Indian Culture and Traditions - 14

Indian Culture and Traditions

The Importance Of Saucha In Our Lives
By Sangeeta Venkatesh

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, proclaims a sign at a government office. However, right under it the floor is unswept and bits of paper lie around. Litter on roads, polluted water bodies, poor sanitation, the visual clutter of urban India and poor personal hygiene is creating untold dissonance in our society. All of us have experienced this–even a brief time spent in quiet sylvan surroundings has the capacity to steady the mind, while ten minutes in chaotic traffic awakens our bestial instincts. Any wonder a clean and uncluttered home lifts your spirits, while a disorganized place depresses you?
The Ashtanga Yoga, or the eight-limbed yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras gives us a route map for creating harmony in our internal and external lives. The observance of Saucha or purity is the first of the Niyamas (internal restraints) put forth in the Ashtanga Yoga and is synergistic with the other limbs. Looking at the environment around us, it is evident that Saucha is of paramount importance. Observing Saucha means maintaining the cleanliness of body, heart, mind and environment. Thus purity is required at all these levels for man’s sattva samshuddhi or Purity of Being. It involves the choices man makes through all his channels – mouth, ears, eyes and mind.
While purity does mean cleanliness of the body, it does not mean only that, because of the fact that man is not merely a body. He is also the prana inside, the sense organs, mind and intellect, and the various layers of his personality. And every aspect of his being should be kept clean. The Vedanta philosophy mentions that five coats or sheaths cover the soul-namely the Annamaya (physical), Pranamaya (energy), Manomaya (mental), Vijnanamaya (wisdom) and Anandamaya (bliss) Koshas. By systematically purifying each level, we open up our energy channels to reach the Anandamaya kosha and achieve everlasting bliss.
At the individual level we seek to clean our homes and ourselves. Rituals in prayer like lighting incense sticks, ringing the bell; breathing exercises and meditation all contribute to the purification process at different levels.
Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind, the mind naturally begins moving towards the divine. It purifies the subtle mental essence (sattva), and brings about a feeling of centredness with a capability for self-realization. Saucha’s benefits are clarity in the intellect, a pleasing mind, focused awareness, control over the senses and the ability to realize the Self. When you are unhappy, the mind is supposed to be in a state of asaucha. For instance, in the event of death in a family, the close members are said to be in a state of asaucha, because of the grief they experience. Scriptures say that after ten days the individuals start accepting the loss and start getting back to the Self and move towards saucha.
While the purity of body, heart and mind are important, it is necessary that external purity must not be neglected. The mind is sullied not only by impure food but also by unholy smells and sights of impure scenes. Living in impure, unhygienic places, regresses the spiritual well being of society. Indeed, cleanliness of our surroundings has become one of the most challenging tasks in modern India. While India conjures up image of ancient wisdom, lofty spirituality, it is also a society gasping for cleanliness and integrity in physical as well in the socio-political environment.
External purity has also gained ecological dimensions. High octane consumerism and scant regard for nature and the environment around us has led to the production of large quantities of wastes which are accumulating and polluting our rivers, land and atmosphere. Thus, the practice of saucha necessitates the practice of non-possessiveness and simplification of one's lifestyle and making it as free of waste as possible.
According to Vedic ecology, the Earth is not inanimate but a force of consciousness, which helps all creatures to evolve. The Purushasookta says that humans, gods and nature are integral parts of one ‘organic whole’ and thus humans are subject to same immutable ecological laws as all other species on the planet. All life depends on the uninterrupted functioning of natural systems that ensure the supply of energy and nutrients. Hence, each one of us has ecological responsibilities necessary for the survival and security of the world community.
An ancient prayer in the Upanishads sums up the need for purity: “O Lord, may my body become pure; may I be free from impurity; may I know myself as divine light. O Lord, May my mind become pure, may my self become pure, may I know myself as divine light. O lord, may I realize You with my purified understanding, may I realize the highest bliss with my purified understanding; may I realize You who is the highest understanding with my purified understanding.”

A Poem Titled 'Lifeline Of India'
By Atul Sathe


A vast mosaic across the nation,
biggest network of tracks and station.
National integration in true sense,
over mountains, plateaus and plains.
Seat of commerce to seat of power,
”Rajdhani” thunders in top gear.
“Gitanjali” comes singing from the east,
“Dadar-Guwahati”, linking north-east.
“Dnyanganga” to the place of knowledge,
“Deccan Queen” straddles the Sahyadri edge.
“Matysagandha” along the western coast,
“Coromandal” spanning the other coast.
“Jammu Tavi” to the land of serenity,
“Avantika” goes to the ancient city.
“Hampi Express” for the sculptor,
“Karnavati” for the entrepreneur.
Up to the border, take “Golden Temple”,
“Konark Express” for the Sun Temple.
Maharaja style, on the “Palace on Wheels”,
“Deccan Odyssey”, as the history reveals.
Toy trains to Matheran and Ooty,
and to Darjeeling, the highland beauty.
Cheetah on rails, the non-stop “Duronto”,
“Shatabdi” comfort from metro to metro.
Lifeline of India, since 1853,
Bharatiya Railway, our pride and glory!
The Author is the Communications Manager at Bombay Natural History Society
Note: Names in quotes are express trains running to different parts of India

Om Tat Sat

(My humble salutations to  Ms. Sangeeta Venkatesh ji, Sru Atul Sathe ji and hindu samskrit dot com  for the collection)


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