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Brahmacharya

March 17, 2016

‘Brahmacharya’ is not new to Hindu society. For generations one or two male heirs of many of our families have traditionally embraced ‘brahmacharyam’ or bacherlorhood out of principle or devotion to a cause. Bachelors, spinsters and young widows have been an integral part of the HUF (hindu undivided family) joint family system.

Bhishma of Mahabharatha, is the foremost bachelor we can come to think of. His supreme sacrifice of the throne heralded the unrecorded earliest history of India perhaps in another plane of time which is still beyond our imaginations.

Hindu Gods Ganesha, Hanuman and Aiyappa are also supposedly bachelors! But in Mylapore Valleeswar temple that used to be my daily haunt in my own spinster days (!) Ganesh still graces us darshan with his 2 wives Siddhi and Buddhi. I have never visited another temple in my life where Ganesh is seen with a wife.

Lord Aiyappa is the third son of Shiva – born out of his union with Vishnu in female form. Aiyappa is bachelor in Kerala’s Sabarimala. (In Tamil Nadu where he reaches finally to spend the rest of his life, he is called ‘Aiyanaarappan’ and is supposedly married. But Aiyappa is deemed a bachelor generally by Hindus. Lots of restrictions therefore on women from entering the Sabarimala abode of his which is strictly limited to men or women under 12 years or over 60.

A similar interesting feature is about Skanda, the second son of Lord Shiva who is hailed as the Tamil God Murugan. Also called Subramanya, he supposedly left Kailash in a fit of fury after a wordy duel with his parents Shiva and Shakthi! He came all the way to south and set himself up in Palani hills where he met Valli, a tribal and married. Therefore you can see a vaccuum in  north Indian scriptures about Skanda generally.)

Gowthama Buddha embraced ascetic life after he fathered a son, leading a luxurious life in the palace of his kingdom with his princess wife. He attained ‘nirvana’ under the ‘Bodhi’ tree in Gaya in India.

Jesus Christ was supposed to be a bachelor although now contradicting versions emerge.

In those days when families easily had over a dozen children each, it was kind of natural for one or two of the brood to turn to spirituality as it has been with most families in India. There have been an odd elderly bachelor uncle or grandfather or a spinster aunty in my own family who never married (although I have always suspected of them to be gay)! Mostly the first born sons or daughters in hindu families chose to remain unmarried to bring up their younger siblings in the event of untimely death of their parent(s).

As a 15-16 year old, I used to visit Shri Ramakrishna Mission Mutt in Mylapore where my maternal grandfather was a regular visitor and a familiar figure. On my way to the library I used to spot bachelor monks (!) with shaven heads – and believe me or not, one or two of them were real handsome that even in that young age the rebellious me wanted to seduce them hahaha! Their bachelorhood seemed to be an affront to the budding woman in me – blame it on the age and hormones!

Swami Vivekananda was ofcourse a brahmachari and so were Shirdi Sai Baba and Puttabarthi Sai Baba. Ramana Maharishi in Tiruvannamalai Ramanaashram was a bachelor. These men were guided in life by spirituality that made others follow in their footstep.

Mahatma Gandhi chose celibacy after a fruitful marriage and four sons so he can hardly be described as a  ‘brahmachari.’ In this aspect he was like Buddha forgoing family life for a greater social/spiritual cause.

In one of the interviews that our beloved ex-president APJ Abdul Kalam granted to a Tamil tv channel, he was asked why he remained a bachelor. Kalam confessed that in his poor family, no one ever gave thought to his marriage at that point of time in his life. The moment passed. He was too shy to go ask for it or find for himself a girl!

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, our former BJP prime minister was also a confirmed bachelor. This is one more man who took up brahmacharya for a cause. It was popular in those days.  It was quite a team at the center that was the butt of a national joke in the four years they were at the helm of powers: a bachelor president (Kalam), a bachelor PM (Vajpayee). India perhaps was least corrupt in their concurrent term, no wonder!

It is possible that Gandhiji’s vow of brahmacharya taken very late in his life, could have had an effect on Shri Narendra Modi, our present PM. That, combined with his predecessor’s devotion could have left a lasting impression on a young and precocious Narendra who decidedly opted for bachelorhood leaving his child marriage behind (for which he is unjustly blamed until today). Well, Modiji could be the last of the tribe that is drying up. India has long since stopped producing brave and selfless sons who refused to settle down in the drudgery of domesticity, willing to sacrifice their life for Her. This breed is all but finished. Limited edition.

Well, then there are some Yogis and self-taught Gurus who claim to have adopted ‘brahmacharya’ but I wouldn’t want to verify their credentials! The prominent names are ofcourse Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar of ‘Art of Living’ now in the eye of Yamuna controversy and then ofcourse our dancing inspiration Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev of Isha. I won’t say I am a follower of either brand of spirituality, but I guess they are doing a wonderful, wonderful job to say the least. Spirituality and Yoga for one thing. They are also involved in humanitarian service (not Ramdev I guess). In today’s materialistic world, there is a forever widening void when it comes to consciousness and self-awakening that we can hope to fulfill with their enlightened guidance.

The Shankaracharyas of Kanchi, Sringeri mutts have been brahmacharis. And so is the Pope and mostly catholic priests. Hindu priests however have had no such a social restriction.

One fine day my husband said it was impossible to scale new heights in life if one is married (like he is) (he blames me for his distractions with a 23 year non-stop nagging 🙂 ) (Otherwise I am sure he would be MD & CEO rolled into one of L&T group by now 🙂 ). I said, it is too late for him to think on that line now. He says, Marriage is a big obstacle, impediment to those who want to bring in a social change. If you want to singularly devote yourself to a larger cause, self-interest is the price to pay. Bachelorhood delivers you from the distractions of petty domestic bothers which can sap and feed on your fruitful energies you may otherwise reserve for constructive purposes. The commitment is total.

Says my husband, Gandhi founded Sabarmathi ashram and led a monastic life from middle-age which was the prime factor for his single-minded approach to Satyagraha and freedom struggle in general. Nehru was a young widower who lacked permanent female company (other than that of his daughter) even if he was rumoured to be a womanizer.  India’s destiny was decided by these men who could afford to give so much thought and attention to the independence movement than others because, they had distanced themselves from family life and were kind of ‘detached.’ Jinnah was a frustrated loner too.

I had to remind my husband how all the three never totally stayed away from women. They weren’t essentially quite the ‘brahmacharis.’

Somehow I believe unlike him, Marriage makes men less ruthless and less ambitious and more humane. A marriage softens and smoothens out the gross perceptions and ideals of a tougher man. Children in our lives could make us feel vulnerable, more like mortals and not invincible the way Jinnah or Nehru perhaps felt. Family takes the edge out of severe men.

Extreme ecstasy and pain in physical and emotional form may be possible only if you bond yourself with someone even for a brief period. It need not have to be a legally worthy or socially endorsed companionship, it could be a possibility with anyone but gratifying to the level of giving oneself a sense of fulfillment and completeness. 

On the lighter note, I guess I liked the bachelor Sanjeev Kumar of Bollywood the most. He was and will always be my ideal man. I have never liked even a Tamil actor that way. Even though he is long dead and gone, his brooding screen presence, earthy undertone, smokey eyes and mature looks have made him my dream hero for life! I am relieved he never married!!!

Modern day bachelor is our Salman Khan who can hardly be a ‘brahmachari’ !

So thus, there is a fine distinction between the two words bachelor and brahmachari. The Indian languages are rich and classical that they have a word almost for everything. A bachelor need not have to be chaste. He is merely an unattached, unmarried man. But a brahmachari is a male who practices abstinence lifelong.

Brahmacharya therefore is like a penance for a purpose. Far rigorous and dedicated than perhaps bachelorhood which could be more of an imposed status (circumstantial generally). Brahmacharyam is a willful choice rather.

Dr. Mythreyan, ex-BJP member, and ex ADMK MP from Chennai, is an oncologist by profession, who remains a bachelor. Dr. Prithika Chari, leading neurologist ranked in top 10 from Chennai, als0 chose to stay single devoted to her honourable profession.

Today it is fashionable to listen to motivational speeches. Back in 1980s we had our Kripananda Variar who performed ‘katha kalakshepam’ in temples. Variar had devoted his entire life to giving spiritual, motivating discourses. In his footsteps we have today Suki Sivam who now talks in Tamil tv channels who also is a brahmachari.

So what about women? Down south we have Jayalalitha: she was a star for years in her heydays and we know she was hardly a saint! Mehbooba Mufti of Kashmir in the north, Mamata Banerjee of Bengal in the east and Anandhiben Patel of Gujarat from the west are all spinsters! Four record single lady CMs from states and one bachelor boy PM at the center! Wow, what do we have here!

Indira Gandhi was widowed young and was India’s longest serving prime minister ever like her father Nehru, all lone and single.

My school head mistresses Ms. Satyabhama and before her Ms. Chellam did not marry for the sake of serving girl children’s education. Even my college principal Ms. Lalitha who we fiercely hated chose to remain single for the noble cause.

Mother Theresa, love her or hate her, could go a long way serving the poor and the infirm because she had no familial attachment to divert her from her social work.

This list of mine is incomplete and whenever I remember more people, I shall keep updating the post.

Marriage is not be-all and end-all. And then again, you don’t have to beget biological children to be a compassionate human being. Sushmitha Sen, the unwed mother who adopted girl babies forsaking marriage, vindicated her Miss Universe crown with that single bold act of hers. Even so in my personal opinion, marriage does and kids do instill and invoke something in us that we might not otherwise experience than by outgrowing the biological phases. Ofcourse I wouldn’t want to merit such a physical transition anything over 5% for our mental make-up, but I guess it might still go a long way in sketching the kind of human beings that we are… Or I could be wrong…

Buddha and Gandhi did not choose celibacy and brahmacharya without first indulging themselves in marital, familial bliss. They were not strangers to carnal pleasures. Charity begins at home, goes the adage.

In Thamizh, poet-sage Thiruvalluvar (another saint whose bachelorhood is widely debated until today) said before some 3000 years, ‘illarame nallaram’ (the best charity is (commitment) to (one’s) family.’

Modi, as we see today, has this determined streak about him, which has got to do with less or perhaps no pre-occupation with trivial issues. India benefits the most from his undisturbed concentration although I wonder how many might agree with me. I would have wished him a happy married life as well, but then, I respect the choice he made as a young under-aged boy, a minor… Such a clarity of thought and vision in those tender years is absolutely a mark of something phenomenal… May be some may find him intimidating for this reason. The single men we see invoke in us this kind of paranoia, like they have this air of invincibility about them I guess… May be it’s more psychological because for us lesser mortals anything out of the ordinary is circumspect. We are incapable of rising above pettiness.

Anyway Indian Presstitutes, rest assured, even if you beg, borrow or steel, this one-time edition won’t go on sale again. You will have to wait a 1000 years for another ‘mahapurush’ to be born in India.

I guess it is wrong comparing Gandhi and Modi even if both could be Gujarathi Bania basically. Both belong to different times and both were inspired by different ideologies and both adopted slightly varied missions in life.  But the crux of the matter is, there is no question about their selfless love and loyalty and devotion for Mother India. Spirituality is the strong point in both men: it is not strange for bachelors to find solace in spirituality. They have to find peace somewhere.

Do Brahmacharis follow any special diet or practise any tantra or yoga or whatever for self-control?! Is meditation the prescription for channelizing all our thoughts and energies and actions towards one single dedicated purpose?

The sense of commitment one sees in singles be it brahmacharis or brahmakumaris is something that is impossible to spot in men and women who have taken the solemn marriage vows.

What we have to confer with is, how single men/women who head institutions/nations are able to run corruption free establishments and deliver on promise. I won’t say the NDA government is guileless, but it is a lot better under the flagship of our bachelor PM Modi who has no rhyme or reason to seek material pleasures or stash millions in Swiss accounts the way the congress PMs have allegedly done. Sadly our media won’t even let our PM don a nice kurtha or take a selfie. This man is a vegetarian. This man is a brahmachari. This man works for over 16 hours a day without rest. This man wouldn’t mind sleeping on the floor. What a sadistic people would want to deny him even some of the simplest pleasures life can offer him.

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The wicked woman 🙂  in me thinks :

Gandhi’s adoption of celibacy is ridiculous. He chose brahmacharya as an easy way out after having had 4 brats who he could not control (!) in an era when Family Planning devices were just making an appearance!

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Brahmacharya is a difficult vow to take and maintain. Abstinence especially in younger age is almost next to impossible generally to most of us. Women may find it easier as we see nuns in catholic convents. Women have better self-control than men. With men, it must be tougher. Those who achieve it (if they are not gay) can transform their potent energies to something powerful and creative and beneficial to society at large.

Men and women in late 50s may lose interest in physical relationship naturally as testosterone and estrogen finally dry up which is imminent. It probably needs no invocation of bachelorhood on purpose!

Whether Indian husbands wondering about brahmacharya would still want to put it to practice in life is a billion dollar question 🙂

Mudhir Kannis of 200s (Old Maidens)

There are a couple of girls who are mudhir kannis (old maidens) in my friends’ circle. Ambitious career girls. Definitely not lesbians. Single by choice and by circumstances. There are also 1-2 girls who opted out of motherhood/parenthood. No comments. I am too much of a simpleton to understand or analyze this kind of thinking really. I may be wrong but I somehow find these women incomplete in a sense. Only a wave of unsolicited sympathy for them. I somehow feel my divorcee friend is better off – she didn’t remain completely not knowing what it is all about, what it is to have a man or belong as family. My feelings toward bachelors is different though. May be that’s because of the society I come from where respectability is associated with one’s marital status especially where it concerns women.

 

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2 Comments
  1. George Fernandes was not a bachelor. He was married and had a son. 🙂

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