Most Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monks take the vow for life, committing themselves to work of religious service and study.Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian political and spiritual leader, had embraced the vow and lifestyle permanently at age 38.
Swami Vivekananda attributed his success and magnificent personality to his perfect observance of brahmacharya.
Many brahmacharis have the final goal of nirvana, or moksha in mind when they pursue strictly disciplined lifestyles.
Other interpretations of brahmacharya
Brahmacharya can also be interpreted more generally in a variety of ways, such as:
- generally striving for excellence in all domains of activity and relationship
- pursuing 'virtue' however defined. Brahmacharya understood in this sense is similar to the classical Greek concept of arete (excellence)
- clearing underlying personality conflicts and centering oneself and ones spiritual journey in clear, well conceived and sustainable values (that is, thinking of Brahmacharya as an ongoing practice of 'clearing' analogous to resolving personality complexes and conflicts in psychotherapy)
- refining one's 'energies' (prana/chi/aura etc.) in relation to other people generally, to become aware of more subtle energies and to take one's energies or 'vibration' higher
Swami Vivekananda on Brahmacharya
- "That power comes to him who observes unbroken Brahmacharya for a period of twelve years, with the sole object of realising God I have practiced that kind of Brahmacharya myself, and so a screen has been removed, as it were, from my brain."
- "The chaste brain has tremendous energy and gigantic will power. Without chastity there can be no spiritual strength. Continence gives wonderful control over mankind.The spiritual leaders of men have been very continent and this is what gave them power."
- "Every boy should be trained to practice absolute Brahmacharya and then, and then alone faith and Shraddha will come. Chastity in thought, word and deed always and in all conditions is what is called Brahmacharya. Unchaste imagination is as bad as unchaste action. The Brahmacharin must be pure in thought, word and deed."
- "In order to attain to ideal Brahmacharya one has in the beginning to observe strict rules regarding chastity. For minimum 12 years, one should keep oneself strictly aloof from the least association with the opposite sex as far as possible. When spiritual aspirants are established in the ideal of Sannyasa and brahmacharya, they will be able to mix on an equal footing with worldly men without any harm. But in the beginning 12 years, if they do not keep themself within the barriers of strict rules, they will all go wrong."
- "Brahmacharya should be like a burning fire within the veins!"
- "Obedience to the Guru without questioning, and strict observance of Brahmacharya — this is the secret of success."