Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Brahmacharya Mean?

Brahmacharya is typically translated as “going after Brahman” or “behavior that leads to Brahman,” with Brahman being the Divine creator, or higher Self, in Hinduism and yoga. It is often associated with celibacy.

The Sanskrit term is derived from Brahman, meaning “Ultimate Reality” or “Divine Creator,” and charya, meaning “to move” or “to follow.” Brahmacharya is also frequently translated as “right use of energy.”


Yogapedia Explains Brahmacharya

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.

five yamas brahmacharya ahimsa aparigraha asteya

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.

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