The Mother Divine
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By Kinkar Vitthal Ramanuja

“O dehabhimani (one who is identified with and proud of the body), move
forward towards the sacred knowledge of the Atma (atmajnana)”
---Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Tapasya’ is not tapasya as in penance or rigorous practice; it is Brahmacharya i.e. celibacy which is the real tapasya. The one who has mastery over containment of the sexual fluid can direct the sexual fluid upwards as against the normal downward flow. An individual with such mastery is not a human being but a god. Sitaram loved this statement of the shastras. He would quote it not only in his formal writings but also in casual speech.

Brahmacharya means containment of the vital sexual fluid. In the meaningful sense, abstinence must not only be physical but also mental and in speech. Maharshi Patanjali says that Brahmacharya leads to the greatest vitality. This vitality proves to be the biggest contributory factor in the spiritual growth and general progress of an individual. Bhojraj comments on this observation: when Brahmacharya is firmly established, the eight-fold siddhis manifest themselves. These siddhis are:
The first three are daihik siddhis orbodily powers:

  1. Anima: the power of making oneself as tiny and subtle as an atom.
  2. Laghima: the power to make one’s body as light as cotton wool.
  3. Mahima: the power of making oneself as large as desired.

The fourth and fifth are powers of the indriya or senses:

  1. Prapti: the power to obtain any object of one’s desire.
  2. Prakamya: the power to satisfy one’s wishes to have, to see anything.

The sixth, seventh and eighth are manasik siddhis or powers of the mind:

  1. Ishitva: the power to command and cast a major influence on people.
  2. Vashitva: the power to hold people under one’s thrall.
  3. Kamavasaitva: the power to satisfy all desires and then become liberated of desires.
The rishi-munis of the ancient days and the saints of the present day agree that the mastery over the celibate life alone grants one all these powers or siddhis. Quite picturesquely, it is said that these siddhis fit snugly in the hands of such a one as an aamla, i.e. the Indian gooseberry, would.
In the world-renowned epic, Ramayana, Hanuman displays amply the prowess attained through celibacy. Thus, he crosses the mighty ocean as a mighty being (mahima), enters the impenetrable Lankanagari of Ravana as an invisible,subtle entity (anima), carries the very mountain of Gandhamaadan to enable the revivification of the dead Lakshmana and performs many unbelievable feats. In Mahabharata, the second epic of world renown, Bhishma, the great-grandfather, obtains victories over enemies on the strength of the undisturbed practice of celibacy. He could even defeat his teacher Parashuram, who had destroyed, twenty-one times over, the race of the Kshatriya or warrior-kings.

These tales from the ancient epics may appear to belong to the genre of myths, hence unbelievable. Suppose we go back into history just by a hundred years and take the example of the world-famous Swami Vivekananda. In June, 1901, during Swamiji’s sunset years, a beloved disciple of his, Sharatchandra Chakravorty was gazing with shining eyes at the set of Encyclopedia Britannica which, recently delivered, adorned the shelves of the library at Belur Math. “Surely, no one can read all these volumes in one lifetime!” he exclaimed.

Swamiji: What do you mean? Ask anything from these ten volumes and I will tell you all about it.
Disciple (in amazement): You mean you have already read ten volumes?

Swamiji: If I hadn’t, how could I say so?

Swami Vivekananda had read ten and was to read the eleventh volume. Following orders, the disciple selected and asked Swamiji the most difficult questions from the ten volumes. Swamiji not only answered all the questions but also gave examples given therein using identical words! Sharatchandra exclaimed in utter amazement that this was evidence of extraordinary intellectual prowess and memory power beyond human capacity.

Swamiji: See? If you practice celibacy properly, all types of knowledge come to you easily. The lack of celibacy is destroying our country these days.

(Speeches and Writings of Swami Vivekananda, Volume IX, page 210)

Brahmacharya or celibacy has been lauded by all the greats including Sri Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Vivekananda and indeed seers of all time, as the single most powerful instrument in the spiritual life. Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhashchandra Bose, poet-laureate and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo Ghosh openly extolled celibacy for its efficacy. Rabindranath Tagore said that in the pursuit of bodha i.e. discriminative wisdom, the shadripui.e. the six qualities of lust, greed, anger, arrogance, attachment and jealousy, caused such distraction as to distort the practice. The control of the vibrations of the consciousness would be possible with training in adherence to celibacy (Tapovan).