Firstly, no, I’m not celibate.... or maybe I am. If I were I certainly wouldn’t tell you. If I were to take a vow of brahmacharya – celibacy – it would be a personal choice and none of your business. Furthermore, it’s none of your business whether I’m vegetarian or not, if I cheat on my taxes, or if I own more than one home.
Brahmacharya is one of the 5 yamas, or vows, listed as the first limb of Patanjali’s 8-fold path, ashtanga yoga. Brahmacharya is the fourth yama and is, perhaps, the most varied in its interpretations. The other four yamas are ahimsa – not harming –, satya – telling the truth - , asteya – not stealing -, and aparigraha – not grasping. Brahmacharya has been interpreted to mean (amongst other things): strict celibacy, not having sex outside of wedlock, only having sex for procreative purposes, having respect for your sexual partner(s), and/or not using sexual persuasion to influence others.
Why so many interpretations? Because all the yamas can be taken to varying degrees of intensity.
To what degree should you take Brahmacharya? This is a question only you can answer. Only you know what you are ready for. Brahmacharya goes more than skin deep. A vow of continence is mental, emotional, and physical. Simple abstention from sexual contact is not enough; sexual thought and feelings are also violations of a strict vow of Brahmacharya. Try to deny yourself anything before you are properly prepared and you will end up fetishizing it. This is pretty easy to see when someone takes a strict vow of ahimsa – not harming – before they are ready. Ever met a vegan who can’t stop talking about how awesome it is to be a vegan? Within the space of one brunch you find out, without the slightest inquiry on your part, why they are a vegan, how long they’ve been vegan, and various reasons why you should become vegan. This is why the bottomless Bloody Mary was invented (which, if made traditionally, is not vegan). Deprivation of food without proper preparation leads to an obsession with food and deprivation of sexual function can lead to an unhealthy obsession with sex. Obsession does not lead to clarity of mind, quite the opposite.
Brahmacharya will come naturally as you progress in yoga practice. Yoga practice drives us to go more and more internal with our awareness, ever seeking out the unadulterated bliss that lies within. The more internal we go the less we are concerned with the external. Acts of external sensory stimulation, like sex, become banal at best. As the relationship with internal bliss becomes more profound and satisfying both external pleasure and pain become dull in comparison. The eventual leaving off of sexual thought, feeling, and act is quite normal, even trivial, when proper preparatory work has been done.
When you are ready for Brahmacharya you will feel no need to tell your friends and family; it’s doubtful the topic would ever come up in conversation. It would be highly irregular for anyone to even make sexual advances towards you, given your natural lack of desire. You won’t be returning any flirtatious glances, idle conversation with soft sexual overtones will be easily avoided, and the bump and grind of the dance floor will seem lack luster and a waste of time.
So please, don’t feel the need to tell me or anyone else that you are a practicing Brahmachari. If you are true and sincere in your vow of Brahmacharya we will have already noticed.
PS. The current exchange rate of retained seminal fluid to nectar of immortality is so low that it’s probably not worth your time.