The first step is the realization of its necessity.
The next is gradual control of the senses. A Brahmachari must needs control his palate. He must eat to live, and not for enjoyment. He must see only clean things and close his eyes before anything unclean. It is thus a sign of polite breeding to walk with one's eyes towards the ground and not wandering about from object to object. A Brahmachari will likewise hear nothing obscene or unclean, smell no strong, stimulating things. The smell of clean earth is far sweeter than the fragrance of artificial scents and essences. Let the aspirant to Brahmacharya also keep his hands and feet engaged in all the waking hours in healthful activity. Let him also fast occasionally.
The third step is to have clean companions—clean friends and clean books.
The last and not the least is prayer. Let him repeat Ramanama with all his heart regularly everyday, and ask for divine grace.
None of these things are difficult for an average man or woman. They are simplicity itself. But their very simplicity is embarrassing. Where there is a will, the way is simple enough. Men have not the will for it and hence vainly grope. The fact that the world rests on the observance, more or less, of Brahmacharya or restraint, means that it is necessary and practicable.
Young India, 29-4-'26
Many aspirants after Brahmacharya fail, because in the use of their other senses they
want to carry on as those who are not Brahmacharis. Their effort is therefore
identical with the effort to experience the bracing cold of winter in the
scorching summer months. There should be a clear line between the life of a
Brahmachari and of one who is not. The resemblance that there is between the two
is only apparent. The distinction ought to be clear as daylight. Both use their
eyesight, but whereas the Brahmachari uses it to see the glories of God, the
other uses it to see the frivolity around him. Both use their ears, but whereas
the one hears nothing but praises of God, the other feasts his ears upon
ribaldry. Both often keep late hours, but whereas the one devotes them to
prayer, the other fritters them away in wild and wasteful mirth. Both feed the
inner man, but the one does so only to keep the temple of God in good repair,
while the other gorges himself and makes the sacred vessel a stinking gutter.
Thus both live as the poles apart, and the distance between them will grow and
not diminish with the passage of time.
Brahmacharya means control of the senses in thought, word and deed. Every day I have been realizing more and more the necessity for restraints of the kind I have detailed above. There is no limit to the possibilities of renunciation, even as there is none to those of Brahmacharya. Such Brahmacharya is impossible of attainment by limited effort. For many, it must remain only as an ideal. An aspirant after Brahmacharya will always be conscious of his shortcomings, will seek out the passions lingering in the innermost recesses of his heart, and will incessantly strive to get rid of them. So long as thought is not under complete control of the will, Brahmacharya in its fullness is absent. Involuntary thought is an affection of the mind; and curbing of thought therefore means curbing of the mind which is even more difficult to curb than the wind. Nevertheless the existence of God within makes even control of the mind possible. Let no one think that it is impossible because it is difficult. It is the highest goal, and it is no wonder that the highest effort should be necessary to attain it.
But it was after coming to India that I realized that such Brahmacharya was impossible to attain merely by human effort. Until then I had been labouring under the delusion that fruit diet alone would enable me to eradicate all passions, and I had flattered myself with the belief that I had nothing more to do.
But I must not anticipate the chapter of my struggles. Meanwhile let me make it clear that those who desire to observe Brahmacharya with a view to realizing God need not despair, provided their faith in God is equal to their confidence in their own effort:
विषया विनिवर्तन्ते निराहारस्य देहिनः।
रसवर्ज रसोऽप्यस्य परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते ॥
The sense-objects turn away from an abstemious soul, leaving the relish behind. The relish also disappears with the realization of the Highest.
Therefore His name and His grace are the last resources of the aspirant after Moksha. This truth came to me only after my return to India.
Autobiography (1948), pp. 258-60
For me the observance of even bodily Brahmacharya has been full of difficulties. Today I may say that I feel myself fairly safe, but I have yet to achieve complete mastery over thought, which is so essential. Not that the will or effort is lacking, but it is yet a problem to me wherefrom undesirable thoughts spring their insidious invasions. I have no doubt that there is a key to lock out undesirable thoughts, but everyone has to find it out for himself. Saints and seers have left their experiences for us, but they have given us no infallible and universal prescription. For perfection or freedom from error comes only from grace, and so seekers after God have left us Mantras, such as Ramanama, hallowed by their own austerities and charged with their purity. Without an unreserved surrender to His grace, complete mastery over thought is impossible. This is the teaching of every great book of religion, and I am realizing the truth of it every moment of my striving after that perfect Brahmacharya.
Autobiography (1948), p. 388
I must confess that the observance of the law of continence is impossible without a living faith in God which is living Truth. It is the fashion nowadays to dismiss God from life altogether and insist on the possibility of reaching the highest kind of life without the necessity of a living faith in a living God. I must confess my inability to drive the truth of the law home to those who have no faith in and no need for a Power infinitely higher than themselves. My own experience has led me to the knowledge that fullest life is impossible without an immovable belief in a living law in obedience to which the whole universe moves. A man without that faith is like a drop thrown out of the ocean bound to perish. Every drop in the ocean shares its majesty and has the honour of giving us the ozone of life.