In the Hindu tradition three great principles or qualities have been laid down as fundamental practices for spiritual development. They are ahimsa, satyam and brahmacharya–noninjury, truthfulness and chastity. A gross mind which is identified with the body, with the sense and with the sense appetites, and which is enslaved by the pleasure principle only, is unfit to think of abstract and abstruse ideas and concepts. A certain psychic fineness of the inner being is said to be essential and indispensable for rising higher into sublime ideas, thoughts and the processes of viveka (discrimination), vichara (enquiry) and atma sadhana (search for the Self).

How do we begin on the path of brahmacharya? One essential consideration pertains to your aim and ambition in life. What is it that you want out of life? What great desire dominates your life? Is there something that is a consuming hunger in you? Do you want to become the highest musical genius in this world? Or do you want to become the fastest Olympic runner or greatest weightlifter in this world? No matter what your ambition is, if there is some one overwhelming or all-consuming hunger in you, then all other problems recede into the background. They do not present a great difficulty. But if you do not have such an overwhelming ambition in one direction, then everything becomes a problem, and sex also becomes a problem. Therefore, the right way is to rise above sex so that it becomes something unimportant.

You have to rise above sex–not wrestle with it, but rise above it. Because, if you do not have an overall concentrated urge or ambition in life, then the clamor of these little senses becomes a great din in your life. Your life will always be under that clamor. But if you have got an overwhelming urge for something else, then this clamor does not reach you at all, because you are too busy engaging your entire attention in some other direction. So, the right way of solving this situation of sex is to rise above it, by developing great love for God, great love for an ideal, developing passion for a pure life, a moral life, an ethical life, an ideal life, and nurturing mumukshutva, the desire for liberation. If intense mumukshutva is there, then all other things recede into the background.

So, if you want to attain victory over the clamor of the senses, you must arouse within yourself a great fire of higher aspiration. Then what happens? In order to attain that upon which your heart is set, you give yourself so totally to it that you have no time for other things. Even great scientists do not have this problem, because they are all the time completely absorbed in their scientific research. They do not pay much importance to food or clothing or bathing or anything. Why? Because they are all absorbed in and interested in something else. That is the way of becoming established in brahmacharya, in successful brahmacharya, in effective brahmacharya.

There is a Western idea that sex is a natural urge, and so free expression should be given to it. And if free expression is not given to it, the sex urge will become suppressed and repressed. And if it is thus suppressed and repressed, it will create all sorts of abnormalities within you, and you will develop neuroses and various types of complexes and become an abnormal person. There is partial truth in it. There is truth in it to the extent that if this suppression and repression is forced upon you by circumstances beyond your control, by social environment, by other taboos and deep-seated inhibitions within you, due to your father’s advice or mother’s dominance or family and all, then it can give rise to some undesirable inner abnormality. But this situation never applies if, realizing the greatness of a higher goal and realizing the necessity of this important sadhana of self-control in order to attain that goal, you make up your mind fully, willingly
and voluntarily.

Then there is no question of suppression. If, with a full, willing heart, you enter into this course of self-discipline and self-restraint, then there is no question of suppression. No one is asking you to do it. You want to do it. You are yourself desirous of it. It becomes a voluntary thing. Then psychological situations will not arise. On the contrary, everytime you succeed in controlling the sense urge, you get a sense of elation, you get a sense of achievement; you get a sense of inner satisfaction that you have succeeded. So, it is something that goes on giving you endless satisfaction and a sense of triumph, a sense of overcoming. Therefore, it is entirely a positive process, a very creative and positive process, not a negative and suppressive process. So, regarding brahmacharya, if you take the right approach and attitude towards it, then it is simple. It is a question of conserving energy, of preserving energy, so that it may be utilized for higher things which you wish to attain.

The energy in you is a part of the great cosmic energy. Cosmic energy, when individualized in the human being, manifests in many aspects. And one very important aspect is the physical biological aspect. That is the sex energy. A higher aspect is the mental and occult aspect. The mental and occult energy is called medhas. Then there is in the individual the psychic aspect of the cosmic energy. This is the kundalini shakti. And above everything else, in its highest aspect, the cosmic energy shines in the human beings as Atma Bal, as Atma Shakti, as the radiance of the Atman, the Self. So, think over all this. These are seeds of certain concepts for your further reflection.

Swami Chidananda,83, is president of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, India. He joined the ashram of Swami Sivananda in 1943 and was initiated into sannyas in 1949.