By Iskcon Mayapur
“A brahmachari should be quite well behaved and gentle and should not eat or collect more than necessary. He must always be active and expert, fully believing in the instructions of the spiritual master and the sastra. Fully controlling his senses, he should associate only as much as necessary with women or those controlled by women.”
– Srimad Bhagavatam, 7.12.6, translation
In the Vedic scriptures, the life of a brahmachari begins from as young as 5 years of age and goes up until 25 years of age, after which the decision to continue with celibate life or to go into the next ashrama is made. In the brahmachari ashrama, the brahmacharis are properly trained in various areas of etiquette and practice celibacy. They live austerely and are fully engaged in various services and sastric studies under the guidance of the spiritual mater or mentor.
Living separately from the grihasta community, the Brahmachari Ashrama in the Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya campus is located near the Panca-tattva entrance of the temple. There are over 290 residential brahmacharis who are all engaged in service in and around Mayapur. They are engaged in a variety of services such as campus preaching and outreach, pujari service, sankirtana bus preaching, school preaching, bhakti-vriksha preaching, medical care, management and so on.
To join the Mayapur Brahmachari Ashrama, devotees are required to complete a six-month course taught by the New Devotee Department. This program teaches new bhaktas the philosophy and practice of Krishna consciousness through the books of Srila Prabhupada and by engaging them in many services throughout the day, such as tulasi-seva, cleaning the temple, setting up for the morning Srimad Bhagavatam classes and packing up afterwards, and cleaning the Mayapur campus. Additionally, they attend a variety of classes on philosophy and Vaishnava etiquette.
Once the first course is completed, bhaktas aspiring to join the Brahmachari Ashrama take a six-month Vocational Training Course. This course includes learning the basics of singing bhajans and kirtan, as well as learning how to play mridanga, kartals and harmonium. They dive deeper into sastric studies, and learn how to cook and how to distribute books. This training program not only assists them in their day-to-day services and life in the ashrama, but is also beneficial for when and if they eventually leave the ashrama. Once the two courses are completed, the devotee can then join the Brahmachari Ashrama.
The wellbeing of each of the resident brahmacharis is looked after by the Mayapur Brahmachari Care System (MBCS), which serves as a counselling system for the resident brahmacharis. There are 16 brahmachari group leaders, called Sevaks, and they are each the group leader for 10-12 brahmacharis. Each group gathers once a week for studies and spiritual discussions. The Sevaks in turn meet every 2 weeks for an istagosti. In this way, the MBCS oversees the brahmacharis’ sadhana, studies, services, and physical and mental care.
The senior brahmacharis live in the senior brahmachari ashrama, which facilitates their personal studies. The senior brahmacari ashrama also provides the space required to take personal care of the elderly brahmacharis. There are always 5-6 younger brahmacharis constantly ready to serve the senior brahmacharis with anything they may need. The younger brahmacharis take care of basic needs such as laundry, cleaning the rooms, bringing medicine and prasadam, and so on. By performing such menial services for the senior brahmacharis these young brahmacharis get immense benefit, as they are performing the highest service of all – Vaishnava seva. Taking care of the elder devotees in their ashrama is conducive not only for the training of the young brahmacharis but also, most importantly, for their Krishna consciousness. This service also gives them the opportunity to receive guidance and association from the senior brahmacharis, and thus this system has proven to be very successful.
Many of Mayapur’s brahmacharis appreciate the ashrama experience because it allows them to fully engage in devotional service in the holy dhama. Whether they stay in the Mayapur Brahmachari Ashrama for their entire lives or move on to another ashrama, the training and experience they gain in the Mayapur Brahmachari Ashrama are an invaluable asset in their spiritual journey.
One resident brahmachari reflects that, “Although brahmachari devotees have to undergo different types of austerity, tolerance and risk, this ashrama is very simple with less material problems. It’s easy to get spiritual bliss and finally go back home back to Godhead in this lifetime. So if you want to be free from complicated life, and quickly make your life a success, please take a vow and join the Brahmachari Ashram.”
“After completing one’s education as a brahmachari in this way, one should give daksina, an offering of gratitude, to one’s guru, and then one may leave for home and accept the next ashrama-the grihastha-ashrama-or else one may continue in the brahmacharya-ashrama without adulteration.”
– Srimad Bhagavatam, 7.12 Summary