(15 Jun '00)
Brahmacharis are spiritual disciples who take the vow of brahmacharya and wear the yellow robe as a sign of belonging to a spiritual order. ‘Brahmachari’ means one who abides in Brahman (the Absolute Reality), or one who lives for realising Brahman.
The formal initiation into Brahmacharya involves the donning of yellow robes and the acceptance of new names suffixed with Chaitanya (consciousness). The yellow colour of the robes indicate the beginning of the flame of renunciation, which the brahmacharis are supposed to nurture and nourish.
The brahmacharis undergo regular classes on scriptural texts like the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatam, Ramayana etc. The subtle spiritual truths hidden in these texts are brought to light in these classes. This enables the students to have a true perspective about spiritual life. The classes are conducted by Sannyasis and senior brahmacharis of the Ashram.
The brahmacharis are also taught to chant Vedic mantras in the traditional manner. Eminent Sannyasis from other ashrams and reputed scholars also conduct classes for the benefit of the ashram inmates. They are also taught to do ritual worship like pujas and homas. The spiritual and material benefits accruing from the performance of these rituals are explained in depth in these classes. After learning the theoretical aspects in class, the brahmacharis conduct homas guided by seniors.
After mastering the art of performing homas and pujas the brahmacharis conduct the same in the Brahmasthanam temples and, upon request, in the homes of devotee.
The Brahmacharya Initiation ceremony involves fasting, shaving one’s head except for a tuft of hair (by the male brahmacharis), performance of a Ganapati Homa, receiving yellow robes, the sacred thread and a new name from Amma.
After donning the yellow robes, the brahmacharis are given new names by Amma. Amma puts the sacred thread across the shoulders of a brahmachari.
After a day of fasting, the newly initiated brahmacharis sit down for their meal, served by senior sannyasis. They themselves cook this first meal, after obtaining the food items by begging, in accordance with the ancient tradition of renunciates.
After receiving formal initiation into Brahmacharya, many of the brahmacharis serve in various branch ashrams or by going on tours to various parts of India and the world. Thus they spread Amma’s message of Love and Compassion. Some of them are put in charge of the various institutions run by the Math, providing a means for devotees, living away from Amma, to stay in touch with Her, the ashram and spiritual life.