What must I do to to adopt celibacy?

Celibacy is a form of austerity, or tapas. Tapas means self-challenge, voluntarily assumed, for the purpose of effecting a positive change in one's life.

Tapas has three essential elements:

  1. A vow, which expresses one's intention or sankalpa: To be effective it should include a clear, positive statement in the present tense, using a verb which leaves no doubt even at the subconscious level as to one's intention. For example: "In thought, word and action, I remain chaste." Or "I see in others only the embodiment of the Divine." Statements like "I hope to" or "I want to" which imply doubt are avoided. One's vow should not include reference to what one is trying to avoid, otherwise, it may contribute to psychological suppression. One therefore concentrates on what one is seeking: Brahma, the universal nondual state of consciousness. A vow of tapas is generally made for a predetermined period: for example, a day, or a month, a year. So it is usually temporary, but it may be for the remainder of one's life.
  2. The exercise of ones willpower: When desires come, one does not dwell on them. One does not allow the mind to fantasize nor to dwell on memories of sexual experiences. Above all, one's mantra is "I shall not manifest it (this desire) with any word or action," for example through masturbation or flirtation. A little success will multiply one's willpower. Failure will weaken one's willpower by a multiple degree.
  3. Persistence: sincerity is doing what you say you are going to do. So, no matter how difficult, no matter the failures, no matter the doubts of one's capacity, one continues to exercises one's discernment and one's willpower. One notices when desires begin to enter the mind, and one exercises detachment towards them immediately. One detaches from the mind's attempts to justify the desire.


Tapas is most often applied to vows of silence, vows of fasting, dietary vows, vows of renunciation of material possessions, family, vows of obedience to a guru, vows related to social behaviour, vows to strictly follow the disciplines prescribed by a guru, and extremely ascetic practices such as sitting in meditation surrounded by small fires, for many hours over many days.

One can apply the principles of tapas to anything you want to change in your life. For example, eliminating a bad habit, like anger, over eating, swearing, smoking, gossiping, or to developing new positive habits, such as rising early, being kind or generous, physical exercise, regularity in meditation or other spiritual practices, self-control, developing virtues of honesty, patience, humility or frugality.

Tapas or austerities can be done for purpose of developing power, when one's intentions are moved by the force of rajas, expressing itself in the need to be active, to create, to exert one self. Tapas can done for the purpose of penance, out of guilt or atonement for past errors, or as a sacrifice with the expectation of absolution, or forgiveness. This reflects the guna of tamas, or inertia, doubt and fear. But for the authentic spiritual aspirant, only tapas which reflects the sattva guna of balance, calmness, clarity, understanding, peace, and various virtues including as patience and love are acceptable.

The decision to take a vow of celibacy must be in alignment with one's purpose. If someone decides that their life's purpose is "Self-realization" then vows of celibacy, silence and obedience, can be very helpful. The vows made to fulfil this purpose express an aspiration to be free of egoism, attachment, aversion, and to realize absolute Being, Consciousness and Bliss. When made with this purpose, such actions are not contrary to human nature, nor are they merely moral, but done in alignment with swabhava, the essential law of one's spiritual nature. They express the purposeful will of the Divine in us searching for and discovering not the pleasure of the lower Nature, but the Ananda, unconditional joy, of its own play and self-fulfilling. Dharma is usually understood as righteous action, ethical or moral conduct. But in the spiritual sense dharma is not morality or ethics, but action governed by swabhava, the law of self-becoming and divine being in the Soul. Humans are not compelled to limit their identity to the current limitations in their personal nature. The soul has no such limitation. It is moved by a law of becoming. Spiritual disciplines enable one to fulfil the law of the soul, its swabhava.

Austerities are relative, and depend upon the person and their experience. For example, when one decides to give up eating meat, and become a vegetarian, it feels difficult at times, it feels austere, because one misses eating meat, and one's family and friends express their disagreement with doing so. But after being a vegetarian for a number of years, one no longer misses meat; and when one no longer misses eating meat, it ceases to be an austerity. It is simply what one does. One no longer identifies with it.

Therefore, while celibacy may feel difficult initially and for some extended period, as long as one continues to entertain lustful thoughts or sexual fantasy, once one develops the skill to "let go" of these, celibacy becomes easy. One simply is. One is no longer the person who is not getting any sex. The great danger of this form of tapas is that in one's effort to control one's sexuality, one may only suppress it. Instead of "letting go" of sexual fantasy and desire, one may add to its samskara or habit by dwelling on it.

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