Truth about being Celibate: Excerpts from the book “Self Restraint V. Self Indulgence” by Mahatma M.K.Gandhiji
Pdf of the book “Self Restraint V. Self Indulgence”: http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/self-restraint.pdf
The following instructions may prove needful:
Remember if you are married that your wife is your friend, companion and co-worker, not an instrument of sexual enjoyment.
You will seek the society of the good and the pure.
You will resolutely refrain from reading passion-breeding novels and magazines and read the works that sustain humanity. You will make one book your constant companion for reference and guidance.
You will avoid theatres and cinemas. Recreation is where you may not dissipate yourself but recreate yourself. You will, therefore, attend bhajan-numdalis where the word and the tune uplift the soul.
You will eat not to satisfy your palate but your hunger. A self-indulgent man lives to eat; a self-restrained man eats to live. Therefore, you will abstain from all irritating condiments, alcohol which excites the nerves, and narcotics which deaden the sense of right and wrong. You will regulate the quantity and time of your meals.
1. When your passions threaten to get the better of you, go down on your knees and cry out to God for help. Ramanama is my infallible help.
2. Take brisk walking exercise in the open air early in the morning and at night before going to bed.
3. 'Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise/ is a sound proverb. 9 o'clock to bed and 4 o'clock to rise is a good rule. Go to bed on an empty stomach. Therefore, your last meal must not be after 6 p.m.
4. Remember that man is a representative of God to serve all that lives and thus to express God's dignity and love. Let service be your sole joy, and you will need no other enjoyment in life.
the resolution unanimously voted at Brussels in 1902 by the 102 members present at the Second General Congress of the International Conference of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, a Congress which assembled together the most competent authorities on the subject throughout the world: "Young men must above all be taught that chastity and continence are not only not harmful, but also that these virtues are among those to be most earnestly recommended from the purely medical and hygienic standpoint."
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 mother pampers her child with all kinds of delicacies. She believes that she can evince her love only by feeding the child to the utmost. By doing this she does not enhance the child's enjoyment of his food, but on the other hand makes everything insipid and disgusting for him. 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.
Parents wrap their children up in heavy clothing and smother them while they fondly imagine that they are adding to their beauty. 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.
A naishthika Brahmachari would never suffer from fever, headache, cough or appendicitis, as I have suffered. Medical men say that appendicitis is caused even by an orange-seed remaining in the intestines. But an orange-seed cannot find permanent lodgment in a clean healthy body. When the intestines get weakened they are unable to expel such foreign matter. My intestines too must have weakened and hence the inception of appendicitis in me. Children eat all manner of things and the mother can never watch them all the time. Yet they do not suffer as their intestines are functioning vigorously.
Control should be acquired over the organ of taste. My experience is that one who has not mastered taste cannot control animal passion either. It is no easy task to conquer the palate. But conquest of passion is bound up with the conquest of the palate. One of the means of controlling taste is to give up spices and condiments altogether or as far as possible. Another and a more effective means is always to cultivate a feeling that we eat just in order to sustain the body and never for taste. We take in air not for taste but for life. Just as we take water to quench our thirst, in the same way should we take food only to satisfy hunger. Unfortunately parents make us contract a contrary habit from very childhood. They corrupt us by giving us all manner of delicacies not for our sustenance but out of mistaken affection. We have got to fight against this unfavourable home atmosphere.
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 sceptred monarch.
In confidence:I have brought up children by the score. And they have without difficulty taken to and delighted in any dress given to them. We provide them with all kinds of heating and stimulating foods. Our blind love takes no note of their capacity. The result undoubtedly is an early adolescence, immature progeny and an early grave.
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 teetotaller than for a drunkard or even a temperate man to abstain.
I now place before the reader 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 foods 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. 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.
9. A heart-felt prayer every day for purity makes one progressively pure.
The common mode of life is shaped to minister to our passions. Our food, our literature, our amusements, our business hours are all regulated so as to excite and feed our animal passions.
General directions, however, may be safely reiterated here:
1. Eat moderately, always leaving the dining room with a feeling of pleasant hunger.
2. Highly spiced and fatty vegetarian foods must be avoided. Separate fat is wholly unnecessary when an adequate supply of milk is available. A little food suffices when there is little vital waste.
3. Both the body and the mind must be constantly occupied in clean pursuits.
4. Early to bed and early to rise is a necessity.
5. Above all a life of restraint presupposes an intense living desire for reunion with God. When there is heart perception of this central fact, there will be continuously increasing reliance upon God to keep His instrument pure and in order. The Gita says: "Passions return again and again in spite of fasting, but even the desire ceases when the Divine is seen." This is literally true.
If the eye and the ear and the nose and the tongue, the hands and the feet are let loose, it is impossible to keep the primal organ under check. Most cases of irritability, hysteria and even insanity, which are wrongly ascribed to attempts at continence,
Will in truth be found traceable to the incontinence of the other senses. No sin, no breach of nature's laws, goes unpunished.
As I looked back upon the twenty years of the vow, I am filled with pleasure and wonderment. The more or less successful practice of self-control has been going on since 1901. But the freedom and joy that came to me after taking the vow had never been experienced before 1906. Before the vow I had been open to being overcome by temptation at any moment. Now the vow was a sure shield against temptation.
Control of the palate is the first essential in the observance of the vow. I found that complete control of the palate made the observance very easy, and so I now pursued my dietetic experiments not merely from the vegetarian's but also the Brahmachari's point of view. As the result of these experiments I saw that the Brahmachari's food should be limited, simple, spiceless and, if possible, uncooked.
Six years of experiment have showed me that the Brahmachari's ideal food is fresh fruit and nuts. The immunity from passion that I enjoyed when I lived on this food was unknown to me after I changed that diet. Brahmacharya needed no effort on my part in South Africa when I lived on fruits and nuts alone. It has been a matter of very great effort ever since I began to take milk. Let no one deduce from this that all Brahmacharis must give up milk. The effect on Brahmacharya of different kinds of food can be determined only after numerous experiments. I have yet to find a fruit substitute for milk which is an equally good muscle builder and easily digestible.
Fasting is useful when mind co-operates 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. Fasting, therefore, has a limited use, for a fasting man may continue to be swayed by passion. 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.
Many aspirants after Brahmacharya fail, because in the use of their other senses they want to carry on as those who are not Brahmacharis. Their 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 Brahmachari 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 Brahmachari 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 does so 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 diminish with the passage of time.
But it was after coming to India that I realized that such Brahmacharya was impossible to attain merely by human effort. Until then I had been labouring under the delusion that fruit diet alone would enable me to eradicate all passions, and I had flattered myself with the belief that I had nothing more to do.
But I must not anticipate the chapter of my struggles. Meanwhile let me make it clear that those who desire to observe Brahmacharya with a view to realizing God need not despair, provided their faith in God is equal to their confidence in their own effort.
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 stimulating food with the tongue, to touch exciting things with the hands, and then at the same time expect to control the only remaining organ, is like putting one's hands in a fire, and then 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.
Scientists boldly declare that one who has acquired a perfect control over his or her sexual energy strengthens the whole being, physical, mental and spiritual, and attains powers unattainable by any other means.
The Brahmacharis we see about us today are very incomplete specimens. At best they are aspirants who have acquired control over their bodies but not their minds. They have not become proof against temptation. This is not because Brahmacharya is so difficult of attainment. Social environment is against them, and the majority of those who are making an honest effort unknowingly isolate the control of the animal passion from all other passions, whereas the effort to be successful must include control over all the passions to which man is prey.
For me education has a much nobler purpose. Let the student count himself as one among the millions, and he will discover that millions of young men and women of his age cannot fulfill the conditions which he will have his degree to do. Why should he make, himself responsible for the maintenance of all the relatives he mentions? Why should the grown-up ones, if of sound body, not labour for their maintenance? It is wrong to have many drones to one busy bee—though a male.
The remedy lies in his unlearning many things. He must revise his ideas of education. His sisters ought not to repeat the expensive education that he had. They can develop their intelligence through learning some handicraft in a scientific manner. The moment they do so, they have development of the mind side by side with that of the body. And if they will learn to regard themselves as servants of humanity rather than its exploiters, they will have development of the heart i.e., the soul as well. And they will become equal earners of bread with their brother.
I do not know what is meant by marriage taking place 'sooner rather than later'. In no case need it take place before they are 20 years old. It is no use thinking so many years in advance. And if he will revise the whole scheme of life, he will have the sisters to choose their partners, and the ceremony need never cost more than five rupees each, if that. I have been present at several such ceremonies. And the husbands or their elders have been graduates in fair circumstances.
I have discovered that I have not approached with adequate detachment, the innumerable problems that have presented themselves for solution. It is clear that I have taken many of them to heart and allowed them to rouse my emotional being and thus affect my nerves. In other words, they have not, as they should have, in a votary of the Gita, left my body or mind untouched. I verily believe that one who literally follows the prescription of the eternal mother(Gita), need never grow old in mind. Such a one's body will wither in due course like leaves of a healthy tree, leaving the mind as young and as fresh as ever.
what of the Gita? Its teaching is clear and precise. A mind that is once hooked to the Star of Stars becomes incorruptible. How far I must be from Him, He alone knows.
Brahmacharya here does not mean mere physical self-control. It means much more. It means complete control over all the senses. Thus an impure thought is a breach of brahmacharya; so is anger.
There is a verse in the second chapter of the Gita which freely rendered means: "Sense-effects remain in abeyance whilst one is fasting or whilst the particular sense is starved; but the hankering does not cease except when one sees God face to face."
But I have a fear that the modern girl loves to be Juliet to half a dozen Romeos. She loves adventure. My correspondent seems to represent the unusual type. The modern girl dresses not to protect herself from wind, rain and sun but to attract attention. She improves upon nature by painting herself and looking extraordinary.
Men must learn to hold the honour of every woman as dear as that of their own sisters and mothers. All the education they receive will be in vain if they do not learn good manners.
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