sex exists in the heart of a living being only so long as he/she does not realize the real motif of life and does not understand his/her real self, or does not grasp the real nature of the soul. The day when one begins to see one's own soul face to face, one gives up one's lustful desires for sex and sensual pleasures and observes celibacy.
There is an incident of the times of Lord Ram. Two princes - Mesh Bhushan and Kul Bhushan went to a Gurakul (boarding, school) for study. When they set out from home on this noble mission to receive education, no other child was left behind in the family. On completing their education, when they returned home they saw a fairy-like, beautiful damsel also standing at the door beside their mother taking burning earthen lamps in her hands to welcome them home. At the sight of her matchless beauty, both the princes were bewitched. Instantly an idea flashed in their mind to marry her. Both the brokers gave vent to the feelings of their heart unhesitatingly.
Soon the two brothers who were anxious to marry the same girl entered into hot exchange of words. Seeing her two sons quarreling at the door, their mother who was eager to greet and welcome them inquired of them the reason behind their dispute. On knowing the reality, the mother reproached them saying, "My sons! What evil thought has entered your mind! She is your sister." Hearing this the two brothers were filled with remorse and repentance. An overwhelming feeling of self-reproach possessed them. They determined to renounce the world then and there and turned back for the forest from their doorstep. They got initiated as nude Jain monks and performed severe penance in the hills of Kunthalgiri and attained liberation i.e., salvation from there.
Brahmcharya tapsa raja rashtram rakshti
I.e., A king defends his nation, her culture and her people only by observing the vow of self-restraint, penance i.e., austerity and celibacy.
The mind of a person who is indulgent in lustful desires always roams in the wilderness of sensual pleasures. Just as when a forest elephant is separated from its partner - a female elephant, it becomes mad with lust and the helpless and poor animal has to suffer untold miseries viz. bondage, torture and even death. Exactly same is the condition of a lustful person. Being overpowered with a passionate desire for sensual pleasures in the garb and illusion of love, he fails to distinguish between what is worth doing or not worth doing, just or unjust; and thus the poor fellow blinded by lust takes to the evil path which leads him to his doom.
One who has infatuation for ladies other than his wife and maintains illegitimate relations with them has to suffer uncalled for miseries in the world. Ever growing bitterness and enmity, chopping off his sex organ, public disgrace by being fettered and imprisoned, forfeiture of all his possessions and even the terror of murder are possible. He is humiliated and condemned to live as an outcast in society. Such an ill-fated person gets birth in an inauspicious state of being in the next world. Therefore, to subdue lust and observe celibacy by discarding sexuality ultimately proves beneficial to the human soul.
An aged man in Greece used to impart lessons in spirituality to the youngsters. He would impress upon the youth the importance of celibacy time and again'. The youngsters began to ridicule his teaching. The old teacher was in a fix as how to make the youth realize the great value of celibacy. He hit upon a plan. The next day when his young disciples assembled in a garden to receive lessons as usual, they were astonished to see a beautiful damsel sitting on the back of their teacher and making him move to and fro like a horse.
Being enraged the pupils got ready to beat the young lady rider black and blue. The teacher checked them from their hasty foul deed. He instructed them saying, "My pupils! Behold. When for want of self-restraint, the mind of such an aged man as I am, got distracted by the amorous looks of this bewitching beauty in my extreme old age, the youth are inevitably likely to fall victims of such a calamity. If no reins are put to the mind, and it is given a long rope to loiter in the wilderness of sensual pleasures, one may have to face many such ugly situations, where one will have to suffer disgrace and humiliation."
Celibacy is of two kinds, based on 'Mahavratas' (great vows) and 'Anuoratas' (small vows). He who for fear of committing a sin neither himself indulges in sexual relationship with any other lady, nor instigates others for such immoral traffic, observes the small vow of abstention from sexual relations with other ladies but his own wife. When a house-holder discards sexual indulgence even with his own legal wife or shuns illegitimate relationship with another's wife, he practices the fourth small vow - Anavrata called 'Parstri tyaga' i.e., discarding illegitimate sex with so called beloved or illegal co-wives.
Similarly, the house-holder who regards the body of a lady as unholy, unchaste and foul smelling skin bag containing blood, excrete and urine, takes her physical beauty and charm, which excite evil passions in the mind as transitory illusions. He who accepts all ladies other than his own wife as mothers, sisters and daughters in thought, speech and action i.e., who believes in the axiom matrivat padraraishu - 'look at other's wife as your mother'; observes the great vow of staunch celibates. Sir Edwin Arnold also counsels:
'Touch not thy neighbor’s wife; neither commit
Sins of the flesh, both unlawful and unfit.'
Long ago there lived a highly religious minded and benevolent wealthy person named Sudarshan Seth in Bharat Kshetra i.e., India. One day he went with his wife to his pleasure garden for merry making. By chance the king also happened to come there for picnic accompanied by his queen. On seeing Seth Sudarshan - a living image of beauty, the queen was enamoured by him and fell in love at first sight. She began to think in her mind, "Hurrah! Who is this handsome fellow? Is he Kam Deva - the god of love; or a Nag Kumar - a royal prince of the Naga dynasty; or a Vidhya Dhar - a celestial being endowed with divine powers? I have never seen such a handsome man in all my life so far."
The queen was overpowered with a sexual desire seeing Sudarshan's face and figure, and well built charming body. She at once summoned her trustworthy maid and questioned her, "Do you know who is this stranger in the company of the king? Where does he live?" In reply the maid asked, "O Queen! Do you not know the renowned Seth Sudarshan, the richest man of your kingdom?" Then the queen said, "Oh! Then he is the crown person of our city. Look at him. What a charming personality and attractive features he possesses! I have never come across with a matchless man like him, endowed with such charm and beauty to this day. He is more charming than even the gods in heaven. Have you ever seen a man with such a blooming face?" Hearing this the maid said, "O Queen! No human being in all the three worlds can match him."
The queen became restless to hold Seth Sudarshan in sweet embrace and make him her illegal spouse. Therefore, shedding all sense of shame and royal dignity the queen said to her maid unhesitatingly, "O sister! My life is useless without enjoying the sweet company of this jewel among men. My mind is wavering and has lost peace ever since the onslaught of his bewitching beauty on my heart. I cannot live without him. Therefore, try with all your might to fetch Sudarshan Seth by hook or crook into my chamber to meet me."
The words of the queen left the maid puzzled and amazed. She cried, "Condemned be this sexual instinct, overpowered with which a person fails to distinguish between morality and immorality, and forgets loyalty to his/her spouse."
Of all the physical and mental ailments and sicknesses, sexual desire is the worst disease. This disease ruins the life of a person. So long as a person is not a prey to this disease, he makes attempt for self-uplift through diligence; but for a mentally sick person, who is a slave to sexuality, it is impossible to get enlightenment. With this thought the maid humbly offered her pious advice to the queen, so that good sense might prevail on her. She said, "O noble Queen! This lack of chastity in you will spoil the reputation of the royal family and bring disgrace to you as well. Like fire your sexual instinct will burn the orchard of your humane virtues to ashes."
The maid tried her level best to make the queen understand the pros and cons of her action; but the queen blinded by the intense sexual urge in her heart turned a deaf ear to her wise counsel. On the contrary she commanded the maid to bring Seth Sudarshan into her palace at any cost. In obedience to the queen's command, the maid began to make every possible effort to arrange a secret meeting between Seth Sudarshan and the queen in the royal palace.
Seth Sudarshan was a highly religious minded and God-fearing soul. He had renounced all worldly enjoyments and sensuous pleasures. He used to become deeply engrossed in self-meditation and perform severe penance at night going into a dreadful cremation ground on the 8th and 14th day of every fortnight of the month.
The maid was well acquainted with all these characteristics and virtues of Seth Sudarshan. She thought out a plan to bring Seth Sudarshan into the royal palace at night. She got a clay image of a man made by a potter. One night clothing the clay image and putting it on her head she began to enter the palace. When the guards at the gate checked her, she intentionally shuddered and shook her whole body. As a result the clay image fell down and broke down into pieces. Instantly threatening the guards of severe consequences, she spoke in a harsh voice, "O sinful persons! You have committed a great crime. Today the queen had kept a vow of human worship. So she could take food only after worshipping this clay idol. Now I will go to the queen and complain against you. I will tell her how all of you made the clay image fall to the ground, as a result of which it broke down to pieces. The queen will award all of you severe punishment for it."
On hearing the words of the maid, the guards were badly terrified and turned almost lifeless. They apologized the maidservant in a very humble voice, "O gentle lady! You alone can save us from punishment. In future, we shall never do such behavior with you. Please pardon us this time." At this she said, "All right! In future never come in my way and create hindrance in my religious activities." So saying, she went away from there and brought the meditating Sudarshan from the cremation ground into the palace loading him on her shoulders. This time the guards did not check the maid. Thus, she succeeded to fetch Sudarshan into the queen's royal room.
On seeing Sudarshan the queen's joy knew no bounds. The lustful queen who was fully under the spell of a passionate desire to derive sexual gratification from Seth Sudarshan, made a humble appeal to him saying, "O jewel among men! You excel even Kam Deva - the god of love in beauty. You have captivated my heart. Now cool down my body burning with a passionate desire of sexual gratification by holding me in your sweet embrace." But the pious hearted noble Seth Sudarshan stood there firm and unmoved by her entreaties and amorous glances. Then the queen tried to rouse his passion and distract him from his firm stand by immoral and sexual motions and gestures.
But the holy Seth who was deeply lost in the meditation of Lord Jinendra did not budge in the least. Just as the mount Sumeru does not shake by the cyclic winds and storms that invade the earth on the dooms day; likewise great men never dwindle from their firm determination at any cost. Meanwhile, Seth Sudarshan took a pledge that if he came out successfully from this great calamity and trial of his moral strength, he would get initiated into nude Jain monkshood.
The queen badly failed to degrade the noble soul Seth Sudarshan from his lofty moral character by all her insane gestures arid tricks. She was fully disappointed and perturbed. She now thought of seeking revenge on him for her disgrace. She scratched her whole body, broke down her precious jewelry and tore down her clothes with her own hands. Then she started wailing and crying loudly, "Alas! The wicked Sudarshan tried to molest me and criminally assault me. What a shame! This devil has turned me to such condition. O inmates and guards of the palace! Run quickly and save my honor. Defend me! Protect me from this brute. I had summoned him into my palace taking him for my brother. How could I presume that this lusty fellow aspired to play with my body and spoil my chastity."
On hearing the lamentation and shrieks of the queen, the attendants and guards came running to the help of the queen and rescued her. They arrested Sudarshan and presented him before the king in the royal court. The king, ignorant of the reality, believed the statement of the queen. The enraged king sentenced Seth Sudarshan to death.
At the command of the king, the hangmen took Sudarshan to the prosecution ground and struck a blow with a sword on his neck to kill him. But lo! By the touch of his body the steel sword turned into a delicate and fragrant flower garland. Flowers began to rain from the sky. The Gods descended from the sky and began to sing hymns in praise of the celibacy of Sudarshan. They spoke, "O Seth Sudarshan! You are blessed. You are a true devotee of Lord Jinendra and a perfect householder. Your celibacy is unbreakable."
The news of the miraculous incident that occurred at the prosecution ground astonished the king highly. He at once went on the spot and apologized to Sudarshan lying at his feet. All the city people began to praise the celibacy of Seth Sudarshan.
The great poet Reidhu explains the supreme virtue of celibacy or chastity as below:
Banbhcahau dudhru dharijyi varu phaidijyi visyas nriru
Tiye sukhayim ratau mnr kari matau tam ji bhav rakhaiu thiru
Chitbhumi mynru ji upjyi, tainr ji pidiu karyi akajyi
Tivahm sriryim nrindyim saivyi , nriy parnrari nr mudhu yaiyi
Nrivjyi nriryi mhaduyi bhunjyi, jo hinru ji vambhau bhanjyi
Iye janraipinru manr vye kaen, bhamchairu palhu anruragam
Tainr sahu ji labhei bhavparu banbhey vinru vautau jji asarau
Bhambau vinru kayekalaisyi , vihal sayal bhaseyi jinraisi
Bahir pharsindayi suh rakhau , param banbhu abhitari paikhau
Ainram ubaem labheyi siv haru, im ryidhu bahu bhanryi vinryru
Jinrnrah bhijyi munri panrmijyi dahlkhanru paliyinriru
Bhi khaimsinh suy bhav vinryjuy holav manr ih karhu thiru
1. A man should adopt the difficult to perform superb vow of celibacy; and discard the lustful ambitions for sexual pleasures. This living being is running amuck like an elephant whose mind is always engrossed in thoughts of sexual gratification. Therefore, O grand souls! Safeguard the vow of celibacy with a firm mind.
2. Kam Deva - the god of love and sex, as a rule takes birth in the soil of the unchaste mind. By its onslaught the living beings perform improper deeds. They take delight in the embrace of the disdain bodies of the ladies, and the fools fail to make any distinction between their legally married wife and other's wife.
3. The mean fellow, who breaks the vow of celibacy ultimately goes to hell, and suffers untold miseries there. Knowing this truth, one should observe the vow of celibacy in thought, speech and action whole-heartedly.
4. A living being is relieved from the world by celibacy. All penances and vows are worthless without it. All bodily tortures in the absence of celibacy are of no avail; such is the opinion of Lord Jinendra.
5. Defend your soul from the outward sensual pleasures derived through the sense of touch and maintain the superb virtue of celibacy in the inner self - soul. The abode of celibacy is attained through this plan. Such is the humble prayer of the great poet Reidhu.
6. Observe in a noble way the ten supreme universal virtues, which have been glorified by the omniscient Lord Jinendra and to which the holy monks pay homage and bow in reverence.
Hence, O Mortal Man! Observe celibacy, observe celibacy and under all odds observe celibacy, which is the Supreme virtue, highly adulated by all religious philosophies of the world. Violation of chastity of any woman by way of criminal assault on her or otherwise, is a cognizable offence in all legal systems of the world, punishable even to the extent of severe bodily torture and hanging to death. Indeed, sweet are the fruits of celibacy.
To sum up, men of chastity are men of character; and character is the supreme and unique possession of a man. This is why the scholars assign the highest value to character in human life. The great poet writes:
If wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
If health is lost, something is lost;
If character is lost, everything is lost.