“Brahmacharya is restraint of the sex organ and other senses,” says Vyasa.
Brahmacharya is the regulation and conservation of all the physical powers of the human being, without which he cannot successfully pursue the greater life of Higher Consciousness. Sexuality is usually considered the main focus of brahmacharya because it has such a powerful grip and influence on the human being. It is considered that if sex is mastered, all the senses will be mastered as well. There is simply no way to convince those addicted to and enslaved by sex that continence (brahmacharya) is the supreme wisdom. Therefore I will not engage in any argumentation on the point. But a few facts can be meaningful to the sincere seeker.
The life of the senses stifles the life of the spirit by carrying away the discrimination of the intellect, as Krishna states: “The mind, which follows in the wake of the wandering senses, carries away discrimination, as the wind a boat on the waters.” (Bhagavad Gita 2:67) The basic life-force, the prana, is dissipated through any intense activity of the senses, weakening the inner being. But sexual indulgence is incalculably more destructive of consciousness than any other form of sense experience, for it expends the life-force to a degree far, far beyond that of other sense experiences. Both body and mind are depleted through sexual activity.
Spirit has two aspects: consciousness and energy. Consciousness is constant, whereas energy is cyclic. It is the movement of energy that produces (and is) our experience of relativity, and it is the development of energy that is the process of evolution. Therefore the conservation and application of energy is the main determinant of success or failure in spiritual endeavor. Diffusion and dissipation of energy always weakens. Hence brahmacharya is a vital Pillar of Yoga.
Basically, brahmacharya is conservation and mastery of all the energy systems and powers of our being. This is especially true in relation to negative emotions, for tremendous energy is expended through lust, anger, greed, envy, hatred, resentment, depression, fear, obsession, etc. Further, they are both the causes and the symptoms of losing self-control, a major aspect of brahmacharya. Research has shown that persons in the grip of these emotions literally breathe out vital elements of the body. For example, the breath of angry people is found to be laden with copper. So negative emotion depletes us physically as well as energetically. Positive emotions on the other hand actually enhance and raise our energy and physical levels. The cultivation of (true) love, compassion, generosity, cheerfulness, friendliness, and suchlike make us stronger and calmer-essential aspects of brahmacharya. It is interesting that the English word “virtue” is ultimately derived from the Latin word virtus-“power”-which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word virya, which means both power and strength.
“A place for everything and everything in its place,” is not just a maxim of orderliness. When applied to the individual’s energy systems it is the root of strength and health on all levels. Every atom of personal energy possessed by us has both a place and a purpose. To ensure correct placement and expenditure of energy is the essence of the yogic science. And brahmacharya is its foundation.
[For practical information on brahmacharya the following books are extremely valuable: WARNING: Sex May Be Hazardous to Your Health by Dr. Edwin Flatto, Science Discovers The Physiological Value of Continence and Nutritional Sex Control and Rejuvenation by the great twentieth century Rosicrucian, Dr. Raymond Bernard, The Practice of Brahmacharya, by Swami Sivananda, and The Role of Celibacy in Spiritual Life by Swami Chidananda.]