H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

SHUCI (clean, pure)



By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the book: The 26 Qualities of the Spiritual Researcher

Other meanings:morally and ethically whole


Shaucam means cleanliness, whiteness, purity: all terms that apply to one concept. Cleanliness refers to the physical body and purity to the mental body, but they are the same principle, also because cleanliness and purity are strictly connected. We cannot speak of spiritual purity because the soul is pure by definition, constantly and intrinsically, and therefore there is no need to purify what is eternally pure. Rather, it is the mirror of the mind that becomes contaminated, and it must be carefully cleansed.

The soul is imprisoned in a psychic bubble, a fake mental structure, a hallucinating vision of the world; it is the crystal of the mind that needs to be purified.

As an attribute of the atman, consciousness can be altered and create a series of mind distortions, but there is also a super-consciousness. Western psychology only considers mental pathologies, only conditioned consciousness, but it does not consider the reality of pure consciousness.

The purity of consciousness is obtained by eliminating what contaminated it in the first place. Water is tainted by the penetration of organic particles; the bad smell that emanates from a pool of stagnant water is not due to the water itself, but to the deteriorating suspended particles. Just like there is pure water and putrid water, there is also pure consciousness and consciousness that produces psycho-pathologies because of the waste matter it carries.

The great majority of the physical and mental diseases can be avoided with a healthy life by applying the twenty-six virtues we are talking about. We become and remain healthy by good habits, not by using medication. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada used to say that disease is generated by three main factors: uncleanliness (physical and psychic), anxiety and imbalanced diet. Thus the principle of the application of shaucam in our lives is essential to remain in psycho-physical health and to proceed on the path of spiritual progress.

The discipline of sadhana bhakti primarily serves to inner purification, that automatically also produces external purification. What happens to the body is thus the result of what happens in the psychic structure; any action that is performed by man in the world basically depends on the level of purity or impurity of his own mind, and the results are evident. Our mental shape makes us dirty or clean, pure or impure.

The two great enlightened spiritual Masters, Christ and Shri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprahu, to whom their contemporaries attributed a divine nature, taught that besides law there is forgiveness, a deep innovation introduced by these two revolutionary figures in religion. Forgiveness purifies, while betrayal and resentment contaminate. There can be no justified resentment: from the human perspective we can justify many things, but nonetheless some dynamics remain a source of contamination. One who is able to forgive is situated on a higher level of consciousness, but those who wish to forgive don't always have the strength or qualities to do it. What do these qualities depend on? On the development of the personality - on how shuci one is. By feeling resentment, envy, jealousy towards someone we live miserably, we pollute our psyche and the others' psyche, and when we face acute suffering our immune defense drops, like in a mourning person who has lost a dear one.

Imagine the benefit, just simply on the level of general health, of attaining a level of consciousness where we are not contaminated any more by losses or betrayals. These are all masks for the ego: it is the masque ball of the ego - these disasters affect the ego, not the self. In his essence, the being does not see persons who betray or die. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna tells Arjuna:

"Although you are saying wise words, you are lamenting for what is not worth of lamenting. The wise do not lament either for the living or for the dead"1.

People are so absorbed into the mirages of the world that they give too much importance to who comes and who goes, as if those who take birth were beginning to exist and those who die were ceasing to exist - this is not so. The wise sees these individuals in a cycle of births and death called samsara. Having big celebrations for one who has come to take a body and will eventually have to die is not a big demonstration of wisdom, just like despairing for one who has gone away, who has put down a dress that has become too worn out and painful to wear. Thus people come and go, but the wise do not see this as a tragedy.

Shuci is the result of wisdom as well as the path and the means to attain it. The purification of the mind produces vision, clarity, discernment, and in turn all this produces mental purification. A purified mind keeps the body healthy; hygiene is much more effective than medication against diseases, this is confirmed by the fact that the great epidemics have disappeared not so much because of the pharmaceutical discoveries, but rather thanks to the use of running water.

Diet, too, is important in order to remain clean and pure: those who eat fresh, healthy, non-preserved foods, cooked simply and consumed within three hours from preparation, can attain psycho-physical well-being. Bad habits, the use of alcohol, tobacco or bad foods aggravate and shorten the duration of life.

The ancient Indian medical science, Ayurveda, informs us that the proper utilization of food becomes an instrument of purification and that nutrition becomes treatment, therapy. The issue of food is at the center of a wide speculation: the reflections of many sages fill entire pages of sacred texts such as the Brahmanas, Upanishads, Aranyakas, the Veda itself, because the Vedic rishis had understood that through food we can become contaminated or purified, and that they were aware that there is a food for the body and a food for the mind2, that is mostly accumulated through impressions.

Of course attention and sensitivity towards food should not become an obsession. In fact virtues can also be lived in a distorted, neurotic way, conditioning the individual and leading him to believe he has become a benefactor of mankind.

In average, human beings eat three times a day, so every day they have three opportunities to become contaminated or purified. Thus we need to be careful about what we put into our mouth and what comes out of it, because an offensive language can be very contaminating. The Mahabharata informs us that hurtful words penetrate the heart worse than sharp arrows and they don't come out again, often leaving permanent scars.

In order to become or remain shuci we thus need to be careful in choosing thoughts, desires, emotions, actions and words that must be pleasing, mridu, or sweet. We should always meekly encourage everyone to care for their own good and the good of others.

The morning practice of the Harinama japa is a supreme method for the purification of the heart and the mind. These two words, heart and mind, refer to the unconscious and to the conscious part of the personality. In symbolic language, the mind corresponds to the karmashaya3 or unconscious. There is something that lies deep into the maze of the psyche, and something that is on the surface. This practice purifies both levels, which for study purposes are described as two categories - one the category of sentiments, feelings, emotions, consistent and stable affection attitudes, and the other, the category of the ripples on the restless mind: an inner mind and an outer mind.

In Vedic psychology treatises these levels are explained and called with different names. The method of Harinama japa is a practice of repeating a transcendental sound vibration, a mantra in the japa4 mode. For innumerable generations the Acaryas, the spiritual Masters, have stated that the divine name of Hari5 is an extremely powerful bija mantra, capable of purifying the mind in the most unfathomable depths, where the conscious ego cannot reach.

The Vedic sages guarantee that through the Harinama japa one can reach all levels of the psyche, from the external sensory level that is connected to the phenomenal world to the deep psyche, the seat of the samskaras, the latent recordings that are emotionally charged with psychic contents that are not accessible any more by the conscious ego. While water and soap are sufficient to wash the body, water is not sufficient to wash the samskaras from the deep levels of the consciousness. We need a special detergent, a method that can reach those depths, that is able to penetrate the mind and cleanse it from the waste of negative impressions that constitute the complexes. I would like to highlight the important connection between external and internal cleanliness. Among the two the most important is internal cleanliness, but we should not neglect external cleanliness, that favors internal cleanliness and is often its evident symptom. External uncleanliness, and especially untidiness, creates inner disorder.

According to the teachings of Yoga, the mind takes the form of the objects it contemplates; if it contemplates lack of order in a room, a wardrobe, a desk, a laboratory, an office, or untidy persons, it will take the same shape. For this reason, before going to sleep it is better to tidy up the house, so that our resting period is influenced by the last recorded impressions. Before going to sleep, try not to give any bad news to others, no to scold anyone, even if they deserved it and especially children, because they will not have the time to elaborate the punishment and thus the negative impressions slides into the depths of the consciousness and often it cannot be removed for years or decades. Do not have arguments with your husband or wife in the night before going to sleep, before going to sleep everything must become harmonized; it is better to discuss everything on the next day. This, too, is tolerance, patience: postponing the discussion to the appropriate moment, because the mind is an extraordinarily sensitive film that is impressed very easily and those impressions remain. Fragile individuals and tired persons should not be disturbed because one who is tired does not have the ability to elaborate; one who carries on some big responsibility or a heavy load should not be engaged in mental speculations or difficult abstract evaluations: first they need to rest. A sick person must not be punished or forced into important choices; one who is tired, depressed or saddened should not be subjected to any further aggravation.

The best way to keep cleanliness is to avoid becoming dirty. In daily life we will accumulate a little dust, so the body must be washed every day and the mind must be washed, too. This could seem obvious, but many people do no do it - however taking bath is important because it re-establishes a good level of consciousness, it changes and improves it. Sensory perception does not work very well in a dirty body; a person who does not take bath and lives in a cloud of bad smell becomes unable to perceive bad odors and therefore he can expose himself to many dangers including contaminated foods, because uncleanliness and contamination are very similar.

Bhagavad-gita informs us that tamasic persons eat tamasic foods; persons whose intellectual functions have been reduced to the minimum also eat rotten food and their taste develops in that direction. Some typical specialties consist of practically putrid food that attracts the mind and the sensory apparatus of persons who are subjected to the influence of that particular guna. At that level it becomes impossible to understand higher concepts, truths that due to their nature are situated beyond sensory perception because they disappear; what remains is only the physical objects that can be touched and seen. Everything that produced the physical world becomes a fantasy, and these people remain excluded from spiritual realization.

To implement or maintain shaucam, the Vaishnava tradition prescribes a morning practice consisting in meditating on the name of Hari, on the Divine names. This practice has the power to purify the mind at all levels. Also the daily study of the Scriptures, svadhyaya, puts us in contact with our own self, with the most intimate part of our personality, with our ontological identity rather than with the transient, impermanent personality donned by the historical ego.

It is not easy to attain shaucam. External cleanliness is more accessible, while internal cleanliness is more difficult. Those who are contaminated by kama, or lust, can take bath many times, but all their interests focus on some particular dynamics and therefore they remain dirty inside. Washing and purifying oneself to evolve spiritually is a totally different thing, thus the practice of taking bath in itself is not a great merit unless it is supported by a meritorious motivation. Cooking for friends, relatives or lovers is not a merit in itself, but it becomes a merit when we cook for God and offer the food in sacrifice, applying all the rules of purity, cleanliness and kindness to that cooking that does not violate norm and nonviolence, dharma and ahimsa.

Prayer, meditation, diet, worship, good company, everything must rotate in the sphere of cleanliness and purity and be shuci. Economy too, should be ecological, as well as what we read and write, the words we use to express ourselves. The clothes we wear should be clean: elegance is secondary. We should be vehicles of purification, not of contamination; one who attains this level of awareness wants to live in cleanliness, so his gestures, words, actions become first of all consistent and then this extraordinary energy of consistency enables us to penetrate inside the hearts of the people we meet. Our speech must correspond to our actions, we need to move in a consistent, harmonious way, when everything we say, think and do has this rigorous consistency the message becomes penetrating and moves the mountains, it becomes the sword inside the rock described in many myths.


1 Bg, II.11.

2 See the article (with the same title) by Marco Ferrini, available from Secretary, CSB.

3Karma reservoir’; the part of the psyche that is not accessible by the consciousness, where all the experiences of this or of previous existences accumulate. The unconscious.

4 The word japa means ‘chanting softly’ and also indicates an individual and concentrated manner of praying.

5 Literally, ‘He who takes away [the obstacles]’.

1 comment:

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