Sunday December 16, 2018

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

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

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“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

Hindu, Mosque
Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)