Brahmacharya is one of the five yamas (spiritual rules) listed by Patanjali in the sacred texts, the Yoga Sutras. It is also one of the 10 yamas listed in the Upanishads. In this context, it refers to sexual restraint, marital fidelity and chastity.
Traditionally, Brahmacharya was intended to encourage yogis to use their energy for a higher purpose than for external desires, such as sex; hence, the definition of Brahmacharya as the “right use of energy.” However, Brahmacharya has slightly different meanings based on the context:
- Ashrama - In Hinduism, it is the first of the four age-based stages of life, or ashramas. In this context, Brahmacharya is known as the bachelor-student stage (up to age 25), when celibacy is practiced for the purpose of focusing on education.
- Virtue - Brahmacharya can refer to a virtuous lifestyle, including celibacy until marriage and fidelity in the marriage.
- Monastic lifestyle - For a monk's spiritual practice in the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions, Brahmacharya refers to the renouncement of sex and marriage, among other things.