We previously discussed several Jain vows and principles, including four of the most important: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), and Asteya (non-stealing). There are only two more: Brahmacharya (chastity) and Aparigraha (non-possession). Today’s we’ll talk about Brahmacharya. Like all the other vows, this one isn’t as self-explanatory as you think — and it goes far beyond what we think of as typically “chaste” behavior.
Other religions (such as Hinduism) also regard the concept as important. Essentially, it promotes a focus on oneself in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. It doesn’t mean that Jainism is an inherently selfish religion. What it does mean is that you have to look inward before you can look outward. Before we can help others, we need to help ourselves. It’s a philosophical belief.
But Brahmacharya leads Jains into abstinence or even celibacy. Sound crazy? To many of us, it might be taking the idea of repression to a whole new level. But to them, the Jain religion and life here on Earth is just a stepping stone to enlightenment — and at the end of the day earthly pleasures don’t matter much.
That’s not to say the Jains don’t understand the need for reproduction. Jains are therefore taught to abstain from sex until marriage, at which time they can create little humans until they churn out a male. One that happens, Jains are urged to once again abstain from sex!
For Jain monks, celibacy is a given. But Brahmacharya isn’t just about not having sex — it’s about not thinking about having sex. Of course, they are not allowed to talk about sexual intercourse either, because doing so would contradict the vows taken.
And for those who are married with or without children, infidelity would mean breaking this particular vow — and because the vows are necessary to achieve spiritual liberation, breaking them is highly frowned upon.