(Bhagavad Gita, Slokas 8:11-13)
The beginning of the Doctrine of Chastity, third edition. Before presenting the main subject matter, a few notes of introduction are given for the benefit of the reader.
Firstly, welcome to the Albany branch of the Divine Life Society, formed as of today, March 20, 2017. The original name of this organisation, open to one and all, was the “Gnostic Church of St. Mary,” founded 12 December, 2012.
Alas, it became evident that Gnosis was not our path, and that an adapted form of Hinduism for Westerners to assimilate was much more preferable for various reasons, not least because of the widespread curiosity and respect for Yoga among so many young Australians. Also, there has been some curiosity about and speculation on the domain name http://chastity.info. "Chastity" comes from the Latin word castus, meaning pure or undefiled. Doctrine of Chastity is all about purity within the context of celibate life.
The initial version of Doctrine of Chastity was thoroughly updated, and therefore what you are about to read contains the very best and most original ideas present in the original edition, without all the surplus of irrelevant or confusing teachings. Mariology is a Catholic doctrine, and, since we are not Catholics, the chapter on Mariology is no longer present. The references to White Tantra—though useful to some—do not hold any significance for us celibates, and have therefore been removed.
What has been updated in this, the third edition of Doctrine of Chastity? A section on Swami Sivananda has been selected to start it off, as his life and teachings are the chief inspiration for my present endeavours, to which end I am including some links to PDF files of some "Recommended Reading": Practice of Brahmacharya, and the Spiritual Diary. The brief chapter on “Solitude” has been retained from the original Doctrine of Chastity and placed shortly thereafter. "Diet and Chastity" has been revised to specify a vegetarian, "Sattvic" diet rather than a meat-based one, the reasons for which are given therein.
Most Sanskrit terms are either self-explanatory or their meaning is clear from the context in which they appear. If in doubt, look them up online and you will shortly have an extended vocabulary of the most important Yogic concepts. I encourage every reader to do a little background research and not to take this book as infallible.
Mistakes and inconsistencies will of course be corrected in future editions of Doctrine of Chastity, and I am entirely open to constructive criticism. Your contributions and feedback are of course most welcome, and will be incorporated into future editions, should they expand on and augment the central ideas of this text. Hope you enjoy reading.
Swami Sivananda began his career as a medical doctor, but had always a marked tendency towards spiritual life and a great love of the Divinity. In his early thirties he took up the path of Yoga and shone as a brilliant Yogi, Brahmachari (celibate) and saint. He left behind a great body of literature on every conceivable topic of benefit to mankind, from health and diet to Kundalini Yoga.
Sivananda was a great man indeed, but exceptional in his humility. In his autobiography, he writes, “I had no ambition to become world-famous by any extensive tour or thrilling lectures from the platform. I never attempted to be a Guru to anyone. I am not pleased when people call me: ‘Sat Guru’ or ‘Avatar.’ I am dead against ‘Gurudom.’ That is a great obstacle and has caused the downfall of great men in the spiritual path.”
Here follows the standard biography of Swami Sivananda as given in print editions of his books:
Born on the 8th September, 1887, in the illustrious family of Sage Appayya Dikshitar and several other renowned saints and savants, Sri Swami Sivananda had a natural flair for a life devoted to the study and practice of Vedanta. Added to this was an inborn eagerness to serve all and an innate feeling of unity with all mankind.
His passion for service drew him to the medical career; and soon he gravitated to where he thought that his service was most needed. Malaya claimed him. He had earlier been editing a health journal and wrote extensively on health problems. He discovered that people needed right knowledge most of all; dissemination of that knowledge he espoused as his own mission.
It was divine dispensation and the blessing of God upon mankind that the doctor of body and mind renounced his career and took to a life of renunciation to qualify for ministering to the soul of man. He settled down at Rishikesh in 1924, practised intense austerities and shone as a great Yogi, saint, sage and Jivanmukta.
In 1932 Swami Sivananda started the Sivanandashram. In 1936 was born The Divine Life Society. In 1948 the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy was organised. Dissemination of spiritual knowledge and training of people in Yoga and Vedanta were their aim and object. In 1950 Swamiji undertook a lightning tour of India and Ceylon. In 1953 Swamiji convened a 'World Parliament of Religions.' Swamiji is the author of over 300 volumes and has disciples all over the world, belonging to all nationalities, religions and creeds. To read Swamiji's works is to drink at the Fountain of Wisdom Supreme. On 14th July, 1963 Swamiji entered Mahasamadhi.
Please feel welcome to read Practice of Brahmacharya by Swami Sivananda, available here in PDF format. Do consider it the standard text for this website: references will be made to it frequently in the following chapters. There is also Sivananda’s Spiritual Diary, available here—well worth taking up as a means of self-discipline for the hard-won attainment of the Ātman.
Brahmacharya is commonly taken to mean celibacy, but it can also mean chastity. The chief end of this entire branch of the Divine Life Society is to train young persons in celibacy. It suits us well to be very private persons… we must keep to ourselves and try not utter a single idle word in the course of our day-to-day activities. “Talks on topics other than Ātman and Moksha are forbidden for a Pranayama practitioner,” says Sivananda in his Science of Pranayama, link here.
Let all our thoughts and efforts be directed towards the pure, immortal, sexless Ātman. This is the chief end of our chastity, and the purpose of our lives. Join me in this endeavour and become a truly independent person intent on the practice of Yoga and perfection in Brahmacharya. I am researching and outlining the techniques and methodology in this very book.
Solitude gives us the opportunity to be alone with our thoughts. In withdrawing from the world, a person gains the chance for contemplation and reflection on his or her own life, existence and philosophy. We all have gifts and talents that may, when developed to their full potential, lead us to glory, honour and immortal fame. We learn our lessons in the school of life in interacting with others, but solitude is the matrix in which the Ātman is nurtured and born.
"Avoid absolutely any person or thing that argues against your aspiration to brahmacharya or tries to persuade or force you into sexuality in any form. The 'just try it once/for a bit' people are worse than tigers. Run for your life–literally." (Swami Nirmalananda Giri, Twelve Pointers for Maintaining Brahmacharya [Celibacy])
And, "Do not mix with members of the opposite sex. Maya works through undercurrents so stealthily that you may not be aware of your actual downfall. The sexual Vasana will assume an aggravated form suddenly without a moment’s notice. You will commit adultery and then repent. Then your character and fame will vanish. Dishonour is more than death. There is no crime more heinous than this. There is no Prayaschitta [penance] for this. So beware. Be cautious." (Sivananda, Brahmacharya, p60)
We can receive insight here and now by examining our own mind, and by analysing our dreams we can learn things about ourselves that may not have been obvious. Lust and Ego pervade the mind and it is necessary to take note of their workings by self-analysis and introspection. Ignorance of the nature of the mind and self leads to the wrong conception of the Ego-mind, i.e. "I am self-existent," or "I think, therefore I am." Whenever a desire, craving or negative emotion arises in the mind, overcoming it helps to develop that little bit more "emotional muscle" or strength of will.
In Hinduism, one has access to a certain great hymn, prayer and Mantra: the Gayatri. It can be whispered, repeated mentally, chanted, or sung. It goes:
Popular culture is intensely materialistic. People are unhappy because they are attached to objects and to other people. To worship the vanity of celebrities is a serious mistake, and to dedicate one's life to accumulating wealth and possessions is a grave error. Humanity ignores God and wastes its time on magazines, the cinema, cafes and restaurants, newspapers, alcohol and drugs. Mainstream advertising cheapens the sacred topic of sex and brainwashes us into thinking that a job and a household are the principal goals of life, while we continue to ignore the sacred precepts of the holy scriptures and refuse to analyse and make virtuous our own lives. Our view of the world has been distorted by novels, television and movies. There seems to be no higher purpose.
The spiritually advanced person should react to gossip, television and radio with bewilderment and anxiety. Gossip about others only serves to lower the level of consciousness. A righteous man should be quiet. Silence is golden. Speak when necessary and avoid long talks. Become a Mouni (silent Yogin) insofar as this is possible for you. Perhaps spend one day a week in solitude and do not speak a word the entire day, except to God.
As for television, it had the capacity to be a great medium for communication, but as it stands it is one of mankind's most worthless inventions. The problem is not so much the television set itself as the nature of the broadcasts. Any reasonable individual should find the commercial news intolerable. Advertising is a blight on humanity. Talk shows, game shows, sports, lifestyle programs, music television and even documentaries are all a waste of time. Television is nicknamed the "idiot box" for good reason. Radio programs, with the exception of classical music channels, are similarly an insult to the intelligence. The popular music of today is completely degenerated.
The spiritual man finds no relief: cars, shopping centres and households blare with the same shallow garbage, and yet, alas, modern man has the hypocrisy to pride himself on the level of technological advancement in so-called first world countries.
With all this in mind, let us march now to a different drumbeat than that of pop culture. The battle is in the mind. What do you see when you glance at an attractive member of the opposite gender? A sex object for your gratification, no doubt, unless you are a true Jñani. Have you forgotten what you were taught in science class? The human body is composed of various systems: skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, excretory… study the following diagram and think on this point.
Sivananda writes, “Have you ever paused and considered what constitutes the basic’ ladies who excite lust in you? A bundle of bones, flesh, blood, urine, faecal matter, pus, perspiration, phlegm and other dirt! Will you allow such a bundle to become the master of your thoughts?”
And, “For a scientist, a woman is a mass of electrons only. For a Vaiseshika philosopher of Rishi Kanada’s school of thought, she is a conglomeration of atoms—Paramanu, Dvyanu, Tryanu. For a tiger, she is an object of prey. For a passionate husband, she is an object of enjoyment. For a crying child, she is an affectionate mother who gives milk, sweets and other indulgences. For a jealous sister-in-law or mother-in-law, she is an enemy. For a Viveki or a Vairagi, she is a combination of flesh, bone, urine, faecal matter, pus, perspiration, blood and phlegm. For a full-blown Jñani, she is Sat-Chit-Ananda Ātman.” (Practice of Brahmacharya, p84)
Siddhasana, the “perfect pose,” or “adept’s pose,” is very beneficial for Brahmacharya. Let us see what Sivananda has to say about it:
“This Asana is highly eulogized by Yogins for the practice of Brahmacharya. It will help one in controlling his passion and checking nocturnal discharges and in making him an Oordhvareta Yogi. This Asana is useful for sitting during Japa and meditation.
“Place the left heel at the anus. Keep the right heel at the root of, or just above, the generative organ. Keep the trunk, neck and head straight. Place the hands on the right heel.
“Sit for half an hour to start with and then slowly increase the period to three hours. Sitting for three hours in one Asana is termed Asana Jaya or mastery over Asana.” (Brahmacharya, pp. 85-86)
Yoga Asanas (postures, sitting positions) are good for everything: physical health, mental health, spiritual health. They are scientifically proven to have benefits on spinal flexibility, digestion, respiration, etc. One source states the following:
“Some yoga traditions believe that mastering Siddhasana implies mastering the lower, ego-based self, an achievement that leads to Samadhi, or ultimate bliss… Siddhasana stretches the hips, knees, and ankles. It also strengthens the core muscles, including the abdomen and the back. The pressure exerted by the heels on the groin area in Siddhasana helps to balance the activities of the reproductive organs. This pressure regulates the production of hormones, particularly testosterone, and can be therapeutic for men with prostate troubles. It also helps stabilize sexual energy, which is beneficial for deep meditation and for those practicing celibacy.” (“How to Do Perfect Pose in Yoga,” https://www.yogaoutlet.com/guides/how-to-do-perfect-pose-in-yoga; my italics)
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika asks, “When Siddhasana is mastered, of what use are the various other postures?”
Sivananda gives the following instructions for “Easy and Comfortable Pranayama”:
“Sit on Padmasana or Siddhasana with an empty light stomach in your meditation room. Close your eyes. Close the right nostril with the right thumb and draw in the air through the left nostril. Close the left nostril also with the right little and ring fingers and retain the air as long as you can. Then remove the right thumb and exhale very, very slowly. Again, in the same manner, draw in the air through the right nostril, retain it as long as you can; and then exhale through the left nostril. The whole process constitutes one Pranayama. Do twenty in the morning and twenty in the evening. Gradually and cautiously increase the period of retaining the air and the number of Pranayamas also. When you advance in the practice, you can have three or four sittings and you can do eighty Pranayamas in each sitting.” (Brahmacharya, p96)
Note that each round of twenty Pranayamas with minimal retention of breath takes approximately fifteen minutes to complete, and so eighty Pranayamas would take roughly an hour to do. This peroid of time will naturally become longer as one learns to retain his or her breath for longer and longer periods of time.
Diet plays an important part in maintaining chastity.
Opinions vary as to whether to be vegetarian: Hindu references on Brahmacharya (celibacy) advocate vegetarianism, whereas the five sacraments of Tantra include meat and fish. The Brahmachari's precepts are the ones to follow; it is not necessary to eat a certain quantity of meat for the nourishment of the body. Additionally, stimulating, sedating and narcotic foodstuffs or substances should be avoided: tea, coffee, energy drinks, alcohol, etc. are not beneficial. Also unbeneficial is "junk food" high in fat, salt and sugar, although in cold climates moderate quantities of fatty foods are desirable.
Swami Sivananda says in Science of Pranayama: "Meat is not at all necessary for the keeping up of health. Meat-eating is highly deleterious to health. It brings a host of ailments such as tape-worm, albuminuria and other diseases of the kidneys. After all, man wants very little on this earth. Killing of animals for food is a great sin. Instead of killing the egoism and the idea of ‘mine-ness’ ignorant people kill innocent animals under the pretext of sacrifice to Goddess but it is really to satisfy their tongues and palates. Horrible! Most inhuman! Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah. Ahimsa is the first virtue that a spiritual aspirant should possess. We should have reverence for life."
A chaste person's diet should consist of whole grains, dairy items, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Oats, spelt, barley, rye and breads made from these grains; honey, yoghurt, milk, cream; almonds, pistachio nuts, dates, sultanas; and tomatoes, spinach and fruits, particularly citrus fruits, are all very good.
“Mitaharam vina yastu yogarambham tu karayet, Nanaroga bhavettasya kinchid yogo na sidhyati — Without observing moderation of diet, if one takes to the Yoga practices, he cannot obtain any benefit but gets various diseases.” (Gheranda Samhita, Chapter V-16)
Sivananda on fasting:
"Fasting controls passion. Fasting destroys sexual excitement. It calms the emotions. It controls the Indriyas also. Passionate young men and ladies should take recourse to occasional fasting. It will prove highly beneficial. Fasting is a great Tapas. It purifies the mind. It destroys a great multitude of sins. Shastras prescribe Chandrayana Vrata, Krichara Vrata, Ekadasi Vrata and Pradosha Vrata for the purification of the mind. Fasting controls particularly the tongue, which is your deadly enemy. When you fast, do not allow the mind to think of delicious dishes, because then you will not derive much benefit. Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. It destroys all the impurities of the body and all sorts of poisons. It eliminates uric acid deposits. Just as impure gold is rendered pure by melting it in the crucible again and again, so also, the impure mind is rendered purer and purer by fasting again and again. Young, robust Brahmacharins should observe fasting whenever passion troubles them. You will have very good meditation during fasting, as the mind is calm. The chief object in fasting is to practice Dhyana rigorously during that period as all the Indriyas are calm. You will have to withdraw all the Indriyas and fix the mind on God. Pray to God for guiding you and throwing a flood of light on the path. Say with Bhav: 'O God! Prachodayat, Prachodayat. Guide me, guide me. Trahi, Trahi. Protect me protect me. I am Thine, my Lord!' You will get purity, light, strength and knowledge. Fasting is one of the ten canons of Yoga.
"Avoid excessive fasting. It will produce weakness. Use your commonsense. Those who are not able to observe a full fast can fast for nine or twelve hours and can take milk and fruits in the evening or at night.
"During fasting, the internal digestive organs such as the stomach, the liver and the pancreas take rest. Epicureans, gluttons and those who are tireless eaters do not allow rest for these organs even for a few minutes. Hence, these organs get diseased soon. Diabetes, albuminuria, dyspepsia and hepatitis are all due to overfeeding. After all, man wants very little on this earth. Ninety per cent of the people in this world take more food than what is absolutely necessary for the body. Overeating has become their habit. All diseases take their origin in overeating. An occasional complete fast is a great desideratum for all to keep up good health, relieve the internal organs and maintain Brahmacharya. Diseases that are pronounced incurable by allopaths and homoeopaths are cured by fasting. Fasting develops will-power. It increases the power of endurance. Manu, the Hindu law-giver, prescribes in his code the remedy of fasting for removal of the five capital sins also.
"It is better to drink a large quantity of water, either tepid or cold, according to temperament and inclination, during fasting. It will flush out the kidneys and remove the poison and all sorts of impurities in the body. In Hatha Yoga it is termed as Gata-Suddhi or purification of the flesh-pot, the physical body. You can add half a teaspoonful of soda bicarbonate to the water. Those who fast for two or three days should not break their fast with any solid food. They should take some kind of fruit juice, either sweet orange juice or pomegranate juice. They should sip the juice slowly. You can take an enema daily during fasting.
"Fast for a day to start with. Then slowly increase the number of days according to your strength and capacity. In the beginning you may feel a slight weakness. The first day may be very tiring. You will feel real Ananda, bliss, on the second or the third day. The body will be very, very light. You can turn out more mental work during fasting. Those who are in the habit of fasting will rejoice. On the first day, the mind will tempt you in a variety of ways to eat something or the other. Stand firm. Be bold. Curb the mind at once when it hisses or raises its hood. Do more Japa of Gayatri or any Mantra during fasting. Fasting is more a spiritual Kriya than a physical Kriya from the viewpoint of health. You will have to utilise the fasting days for higher spiritual purposes and in the contemplation of God. Always entertain thoughts of God. Dive deep into the problems of life such as the why and the wherefore of the universe. Enquire: 'Who am I? What is this Atman or Brahman? What are the ways and means to attain Knowledge of God? How to approach Him?' Then realize your Nijananda state and rest in purity for ever and ever.
"My dear brothers! Will you start the fasting Tapasya from the very second you read these lines?
"Peace be unto all beings!"
(Brahmacharya, pp 69-70)