General Behavior & Disposition of a Brahmachari
Every being is an individual. All the rules and regulations in the world can’t snuff out a person’s individuality. So despite the brahmacäré’s adherence to a strict regime, there are all kinds of characters in the brahmacäré-äshrama. Eccentricity is not uncommon amongst those who strive for the extraordinary, and brahmacärés are no exception. Everyone has idiosyncrasies, and these become more apparent when we live lives of constant endeavor with little or no privacy—there are quite a few singular devotees around! Such variety adds spice to our already interesting lives in Krishna consciousness. Zaniness, however, is not the standard. The standard is, as Shréla Prabhupäda said, that a devotee be a perfect gentleman.
Below are a few guidelines on the behavior of an ideal brahmacäré. If you don’t exactly fit the description, don’t worry—hardly anyone does. We are all struggling with the modes of material nature on different rungs of the ladder of spiritual advancement. But make the effort to reach the standard of excellence. Take lessons and inspiration from the activities and dealings of great devotees like the six Gosvämés of Vrindävana and Shréla Prabhupäda. If you observe any good qualities in a devotee, be he a sannyäsé or a new bhakta, learn from him. Try, try, try.
Submission to and friendship with the guru are the directing principles in the life of a brahmacäré. (SB 7.12.1) He always tries to avoid doing anything which would displease his guru, who he worships as a pure representative of Shréla Prabhupäda and the guru-paramparä. In his dealings with others he is straightforward and fair, being ever conscious that he is representing his guru. Thus a brahmacäré is sushéläh sädhavah, a well-behaved saintly person. (SB 6.1.17) He does not try to draw attention to himself. He is self-satisfied, jolly, and confident—never morose. So naturally everyone—even the nondevotees—like him. The six Gosvämés were dear to both the gentle and the ruffians because they were never envious of anyone. Shréla Prabhupäda wrote that, “In our common dealings we should maintain friendship with everyone.” (SB 4.11.34) (Then what to speak of with devotees.)
Närada Muni describes brahmacärés as däsavan nécah: very humble, submissive, and obedient, like a slave. (SB 7.12.1) If a brahmacäré is not obedient, there is no meaning to his being a brahmacäré. Brahmacärés should be prepared to work hard, undergo austerities, accept discipline, and surrender. It is somewhat understandable (although not very good) if a householder is not very surrendered. But for a brahmacäré not to be so is an aberration. If a brahmacäré, especially a junior brahmacäré, is not prepared to surrender, be disciplined, and accept authority, he is no brahmacäré at all and is not fit to live in an äshrama.
Too much independence is not good, especially for brahmacärés newly joining the äshrama. A newcomer should be prepared to buckle under and do what he is told without complaining. By following this disciplinary process, the sense of surrender becomes fixed and strong. Such a brahmacäré can be relied upon to do well in any conditions.
Brahmacärés are traditionally meant for service, not to be served, so brahmacärés should not expect or demand service from others. Rather, they should be eager to serve others. Specifically, brahmacärés traditionally act as assistants to sannyäsés. A brahmacäré should be reluctant to accept service from others, especially on a regular basis, and certainly should not have a personal servant. An exception may be a brahmacäré who has been engaged in devotional service over many years and is physically incapacitated in old age. Even then, such a personal servant should not be a godbrother or one on the level of a godbrother.
The ideal brahmacäré dedicates his life for spiritual advancement and always endeavors to be self-controlled and detached from material enjoyment. However, he is not mindlessly fanatical and does not condemn devotees who do not follow as strictly as he does. He is not ignorant or naive or a ball of passion, but conducts himself in the mode of goodness, as a brähmana.
Steadiness is the bedrock of brahmacäré life. Having in the beginning accepted training in the principles of Krishna consciousness, a serious brahmacäré maintains continued, firm adherence to those standards throughout his life.
If a devotee is following all the principles and serving nicely (as all good brahmacärés do), mäyä will try to trick him into being falsely proud, into thinking himself better than other devotees. We should consider that even if we are doing well now, we have no guarantee that we shall be able to consistently maintain such a high standard. Many devotees before us have advanced dramatically, only to fall due to offenses caused by false pride. Genuine and steady advancement must be accompanied by humility, for pride goes before a fall.