Brahmacharya (/ˌbrɑːməˈtʃɑrjə/; Devanagari: ब्रह्मचर्य behavior that leads to Brahman) is one of the four stages of life in an age-based social system as laid out in the Manu Smrti and later Classical Sanskrit texts in Hinduism. It refers to an educational period of 14–20 years which starts before the age of puberty. During this time the traditional vedic sciences are studied, along with the religious texts contained within the Vedas and Upanishads. This stage of life was characterized by the practice of strict celibacy. Lit., Brahma or purified life, usually connoting the practice of celibacy.
Among the Hindu monastic as well as sramanic traditions, Brahmacharya is the term used for the practice of self-imposed celibacy that is generally considered an essential prerequisite for spiritual practice. These characteristics correspond to Western notions of the religious life as practiced in monastic settings.