Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Concept of Brahmacariya


Celibacy was a very important religious philosophical and cultural concept among recluses and Brahmins in India in the time of the Buddha, those inhabitants in Indo-valley civilization had recognized celibacy as an important concept. But the Aryans who invaded Indus-valley constructed, destroying a great part of Indo-valley civilization. The new civilization is called Aryan in which sensual pleasure played an eminent role. As a religion Aryan civilization constructed the belief in god they were mostly representing natural forces like, sun (indra), rain (varuna), and so on. Their religious texts were with full of hymns to praise and make sacrifice on gods. There were priests to administer the sacrifices. The ideal of that culture were wealth (artha) and sensual pleasure (kAma).
With the maturity of time, there were some in Brahmin society who were dissatisfied with the gods and sacrifices, and having abandoned they searched for deeper truths of life. As a result some Indo-valley concept regained life among those truth seekers. Actually this is a one histories occasion of the meeting of two cultures. As a result ethic (dharma) came to be known among truth seekers and as a result of their enthusiastic search of highest good and highest truth a large numbers of new religions emerged in an around central India.

In the Vedic society of Aryan civilization the term Brahmacariya had a very special meaning. It does not refraining from sexual life only, but it covered the entire behaviour which a person suitable to dwell in Brahmas abode after death. For this the performance of sacrifices, making offering to god were meant. When it came to üpaniSadic era, this concept further changed and meant the life which is devoted to realize the eternal truth. Therefore, üpaniSadic period created a trend of spiritual development through meditation. The åranyaka and üpaniSadic periods are well known for teaching and practice on spiritual development and attaining absorption. Such absorptions were considered highest happiness (brahmasahavyatA). This refraining from sensual pleasure came to be known as a noble form of behaviour, that itself was liberation. The weakness of sensual pleasures are seen when one enjoys the happiness of spiritual development therefore, in the form of refraining from sensual pleasure the term brahmacariya was used.
Vedic culture also had a concept of brahmacariya. But it was not the religious practice in the four fold stages of life.

1.  Brahmacariya – studying life
2.   GRhastha – house-hold life
3.  VAnaprastha – entering forest
4.   SAnyAsi – ascetic.

Here brahmacariya means devoted learning of religious texts, the Vedas and their supplementaries. This is common to both male and female. Until both female and male get married they are not expected to any form of sexual behaviour. The pure life free from sexual activity of boys is called KumAra brahmacariya and that of girls is called KumAri brahmacariya. This does not have any relationship to religious practice. It is only a past of lay life.
In the µahAsIhanAdasutta of MN, the Buddha explained four forms of brahmacariyas that were practiced by commentary religious society.

åbhijAmi kho panAhaM ßAriputta caturanga samannAgataM brahmacariyaM caritA: tapassissudaM homi pasamatapassI, lUkhassudaM homi paramalUkho, jegucchissudaM homi paramajegucchi, pavivittassudaM homi pavivitto

=O monks! I well know (that I) lives according to four-fold religious practices. I was best practitioner of ascetism engaged in ascetic practice, I was best among roughly living ones engaged in rough living, I was one best disgusted in practicing in disgusting, and I was best detached engaged in practicing detachment.
This quotation shows how the Buddha had experimented the different forms of brahmacariya that were available among contemporary religious teachers. In the same sutta the Buddha talks about many similar practices and at last divide all them into two groups.
1.  åbrahmacariyavAsa
2.  ånassAsika brahmacariya

The first means those which can not be considered as religious practices. The second means those which are religious practices, but not very useful. Four abrahmacariyas have been explained in the ßandakasutta of MN.

1.   Materialism: This includes the teaching of Ajitakesakambala particularly. He was the contemporary religious teachers who emphasized matter only and reject ethics too.
2.   Religious teaching which deny the moral efficacy: The teaching of Puranakassapa is one of those thought.
3.   Philosophy which adopts determinism and rejects free will and moral responsibility: this theory was held by Makkhaligosala.
4.   Determined evolution theory of matter: This theory the idea that matter is primary and its function is determined. This theory was held by PakudakaccAyana.

Next in ßandakasutta the four ånassAsika brahmacariyas are explained. As teachings they are not wrong but they do not generate any good results for the practices.

1.   The religious teaching that declares itself as supreme and omniscient all good come under this category. If a religious teacher says that he is omniscient always that is pseudo omniscience. In such a teaching the wise men is led to confusion. The wholesome qualities of men are not developed there. The teaching of NiganthanAtaputta comes under this quality.
2.   The second in this category the religious that develops on hearsay (sRti). This religious teaching depends or in hesitated knowledge from past, not on experience. What is heard could be well heard (sussutaM), not well heard (dussutaM) true (tathA) or false (aJJAthA). This teaching too is unable in developing what is good in men.
3.   The religious teachings that depend on logical arguments are also not capable of developing good qualities well in the followers. For of development can be well made (sutakkitaM), not well made (dutakkitaM), true (tathA) or false (aJJathA).
4.   The fourth religious teaching which does not generate any good by following is that which does not give a proper answer to any questions (amarAvikkhepavhis theory was held by SaJjayabellattiputta.

It is important in this context to recognize what Buddhist brahmacariya is. The final aim of brahmacariya is to be free completely from all the three sphere of existence (tibhava) namely

i.       KAmabhava – sensual sphere
ii.      ®Upabhava – form sphere
iii.     årUpabhava – formless sphere.

Buddhism teaches a noble way of life to achieve this end. It is claimed that only Buddhism teaches this path accurately. Many PAli discourses mentioned about as follows.

ßo dhammaM deseti AdikalyANaM majjhekalyANaM pariyosAnakalyANaM sAtthaM savayaJjanaM kevalaparipaNNaM parisudhaM brahmacariyaM pakAseti

=He preaches the noble practice good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end with meaning, with letters, prefect and pure .
This shows that the path of purity in Buddhism clearly ends with the noble life. When all the fetters that cause becoming are eradicated the liberated one declares as follows.

“… khiNA jAti vusitaM brahmacariyaM kataM karaNiyaM nAparaM itthattAyAti

=The birth decayed the noble life was led, done what is to be done and knows that nothing more to be done.
This shows the practical validity of the Buddhist concept of brahmacariya. It is with a clear final aim and aims at leading the human being to a good end with a clear purpose.

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