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The Divine Life


An Interview with Swami Chidananda

by Bill Eilers and Susan Eilers*


Born in South India in 1916, the eldest son of an orthodox Brahmin family, Swami Chidananda was inspired at an early age by devotional songs and stories from the Hindu scriptures. During his college years, the lives and teachings of modern saints such as Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi and Swami Ramdas awakened in him a fiery aspiration for spiritual life. In 1943 he joined the ashram of the world-renowned saint and sage Swami Sivananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society, whose passionate spiritual writings had long attracted him. Sivananda ashram, which then consisted of only a few buildings, was located on the banks of the Ganges River in the foothills of the Himalayas near Rishikesh, India. During this period of his life, Swami Chidananda, among other activities, gave lectures, attended to ashram guests, and served the sick, expressing what would become a lifelong concern for the welfare of the lepers. Late in 1959 he was sent on a two-year world teaching tour by Swami Sivananda and eventually succeeded him as president of the Divine Life Society after Swami Sivananda passed away in 1963. Swami Chidanandas life since has been one of almost continuous travel, both in India and abroad, in the cause of the central objective of the Divine Life Society: the dissemination of spiritual knowledge.

When Andrew Cohen phoned from Australia and asked us if we could interview Swami Chidananda on the role of celibacy in the spiritual life, our first reaction was: How will Swamiji ever find the time? But our second reaction was that if there was anyone in the world who had a practical understanding of celibacy, it was Swamiji, and therefore we should make the request.

So when Swamiji returned to the ashram a few days later for the five days of the Navaratri worship, our written request was given to him. That night, after satsang [a gathering with a spiritual teacher], he turned to me and said that while it would not be possible to find time during the next few days, if we didnt mind a little inconvenience, we could join him in a couple of weeks near Delhi. The location was a new country home that he had been requested to officially open and bless, and where we would then spend a few days resting. We readily agreed, and so toward the end of October, over four full days, we not only had some informal time with him, but we also managed to record five hours of dialogue relating to the subject of this issue [no. 13] of What Is Enlightenment?

Our interview was supposed to start late morning of the first day, but Swamiji was exhausted, and so the first we saw of him was when he joined us for a walk at dusk. As we were slowly walking along the country road we came upon a watchman guarding a gate. Swamiji stopped and carried on a fifteen-minute conversation. We didnt understand most of the Hindi, but we knew he was inquiring about the mans family and where he lived. As we moved on, we saw that another life had been touched by one who still remains at heart a simple monk, whose aim in life is to do as much good as possible for as many people as possible.

When we returned from the walk and were climbing the steps, Swamiji turned to us and said, The subject of brahmacharya, or celibacy or self-restraint, does not necessarily have, in Hindu society, any connection at all with the spiritual life, or sadhana [spiritual practice], or with Self-realization. It is not normally discussed or recommended only with a view to promote spiritual life. After we had climbed the stairs and joined him in his room, Swamiji continued, describing traditional Hindu social life and how it relates to the subject of brahmacharya and sexual life, so that we would understand the broader context in which brahmacharya is viewed in the Hindu tradition.

In ancient India, he explained, a persons life was reckoned as one hundred years, divided into four stages. The first stage was the student stage, or brahmacharya stage, where young people were expected to study hard, build a good physique, and in all ways prepare themselves for their adult lives to come. During this stage they were expected to observe strict celibacy.

The second stage was the householder stage, where the exercise of the sexual faculty was taken for granted and recognized as a legitimate part of human life; it was regarded as a fundamental duty of a family to offer progeny to form the next generation. Swamiji continued: Of course, its exercise was not meant to be unrestrained; otherwise it would be degrading. But it was given the full sanction of society.

The third stage of life was the retired stage, when the couple turned the burdens of earning a living over to the children and turned their minds to higher things, Swamiji explained. Here again they begin to practice brahmacharya as part of their sadhana.

Then, during the fourth stage, ones entire life was to be devoted to God. One became a sannyasin, or monk, and then, of course, celibacy was automatic. So you see, the concept of brahmacharya was part and parcel of the Indian-Hindu social tradition. In its narrowest sense brahmacharya meant complete celibacy, but in its broader sense, as it could be applied to the life of a householder, it meant self-restraint, not abusing the sex function and strict fidelity to ones partner.

Our conversation then turned to the role of spiritual practices and how they help to lift the consciousness by fostering the higher tendencies within us. The vast, vast majority of human beings are human animals only, Swamiji said. They are totally rooted in body consciousness. They have no idea of being something else, something other. Even their mental function is instinctive. Its all a reaction to whatever happens to them, not a purposeful independent exercise of their mental faculty. They have no time for it. From the moment they get up, they are absorbed by their daily activities.

And the whole of the spiritual life, he continued, is a gradual elimination, eradication, of the animal within, and the refinement or purification and education of the entire human nature so that it loses its movement in all other directions and starts taking on an ascending vertical direction. Once the human nature is given an upward turn, one simultaneously starts awakening the sleeping Divinity with the help of all ones spiritual practices. If one knows that the spiritual process, the spiritual life, is the elimination of the animal, the refining and directing upward of the human, and the awakening and unfoldment of the Divine, then all spiritual practices, including the role that brahmacharya plays, fall into their right place.

Swamiji seemed to have enjoyed our first conversation. He smiled and said, So we must thank Andrew Cohen for this, for ultimately he is at the back of it, the root of it. Tomorrow we will start discussing the questions one by one.

Our dialogues over the next few days revealed a side of Swamiji that is not often visible. Normally one sees in him what one would expect of a saintholiness, sweetness, joy, constant consideration for others, beauty of movement, and a presence that makes itself subtly felt in the hearts of those who cross his path. The following interview shows the stuff a saint is really made of. It helps to complete the picture.


Question: Celibacy or brahmacharya has always been given a prominent place in the spiritual life, and we know that both Swami Sivananda and yourself have subscribed to its importance. Why is celibacy important and what is its role in the spiritual life?

Swami Chidananda: One of the reasons for its importance is that we have received from our spiritual heritage the view of celibacy being a basic requirement, a prerequisite, of spiritual life. And this view has continued to be recognized over many, many centuries during which time Indian society has changed, and many other old concepts have been discarded.

The normal Hindu has always been progressive. He has never hesitated to change if he felt that the change would enhance his knowledge and take him in a better direction. And in coming into contact with views and knowledge from other societies, there has been an ongoing reappraisal of our ancient concepts and views. In spite of this, we find that the concept of brahmacharya and its having an important role to play in the spiritual life has continued. It has stood the test of time; it has become time-honored. Had it not been something of enduring value, it would also have changed. But it has not. As it used to be regarded thousands of years ago, so it is regarded even today amongst spiritual teachers, gurus and yogiswith the same attitude of its being a necessary and important thing.

Another reason I have always been an advocate of celibacy is that the towering spiritual personalities who have been a molding influence in my life ever since I can rememberpersonalities like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, as well as Gurudev Swami Sivananda himselfwere all people who swore by celibacy. They were people who said that it is most important, indispensable. So naturally, when these people who were the source of my inspiration in the spiritual life were so forthright and absolutely clearthey didnt seem to have any doubt about itI said, well, this is it! So that decided the matter for me in my approach to the spiritual life.

Brahmacharya, or celibacy, is a rational process of preserving and conserving precious energy so that it can be utilized in other very essential and indispensable functions. And if it is preserved like this, it can be converted, just as tangible, gross water is converted into subtle steam. Then it can do wonders. A river may not have much power in it by itself. You may be able to easily row or swim across it. But if it is dammed up and its waters conserved, then it has the power, when properly channeled, to turn huge turbines. And the hot sun, even in summer, wont normally cause a fire, but if you concentrate its rays through a lens, those rays will immediately burn whatever they are focused on. That is what celibacy actually is.

Now, the interesting question is: What is the origin, the source, of this energy? After years and years of theory and discovery, modern physicists have arrived at the conclusion that what exists in nature is not palpable or solid matter as such. It is energy, energy that fills the entire cosmos, all space.

And our ancients have said that it is this cosmic energy that holds the heavenly bodies in their course. They are all kept moving by this mysterious, inexplicable, indescribable, unimaginable energy. And they regarded that energy as something divine, something that has neither a beginning nor an end. It is eternal and pervades everywhere. There is nowhere that it is not. And it is this energy that is present in living beings as the sex force. So Hindus regarded this energy as sacred, something that is worthy of being worshipped, not frittered away. They said that this energy is none other than the manifestation of the Divine Mother, the cosmic energy; therefore, it should be regarded with reverence.

This cosmic force manifests in our own system as prana [vital energy, life force]. And prana is the precious reserve of the seeker. Any sense activity or sense experience consumes a lot of prana. And the activity that consumes the greatest amount of prana is the sex act. The highest of all goals in human life, spiritual attainment, requires the maximum available pranic energy on all levels: mental, intellectual and emotional. Prana is required for spiritual reflection and discrimination. The thinking must be sharp and the intellect penetrating. To understand the inner implications of a gurus instructions requires a special type of intelligence. You may be a very intellectual person, and you may immediately grasp the language meaning of something the guru is telling you, but if the guru is speaking of an abstruse subject not within the normal range of your ordinary human experience, you require a special type of understanding. And that understanding develops through brahmacharya. So as I said, all these various practices require the use of prana, and celibacy ensures that an abundance of pranic reserve is available to the seeker. So viewed from this angle, it is a rational and very positive process.

This is the rationale behind celibacy. If you conserve this vital energy and divert it to the spiritual process of contemplation, philosophical study and reflection, and meditation, it becomes successful, because you have concentrated your force and you are able to direct the concentrated force by focusing it upon your spiritual practices. If it is preserved, concentrated and diverted into a specific channel, it works wonders.

There is another reason why brahmacharya is important. I am not now talking about exceptional persons who have a sudden illumination and then they are once and for all lifted from the gross physical plane of body consciousness into another, never to return back. In one moment of illumination, Ramana Maharshi became established in I am neither mind nor body, Immortal Self am I. I have neither time nor space, I was never born. In one split secondone moment he was just an ordinary student, and then suddenly he knows that he is what the Bhagavad Gita describes as Fire cannot burn you; water cannot wet you; weapons cannot injure you; wind cannot dry you. You are unborn, permanent, eternal, beyond time. Death is nothing to youhe became established once and for all in that experience, and he never budged from that state. All his life, no matter what was going on around him, it did not touch him. It did not affect him. But I am not talking about such people.

Vedanta long ago probed into this subject of the human situation, and the sages saw clearly that 9,999 out of every 10,000 were completely caught up in a state of I am this body. They knew of their identity only as a physical entity, a being with hands and feet and ears and eyes, eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, doing things. So they are totally body-bound. Their consciousness is held upon the level of the physical body. This is the situation. But the goal of the spiritual seeker is cosmic consciousness, which is their inner reality beyond time, space, name and form. So when you juxtapose their present state of consciousness and the experience they wish to attain, you can just imagine how impossible this would be if they go on perpetuating this total identification with the physical body and all its processes.

Among all these bodily processes, most have become mechanical. Most people are not intensely aware of eating, drinking, sleeping, voiding. All these things have become automatic. But the one process that most of them purposefully engage in, with great desire for itwanting it, thinking about it, planning for it and going after itis sex enjoyment, which means that this is a process that concentrates their entire consciousness, entire mind, entire attention upon the physical, their physical identity. From one angle, the sex act is the acme of physicality or animality. It is a process that perforce directs your entire attention upon the physical, and even more, the full focusing of your desire and intention upon that part of your physical nature that you share in common with the entire animal kingdom. Is this going to be in any way helpful for attaining cosmic consciousness?

So here is a human being, the crown and glory of Gods creation, high above all the rest of the living species, going down to the gross, physical, material animal level and giving oneself totally to it: seeking it, wanting it, going after it, doing everything one can in order to obtain it, indulging in it, and wanting to have it always available. That means that one is voluntarily binding oneself down to a level of physical consciousness.

If you are a spiritual seeker, can you not see that you are working against yourself? You have to liberate your consciousness from the lesser levels and go on lifting it to progressively higher and higher levels of finer and more refined states. For if the whole of the spiritual process of illumination and enlightenment is a process of rising into a higher state of consciousness, it automatically implies liberating yourself from a lower state of consciousness. If you want to move northward, it means moving away from the south. And one of the things that helps you to free yourself from being caught in this physical level is celibacy. Cosmic consciousness, Absolute consciousness, is a far cry if you dont recognize the necessity of liberating yourself from your total identification with the body.

Question: Are there particular stages in the spiritual life when celibacy becomes especially important or even essential?

Swami Chidananda: Yes and no. From one point of view, celibacy forms the very foundation. It is the very first stage, the ABC stage. So we may say that it is not at some stage that it becomes important or indispensable, but that it is essential right from the very beginning.

If your aspiration is to be authentic and genuine, and if the aspiration is to take the form of an all-out commitment toward the spiritual experience and an all-out effort to move in that direction, then you must keep moving only in that direction. You cannot run after two things. Because then it will be taking one step forward and one step backward, and you will never really progress.

The spiritual life starts with your recognition that as long as you keep going headlong in the pursuit of sense satisfaction and pleasure, you are not going to move one step. So all will be academic and theoretical. Our aspiration, our wanting spiritual life will only be in theorya fancy and a feeling. You have not started. So the beginning stage itself of the spiritual life is a turning away from sense experience and sense indulgence and starting to move in the opposite direction.

Swami Sivananda used to say: Brahmacharya is the basis of immortality. And in many places in the Upanishads it says: Wisdom experience cannot come to one who has not his senses under restraint and who has not controlled the vagaries of his wandering mind. So I believe that it is not at some stage, but it is the all of the spiritual life. Because spiritual life is a transcendence of your human nature, human consciousness. And if it is a transcendence, you have to leave behind all that constitutes your human nature, your physicality. You will have to commence with it and keep on with it. You view celibacy in a positive manner, not as something anti-nature. You do not at all feel that you are doing any violence to yourself.

Finally, from a purely scientific and technical point of view, one of the yogas where celibacy is absolutely essential and indispensable is kundalini yoga [the practice of arousing vital energy]. There is no compromise with that. Right from the beginning it is absolutely essential and indispensable. Otherwise it can be dangerous. Thats the no part of the answer.

The yes part is to state that in the total context of spiritual life in India, there are certain stages and states where one can be highly spiritual and yet at the same time be leading a normal sex life. That is true especially in the bhakti pathpeople who are following the path of love of God, devotion, prayer and worship, chanting the divine name, singing His glories. This path does not make any distinction between a celibate brahmachari, a married householder, and a retired couple living a spiritually oriented life after they have finished their duties as householders. The path of devotion seems to be a dimension of spiritual life in India where total celibacy in its sense of absolute abstinence is not insisted upon. It is not looked upon with disfavor, but it is not insisted upon. But because the sexual act consumes a great amount of pranic energy, naturally self-restraint is also important. And promiscuous sex was never countenanced, never looked upon with favor. So a sort of restraint in the form of self-control and fidelity in your sexual relationship with your recognized legal partner can also be regarded as brahmacharya.

And this has been the case with ever so many devotees, lovers of God, and spiritual India lacks no example of them. Throughout India we have seen the phenomenon of large communities of ecstatic devotees of God, many or most of whom have been married people, living a normal sex life, but nevertheless absorbed in divine love of God. So this is the yes portion. In this stage sexuality seems not in any way forbidden or incompatible with spiritual life.

Question: I presume that Vedantic inquiry, the more intellectual approach to the spiritual life, would also not be incompatible with normal married life.

Swami Chidananda: Yes, yes. But in the Vedantic type of life, gradually, unconsciously, without even intending it on purpose, in the course of time the person would graduate to that level of consciousness where sex would begin to seem superfluous. Because it contradicts the very basic thesis of Vedanta: I am not this body. I am not the five elements. I am not the limiting adjuncts. I am something quite distinct and different. And for that different, distinct something, sex has no meaning. For it is not within the realm of physical consciousness and physical functioning.

Question: Celibacy is often seen in the modern West as an outmoded, old-fashioned practice. It is often viewed as repressive, life-denyingeven antithetical to what spiritual practice is ultimately all about. Many spiritual authorities in the West are now teaching that to realize our full potential as human beings, we must embrace, rather than in any way avoid or repress, our sexuality. These views stand in stark contrast to what the great traditions have always taught. What do you think about this?

Swami Chidananda: I dont agree with the general attitude that has just been expressed. They have failed to grasp the place of brahmacharya in the spiritual life. It is not outmoded; it is not at all old-fashioned, and it is not repressive or life-denying. On the contrary, it is used as a plank for everlasting life, endless life. Their view of life seems to be a very, very limited and narrow view of life. This is not the only life there is. When you come to have a little glimpse or idea of what real life is, then you will just stand amazed. This present life is meaningless. It is a petty trifle, a nothing if not understood in terms of its being a takeoff runway for catapulting into that greater life. This life is a means to that great, glorious, grand end and aim of human existence, which is to enter into a life that is the life of God, that is one with Gods life, the kingdom of Heaven. That is the whole purpose of human existence. Human life has been given to us as a passageway to divinity, as a passageway to everlasting life.

So brahmacharya is neither repressing sexuality nor avoiding sexuality. It is just bypassing sexualitymaking use of this sexual potential for something ten times, a hundred times greater. Therefore the question of repression and suppression is a misnomer. It is due to a lack of proper understanding of what the real spiritual quest is. If it is understood, then these terms will not be used. We are not just human beings; we are more than human beings. Our human status is only a pale reflection of what we really are. The only reason our human status acquires some meaning and significance is because if it is properly utilized, it can raise us up and take us into that which is our own, bring us into the kingdomfor which we have a birthright.

However, in one way, the idea in the West that brahmacharya is suppression is not entirely off the mark. If one represses or suppresses some natural faculty it can bring about undesirable changes in the personality. If brahmacharya is forced upon an individual against the individuals inclination and will, abnormal conditions naturally may result, because the person is being compelled to do something that deep within himself or herself the person does not want to docompelled by others, by social restraint or by taking up vows that he or she ought not to have taken before having well considered exactly what was implied.

But if an intelligent person, having deeply pondered the whole basis of life, says: When I want to achieve something great, something mighty, I cannot afford to deplete the energies that I have. The more I conserve, the more I can divert into that achievement and the greater the chance of succeeding. So thinking and having understood the rationale of it and fully appreciating the ultimate achievement it would lead to, if he or she voluntarily, willingly and with great enthusiasm undertakes celibacy, where comes the question of suppression? On the contrary, what appears to be a sort of denial is actually giving full self-expression to a higher dimension of your being into which you have now placed yourself. So, far from denying self-expression, it is giving full expression to yourself because you are no longer identified with the lesser aspect of your total personality. You are identified with the higher aspect. It is a sort of liberation and evolution to a higher level. It is something positive, creative, and not anything negative. It is not a denial but an actual expression of yourself.

When it constitutes such a process, then Freud and the others are off the mark. They have never visualized such a situation, such a possibility. But it is not only a possibility, it is a tradition of centuries, of millenniasomeone being prepared to do anything, give anything, pay any price for the attainment of the highest.

Question: Why do you think that even the idea of celibacy often makes people in the West today respond with anger or outrage?

Swami Chidananda: I should say that Andrew Cohen would be in a better position and more competent to answer this question than myself, for whom this question is an academic and theoretical question, whereas for him, it is an experiential situation. Perhaps this concept is unacceptable to them because it would deny them the pleasure pursuit, the hedonistic approach they have in their life. It is something that the ordinary person in the West doesnt want to hear. It gets in the way of their way of life. If they are made to feel that they are doing something foolish, they will feel guilty. Then they become very uncomfortable, and naturally they become very angry. I am sure that there are others too who feel that celibacy is against the biblical commandment to go and multiply. So if you talk about brahmacharya in its extreme sense, then you seem to be preaching against Gods commandment.

Question: Tantra, or the practice of sacred sexuality, is becoming very popular in the West today. Do you think these teachings offer an authentic spiritual path?

Swami Chidananda: No, I do not think that these teachings offer an authentic spiritual path. Why? Because of human frailty, human weakness. The human mind is so made that it always takes the path of least resistance. It always wants the easy way.

Tantra is an approach to God through all types of sense enjoyment. Everything is offered to God and so everything becomes sanctified; nothing is profane. One enjoys sense satisfaction and sees it also as part of Gods bliss. There is a view, and it has something to it, that while in all human experiences duality persiststhere is an I am enjoying this object feelingthat in the ultimate sexual experience between a truly loving male, intensely in love with the female and fully reciprocated by the female, there is no consciousness of ones individuality. There is a total fusion of the separatist consciousness in each one, and there is only the awareness of experience. There is no experiencer. They say this is a possibility when it is done to its perfection. The two cease to be and there is only one, non-dual experience, experience Absolute, brahmic-consciousness. So they say that the human body is an instrument that, if properly made use of, can bring about a rising above body consciousness. For one in a million it may click.

The pursuit of pleasure is part of the Western view of lifenot the denial of pleasure. And one teacher in ten may be an authentic teacher genuinely offering something suited to the Western temperament. But nine of them are very shrewd people. They know there is a market for this, and they are wise to it. The approach is: You can have your cake and eat it too.

Mind you, this was an authentic path that did once upon a time exist in India, especially in the Eastern part. Even now it exists. But it became grossly perverted. People became enmeshed in it. They said they were practicing tantra, but it was only wining, dining and sex pleasure. It took them nowhere, but I suppose it took them where they wanted to go. So it was dubbed by enlightened people of that time as the perverted path. Two paths then came into existence: the authentic path, which was called the right-hand path, and the perverted path, which was only after enjoyment. That was called the left-hand path.

There is an episode in the life of the great Sri Ramakrishna, the guru of Swami Vivekananda. He practiced all the yogic paths as well as Christianity, Islam and others, and he discovered that they all led to the same ultimate God-experience. And during one period of his spiritual life he practiced tantra also. A woman tantric approached him and said, I have been sent here by God to initiate you into the tantric way of attaining God. Day after day she expounded the tantric way. But when it came to the final stage, Sri Ramakrishna, who swore by brahmacharya, replied that through this body it is impossible. So she said, Then Ill have the whole thing enacted before you. So she got a tantric male and a tantric female to enact the ultimate consummation of the practice before him. As he was observing it stage by stage she went on describing it to him: Observe carefully. Now you see how they are in ecstasy; they are ecstatic. They are losing their own consciousness. And at that stage, suddenly Ramakrishna lost all consciousness. He went into deep samadhi [a blissful state of non-dual consciousness]. So he vicariously proved to himself that that ultimate sexual experience can lift one up into that state beyond all duality.

And so the science as such exists, but there are very few authentic gurus, and it has to be strictly followed under the personal supervision of a true guru. I am likely to be accused of being uncharitable, but I believe that most purveyors of modern sacred sexuality are interested in making a profit out of it for themselves.

As I told you, the sex force is sacred; sex is sacred. It is one of the most sacred of all things. But sacred sexuality is a misnomer. Once you get enmeshed in sexuality, the sacredness is given the bye-bye. That is due to mans weakness, frailty. Therefore, I am not going to be an advocate of it.

Question: Considering the number of lapses and aberrations in those who have taken a lifelong vow of celibacy both in the West and East, do you feel that perhaps undertaking the practice should be restricted to individuals who have attained a certain degree of spiritual maturity first?

Swami Chidananda: I wouldnt fully subscribe to this view because, first and foremost, people who have attained a certain degree of spiritual maturity would have reached that at least partially through brahmacharya. The very fact that they have reached a certain degree of spiritual maturity indicates that brahmacharya, at least in the broader sense of the term, must have been part of their makeup or part of the way by which they ascended to that degree of maturity. And I have no hesitation in saying that the lapses and aberrations you refer to cannot lessen the validity of the concept and the tradition of brahmacharya in any way. They are solely due to the imperfection of the persons.

On the other hand, before one takes a lifelong vow of celibacy one has to make sure one has a real vocation; there has to be an inner call to the life and to embrace celibacy. It cannot be a decision based on sentiment and emotional euphoria, rather it is a judgment through a rational, logical appraisal of the life. I also insist that one should not take the vow of monasticism until one is old enough to understand ones own biology and has had some experience of what one has within oneself, what one has to deal with. One has to face this squarely. I would also suggest that a person be allowed to take the vow of lifelong celibacy only after they have been kept under observation and tutelage for some time. For example, the Ramakrishna Mission keeps a person as a pre-probationer for one full year. Then he goes through a probationary period for a minimum of eight years. Only then is he eligible to request to be a full monastic swami. So this type of taking in, sifting and observing would perhaps obviate many of these lapses and aberrations. You only allow a person to undertake that vow after a certain period in the spiritual life. However, even when all the conditions I have mentioned are fulfilled, extreme caution must be exercised until a stage is reached where brahmacharya is ones normal and natural condition.

Brahman, the Absolute, is the highest brahmachari because He is One without a second, and if you are established in Brahman, you are in that same statewhere there is no second, where there is no other. There is a stage where one becomes totally devoid or free from the sex idea. There is no sex or man or woman or this or that because ones view has changed. Quite apart from whatever is aroundthe world in which one is livingone is totally changed. Ones consciousness is no longer kept upon that level where these things have any meaning or relevance. When consciousness is in another place, all things are seen, perceived, but they make no difference. You look at this, you look at that; you are seeing everything, but it doesnt bring about any change in the state of your consciousness, which always remains the same. That is the ultimate transcendence which is a possibility and which is an ideal, which ought to be striven for and which ought to be attained. That is what the guru wants for the disciple. That is what the saints want for the ordinary man. But before this there is still risk of downfall. So our saints say that until the last breath, one must always exercise caution.

Question: What is the key to success in brahmacharya?

Swami Chidananda: It is how you look at it!

First of all it is how you understand it. Brahmacharya is the diversion to a higher purpose and utilization of the basic, quintessential energy potential of the universe located in the individual being. It is the individualized or microcosmic aspect of the illimitable, infinite, primordial cosmic power that is the macrocosmic aspect or the dynamic aspect of the one non-dual reality. As you know, the static aspect is Brahman, which is the transcendental, non-dual reality. And the kinetic or the dynamic aspect is that same thing in manifestation or expression, in movement.

And the individualized aspect of this primordial power, located in all beings, is this potential for unbroken continuity of existence. This potential is practically everywhere. Just because you may be in a position to describe it and define it or explain it in terms of modern physics or chemistry doesnt in any way alter the actual metaphysical or philosophical fact of its real nature. Physically you may explain it in terms of pressure, etcetera, but that is only an explanation of something that is already a transforming, ongoing process of continuously being and becoming, being and becoming. This creative potential, creative power, is present throughout the botanical and animal kingdoms. It is this alone that manifests as all the different forces in the individual human beingthe power of acting, the power of thinking, the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, to digest, to breatheeverything. And it is this that is equally present in both sexes as the sex energy. Therefore, this being the key to life, one can imagine its importance, and one can also imagine its precious quality.

If one can understand it in this wayrealize its real, sacred cosmic nature as the microcosmic aspect of the macrocosmic shakti or cosmic powerone takes a healthy attitude of reverence for it. It is not something to be just spat away like spittle. A person may spend away nickels and dimes, but if he has gold coins he will not so easily part with them. So reverence is a fruit of this understanding. Furthermore, the aspirant recognizes and sees clearly: There is something very important that I have to do. I have a great goal to achieve, and I require all the energy at my disposal to put into my spiritual quest. I cannot afford to divert it into other channels in order to obtain a lesser achievement. As Swami Krishnananda used to say, It is better to aim at a lion and miss it than to aim at a jackal and hit it.

So the first key to success in brahmacharya is to recognize and understand the sacred and precious nature of the energy potential one has. When one has this clear perception that it is meant to be conserved, preserved and directed toward the greatest of all attainments, then one has a desire to be brahmachari. It is seen as a very positive process.

A second key to success, and a way of looking at both brahmacharya and the sex function, is even more fundamental, and it is one of the two factors that to a large extent have been personally utilized by me. It is to clearly perceive that first and foremost what they call the male sexual organ is not a sexual organ at all. It is only a urinary drainpipe. That is what it is, and that is its main function from the moment a child comes out of his mothers womb until he kicks the bucket.

Actually, if you look at it, sex is not in that part of our anatomy at all. Sex is not in the urinary organ; sex is in the mind of a person. So it is a question of your mental attitude. If you are convinced and train your mind to think of it in a sane and rational mannerits only an eliminatory thing; its main purpose is not that which dominates the world and drives it crazythen youre already free of it. It doesnt obsess you any longer because you dont think of it in the way most of unfortunate human society has been made to think.

When you come to think of it, the main function of the sex act is the most important, indispensable process of procreation. From a higher metaphysical sense, the husband and wife are cooperating with the Creator for perpetuation of the species so that creation will continue. That is its main function, not the experience of enjoyment that accompanies it. That is a secondary offshoot of it. Then why was this function made so enjoyable? It had to be. The procreative function, the perpetuation of the species, was done through the sex act, and if it was not combined with a super experience of pleasure and enjoyment, no one would indulge in it, and its purpose would be nullified.

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* Canadian-born Bill Eilers and Susan Eilers (Swami Atmaswarupananda and Swami Amritarupananda) are both longtime residents of Sivananda Ashram and both have taken lifelong monastic vows. Among other activities, they work together as a team to prepare Swami Chidanandas teachings for publication.



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