Monday December 16, 2019

Shaucham: The cleanliness of the body and the mind

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By Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6

Photo credit: kidspiritonline.com
Photo credit: kidspiritonline.com

Among the many tenets of dharma (duty and righteousness) that Hindu scriptures have prescribed for the welfare of humanity, there is one tenet that is of extreme practical relevance in day to day life. It is the tenet of “Shaucha” or cleanliness. The Daksha Smriti gives a lucid description of Shaucha. In verse (5.2), it says that people must strive hard to maintain cleanliness in all their actions. It further says all those actions which have been performed without adhering to the tenets of cleanliness become fruitless. In verse (5.3), it describes in depth about how to practice Shaucha in daily life. It says:

shauchancha dvividham proktam bahyamabhyantarantatha |
mrujjalabhyam smrutam bahyam bhavashuddhistathantaram ||
Translation: The cleanliness is said to be of two types- external and internal. The external is the use of clay and water and the internal is the purification of mind.

Therefore, as far as practice is concerned, Shaucham is of two kinds- external cleanliness that includes the cleanliness of the body, objects and the surroundings and the internal cleanliness that involves the purification of the mind.

Most people keep their house clean and neat. But this attitude is not extended to the external surroundings. People throw garbage on the empty plot beside their homes and they spit and piss at the side of the roads. Many throw plastics and other garbage on the roads even when the dustbins are available.

These are clear actions of “ashaucha” or “non-cleanliness”. It is true that proper toilet facilities are not available everywhere and hence many people prefer to go out in the open. But this attitude has become so ingrained in some people that they do not use toilets even when they are available. This is a clear act of adharma (non-righteousness).

But, this cleanliness is not limited to keeping the house and surroundings clean. It also applies to various human actions like causing environmental pollution. Human beings have made the air, water, the earth and even the space dirty and polluted by their actions.

As the Daksha Smriti said, any action which is done without a care for cleanliness becomes fruitless, we are witnessing this happening in front of us. The ever-increasing environmental pollution and global warming are harming the humans themselves. They have given rise to so many diseases which were unheard of before industrial revolution.

It is practically impossible in this age to be 100 percent clean even externally because our actions directly or indirectly do contribute to various kinds of pollutions. But, what is definitely possible is to develop awareness about the importance of cleanliness and to implement it in day to day life to the best of our abilities.

Small actions like throwing garbage only into the dustbins, not spitting and pissing in the open unless it is absolutely necessary and there is no alternative available, trying to avoid those actions that may cause, water, noise or air pollutions etc. can go a long way in helping the society. These actions are termed as “Bahya Shaucha” or “external cleanliness.”

More important, but more difficult than external cleanliness is the practice of “Antar Shaucha” or “Internal Cleanliness.” Human actions are guided by their attitudes and thoughts. In every situation, a person decides to act in a particular way based on his rational thoughts, emotional feelings, attitude, and his decision-making abilities.

But all these are various functions of the mind alone. The mind is inflicted with internal passions called as “Arishadvarga.” Hindu scriptures classify them into six divisions: kaama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (delusion), mada (pride), matsarya (jealousy), and loba (greed).

Our emotional or the rational responses, our spontaneous reflexes or the planned responses, they are all under the effect of these six passions. All our actions, words and thoughts are controlled by these passions. Therefore, to attain the internal purity, one must become free from these passions. A person who can thus attain internal purity is called as “Stitah-prajna”- a person of firm consciousness, a person whose mind is unaffected by external or internal factors.

Hindu scriptures advice various methods to attain this internal purity. One method is through self-introspection. One should always be extremely alert regarding one’s thoughts, speech, and action. One must analyze every situation and perform only dharmic actions. The life of Lord Rama highlights this approach. He is called “Dharma-murti” (the symbol of dharma) for this reason.

Another approach is the path of selfless actions. One must practice one’s actions with a sense of duty and detachment towards the fruits of actions. One must be aware of one’s svadharma (individual duties) and sincerely perform them by giving up attachments to the fruits of those actions. The next step in this path is to surrender the fruits of actions, the doership of actions and the actions themselves at the feet of God.

It is not that these are exclusive paths; one often leads to the other. The gist is, by performance of such detached and selfless dharmic actions, a person will eventually become free from lust, anger etc. In fact, this internal purity also called as “chitta-shuddhi” is the very basic requirement without which one is not eligible to practice Vedanta.

Therefore, Shaucha is a very important tenet of dharma not only for the material and spiritual welfare of an individual but also for the social, ecological, and universal welfare.

More in this segment:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5

Next Story

Research Says, Hindu Kids are More Likely to Believe that Hinduism Equals to Being Indian

The findings, published in the journal Child Development, also suggest that Muslim children feel no less Indian because of their faith

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If Muslim children were to equate being Indian with being Hindu, they could very well feel conflicted about being Indian or being Muslim. Pixabay

When it comes to the question of who is a true Indian, the country’s Hindu children are more likely than their Muslim peers to connect their faith to their national identity, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Our results indicate that by age 9, Hindu children have already internalised an ‘Indian equals Hindu’ association, and we show that this association predicts children’s support for policies that favor Hindus over Muslims,” said study senior author Mahesh Srinivasan, Associate Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley.

The findings, published in the journal Child Development, also suggest that Muslim children feel no less Indian because of their faith, indicating they are shielded from religious nationalist messaging and able to identify both as Indian and as Muslim, added Srinivasan.

“If Muslim children were to equate being Indian with being Hindu, they could very well feel conflicted about being Indian or being Muslim. We know from other research that disconnection from one’s own national, ethnic, or religious group is bad for mental health and other life outcomes,” he said.

Through surveys and social psychology measures, the researchers examined the explicit and implicit associations and attitudes of 160 schoolchildren aged between 9 and 16 in Vadodara, Gujarat.

All the children attended Zenith, a charitable school for low-income children in Vadodara.

The children, 79 of whom were Hindu and 81 of whom were Muslim, were each given an implicit association test, which asked them to swiftly pair together words and pictures.

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When it comes to the question of who is a true Indian, the country’s Hindu children are more likely than their Muslim peers to connect their faith to their national identity, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley. Pixabay

The results showed that Hindu children more readily paired images associated with India with the word “Hindu” and images associated with foreign countries with “Muslim,” suggesting that they think of India as primarily a Hindu nation.

By contrast, Muslim children were just as fast at pairing Indian images with the words “Hindu” or “Muslim.”

ALSO READ: India Plans to Open 100 New Airports by 2024

India is home to about 900 million Hindus and 200 million Muslims, as well as Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews and offshoots of these groups. (IANS)