Yama 10 - Saucha, Purity
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2003-06-17
Yama number 10, saucha, purity. Purity includes clean clothing, good character, physical surroundings and no foul language. Physical purity is important, especially washing clothes regularly, or putting them in the sun and air to freshen them up. Fresh food is pure and should be eaten as soon after harvesting as possible. A clean home is free from astral debris. Mental purity shows in our aura. Darker colors can be lightened by temple attendance and meditation in the home shrine. Devas come to our home when it is harmonious, pure and has a clean shrine.
Good Morning, everyone. This morning we are continuing on our lessons on the yamas and niyamas, 'Good Conduct'. We are up to yama # 10 - Purity, Saucha.
Today's lesson on 'Good Conduct' is on the tenth Yama of Saucha, which is to uphold the ethic of purity. Avoid impurity in mind, body and speech. Maintain a clean, healthy body. Keep a pure, uncluttered home and workplace.
First example - We have a habit of not putting items away when finished working with them. Thus the house is always cluttered with things that are out of place. Any one knows someone like that?
Second example - Some of our friends at school are always getting into mischief, doing what should not be done. We continue to spend time with them anyway and pick up some of their bad habits.
Third example - At work when a task does not go well, we have a habit of swearing under our breath, soft enough so no one will hear.
Fourth example - When working around the house, we put on the same set of old work clothes and never seem to get around to washing them.
As we know, all the yamas focus on harnessing a tendency of the instinctive mind. In the case of saucha-purity, the instinctive tendency we are focusing on harnessing is the tendency to allow impurity to accumulate.
From simple physical cleanliness to the state of the inner aura, the presence of impurities strengthens all the tendencies of the instinctive mind. Therefore, maintaining a high standard of outer and inner purity is important to the control of our instinctive nature.
Here is a story to illustrate. A teenage boy starts his first year at High School. He soon makes new friends there, who have a habit of swearing regularly. The boy never previously swore but because he spends time with his new friends, he also starts this practice.
The Tirukural in Chapter 46, 'Avoidance of Base Company' has many insightful verses as to how strong an influence our companions are on us. Here are two verses.
"As water changes according to the soil through which it flows, so a man assimilates the character of his associates."
"Purity of mind and purity of conduct, these two depend upon the purity of a man's companions."
Saucha includes purity of body, speech and mind. Let us start then with physical purity and look first at keeping the body clean. Upon rising in the morning, bathe and put on fresh clothing. Also, bathe when returning from work, school or other tasks outside the home. If because of the weather or other activities, we have become dirty or sweaty, bathe again during the day.
An important aspect of physical purity is keeping our clothing clean. It is commonly thought that clothing does not need to be cleaned unless it has been dirtied or soiled with mud, dirt or stain. However this is not the case. Clothing should be washed often or alternatively hung in the sun and fresh air, which can also eliminate much of the body waste and freshen up any garment. Putting on clean clothing definitely lifts up our consciousness.
A third aspect of physical purity is eating pure food. Food is in its pure state the moment it is picked. The act of picking it starts the process of decay, which causes the breakdown of the cells. This impure force of decay gets steadily stronger as time passes. Frozen foods, processed foods, canned foods and convenience foods are all well-along in the process of decay and therefore impure. Thus, food should be fresh and cooked and eaten as soon after picking as possible.
A fourth aspect of physical purity is keeping our home clean. Of course, ridding the home of dirt is clearly important as a dirty environment stimulates the tendency to become more crude in our behavior. Likewise, a clean home stimulates a tendency to become more cultured in our behavior.
However, Gurudeva takes this one step deeper in his 'Living with Siva' lesson on this yama. He states that each person emanates astral forms from the human aura which are caught and held in furniture, doorways and walls. All residents in the house, plus visitors to the home, create astral debris, so to speak, which needs to be wiped away through dusting and cleaning. If this is not done, the residents in the home feel and become burdened by the old accumulated feelings of the past. Airing out the home regularly is also quite helpful in removing any astral debris.
Let us look now at purity in speech. A common example of impure speech is swearing, which often occurs when what we are doing isn't working out the way we had hoped. Some people think that swearing now and then is harmless. However, they do not realize that any act of swearing stimulate the chakras below the muladhara and thus is lowering our consciousness. Swearing, in fact, is the subtle form of anger and can easily lead to grosser forms of anger, such as, angry words or actually hitting someone. Therefore, it is very important to refrain from swearing.
Purity of companions is another aspect of saucha. As we quoted earlier from the Tirukural, our actions, speech, state of consciousness and attitudes toward life are all strongly influenced by our companions. Therefore, to sustain saucha it is important to surround oneself with good, religious, higher consciousness people.
Here is a story to illustrate. Every few months, we get an email from a different person who used to perform sadhana but stopped sadhana some time ago and now wants to get started again. The advise I give, always includes attending a weekly satsang of people doing sadhana. This is because if you are the only person who is doing sadhana, it is quite difficult to sustain. We need the companionship of others on the path to sustain our sadhana during difficult times in our life. As Gurudeva says, "The group strengthens the individual and the individual strengthens the group."
Finally, let us look at mental purity. Mental purity refers to the purity of our aura. Our past deeds in this and previous lives create a residue in the subconscious mind. This residue has form and color in the astral world, the world of thoughts. Pure, unselfish actions create a residue of bright pastel colors and white light. Impure selfish actions create a residue of darker colors. These colors are seen within our aura, which is a luminous colorful field of subtle energy radiating within and around the human body, extending out from three to seven feet. The presence of darker colors in our aura lowers our consciousness and depresses our mood. These darker colors can be changed to lighter colors by the blessings we receive from the Mahadevas and devas when we go to the temple or home shrine. They can also be changed by the practice of meditation. The practice of regularly purifying our aura by temple attendance and meditation keeps our consciousness higher and our state of mind happier.
A very important time to purify the aura is when we return home from being out in the world. The guidelines in the Nandinatha Sutras tell us that, "After we bathe then we enter the shrine for the blessings of the Gods and Guru to dispel worldly forces and regain the state of Siva consciousness."
Another aspect of mental purity is the mental atmosphere or force field of our home. Other beings live in our home with us. We are talking here about beings that do not have a physical body but are living in the Second World or astral plane. We attract these beings to our home based on the nature of the activities within it. If the home is a harmonious one with a shrine room with daily devotional activities then the beings within our home are devas, religious beings who influence us toward positive, pure actions. However if the home is not harmonious, with frequent outbursts of anger and arguments and has no home shrine or devotional activities, the beings within it are asuras who influence us toward negative, impure ways. The remedy here is self-evident.
In conclusion, uphold the ethic of purity. Avoid impurity in mind, body and speech. Maintain a clean, healthy body. Keep a pure, uncluttered home and workplace. Act virtuously. Keep good company, never mixing with adulterers, thieves or other impure people. Keep away from pornography and violence. Never use harsh, angered or indecent language. Worship devoutly. Meditate daily.
Aum Namah Sivaya.