In this verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.6.47), vāta-vāsanāḥ refers to mendicants who do not care about anything material, including clothing, but who depend wholly on nature. Such sages do not cover their bodies even in severe winter or scorching sunshine. They take great pains not to avoid any kind of bodily suffering, and they live by begging from door to door. They never discharge their semen, either knowingly or unknowingly. By such celibacy they are able to raise the semen to the brain. Thus they become most intelligent and develop very sharp memories. Their minds are never disturbed or diverted from contemplation on the Absolute Truth, nor are they ever contaminated by desire for material enjoyment. By practicing austerities under strict discipline, such mendicants attain a neutral state transcendental to the modes of nature and merge into the impersonal Brahman.
Every Kṛṣṇa conscious person is constantly endeavoring to utilize different transcendental devices in the service of the Lord. Such a devotee renounces all material enjoyment and completely dedicates himself to the service of his spiritual master and Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He may be a perfect celibate, a restrained householder, a regulated vānaprastha or a tridaṇḍi-sannyāsī in the renounced order. It doesn't matter.
According to the Vedic regulative principles, one has to be celibate before entering a holy place of pilgrimage. Generally people are very much addicted to sense gratification, and unless they have sex at night, they cannot sleep. The regulative principles therefore enjoin that before a common man goes to a holy place of pilgrimage, he should observe completecelibacy. As soon as one enters a holy place, he must observe fasting for the day, and after shaving his head clean, he must take a bath in a river or ocean near the holy place. These methods are adopted to neutralize the effects of sinful activities. Visiting a holy place of pilgrimage means neutralizing the reactions of a sinful life. Those who go to holy places of pilgrimage actually unload the reactions of their sinful lives, and consequently holy places are overloaded with sinful activities left there by visitors.
Renunciation means renunciation of sensual pleasure, especially the pleasure of sex. Therefore a brahmacārī, sannyāsī or vānaprastha is strictly prohibited from having relationships with women. Haridāsa Ṭhākura was strictly renounced, and thus Rāmacandra Khān called for prostitutes because prostitutes know how to break a man's vow of celibacy by their feminine influence and thus pollute a mendicant or a person engaged in devotional life. It was impossible for Rāmacandra Khān to induce any other women to break Haridāsa Ṭhākura's vow, and therefore he called for prostitutes.
The regulative principles are not only for the brahmacārīs (celibate students) to follow, but are applicable for all. It doesn't matter whether one is a beginner—a brahmacārī—or is very advanced—a sannyāsī. The principle of remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead constantly and not forgetting Him at any moment is meant to be followed by everyone without fail.
In the Padma Purāṇa there is a statement about ecstatic love born of spontaneous affection. Candrakānti, a celebrated fair-faced girl, rigidly observed celibacy in order to obtain Kṛṣṇa as her husband. She always engaged herself in meditating on the transcendental form of the Lord and always chanted the glories of the Lord. She did not desire to accept anyone else as her husband. She had firmly decided that only Lord Kṛṣṇa would be her husband.
A person's achieving perfection in devotional service simply by the causeless mercy of the Lord is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in connection with the brāhmaṇas and their wives who were engaged in performing yajña, or sacrifice. When the wives of the brāhmaṇas were favored by Lord Kṛṣṇa and immediately attained the ecstasy of love of Godhead, their husbands said, "How wonderful it is that although these women have undertaken no reformatory performances such as accepting the sacred thread, have not resided in the monasteries of the spiritual master, have not observed the strict principles of celibacy, have not undergone any austerities and have not philosophized upon the observance of ritualistic ceremonies, they still have attained the favor of Kṛṣṇa, which is aspired after even by great mystics! How wonderful it is that these women have attained such perfection, while we, although brāhmaṇas who have performed all the reformatory activities, cannot attain to this advanced stage!"
Real atonement involves coming to real knowledge, and for this there is a standard process. When one follows a regulated hygienic process, he does not fall sick. A human being is meant to be trained according to certain principles to revive his original knowledge. Such a methodical life is described as tapasya. One can be gradually elevated to the standard of real knowledge, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness, by practicing austerity and celibacy (brahmacarya), by controlling the mind, by controlling the senses, by giving up one's possessions in charity, by being avowedly truthful, by keeping clean and by practicing yoga-āsanas. However, if one is fortunate enough to get the association of a pure devotee, he can easily surpass all the practices for controlling the mind by the mystic yoga process simply by following the regulative principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness—refraining from illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling—and by engaging in the service of the Supreme Lord under the direction of the bona fide spiritual master. This easy process is being recommended by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
When a person is serious about accepting dīkṣā, he must be prepared to practice austerity, celibacy and control of the mind and body. If one is so prepared and is desirous of receiving spiritual enlightenment (divyaṁ jñānam), he is fit for being initiated.
"Persons learned in the Vedas, who utter oṁkāra and who are great sages in the renounced order, enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practicescelibacy. I shall now explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation. The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga." (Bg. 8.11-12) In the yoga system this process is called pratyāhāra, which means, in technical language, "the opposite." Now the eyes are engaged in seeing worldly beauty, so one has to withdraw them from enjoying that beauty and concentrate on seeing beauty inside. That is called pratyāhāra. Similarly, one has to hear the oṁkāra sound from within.
Śrī Nārada Muni is a naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī. There are four types of brahmacārīs. The first is called sāvitra, which refers to a brahmacārī who, after initiation and the sacred thread ceremony, must observe at least three days of celibacy. The next is called prājāpatya, which refers to a brahmacārī who strictly observes celibacy for at least one year after initiation. The next is called brāhma-brahmacārī, which refers to a brahmacārī who observes celibacy from the time of initiation up to the time of the completion of his study of the Vedic literature. The next stage is called naiṣṭhika, which refers to a brahmacārī who is celibate throughout his whole life. Out of these, the first three are upakurvāṇa, which means that the brahmacārī can marry later, after the brahmacārī period is over. The naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī, however, is completely reluctant to have any sex life; therefore the Kumāras and Nārada are known as naiṣṭhika-brahmacārīs. Such brahmacārīs are called vīra-vrata because their vow of celibacy is as heroic as the vows of the kṣatriyas. The brahmacārī system of life is especially advantageous in that it increases the power of memory and determination. It is specifically mentioned in this connection that because Nārada was a naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī he could remember whatever he heard from his spiritual master and would never forget it. One who can remember everything perpetually is called a śruti-dhara. A śruti-dhara brahmacārī can repeat verbatim all that he has heard, without notes and without reference to books. The great sage Nārada has this qualification, and therefore, having taken instructions from Nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, he is engaged in propagating the philosophy of devotional service all over the world. Because such great sages can remember everything, they are thoughtful, self-realized and completely fixed in the service of the Lord.
Seeing the miserable condition of the living entities in the Kali-yuga, Lord Caitanya, the savior of the fallen souls, has expounded a method for their salvation. This method is taken from the scriptures and is applicable to everyone. In previous ages, one could study the Vedas and purify oneself by living according to those instructions. But it is impossible for the present population to properly execute scriptural injunctions, which includes strictly following vows of celibacy. One who is extremely degraded and sinful cannot find the accurate path to realization by studying the Vedas. It is a waste of time even to explain the meaning of the Vedas to such persons, who are devoid of proper up-bringing and discipline. Lord Caitanya has indeed showered His mercy upon these Kali-yuga people. So there is no doubt that those who are unable even to receive this mercy from Lord Caitanya are forever bereft of saving grace. As for those fortunate souls who, after realizing the greatness of Lord Caitanya's mercy, have accepted it—they have escaped the punishments of māyā, or "the dispensation of providence." But for those who have agreed to come under the influence of the cycle of karmic reactions and are being pummeled about by māyā, the Supreme Lord has arranged the process of karma-yoga, or fruitive activities with the aim of sacrifice to the Supreme Lord.
The brāhmaṇas (the intellectual, priestly class), the kṣatriyas (kings and administrators), the vaiśyas (the mercantile community), and the śūdras (menial workers) are the four social orders, or varṇas. If they live according to the scriptural injunctions pertaining to their particular varṇa, then they can accrue piety. Similarly, if the members of the four āśramas—namely, the brahmacārīs (celibate students), gṛhasthas (householders), vānaprasthas (pilgrims), and sannyāsīs (renunciants)—also act in conformity with the scriptural edicts, they too acquire immense piety. But when the ill influence of Kali-yuga corrupts this varṇāśrama system, human society is beset by all sorts of degradations. As a result, the living entities are punished by a variety of natural calamities caused by the illusory potency of the Lord. When the citizens abide by the rules of the king, the kingdom runs smoothly and everyone is prosperous and content. But when the demoniac population of thieves, rogues, and criminals steadily increases, the kingdom is filled with chaos and terror.
In the modern society, even a boy thinks himself self-sufficient and pays no respect to elderly men. Due to the wrong type of education being imparted in our universities, boys all over the world are giving their elders headaches. Thus Śrī Īśopaniṣad very strongly warns that the culture of nescience is different from that of knowledge. The universities are, so to speak, centers of nescience only; consequently scientists are busy discovering lethal weapons to wipe out the existence of other countries. University students today are not given instructions in the regulative principles of brahmacarya (celibate student life), nor do they have any faith in any scriptural injunctions. Religious principles are taught for the sake of name and fame only and not for the sake of practical action. Thus there is animosity not only in social and political fields but in the field of religion as well.