Brahmacarya, aka: Brahman-carya; 10 Definition(s)

Introduction

Brahmacarya means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

Alternative spellings of this word include Brahmacharya.

In Hinduism

Ayurveda (science of life)

[Brahmacarya in Ayurveda glossaries]

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य, “celibacy”).—One of the thee supporting pillars of the body.—Celibacy means ‘to protect the semen’ by keeping control over all the senses. The last dhātu (body tissue) formed after the digestion of food substances we eat is the śukra (semen). According to Āyurveda, the strength of the body depends upon semen. Opposite to celibacy, sexual indulgence and enjoyment results in loss of semen corresponding to loss of strength. By celibacy one becomes full of ‘ojas,’ brightness, intellect, strength and majesty. Celibacy prevents diseases, preserves health and promotes strength.

(Source): Google Books: A Practical Approach to the Science of Ayurveda
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Purana

[Brahmacarya in Purana glossaries]

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—In ancient India an ideal life was considered to pass through four stages, and Brahmacarya is one of the stages of life. The four stages are Brahmacarya (Vedic student vowed to chastity), Gārhasthya (married householder), Vānaprastha (forest hermit) and Sannyāsa (an ascetic who has renounced the world). Brahmacarya, the first stage of the four is considered as the period of education. The rules and conduct of a Brahmacārī are given in Manusmṛti, Chapter 2. (See full article at Story of Brahmacarya from the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani)

(Source): archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—The disciplined life of celibacy; followed by Kara;1 greatness of;2 observers of it at Benares attain salvation.3

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 25. 23.
  • 2) Ib. 175. 33, 36-41; Vāyu-purāṇa 49. 138; 56. 69; 67. 27; 104. 23.
  • 3) Matsya-purāṇa 182. 8-11.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Arthashastra (politics and welfare)

[Brahmacarya in Arthashastra glossaries]

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य), or “stage of studentship” refers to the first of the four Āśramas (“stages of life”).—The division of one’s life into the four āśramas (eg., Brahmacarya) and their respective dharmas, was designed, in principle at least, to provide fulfilment to the person in his social, moral and spiritual aspects, and so to lead to harmony and balance in the society.

(Source): Knowledge Traditions & Practices of India: Indian Ethics: Individual and Social
Arthashastra book cover
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Arthashastra (अर्थशास्त्र, arthaśāstra) literature concerns itself with the teachings (shastra) of economic prosperity (artha) statecraft, politics and military tactics. The term arthashastra refers to both the name of these scientific teachings, as well as the name of a Sanskrit work included in such literature. This book was written (3rd century BCE) by by Kautilya, who flourished in the 4th century BCE.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

[Brahmacarya in Hinduism glossaries]

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to “behavior that leads to Brahman” and is one of the four stages of life in an age-based social system as laid out in the Manu Smrti and later Classical Sanskrit texts in Hinduism. It refers to an educational period of 14–20 years which starts before the age of puberty. During this time the traditional vedic sciences are studied, along with the religious texts contained within the Vedas and Upanishads. This stage of life was characterized by the practice of strict celibacy.

The word brahmacharya stems literally from two components: Brahma, (shortened from brahman), the absolute, eternal, supreme God-head. (As opposed to Brahmā, the deity in the Hindu triad responsible for creation). Charya, which means "to follow". This is often translated as activity, mode of behaviour, a “virtuous” way of life.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

[Brahmacarya in Mahayana glossaries]

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to a “holy religious life” according to appendix 5 of the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XIV). The word brahmacarya is of brāhmin origin and designates in a general way the rigorous observation of prescribed rules and, in a more specialized way, the sexual continence imposed on the novice during his studies at the foot of the master.  The word has passed into Buddhism with this twofold meaning. It designates the holy life, the religious life, notably in the form of the Arhat, but also chastity.

According to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra, “There are beings who follow the ten wholesome courses of action but who have not yet destroyed lust. Thus the sūtra here praises those who practice the conduct of king Brahmā (brahmacarya) by cutting through their sexual desire. It is said that those who practice brahmacarya purely never smell bad (nirāmaya-gandha): the person who is addicted to lust has an ugly malodorous body; thus, to praise those who have cut through lust, it is said that they do not have a bad smell”.

Also, “The gods who have cut through sexual desire are Brahmās, a term applied to all the gods of the form realm (rūpadhātu); this is why the method of cutting through sexual desire is called brahmacarya”.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

[Brahmacarya in Jainism glossaries]

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) or Brahmacaryapratimā represents the seventh of eleven pratimā (stages) laid down for Jain laymen. Brahmacarya-pratimā refers to “maintaining sexual purity now assuming the stricter aspect of celibacy and also not decorating one’s person” according to J. L. Jaini in his “outlines of Jainism” (pp. 67-70).

These pratimās (eg., brahmacarya) form a series of duties and performances, the standard and duration of which rises periodically and which finally culminates in an attitude resembling monkhood. Thus the pratimās rise by degrees and every stage includes all the virtues practised in those preceeding it. The conception of eleven pratimās appears to be the best way of exhibiting the rules of conduct prescribved for the Jaina laymen.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Jainism

Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य) refers to one of the eleven pratimās (eleven stages for becoming excellent śrāvaka).—Brahmacarya-pratimā prescribes absolute continence. This is indicative of the further limitation in the objects of Upabhoga.

(Source): HereNow4U: Śrāvakācāra (Ethics of the Householder)
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

[Brahmacarya in Marathi glossaries]

brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य).—n (S) One of the four ashram or states of life through which the Brahman passes,--that from the investiture with the sacrificial thread until marriage. 2 Abstinence from sexual commerce with women; either for a time, as of those who are about to engage in some extraordinary religious duty, or for the whole term of life. Applied also to Continence or Conjugal fidelity on the part of the male.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Relevant definitions

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