Brahmacariya etymology

I vaguely remember hearing/reading an etymology of brahmacariya as being composed of:
brahma — in reference to a deity considered sexless, I can’t find any mention of a brahma considered in this way
cariya - conduct, like an ācārya is a “conductor” or teacher

so something like “conducting oneself like brahma who is sexless”

Anyway, I’m pretty sure about the cariya part of it, what’s the brahma part?

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As far as I know, the Brahmas are spontaneously arisen beings, they don’t have a complete physical body, hence they don’t have a mother, there is no need for sex and gender in the Brahma world. The Buddha seems to say that if one of his disciples goes to the Brahma world, he will surely become an arahant there. Which would explain why he professes the ‘brahmic life’ that leads at least to the Brahma world where there are no gender and no sex, and at best to parinibbana in this life.

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The term brahma is used in a lot of different senses, many of which have only a loose connection with the concept of Brahmā as a creator god. Think of how in English we say “O my god!” or “thank god” and so on. It’s kind of archaic now, but “godly” was an adjective to describe a good life or a virtuous person, quite similar to brahma.

In my view, the ultimate root of the idea of brahma is not god as such, but more akin to what the anthropologists call mana. This is not the Pali word māna, but an Austronesian word meaning “power, spirit, magic energy”. Or, for sci-fi geeks—and really, who isn’t these days?—“the Force”.

The idea is essentially that in the universe there’s an energy or vitality, which can be tapped into by means of magical rituals and so on and directed for ones’ purpose. It’s an extremely common conception, found in similar ways in magical cultures all over the world.

I believe that brahma originally—before even Vedic times—referred to this “Force”, and the many uses we see in Pali all derive from that. Perhaps the closest conception would be “spirit”. Thus the god Brahmā is the “chief spirit”, the highest embodiment of the force, while brahmacariya is the spiritual life, or spiritual journey, the path towards a fuller realization of the “force”. Needless to say, by the time of the Buddha this magical sense had already largely receded, and we see only the echoes of it. But we can still find it if we seek!


So, brahmacariyans are literally Jedis, aren’t they?


Here I am, trying to sufficiently break my attachment to all things “Star Wars,” and I’ve now seen several references in various posts! Oh, well. Such is the power of “the Force.” I wonder if an arahant with psychic powers could enter the fire element and generate a realistic facsimile of a light saber? Even though public displays of psychic powers are prohibited, I bet there would be a mass conversion of Star Wars geeks at the sight of it!


Not really. Jedism is just a branch of Buddhism anyway, so there’s no need to convert.

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Brilliant, Bhante, simply brilliant! Along the lines of, say, the Shaolin monks, maybe?