One of the important qualities that an apprentice monk (also known as brahmachari) needs to cultivate is the quality of tolerance. The ether all around is filled with the vibrations of exploitation and wild fulfilment of one’s sensual desires. Even a seasoned brahmachari, if he is not careful and alert could be affected by these vibrations. Having decided to practise celibacy, a monk confronts many challenges, primarily from his own mind and senses. Hence it isn’t an easy going life; on the contrary it’s full of challenges on a daily basis. You don’t know what could happen any day to shake your confidence or worse challenge your vows of celibacy.
A life of celibacy can be frustrating and painful if the focus is only on controlling senses, and avoiding sex life. Celibacy is not so much a negation of sex as it is a life of affirmation; it’s an open declaration of our desire to love God and render uninterrupted service at all times, in all places and under all circumstances. The positive will to serve makes celibacy a joyful experience. Therefore those living happily in the ashram are the ones who have tangible services to offer to the Lord and the society. These services attract the grace of God and the Lord mercifully fills the heart of a monk with a sweet flavour of spiritual happiness, the type that can’t be matched with anything material. The sense pleasures pale in comparison to the spiritual happiness of Krishna consciousness.
Yet the challenge remains, and tolerance is the key to face it cheerfully. The Bhagavad Gita, a scripture that the monks study daily, extols the virtue of tolerance. Tolerance of carnal desires which is like an itch helps one avoid many related sufferings that accrue to a gratifier of senses.
“Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.” (Bhagavad Gita 5.23)
However tolerance alone can be stressful; besides like a suppressed volcano, our desires may burst off one day and cause huge damage. Therefore seasoned brahmacharis and sannyasis advise the monks to simultaneously practise remembrance of God, Krishna, while tolerating the itch of various desires. The essence of all rules and regulations of devotional service is to ‘always remember Krishna and never forget Krishna’. As we favourably remember the Lord, the tolerance is no longer painful; it fills the heart with a sweet experience.