Selections from Mahatma Gandhi's Writings
GUIDE TO HEALTH, Part 1, Ch 9.
NECESSITY OF CONTINENCE
Many are the keys to health, and they are all quite essential; but one thing needful, above all others is brahmacharya. Pure air, pure water, and wholesome food certainly contribute to health. But how can we be healthy if we expend all the health that we acquire? How can we help being paupers if we spend all the money that we earn? There can be no doubt that men and women can never be virile or strong unless they observe true brahmacharya.
What, then, is brahmacharya? It means that men and women should refrain from carnal knowledge of each other. That is to say, they should not touch each other with a carnal thought, they should not think of it even in their dreams. Their mutual glances should be free from all suggestion of carnality. The hidden strength that God has given us should be conserved by rigid self-discipline, and transmitted into energy and power--not merely of body, but also of mind and soul.
Meshes of Sensuality
But what is the spectacle that we actually see around us? Men and women, old and young, are caught in the meshes of sensuality. Blinded for the most part by lust, they lose all sense of right and wrong. I have myself seen even boys and girls behaving as if they were mad under its fatal influence. For the sake of a momentary pleasure, we sacrifice in an instant all the stock of vital energy that we have laboriously accumulated. The infatuation over, we find ourselves in a miserable condition. The next morning we feel hopelessly weak and tired, and the mind refuses to do its work. So the days pass and years, until at length old age comes upon us, and find us utterly emasculated in body and in mind.
The Law of Nature
But the law of nature is just the reverse of this. The older we grow, the keener should our intellect be; the longer we live, the greater should be our capacity to communicate the benefit of our accumulated experience to our fellow-men. And such is indeed the case with those who have been true brahmachâris. They have no fear of death, and they do not forget God even in the hour of death; nor do they indulge in vain desires. They die with a smile on their lips, and boldly face the day of judgment. They are true men and women; and of them alone can it be said that they have conserved their health.
We hardly realize the fact that incontinence is the root-cause of most of the vanity, anger, fear, and jealousy in the world. If our mind is not under our control, if we behave once or oftener every day more foolishly than even little children, what sins may we not commit consciously or unconsciously? How can we pause to think of the consequences of our actions, however vile or sinful they may be?
But you may ask: "Who has ever seen a true brahmachâri in this sense?" ...The race of true brahmachâris is by no means extinct; but if they were commonly to be met with, of what value would brahmacharya be? Thousands of hardy laborers have to go and dig deep into the bowels of the earth in search of diamonds, and at length they get perhaps merely a handful of them out of heaps and heaps of rock. How much greater, then, should be the labor involved in the discovery of the infinitely more precious diamond of a brahmachâri?
What about the Married?
We have already seen what is the highest state for us to attain. We should keep this ideal constantly before us, and try to approach it to the utmost of our capacity. When little children are taught to write the letters of the alphabet, we show them the perfect shapes of the letters, and they try to reproduce them as best they can. In the same way, if we steadily work up to the ideal of brahmacharya, we may ultimately succeed in realizing it.
Married people should understand the true function of marriage, and should not violate brahmacharya except with a view to progeny.
But this is so difficult under our present conditions of life. Our diet, our ways of life, our common talk, and our environments are all equally calculated to rouse animal passions; and sensuality is like a poison eating into our vitals. Some people may doubt the possibility of our being able to free ourselves from this bondage. This is written not for those who go about with such doubting of heart, but only for those who are really in earnest, and who have the courage to take active steps for self-improvement. Those who are quite content with their present abject condition will find this tedious even to read; but I hope it will be of some service to those who have realized and are disgusted with their own miserable plight.
Advice to the Unmarried
From all that has been said, it follows that those who are still unmarried should try to remain so; but if they cannot help marrying, they should defer it as long as possible.
I can affirm, without the slightest hesitation, from my own experience as well as that of others, that sexual enjoyment is not only not necessary for, but is positively injurious to health. All the strength of body and mind that has taken long to acquire is lost all at once by a single dissipation of the vital energy. It takes a long time to regain this lost vitality, and even then there is no saying that it can be thoroughly recovered. A broken mirror may be mended and made to do its work, but it can never be anything but a broken mirror.
Health and Morals
As has already been pointed out, the preservation of our vitality is impossible without pure air, pure water, pure and wholesome food, as well as pure thoughts. So vital indeed is the relation between health and morals, that we can never be perfectly healthy unless we lead a clean life. The earnest man, who forgetting the errors of the past, begins to live a life of purity, will be able to reap the fruit of it straightaway. Those who practice true brahmacharya, even for a short period, will see how their body and mind improve steadily in strength and power, and they will not, at any cost, be willing to part with this treasure.
How Married People can Observe Brahmacharya
It is not enough to observe the laws of health as regards air, water and food... They should be constantly engaged in good work during the day. They should read such books as fill them with noble thoughts and meditate over the lives of great men, and live in the constant realization of the fact that sexual enjoyment is the root of much misery. Whenever they feel a craving for sexual indulgence, they should bathe in cold water, so that the heat of passion may be cooled down, and be refined into the energy of virtuous activity. This is a difficult thing to do, but we have been born to wrestle with difficulties and conquer them; and he who has not the will to do so can never enjoy the supreme blessing of true health.
MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
VOW OF BRAHMACARYA (CH. 3.8)
The great potentiality of brahmacharya daily became more and more patent to me.
A perfect observance of brahmacharya means realization of Brahman... Every day of the vow has taken me nearer the knowledge that in brahmacharya lies the protection of the body, the mind, and the soul. For brahmacharya was now no process of hard penance; it was a matter of consolation and joy. Every day revealed a fresh beauty in it.
But if it was a matter of ever-increasing joy, let no one believe that it was an easy thing for me. Every day I realize more and more that it is like walking on the sword's edge, and I see every moment the necessity for eternal vigilance.
Control of the Palate
Control of the palate is the first essential in the observance of the vow of brahmacharya. I found that complete control of the palate made the observance very easy. The brahmachâri's food should be limited, simple, spiceless, and if possible, uncooked. The brahmachâri's ideal food is fresh fruit and nuts.
Fasting--as an Aid to Brahmacharya
As an external aid to brahmacharya, fasting is as necessary as selection and restriction in diet. So overpowering are the senses that they can be kept under control only when they are completely hedged in on all sides, from above and from beneath. It is common knowledge that they are powerless without food, and so fasting undertaken with a view to control of the senses is, I have no doubt, very helpful... Fasting is useful when mind cooperates with starving body, that is to say, when it cultivates a distaste for the objects that are denied to the body. Mind is at the root of all sensuality... But it may be said that extinction of the sexual passion is, as a rule, impossible without fasting, which may be said to be indispensable for the observance of brahmacharya.
Life of a Brahmachâri and of One Who is Not
Many aspirants after brahmacharya fail, because in the use of their other senses they want to carry on like those who are not brahmachâris. Thie effort is, therefore, identical with the effort to experience the bracing cold of winter in the scorching summer months. There should be a clear line between the life of a brahmachâri and of one who is not. The resemblance that there is between the two is only apparent. The distinction ought to be clear as daylight.
Both use their eyesight; but whereas the brahmachâri uses it to see the glories of God, the other uses it to see the frivolity around him.
Both use their ears; but whereas the one hears nothing but praises of God, the other feasts his ears upon ribaldry.
Both often keep late hours; but whereas the one devotes them to prayer, the other fritters them away in wild and wasteful mirth.
Both feed the inner man; but the one only to keep the temple of God in good repair, while the other gorges himself and makes the sacred vessel a stinking gutter. Thus both live as the poles apart, and the distance between them will grow and not dimish with the passage of time.
Necessity of Restraints
Brahmacharya means control of the senses in thought, word, and deed. There is no limit to the possibilities of renunciation, even as there is none to those of brahmacharya. Such brahmacharya is impossible of attainment by limited effort. For many, it must remain only as an ideal.
An aspirant after brahmacharya will always be conscious of his shortcomings, will seek out the passions lingering in the innermost recesses of his heart and will incessantly strive to get rid of them. So long as thought is not under complete control of the will, brahmacharya in its fulness is absent... Let no one think that it is impossible because it is difficult. It is the highest goal, and it is no wonder that the highest effort should be necessary to attain it.
TO THE ASPIRANTS AFTER BRAHMACARYA (p. 402)
I must utter a warning for the aspirants after brahmacharya. Though I have made out an intimate connection between diet and brahmacharya, it is certain that mind is the principle thing. A mind consciously unclean cannot be cleansed by fasting. Modifications in diet have no effect on it. The concupiscence of the mind cannot be rooted out except by intense self-examination, surrender to God, and lastly, grace. But there is an intimate connection between the mind and the body, and the carnal mind always lusts for delicaccies and luxuries. To obviate this tendency, dietetic restrictions and fasting would appear to be necessary. The carnal mind, instead of controlling the senses, becomes their slave, and therefore, the body always needs clean, non-stimulating foods and periodical fasting.
Those who make light of dietetic restrictions and fasting are as much in error as those who stake their all on them. My experience teaches me that, for those whose minds are working towards self-restraint, dietetic restrictions and fasting are very helpful. In fact, without their help, concupiscence cannot be completely rooted out of the mind.
FROM YERAVADA MANDIR
CHAPTER 3. BRAHMACHARYA OR CHASTITY
The man who is wedded to Truth and worships Truth alone, proves unfaithful to her if he applies his talents to anything else. How then can he minister to the senses? A man whose activities are wholly consecrated to the realization of Truth, which requires utter selflessness, can have no time for the selfish purpose of begetting children and running a household. Realization of Truth through self-gratification should appear a contradiction in terms.
If we look at it from the standpoint of ahimsâ (non-violence), we find that the fulfillment of ahimsâ is impossible without utter selflessness. Ahimsâ means Universal Love. If a man gives his love to one woman, or a woman to one man, what is there left for all the world besides? It simply means: "We two first, and the devil take all the rest of them." As a faithful wife must be prepared to sacrifice her all for the sake of her husband, and a faithful husband for the sake of his wife, it is clear that such persons cannot rise to the height of Universal Love, or look upon all mankind as kith and kin. For, they have created a boundary wall round their love. The larger their family, the farther are they from Universal Love. Hence, one who would obey the Law of ahimsâ cannot marry, not to speak of gratification outside the marital bond.
The very thought that all the women in the world are his sisters, mothers, or daughters, will at once ennoble a man and snap his chains... If the foregoing argument is appreciated, a consideration of the physical benefits of chastity becomes a matter of secondary importance. How foolish it is intentionally to dissipate vital energy in sensual enjoyment! It is a grave misuse to fritter away for physical gratification that which is given to man and woman for the full development of their bodily and mental powers. Such misuse is the root cause of many a disease.
Brahmacharya, like all other observances, must be observed in thought, word and deed. We are told in the Gita, and experience will corroborate the statement, that the foolish man, who appears to control his body, but is nursing evil thoughts in his mind, makes a vain effort. It may be harmful to suppress the body, if the mind is at the same time allowed to go astray. Where the mind wanders, the body must follow sooner or later.
It is necessary here to appreciate a distinction. It is one thing to allow the mind to harbour impure thoughts; it is a different thing altogether if it strays among them in spite of ourselves. Victory will be ours in the end, if we non-cooperate with the mind in its evil wanderings.
We experience every moment of our lives, that often while the body is subject to our control, the mind is not. This physical control should never be relaxed, and in addition we must put forth a constant endeavour to bring the mind under control. We can do nothing more, nothing less. If we give way to the mind, the body and the mind will pull different ways, and we shall be false to ourselves. Body and mind may be said to go together, so long as we continue to resist the approach of every evil thought.
The observence of brahmacharya has been believed to be very difficult, almost impossible. In trying to find a reason for this belief, we see that the term brahmacharya has been taken in a narrow sense. Mere control of animal passion has been thought to be tantamount to observing brahmacharya. I feel, that this conception is incomplete and wrong. Brahmacharya means control of all the organs of sense. He who attempts to control only one organ, and allows all the others free play, is bound to find his effort futile. To hear suggestive stories with the ears, to see suggestive sights with the eyes, to taste simulating food with the tongue, to touch exciting things with the hands, and then at the same time to expect to control the only remaining organ is like putting one's hands in the fire, and expecting to escape being burnt. He therefore who is resolved to control the one must be likewise determined to control the rest. I have always felt, that much harm has been done by the narrow definition of brahmacharya. If we practise simultaneous self-control in all directions, the attempt will be scientific and possible of success. Perhaps the palate is the chief sinner. That is why in the Ashram we have assigned to control of the palate a separate place among our observances.
Let us remember the root meaning of brahmacharya. Charya means course of conduct; brahmacharya conduct adapted to the search of Brahma, i.e., Truth. From this etymological meaning arises the special meaning, viz. control of all the senses. We must entirely forget the incomplete definition which restricts itself to the sexual aspect only.
CHAPTER 4. CONTROL OF THE PALATE
Control of the palate is very closely connected with the observance of brahmacharya. I have found from experience that the observance of celibacy becomes comparatively easy, if one acquires mastery over the palate.
Food has to be taken as we take medicine, that is, without thinking whether it is palatable or otherwise, and only in quantities limited to the needs of the body. Just as medicine taken in too small a dose does not take effect or the full effect, and as too large a dose injures the system, so it is with food. It is therefore a breach of their observance to take anything for its pleasant taste. It is equally a breach to take too much of what one finds to one's taste.
The body is injured every time that one over-eats, and the injury can be partially repaired only by fasting.
We must not be thinking of food all the twenty-four hours of the day. The only thing needful is perpetual vigilance, which will help us to find out very soon when we eat for self-indulgence, and when in order only to sustain the body. This being discovered, we must resolutely set our faces against mere indulgence.
SELF-RESTRAINT V. SELF-INDULGENCE
DUTY OF CHASTITY (P. 36)
We exaggerate the difficulty of chastity and voluntary poverty and impute extraordinary merit to them, reserve them for mahâthmas and yogis and rule the latter out of ordinary life, forgetting that real mâhâthmya and yoga are unthinkable in a society where the ordinary level is brought down to the mud-bank. On the principle, that evil like the hare travels faster than good which like the tortoise though steady goes slow, voluptuousness of the West comes to us with lightning speed, and with all its variegated enchantment dazzles and blinds us to the realities of life. We are almost ashamed of chastity, and are in danger of looking upon self-imposed poverty as a crime in the face of the Western splendor that descends upon us from minute to minute through the cable, and day to day through the steamers that discharge their cargo on our shores... We often prate about spirituality as if it had nothing to do with the ordinary affairs of life, and had been reserved for anchorites lost in the Himalayan forests or concealed in some inaccessible Himalayan cave. Spirituality that has no bearing on and produces no effect on everyday life is 'an airy nothing.' Let young men and women know that it is their duty, if they would purify the atmosphere about them and shed their weakness, to be and remain chaste and know, too, that it is not so difficult as they have been taught to imagine.
In Confidence, Young India, 13 Oct 1920
The word in Sanskrit corresponding to celibacy is brahmacharya, and the latter means much more than celibacy. Brahmacharya means perfect control over all the senses and organs. For the perfect brahmachâri nothing is impossible. But it is an ideal state which is rarely realized. It is almost like Euclid's line which exists only in imagination, never capable of being physically drawn. It is nevertheless an important definition in geometry yielding great result. So may a perfect brahmachâri exist only in imagination. But if we did not keep him constantly before our mind's eye, we should be like a rudderless ship. The nearer the approach to the imaginary state, the greater the perfection.
I hold that a life of perfect continence in thought, speech, and action is necessary for reaching spiritual perfection. And the nation that does not possess such men is the poorer for the want.
Advice to Parents
Parents furnish an object lesson which the children easily grasp. By reckless indulgence in their passions, they serve for their children as models of unrestrained license... I have not a shadow of doubt that married people, if they wished well to the country and wanted to see India become a nation of strong and handsome full-formed men and women, would practice perfect self-restraint.
To the Newly-Married
I tender this advice even to the newly married. It is easier not to do a thing at all than to cease doing it, even as it is easier for a life abstainer to remain teetotaler than for a drunkard or even a temperate man to abstain. To remain erect is infinitely easier than to rise from a fall. It is wrong to say that continence can be safely preached only to the satiated. There is hardly any meaning, either, in preaching continence to an enfeebled person.
May I point out to parents that they ought not to fall into the argumentative trap of the rights of partners? Consent is required for indulgence, never for restraint; this is an obvious truth.
Rules for Brahmacharya
I place before the readers a few simple rules which are based on the experience not only of myself, but of many of my associates:
1. Boys and girls should be brought up simply and naturally in the full belief that they are and can remain innocent.
2. All should abstain from heating and stimulating foods, condiments such as chillies, fatty, and concentrated food such as fritters, sweets and fried substances.
3. Husband and wife should occupy separate rooms and avoid privacy.
4. Both body and mind should be constantly and healthily occupied.
5. Early to bed and early to rise should be strictly observed.
6. All unclean literature should be avoided. The antidote for unclean thoughts is clean thoughts.
7. Theatres, cinemas, etc., which tend to stimulate passion should be shunned.
8. Nocturnal dreams need not cause any anxiety. A cold bath every time for a fairly strong person is the finest preventive in such cases. It is wrong to say that an occasional indulgence is a safeguard against involuntary dreams.
9. Above all, one must not consider continence even as between husband and wife to be so difficult as to be practically impossible. On the contrary, self-restraint must be considered to be the ordinary and natural practice of life.
10. A heartfelt prayer every day for purity makes one progressively pure.
What is Brahmacharya? Young India, 5 Jun 1924
A friend asks: "What is brahmacharya? Is it possible to practice it to perfection? If possible, do you do so?"
The full and proper meaning of brahmacharya is search of Brahman. Brahman pervades everything and can, therefore, be searched by diving into and realizing the inner self. This realization is impossible without complete control of the senses. Brahmacharya thus means control in thought, word, and action, of all the senses at all times and in all places.
A man or woman completely practicing brahmacharya is absolutely free from passion. Such a one, therefore, lives nigh unto God, is God-like.
My Strivings after Brahmacharya
I have no doubt that it is possible to practice such brahmacharya in thought, word, and action to the fullest extent.
Healthy Soul in Healthy Body
I believe that a healthy soul should inhabit a healthy body. To the extent, therefore, that the soul grows into health and freedom from passion, to that extent the body also grows into that state.
Ordinary Meaning of Brahmacharya
The ordinary accepted sense of brahmacharya is the control in thought, word, and action of animal passion... It has been thought to be very difficult to practice this brahmacharya. This control of the carnal desire has been so very difficult, has become nearly impossible, because equal stress has not been laid on the control of the palate. It is also the experience of our physicians that a body enfeebled by disease is always a favorite abode of carnal desire, and brahmacharya by an enfeebled race is difficult to practice naturally.
One, who would practice complete control of all the senses, must needs welcome the waning of the flesh. With the extinction of attachment to the flesh, comes the extinction of the desire to have muscular strength.
But the body of a true brahmachâri is bound to be exceptionally fresh and wiry. This brahmacharya is something unearthly. He who is not swayed by carnal desire even in his sleep, is worthy of all adoration. The control of every other sense shall be 'added unto' him.
How to Eradicate Evil Thoughts?
So long as the mind is engaged in a perpetual struggle against evil thoughts, there is no reason to despair. When the eye offends, it should be closed. When the ears offend, they should be stopped. It is best always to walk with down-cast eyes. They will have no occasion to go astray. All haunts of filthy talk or unclean music should be avoided.
There should be full control of the palate. One of the rules for control of the palate is to abjure completely or, as much as possible, all condiments. A more difficult rule is to cultivate the feeling that the food we eat is to sustain the body, never to satisfy the palate.
There is, however, a golden rule for gaining control of the carnal desire. It is the repetition of the divine word Rama or such other Mantra. Whichever Mantra is selected, one should be identified with it whilst repeating it.
IN ITS WIDER MEANING
Navjivan, 26 Feb 1925
Brahmacharya appears to be difficult because we do not control the other senses. Take for example organ of taste which leads the rest. Brahmacharya will come easy to anyone who controls his palate. Zoologists tell us that brahmacharya is observed by the lower animals, as for instance cattle, to a greater extent than by human beings, and this is a fact. The reason is that cattle have perfect control over the palate, not by will but by instinct. They subsist on mere fodder, and of this, too, they take a quantity just sufficient for nutrition. They eat to live, do not live to eat; while our case is just the reverse... The taste depends upon hunger. Even sweets will not be as tasteful to one who is not hungry, as a slice of dry bread is to another who is really so. We prepare food in various ways with a variety of spices in order to be able to load the stomach, and wonder when we find brahmacharya difficult to observe.
Use and Misuse of Eyes
We misuse and corrupt the eyes which God has given us, and do not direct them to the right things.
Use and Misuse of Clothes
Clothes are meant just to cover the body, protect it against heat and cold, not to beautify it. If a child is trembling with cold, we must send him to the fireside to warm himself or out into the street for a run, or into the field for work. It is only thus that we can help him to build a splendid constitution. By keeping the child confined in the house, we impart a false warmth to his body. By pampering his body, we only succeed in destroying it.
Obstacles in the Way of Brahmacharya
So much for the clothes. Then again, the light conversation carried on in the house creates a very harmful impression on the child's mind. The things which he sees around him also tend to corrupt him. The wonder is that we have not sunk to the lowest depths of barbarism. Restraint is observed in spite of conditions which render it well-nigh impossible. A gracious Providence has so arranged things that man is saved in spite of himself. If we remove all these obstacles in the way of brahmacharya, it not only becomes possible but also easy to observe.
Touching a Woman
Brahmacharya does not mean that one may not touch a woman, even one's sister, in any circumstances whatsoever. But it does mean that one's state of mind should be as calm and unruffled during such contact as when one touches, say, a piece of paper. A man's brahmacharya avails for nothing if he must hesitate in nursing his sister who is ill. He has to be as free from excitement in case of contact with the fairest damsel on earth, as in contact with a dead body.
Young India, 25 Jun 1925
A man who consciously sins with his mind, even though he may not sin with his body, is not a celibate. One who cannot remain unmoved at the sight of a woman, however beautiful she may be, is not a celibate. One who keeps his body under control from sheer necessity, does well, but is not a celibate. We may not degrade sacred words by a loose use of them. True celibacy has important results which can be verified. It is a difficult virtue to practice. Many attempt it, but few succeed.
Plea for Humility
It must be taken for granted that those who cultivate truth, ahimsa, brahmacharya, must be humble. Truth without humility would be an arrogant caricature. He who wants to practice truth knows how hard it is. The world may applaud his so-called triumphs. Little does the world know his falls. A truthful man is a chastened being. He has need to be humble. A man who wants to love the whole world including one who calls himself his enemy, knows how impossible it is to do so in his own strength. He must be as mere dust before he can understand the elements of ahimsa. He is nothing if he does not daily grow in humility as he grows in love.
God Triumphs in Us, Never We
A man who would have his eye single, who would regard every woman as his blood sister or mother, has to be less than dust. He stands on the brink of a precipice. The slightest turn of the head brings him down. He dare not whisper his virtue to his very own. For, he knows not what the next moment has in store for him. For him, "pride goeth before destruction and haughtiness before a fall." Well has the Gîthâ said: "Passions subside in a fasting man, not the desire for them. The desire goes only when man sees God face to face." And no one can see God face to face who has aught of the 'I' in him. He must become a cypher if he would see God. Who shall dare say in this storm-tossed universe: "I have won?" God triumphs in us, never we.
Ours is Merely to Make the Attempt
Let us not lower the values of these virtues so that we may all be able to claim them. What is true of the physical world, is true of the spiritual. If, in order to gain a worldly battle, Europe sacrificed several million lives during the late War, itself a transitory event, what wonder that in the spiritual battle millions have to perish in the attempt so that one complete example may be left to the world. It is ours merely to make the attempt in the uttermost humility.
The cultivation of these higher virtues is its own reward. He who cashes any of them loses his soul. Virtues are not to trade with. My Truth, my Ahimsa, my Brahmacharya are matters between myself and my Maker. They are not articles of trade. Any man who dares to trade with them will do so at his peril. The world has no standard, no means wherewith to judge these things. They defy scrutiny and analysis. Let us, therefore, cultivate them for our own purification.
ROYAL ROAD TO SELF-REALIZATION
Young India, 25 Feb 1926
Young India, 29 April 1926.
[adapted from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 30 (Feb-Jun 1926), The Publications Division, Ministry of I&B, Govt. of India, 1968, p. 235-236]
I am being inundated with letters on brahmacharya and means to its attainment. Let me repeat in different language what I have already said or written on previous occasions. Brahmacharya is not mere mechanical celibacy; it means complete control over all the senses and freedom from lust in thought, word, and deed. As such it is the royal road to self-realization or attainment of Brahman.
The ideal brahmachâri has not to struggle with sensual desire or desire for procreation; it never troubles him at all. The whole world will be to him one vast family; he will center all his ambition in relieving the misery of mankind and the desire for procreation will be to him as gall and wormwood. He who has realized the misery of mankind in all its magnitude will never be stirred by passion. He will instinctively know the fountain of strength in him, and he will ever persevere to keep it undefiled. His humble strength will command respect of the world, and he will wield an influence greater than that of the sceptered monarch.
Attraction Between Man and Woman
But I am told that this is an impossible ideal, that I do not take count of the natural attraction between man and woman. I refuse to believe that the sensual affinity referred to here can be at all regarded as natural; in that case the deluge would soon be over us. The natural affinity between man and woman is the attraction between brother and sister, mother and son, or father and daughter. It is that natural attraction that sustains the world. I should find it impossible to live, much less carry on my work, if I did not regard the whole of womankind as sisters, daughters, or mothers. If I looked at them with lustful eyes, it would be the surest way to perdition.
Procreation--A Natural Phenomenon
Procreation is a natural phenomenon indeed, but within specific limits. A transgression of those limits imperils womankind, emasculates the race, induces disease, puts a premium on vice, and makes the world ungodly. A man in the grip of the sensual desire is a man without moorings. If such a one were to guide society, to flood it with his writings and men were to be swayed by them, where would society be? And yet we have the very thing happening today.
Purpose of Marriage
Supposing a moth whirling round a light were to record the moments of its fleeting joy and we were to imitate it, regarding it as an exemplar, where would we be? No, I must declare with all the power I can command that sensual attraction even between husband and wife is unnatural. Marriage is meant to cleanse the hearts of the couple of sordid passions and take them nearer to God. Lustless love between husband and wife is not impossible. Man is not a brute. He has risen to a higher state after countless births in brute creation. He is born to stand, not to walk on all fours or crawl. Bestiality is as far removed from manhood, as matter from spirit.
Means of Attainment
In conclusion I shall summarize the means to its attainment.
The first step is the realization of its necessity.
The next is gradual control of the senses. A brahmachâri must needs control his palate. He must eat to live, and not for enjoyment. He must see only clean things and close his eyes before anything unclean. It is thus a sign of polite breeding to walk with one's eyes towards the ground and not wandering about from object to object. A brahmachâri will likewise hear nothing obscene or unclean, smell no strong, stimulating, things. The smell of clean earth is far sweeter than the fragrance of artificial scents and essences. Let the aspirant to brahmacharya also keep his hands and feet engaged in all the waking hours in healthful activity. Let him also fast occasionally.
The third step is to have clean companions--clean friends and clean books.
The last and not the least is prayer. Let him repeat Râmanâma with all his heart regularly every day, and ask for divine grace.
None of these things are difficult for an average man or woman. They are simplicity itself. But their very simplicity is embarrassing. Where there is a will, the way is simple enough. Men have not the will for it and hence vainly grope. The fact that the world rests on the observance, more or less, of brahmacharya or restraint, means that it is necessary and practicable.
[The original Gujarati article appeared in Navjivan, 4-4-1926. This is a translation by Mahadev Desai.]
THE LAW OF CONTINENCE
Young India, 25 Aug 1927
Let no one desirous of leading a pure and chaste life think that the practice of it is not worth pursuing because the expected result is not attained in a moment. And let no one expect perfection of body after successful practice of continence even for a long time. The majority of us, who endeavor to follow the rules laid down for observing continence, labor under three handicaps. We have inherited imperfect bodies and weak wills from our parents, and by an incorrect life we find ourselves to have further debilitated both our bodies and wills. When a writing advocating purity of life attracts us, we begin the reformation. Such reformation is never too late. But we must not expect the results described in such writings; for, those results are to be expected only from a strictly regulated life from early youth. And the third handicap we labor under is, that in spite of the exercise of all the artificial and outward restraint, we find ourselves unable to restrain and regularize our thoughts. And let every aspirant after a pure life take from me that an impure thought is often as powerful in undermining the body as an impure act. Control over thought is a long, painful and laborious process. But I am convinced that no time, no labor and no pain is too much for the glorious result to be reached. The purity of thought is possible only with a faith in God bordering on definite experience.
"So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity
That when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angles lackey her"
By the use of the term continence is meant the voluntary and entire abstinence from sexual indulgence in any form and having complete control over the passions by one who knows their power, and who but for his pure life and steady will, not only could but would indulge them.
The advantages of a strictly continent life are: The nervous system is invigorated and strengthened. The special senses--the sight, hearing, etc., are strong, delicate, and acute. The digestive system is kept normal and man knows not what a sick day is... The brain is enlarged and perfect, memory grows strong, and the perceptive and reflective faculties increase in power. The soul in its exercise reaches up and commingles with the Spirit of God. The reproductive element is preserved in all its life-renewing and life-giving power until full ripeness of years.
The following are to be strictly avoided by those whose desire it is to lead a pure, chaste, and continent life:
Tobacco in all its forms. All manner of alcoholic liquors. Tea, coffee, and chocolate. Late suppers and over-eating. Sweetmeats, candies, etc. White bread when it is possible to get the graham. Pork and all fat and salt meats, sausages, pickles, etc. Salt except in moderate quantities, pepper, mustard, spices, vinegar, and other condiments. Mince and other pies and all manner of pastry.
All constriction of dress about the body.
Feather beds and pillows and heavy bed covering. Unventilated and unlighted bedrooms. Remaining in bed in the morning after waking. Uncleanliness of the body, Turkish and Russian baths.
Idleness and inaction of body and mind. Companions of doubtful or bad natures. Irresolute will.
Drugs and patent medicines. Quack doctors.
The things below enumerated you are requested to observe, use and enjoy, if you would live a healthy life, a continent life, a happy and a long life:
The cultivation of a firm and determined will. The active morning and evening exercise of the religious sentiments.
In the right and faithful observance of these laws man will find all the requirements necessary to the growth of perfect health, purity of body, nobleness of soul, and, above and over all, continence.
Mastery over taste. Young India, 14 Jun 1928
The observance of brahmacharya has been found, from experience, to be extremely difficult so long as one has not acquired mastery over taste. Control of the palate has, therefore, been placed as a principle by itself. Eating is necessary only for sustaining the body and keeping it a fit instrument for service, and must never be practiced for self-indulgence. Food must, therefore, be taken like medicine under proper restraint. In pursuance of this principle, one must eschew exciting foods, such as spices and condiments. This principle requires abstinence from feasts or dinners which have pleasure as their object.
Mastery over taste. Speeches & Writings of M. Gandhi, p. 382
A man who wants to control his animal passions easily does so if he controls his palate. I fear this is one of the most difficult vows to follow.... I may say this: unless we take our minds off from this habit (slavery to the palate), and unless we shut our eyes to the tea shops and coffee shops and all these kitchens, and unless we are satisfied with foods that are necessary for the proper maintenance of our physical health, and unless we are prepared to rid ourselves of stimulating, heating, and exciting condiments that we mix with our food, we will certainly not be able to control the over-abundant, unnecessary, and exciting stimulation that we may have. If we do not do that, the result naturally is, that we abuse ourselves and we abuse even the sacred trust given to us, and we become less than animals and brutes. Eating, drinking, and indulging in passions we share in common with the animals; but have you ever seen a horse or a cow indulging in the abuse of the palate as we do? Do you suppose it is a sign of civilization, a sign of real life that we should multiply our eatables so far that we do not know where we are; and seek dishes until at last we have become absolutely mad and run after the newspaper sheets which give us advertisements about these dishes?
Harijan, 10 April 1937
Observance of continence should be natural to us, if only we would inhabit our thought world with the right kind of thoughts and deal summarily with the intruders. Indeed, if the right kind settle down in sufficiently large numbers, the intruders will be crowded out no doubt. The process requires courage. But self-restraint never accrues to the faint-hearted. It is the beautiful fruit of watchfulness and ceaseless effort in the form of prayer and fasting. The prayer is not vain repetition, nor fasting mere starvation of the body. Prayer has to come from the heart which knows God by faith, and fasting is abstinence from evil or injurious thought, activity or food. Starvation of the body, when the mind thinks of multiplicity of dishes, is worse than useless.
WALLS OF PROTECTION
Harijan, 15 June 1947
Let us ask ourselves what wall should be erected to protect Brahmacharya. The answer seems clear. It is not Brahmacharya that needs walls of protection. To say this is easy enough and sounds sweet. But it is difficult to understand the import of the statement and more so to act accordingly.
It is true that he who has attained perfect Brahmacharya, does not stand in need of protecting walls. But the aspirant undoubtedly needs them, even as a young mango plant has need of a strong fence round it. A child goes from its mother's lap to the cradle and from the cradle to the push-cart--till he becomes a man who has learnt to walk without aid. To cling to the aid when it is needless, is surely harmful.
Brahmacharya is one out of the eleven observances. It follows, therefore, that the real aid to Brahmacharya are the remaining ten observances. The difference between them and the walls of protection is that the latter are temporary, the former permanent. They are an integral part of Brahmacharya.
A Mental Condition
Brahmacharya is a mental condition. The outward behaviour of a man is at once the sign and proof of the inner state. He who has killed the sexual urge in him, will never be guilty of it in any shape or form. However attractive a woman may be, her attraction will produce no effect on the man without the urge. The same rule applies to woman. But he or she who has not conquered lust, should not turn the eyes even towards a sister or a brother or a daughter or a son. This advice I have given to friends who have profited by it.
Rules for Would-Be Brahmachari
There are certain rules laid down in India for the would-be Brahmachari. Thus, he may not live among women, animals and eunuchs; he may not teach a woman only or even a group; he may not sit on the same mat as a woman; he may not look at any part of a woman's body; he may not take milk, curds, ghee or any fatty substance, nor indulge in baths and oily massage. I read about these when I was in South Africa. There I came in touch with some men and women who, while they observed Brahmacharya, never knew that any of the above-named restraints were necessary. Nor did I observe them and I was none the worse for the non-observance. I did give up milk, ghee and other animal substances, but for different reasons. I failed in this attempt after two or three years after my return to India. But if to-day I could find any effective vegetable substitute for milk and ghee, I would gladly renounce all animal products. But this is another story.
A Perfect Brahmachari
A perfect Brahmachari never loses his vital fluid. On the contrary, he is able to increase it day by day and, what is more, he conserves it; he will, therefore, never become old in the accepted sense and his intellect will never be dimmed.
It appears to me that even the true aspirant does not need the above-mentioned restraints. Brahmacharya is not a virtue that can be cultivated by outward restraint. He who runs away from a necessary contact with a woman, does not understand the full meaning of Brahmacharya.
Let not the reader imagine for one moment that what I have written is to serve as the slightest encouragement to life without the law of real restraint. Nor is there room in any honest attempt for hypocrisy.
Self-indulgence and hypocrisy are sins to be avoided.
The true Brahmachari will shun false restraints. He must create his own fences according to his limitations, breaking them down when he feels that they are unnecessary. The first thing is to know what true Brahmacharya is, then to realize its value and, lastly, to try to cultivate this priceless virtue. I hold that true service of the country demands this observance.
ASHRAM OBSERVANCES IN ACTION, Ch. 4 of 12: Brahmacharya or chastity, pp. 48-57.
This observance does not give rise to ever so many problems and dilemmas as ahimsa does. Its meaning is generally well understood, but understanding it is one thing: practising it is quite another thing and calls forth all our powers. Many of us put forth a great effort but without making any progress. Some of us even lost ground previously won. None has reached perfection. But everyone realizes its supreme importance. My striving in this direction began before 1906 when I took the vow. There were many ups and downs. It was only after I had burnt my fingers at times that I realized the deeper meaning of brahmacharya. And then I found that expositions made in books cannot be understood without actual experience, and wear a fresh aspect in the light of it. Even in the case of simple machine like the spinning-wheel, it is one thing to read the directions for plying it, and it is another thing to put the directions into practice. New light dawns upon us as soon as we commence our practice. And what is true of simple tangible things like the wheel is still more true of spiritual states.
A brahmachari is one who controls his organs of sense in thought, word and deed. The meaning of this definition became somewhat clear after I had kept the observance for some time, but it is not quite clear even now, for I do not claim to be a perfect brahmachari, evil thoughts having been held in restraint but not eradicated. When they are eradicated, I will discover further implications of the definition.
Ordinary brahmacharya is not so difficult as it is supposed to be. We have made it difficult by understanding the term in a narrow sense. Many of us play with brahmacharya like fools who put their hands in the fire and still expect to escape being burnt. Very few realize that a brahmachari has to control not one but all the organs of sense. He is no brahmachari who thinks that mere control of animal passion is the be-all and end-all of brahmacharya. No wonder if he finds it very difficult. He who attempts to control only one organ and allows all the others free play must not expect to achieve success. He might as well deliberately descend into a well and expect to keep his body dry. Those who would achieve an easy conquest of animal passion must give up all unnecessary things which stimulate it. They must control their palate and cease to read suggestive literature and to enjoy all luxuries. I have not the shadow of a doubt that they will find brahmacharya easy enough after such renunciation.
Some people think that it is not a breach of brahmacharya to cast a lascivious look at one's own or another's wife or to touch her in the same manner; but nothing could be farther from the truth. Such behaviour constitutes a direct breach of brahmacharya in the grosser sense of the term. Men and women who indulge in it deceive themselves and the world, and growing weaker day by day, make themselves easily susceptible to disease. If they stop short of a full satisfaction of desire, the credit for it is due to circumstances and not to themselves. They are bound to fall at the very first opportunity.
In brahmacharya as conceived by the Ashram those who are married behave as if they were not married. Married people do well to renounce gratification outside the marital bond ; theirs is a limited brahmacharya. But to look upon them as brahmacharis is to do violence to that glorious term.
Such is the complete Ashram definition of brahmacharya. However there are men as well as women in the Ashram who enjoy considerable freedom in meeting one another. The ideal is that one Ashramite should have the same freedom in meeting another as is enjoyed by a son in meeting his mother or by a brother in meeting his sister. That is to say, the restrictions that are generally imposed for the protection of brahmacharya are lifted in the Satyagraha Ashram, where we believe that brahmacharya which ever stands in need of such adventitious support is no brahmacharya at all. The restrictions may be necessary at first but must wither away in time. Their disappearance does not mean that a brahmachari goes about seeking the company of women, but it does mean that if there is an occasion for him to minister to a woman, he may not refuse such ministry under the impression that it is forbidden to him.
Woman for a brahmachari is not the ''doorkeeper of hell'' but is an incarnation of our Mother who is in Heaven. He is no brahmachari at all whose mind is disturbed if he happens to see a woman or if he has to touch her in order to render service. A brahmachari's reaction to a living image and to a bronze statue is one and the same. But a man who is perturbed at the very mention of woman and who is desirous of observing brahmacharya, must fly even from a figurine made of metal.
I now come to a point of vital importance which I have reserved for treatment towards the end of the discussion. We are told in the Bhagavadgita (II : 59) that ''when a man starves his senses, the objects of those senses disappear from him, but not the yearning for them; the yearning too departs when he beholds the Supreme'', that is to say, the Truth or Brahma (God). The whole truth of the matter has here been set forth by the experienced Krishna. Fasting and all other forms of discipline are ineffective without the grace of God. What is the vision of the Truth or God? It does not mean seeing something with the physical eye or witnessing a miracle. Seeing God means realization of the fact that God abides in one's heart. The yearning must persist until one has attained this realization, and will vanish upon realization. It is with this end in view that we keep observances, and engage ourselves in spiritual endeavour at the Ashram. Realization is the final fruit of constant effort. The human lover sacrifices his all for his beloved, but his sacrifice is fruitless inasmuch as it is offered for the sake of momentary pleasure. But the quest of Truth calls for even greater concentration than that of the human beloved. There is joy ineffable in store for the aspirant at the end of the quest. Still very few of us are as earnest as even the human lover. Such being the facts of the case, what is the use of complaining that the quest of truth is an uphill task? The human beloved may be at a distance of several thousand miles; God is there in the tabernacle of the human heart, nearer to us than the finger nails are to the fingers. But what is to be done with a man who wanders all over the wide world in search of treasure which as a matter of fact is buried under his very feet ?
The brahmacharya observed by a self-restraining person is not something to be despised. It certainly serves to weaken the force of the yearning for the ''fleshpots of Egypt.'' One may keep fasts or adopt various other methods of mortifying the flesh, but the objects of sense must be compelled to disappear. The yearning will get itself in readiness to go as this process is on. Then the seeker will have the beatific vision, and that will be the signal for the yearning to make its final exit. The treasure supposed to be lost will be recovered. He who has not put all his strength into his effort has no right to complain that he has not ''seen'' Brahma. Observing brahmacharya is one of the means to the end which is seeing Brahma. Without brahmacharya no one may expect to see Him, and without seeing Him one cannot observe brahmacharya to perfection. The verse therefore does not rule out self-discipline but only indicates its limitations.
KEY TO HEALTH, Ch. 10 of 10: brahmacharya. (1942).
Brahmacharya literally means that mode of life which leads to the realization of God. That realization is impossible without practicing self-restraint. Self-restraint means restraint of all the senses. But ordinarily brahmacharya is understood to mean control of sexual organs and prevention of seminal discharge through complete control over the sexual instinct and the sexual organs. This becomes natural for the man who exercises self-restraint all round. It is only when observance of brahmacharya becomes natural to one that he or she derives the greatest benefit from it. Such a person should be free from anger and kindred passion. The so called brahmachâris, that one generally comes across, behave as if their one occupation in life was the display of bad temper.
One notices that these people disregard the ordinary rules of brahmacharya and merely aim at and expect to prevent seminal discharges. They fail to achieve their object. Some of them become almost insane while others betray a sickly appearance. They are unable to prevent the discharge and if they succeed in restraining themselves from sexual intercourse, they think that they have attained all that was needed. Now mere abstention from sexual intercourse cannot be termed brahmacharya. So long as the desire for intercourse is there, one cannot be said to have attained brahmacharya. Only he who has burnt away sexual desire in its entirety may be said to have attained control over his sexual organs. The absence of seminal discharges is a straightforward result of brahmacharya, but is not all. There is something very striking about a full-fledged brahmachâri. His speech, his thought, and his action, all bespeak possession of vital force.
Such a brahmachâri does not flee from the company of women. He may not hanker after it nor may he avoid it even when it means rendering of necessary service. For him the distinction between men and women almost disappears. No one should distort my words and use them as an argument in favor of licentiousness. What I mean to say is that, a man whose sexual desire has been burnt up ceases to make a distinction between men and women. It must be so. His conception of beauty alters. He will not look at the external form. He or she whose character is beautiful will be beautiful in his eyes. Therefore, the sight of women called beautiful will not ruffle or excite him. Even his sexual organs will begin to look different. In other words, such a man has so controlled his sexual instinct that he never gets erections. He does not become impotent for lack of the necessary secretions of sexual glands. But these secretions in his case are sublimated into a vital force pervading his whole being. It is said that an impotent man is not free form sexual desire. Some of my correspondents belonging to this group tell me that they desire erection but they fail to get it and yet have seminal discharges. Such men have either become impotent or are on the way to become so for loss of the necessary secretions. This is a pitiable state. But the cultivated impotency of the man, whose sexual desire has been burnt up and whose sexual secretions are being converted into vital force, is wholly different. It is to be desired by everybody. It is true that such a brahmachâri is rare to find.
I took the vow of brahmacharya in 1906. In other words, my efforts to become a perfect brahmachâri started 36 years ago. I cannot say I have attained the full brahmacharya of my definition, but in my opinion I have made substantial progress towards it. If God wills it, I might attain even perfection in this life. Anyway, there is no relaxation of efforts nor is there any despondence in me. I do not consider 36 years too long a period for effort. The richer the prize, the richer the effort must be. Meanwhile, my ideas regarding the necessity for brahmacharya have become stronger. Some of my experiments have not reached a stage when they might be placed before the public with advantage. I hope to do so some day if they succeed to my satisfaction. Success might make the attainment of brahmacharya comparatively easier.
But the brahmacharya on which I wish to lay emphasis in this chapter is limited to the conservation of sexual secretions. The glorious fruit of perfect brahmacharya is not to be had from the observance of this limited brahmacharya. But no one can reach perfect brahmacharya without reaching the limited variety.
And maintenance of perfect health should be considered almost an utter impossibility without the brahmacharya leading to the conservation of the sexual secretions. To countenance wastage of a secretion which has the power of creating another human being is, to say the least, an indication of gross ignorance. A firm grasp of the fact that semen is meant to be used only for procreation and not for self-indulgence, leaves no room whatsoever for indulging in animal passion. Assimilation of the knowledge that the vital fluid is never meant for waste should restrain men and women from becoming crazy over sexual intercourse. Marriage will then come to have a different significance and the way it is treated at present will appear disgusting. Marriage ought to signify a union of heart between two partners. A married couple is worthy of being considered brahmachâris if they never think of sexual intercourse except for the purposes of procreation. Such an intercourse is not possible unless both parties desire it. It will never be resorted to in order to satisfy passion without the desire for a child. After intercourse which has been performed as a matter of duty, the desire to repeat the process should never arise.
What I am saying may not be taken as copy book wisdom. The reader should know that I am writing this after a long personal experience. I know that what I am writing is contrary to the common practice. But in order to make progress we have often to go beyond the limits of common experience. Great discoveries have been possible only as a result of challenging the common experience or commonly held beliefs. The invention of the simple match stick was a challenge to the common experience, and the discovery of electricity confounded all preconceived notions.
What is true of physical things is equally true of things spiritual. In the early days there was no such thing as marriage. Men and women, as in the case of animals, mated promiscuously. Self-restraint was unknown. Some advanced men went beyond the rut of common practice and discovered the Law of Self-Restraint. It is our duty to investigate the hidden possibilities of the Law of Self-Restraint. Therefore, when I say it is the duty of every man and woman to take the marital relations to the state indicated by me it is not to be dismissed as utterly impracticable. If human life is molded as it ought to be, conservation of vital fluid can become a natural thing for everyone.
The sexual glands are all the time secreting the semen. This secretion should be utilized for enhancing one's mental, physical, and spiritual energy. He who would learn to utilize it thus, will find that he requires very little food to keep his body in a fit condition. And yet he will be as capable as any of undertaking physical labour. Mental exertion will not tire him easily nor will he show the ordinary signs of old age. Just as a ripe fruit or an old leaf falls off naturally, so will such a brahmachâri, when his time comes, pass away with all his faculties intact. Although with the passage of time the effects of the natural wear and tear must be manifest in his body, his intellect instead of showing signs of decay should show progressive clarity. If all this is correct, the real key to health lies in the conservance of vital energy.
I give here the rules for the conservation of vital force as I know them.
1. Sexual desire has its root in one's thought. Therefore, complete control over thought is necessary. The way to achieve it is this. Never let your mind remain idle. Keep it filled with good and useful ideas. In other words keep thinking of whatever duty you have on hand. There need be no worry about it, but think out how can you become an expert in your department and then put your thoughts into action. There should be no waste of thoughts. Japa (repetition of God's name) is a great support when idle thoughts haunt you. Contemplate God in the form you have pictured Him unless you know Him as formless. While japa is going on, no other thoughts should be allowed to enter one's mind. This is the ideal state. But if one cannot reach it and all sorts of uninvited thoughts invade one's mind, one should not become disheartened. Nâmajapa should be continued faithfully and in the confidence that ultimate victory is bound to follow.
2. As with our thoughts, so with our reading and talking. These should be healthy and clean. Erotic literature should be avoided. Idle, indecent talk leads to indecent action. It is obvious that one who does not wish to feed his animal passions will avoid occupations which tend to include them.
3. Like the mind, the body must also be kept well and usefully occupied, so that the fatigue of the day may lead to refreshing dreamless sleep. As far as possible, work should be in open. Those who for some reason or the other, cannot undertake physical labour, should make it a point to take regular exercise. In my opinion, a brisk walk in the open is the best form of exercise. During the walk the mouth should be closed and breathing should be done through the nose. Sitting or walking, the body must be held erect. To sit or stand otherwise is a size of laziness and laziness is the enemy of self-restraint. Yogic exercises--asanas--are also useful. This much I can say from my personal experience that one who keeps his hands and feet, eyes and ears, healthily occupied does not have much difficulty in controlling the animal appetite. Everyone can test this for himself.
4. A Sanskrit text says that a man becomes what he eats. A glutton who exercises no restraint in eating is a slave to his animal passions. One who has not been able to control his palate, will never be able to control the other senses. If this is true, it is clear that one should take just enough food for the requirements of the body and no more. The diet should be healthy and well-balanced. The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse bin holding the foods that the palate demands. Food is meant to sustain the body. His body has been given to man as a means of self-realization. Self-realization means realization of God. A person who has made this realization the object of his or her life, will never become a slave to the animal passion.
5. Man should look upon every woman as his mother, sister, or daughter. No one ever entertains impure thoughts with regard to his mother, sister, or daughter. Similarly, women should look upon every man as her father, brother, or son.
I have given more hints than these in my other writings, but they are all contained in the five given above. Anyone who observes them should find it easy to overcome what has been called the greatest of all passions. A person, who has real desire for brahmacharya, will not give up the effort because he or she regards the observance of these rules as impossible or at least within the reaches of one in a million. The effort is a joy in itself. To put it in another way, the joy of possessing perfect health is not to be compared with any other, and perfect health is unattainable by slaves. Slavery of one's animality is perhaps the worst of all.
A few words about contraceptives will not be out of place here. The practice of preventing progeny, by means of artificial methods, is not a new thing. In the past such methods were practiced secretly and they were crude. Modern society have given them respectable place and made improvements. They have been given a philanthropic garb. The advocates of contraceptives say that sexual desire is a natural instinct--some call it a blessing. They therefore say that we should not suppress the desire even if it were possible. Birth control by means of self-restraint is, in their opinion, difficult to practice. If a substitute for self-restraint is not prescribed, the health of innumerable is bound to suffer through frequent pregnancies. They add that if births are not regulated, over population will ensue; individual families will be pauperized and their children will be ill fed, ill clothed, and ill educated. Therefore, they argue, it is the duty of scientists to devise harmless and effective methods of birth control. This argument has failed to convince me. The use of contraceptives is likely to produce evils of which we have no conception. But the worse danger is that the use of contraceptives bids fair to kill the desire for self-restraint. In my opinion it is too heavy a price to pay for any possible immediate gain. But this is not the place to argue my point. Those who would like to pursue this subject further should procure the booklet called Self-Restraint v. Self-Indulgence, read and digest what I have said therein and then do as their heads and heart may dictate. Those who have not the desire or the leisure to read the booklet will, if they follow my advice, avoid contraceptive as poison. They should try their best to exercise self-restraint. They should take up such activities as would keep their bodies and minds fully occupied and give a suitable outlet to their energy. It is necessary to have some healthy recreation when one is tired by physical labour. There should not be a single moment of idleness for the devil to creep in. In this way, true conjugal love will be established and directed into healthy channels. Both the partners will make a progressive rise in their moral height. The joy of true renunciation, once they come to know it, will prevent them from turning to animal enjoyment. Self-deception is the greatest stumbling block. Instead of controlling the mind, the fountain of all animal desire, men and women involve themselves in the vain endeavor to avoid the physical act. If there is a determination to control the thought and the action, victory is sure to follow. Man must understand that woman is his companion and helpmate in life and not the means of satisfaction of his carnal desire. There must be a clear perception that the purpose of human creation was wholly different from that of the satisfaction of the animal wants.
Last Revised: 8 Jan 2005
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