Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cleanliness - Śouca – An attribute of the Soul

Original Article by Vidwān Narasimha Bhat

English Rendering by M R Bhashyam

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Cleanliness or purity is the most important attribute of the Soul. To keep everything pure is Śouca. Sometime the process for cleaning is also termed as Śouca.  As a result of cleansing, the true nature of the Soul –Ātma is revealed. The process of cleaning is also sometimes called as Ācāra. There is a famous statement about Ācāra which essentially means "Keeping the five senses (namely - eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin), the body, the mind, the materials, the place and the deeds (that we perform) clean, is termed as Ācāra: 

Panchêndriyasya, dêhasya, budhyasca, Manasastathā |

Dravya dêśa kriyāām ca Śhuddhirācāra Ishyatê"||


By effecting proper changes, even those that need to be discarded can become worthy of usage and worship.

The four constituents that need to be kept clean are materials (and monies), mind, words and body. These four play a very important role in our daily lives. If one has to live a healthy life, the ingredients that we use must be pure. The decision whether something is pure or impure must be taken based on the effects that they produce on us. The dung and the urine of cows are pure items.  These may be excretions of cows. But their usage has very beneficial effects on humans. The honey is mixed with the saliva of the bees but we consider it pure and suitable for offering to the Lord. This way, even the ones which are discarded can become worship-worthy.  The sages identified these materials based on the effects produced by them.

Śouca is Required to Maintain Proper Condition –Dharma

Each and every item has its own natural condition. Śouca – cleansing are the operations performed by us to keep them in their natural state and to bring them back to the natural state if they are disturbed or spoilt. There are four different constituents whose condition needs to be considered – the physical, the mental, the senses and the soul. The natural condition of these would have been spoilt by effects which are alien. These have to be restored. If that is done, the original state is restored and they become fit for our use.   Every day we wash the vessels used for cooking. We clean the ingredients used for cooking. If this is done, the food that is prepared will be pure and will be worthy of offering to the Lord and for our intake. Such food will give us both mental and physical health.  If we cook food using unclean vessels and staples, then they will be unworthy of offering to the Lord, will be spoilt and become unfit for our use. Hence the terms Śuddhi, Śouca are used for the procedures and steps that we undertake to keep everything in their original state and to restore the condition to the normal state if spoilt. Hence, our culture attaches such a high degree of importance to Ācāra.  Śrī ŚrīRanga Mahāguru has described Ācāra using a single phrase –" Ācāra villadiddare baruvudu grahacāravê"  (If there is no Ācāra our fate will hang in balance baruvudu grahacāravê. Sage Patanjali has defined Śouca in a single aphorism as "Purity of the self and mind, concentration, conquering the senses and eligibility for realizing the self – Satva Śuddhi – Soumanasya – Êkāgrya – Indriyajayam- Ātmadarśana Yôgyatwāni ca".

Is this not what is meant by Cleanliness – Purity – Śouca?

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs.