"After our youngest son had seen Star Wars for the twelfth or thirteenth time, I said, "Why do you go so often?" He said, "For the same reason you have been reading the Old Testament all of your life." He was in a new world of myth." Bill Moyers, interview with Joseph Campbell











CONTENTS8. Purification of Body and Mind  




               8. Purification of Body and Mind



     If we try to think of God this very instant, we find that thoughts about Him fill the mind just for a moment. Then many distractions assail the mind, and we go on thinking of everything else in the universe except God. This shows that the mind is impure and is not ready to receive the vision of God. The impurities consist of various impressions that we have gathered in birth after birth. According to one Yoga Aphorism of Patanjali, the five root causes of impressions in the mind are the following:

     Avidya, Asmita, Raga-dvesa, Abhinivesa, Klesa.


     The first root cause of all the impressions that have gathered in our minds and stand obstructing us from realising God is Avidya or ignorance - ignorance in the universal sense. We are not conscious of, and are generally ignorant of, our divine nature. God dwells in us and around us, but we are not aware of it. Secondly, from this ignorance springs Asmita, or the sense of ego. This sense of ego makes us think of ourselves as separate from all others.

     We have two more formidable enemies: Raga and Dvesha, i.e., attachment and aversion. We develop these out of the sense of ego or Asmita. The last but not the least, is Abhinivesa, i.e., the thirst to live - the desire to cling to our surface life and surface consciousness. We do not want to realise our divine nature. We are satisfied with our mundane state of existence. We do not want to live on a spiritual plane. So, these are called Panchaklesa or the five root causes which hinder us from realising our divine nature. This is again further elaborated in another Yogasutra. It says that because of Ignorance we take what is Anitya (non-eternal) as Nitya (eternal), Asuci Impure) as Suci (pure), Duhkha (painful) as Sukha (happy), and Anatman (non-Atman) as Atman (soul). All this misunderstanding is due to Avidya or ignorance. While explaining this very important aphorism of Raja Yoga of Patanjali, Swami Vivekanancla points out that all of us think, 'I am the body and not the self - the pure, the effulgent, the ever-blissful - and that is due to ignorance. We think of man and see man as body. That is the great delusion'.

     We are all under this delusion, which arises due to ignorance and false identification. We are to remember that pure joy is possible only when we abide in the Atman, our real nature. Due to ignorance, we seek pleasure in things temporal, non-eternal and ephemeral, and this is indeed a great tragedy.

     A further quotation from the Vivekachudamani will be relevant in this connection: Verse 337 says:


     Deh'adi samsaktimato na muktih

     muktasya dehady' abhimaty'abhavah |
     suptasya no jagaranam na jagratah

     svapans tayor bhinna-gun'asrayatvat ||


     - There is no liberation for one who has attachment to the body, etc., and the liberated man has no identification with the body, etc. The sleeping man is not awake, nor is the waking man asleep; for these two states are contradictory in nature.

     It is said here that there is no liberation for him who is attached to the body, etc., and Mukti is possible only when we overcome identification with this body. The liberated man has no identification with the body. Who is a Jeevanmukta? One who lives in this body, but is not attached to this body. Though he appears to be living in the body, he lives in the Atman, his own divine nature. 'Suptasya na jagaranam', i.e. the sleeping man is not awake nor is the waking man asleep; for these two states are contradictory in nature.

     To clarify this further: so long as we are attached to the body or body-mind complex, we cannot dwell on our real nature, the Atman. So, one who is attached to the flesh and thinks, 'I am the body', must cater for the different needs of the body and cannot attain liberation. Only for him, who has overcome attachment to the body, is liberation possible.

     We want to realise our divine nature; we want to become Jeevanmuktas. We want to realise that we are the Atman. But at the same time, if we go on fulfilling the endless desires of the body and the mind, then liberation is not possible. As has been pointed out in the Vivekachudamani, the sleeping man is not awake. Who is this sleeping man? One who is attached to the body, one not conscious of his own divine nature. On the other hand, the one who is seeking the Truth, who is conscious of his divine nature, who has been able to root out the false identification with the body-mind complex - for him there is no bondage. He is a Jeevanmukta. So these two states are contradictory.

     There are also many demands of the body. If we get attached to them clue to ignorance, we shall come to endless grief. But once we take pains to withdraw our minds from the gross body, liberation is possible. In this connection Vivekachudamani verse 334 says:


     Bahy'abhisandhih parivardhayet phalam

     durvdsanam eva tatas tato'dhikam |

     jnatva vivekaih parihrtya bahyam

     svatm' anusandhim vidadhita nityam ||

     - Attachment to external objects will only increase more and more their fruits in the form of evil tendencies. Therefore, the wise should avoid for the aforesaid reasons whatever is external and should ever engage in the contemplation of the Atman.

     Here Sankaracharya points out that constant contemplation on outward objects will only enhance our evil propensities and these evil propensities will go from bad to worse. Then is there any remedy? Is there any way out? Of course, there is a way out. Through discrimination one has to leave the thoughts of external objects. However, this is something negative. Simply giving up thoughts of external objects is not enough. Sankaracharya adds something positive. He says we have to give up thoughts of external objects, but at the same time, since the mind cannot remain in a vacuum, we have to make efforts to constantly apply ourselves to meditation on the Self. If we can do this, then the evil propensities can be overcome. Otherwise, the more one turns outwards, the more one becomes an extrovert. Then what happens? Vasanas (desires) of various kinds multiply by leaps and bounds, and as a result we have even more mental agitation. With such mental agitation it is not possible to meditate on our real nature, the divine self. Why? Because the mind has a tendency to contact constantly the world of objects, the outside world. Then what are we to do? Through our discriminative powers, through Viveka - the sword of discrimination - and also through Vairagya (dispassion) we have to constantly distinguish between the real and the unreal, between the eternal and the non-eternal.

     If we are after the realisation of the Goal Supreme in this very life, then with the aid of Viveka and Vairagya we must turn away our mind from the world of objects and we should make sincere efforts to try to live in tune with our real nature. If we can do this, then realisation is possible. It is very difficult to comprehend the infinite Brahman, because our mind is finite. Even then we should go on trying and should make repeated attempts. This attempt at comprehending the infinite Brahman with the finite mind itself will ultimately enable us to successfully turn the mind from the world of objects.

     Sankaracharya says some valuable things in verse 335 of Vivekachudamani. Let me draw your attention to the verse:

     Bahye niruddhe manasah prasannata

     manah-prasade paramatma-darsanam |

     tasmin sudrste bhavabandha- nasah

     bahir-nirodhah padavi vimukteh ||


     - When the external world is shut out, the mind is cheerful and the cheerfulness of the mind brings on the vision of the Paramatman. When it is perfectly realised, the chain of birth and death is broken. Hence the shutting out of the external world is the stepping stone to liberation.

     In the above verse, we are told to withdraw the mind from the outside world. What happens if we are successful in shutting out the mind from the objective world? The mind become quiet and cheerful, and in the calm mind arises the vision of the Paramatman. But Sankaracharya adds something further. Simply having a glimpse of the Paramatman will not do. We must have true realisation, concrete realisation, perfect realisation. When one is perfectly established in the vision of the Paramatman, then the chain of birth and death is broken and one is able to cross the ocean of worldliness. Here the word 'Padavi' means, 'steps or ways'. What is the goal? The goal is liberation. And what are the means? Bahye niruddhe' - shutting out the external world. So, again the emphasis is on with-drawing the mind from anything that is non-Atman. If we take care of the means and successfully cut out the external world, then what happens? We are almost face to face with the Truth or realisation of the Truth. Therefore, it is said that the shutting out of the external world is a very important factor towards liberation.


     In the Yoga-Vasishtha there is an important verse that sheds much light on this question. It has been said that we cannot hope to be successful in our attempts to realise the supreme truth unless we practise purification. In Yoga-Vasistha Sara, we find a section 'Suddhi-nirupana-prakarana' or the method of purification, and there we find an important verse, which reads as follows:

     kva mamsa-rudhiradlni
     kvas tvam caitanya vigrahah |
     vijanan api dehe'smin
     atmadhiyam na jahasi kim ||


     Now we are bound on all sides firmly by the idea that, 'I am the body' and nothing other than the body. We must try and cultivate the attitude against this bond. Our link with the body should be severed by the sword of knowledge. We have to think constantly, 'I am pure consciousness', 'I am Suddha Caitanya', 'I am Caitanya-vigraha'. Again and again we must try to cultivate this idea as opposed to the idea with which we are presently afflicted - the idea, 'I am the body and nothing other than the body'. If we are after liberation, we have to cut this bond by applying the sword of knowledge and cultivating this positive attitude, 'No, I am neither the body nor the mind, nor the sense organs; I am Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, I am pure consciousness'. If we can do this, and be established in this idea, there is no doubt we will become happy, full of joy and bliss.

     We are told that we are Satchitananda-svarupa. We are intrinsically full of joy, Anandam. But why do we foolishly forget our divine nature, that we are full of bliss - Anandam? We are 'Caitanya-vigraha', but why do we degrade ourselves and stoop so low as to think that we are this body or this mind? Think of the ingredients of the body. The body is composed of filthy materials, and we foolishly identify ourselves with these filthy materials. This perishable body will one day be burnt and reduced to ashes. But so far as our real nature is concerned, we are Caitanya-Vigraha. Yet we foolishly allow ourselves to be degraded to the animal level and think in term of flesh and bones.

     What a difference - we, who are 'Caitanya Vigraha', to foolishly forget all about this and attach ourselves to something for which we should have no attachments! What a vast difference between this flesh and blood and our true self which is Pure Conciousness! So know this - that we are Pure Conciousness. We are not the body, not a lump of flesh. Is it not all a great tragedy? Oh mind, just think of this!

     Another verse tells us what we are to do in order to realise that we are 'Caitanya vigraha'. We are to separate ourselves from the body and think that we are 'Caitanya Vigraha'. Constantly dwell on this truth. This idea has to be made a ceaseless practice during every moment of our existence. If somehow we can separate ourselves from the body and abide at ease in consciousness and think that we are 'Caitanya Vigraha' and not the body, then what happens? We realise that we are Brahman, we become 'Caitanya Vigraha'. We are that. Everything else, this body or body-mind complex, concern about the external world and all desires relating to the body will become as insignificant as straw.

     While dealing again and again with the importance of rooting out identification with the body, a question may well be raised: 'Why this insistence on withdrawing the mind from the outside world? What is wrong with the world? Can we not enjoy the good things of the world and practise Sadhana? Why this negative advice to withdraw the mind from the world?' The reason is, here we are concerned with those aspirants who are really serious in their spiritual quest, with those who want to realise God in this very life. We are not concerned with the millions and millions of worldly people who have no interest in spiritual matters. Real aspirants after Truth will easily understand that withdrawing the mind from the outside world is not a negative advice, although it may seern so from a worldly point of view. Simply withdrawing the mind from the visible objects of the outside world will not do; we are also to focus our attention on our divine nature, i.e., negatively withdrawing from the world of objects but positively meditating on our divine nature. Although we are asked to withdraw, at the same time we are also repeatedly asked to contemplate upon our real nature. By contemplation upon our real self, we get realisation of the Paramatman.

     Another question can now be raised. Can the highest truth, the Paramatman, be attained by some kind of Sadhana? Any kind of Sadhana is a finite activity, but the Paramatman is infinite. How then can the infinite be realised through finite efforts, by limited mortals such as we? The answer is that the withdrawal is not the direct cause of liberation. It sets in motion a series of consequences which ultimately lead the seeker to liberation. Let us consider these stages one by one.

     The mind is rushing forth to the world of objects, but it has to be held back. Once it is held back, it becomes calm and serene. To the extent that the mind can be brought back from the outside world, to that extent our mind will not run after sensuous objects. When the mind is completely withdrawn from the outside world, we will reach the Goal Supreme.

     A further question may be raised. What is the difference between an ordinary man and a man of enlightenment? Even a saint, a man of enlightenment and realisation, has to live in the world of objects. Can we actually withdraw the mind? Here, there, everywhere, we are in the world of objects, surrounded by it and living in it. The world of objects does not cease to exist for any living being. What then can be the meaning of withdrawing from the outside world? The difference is this: The Jnani or the man of enlightenment may live, move and have his being in the world of objects, but he has a different attitude. He has Atma-Drishthi, Brahma-Drishthi - the perception of the Atman in everything. Even while he is in the midst of different people or objects of this universe, he is always established in unity. He sees Brahman alone in everything. He may be in the world of objects which can produce various impressions on his mind, but with the help of the sword of discrimination, he can negate all that appeals to the senses. He goes to the bottom, the substratum and knows that all these are appearances, and that Brahman alone is true. This, therefore is the difference between an enlightened one and the ordinary man. In the case of the ignorant person, when the world of objects is presented to his mind, it produces sensuous hankerings and appetites, because the ordinary world of objects appears to him to be a tempting one. And naturally so. He being ignorant, an Ajnani, he gives importance to the stuff of the phenomenal world. On the contrary, a man of enlightenment does not give any real importance to the things of the world. They may appear before him, but he is neither concerned nor perturbed because he has that 'Brahma-drishthi'. In the midst of multiplicity, be is established in unity. He is always a master of the situation. The objects may tempt him, but because of his realisation he does not allow himself to be made a victim to the tempting objects produced by the external world. That is the difference between an Ajnani and a man of enlightenment.

     To pass on to another important point, namely, the need to practise absolute chastity in thought, word and deed. No spiritual progress or unfoldment is possible, unless we think of God ceaselessly in an unbroken stream. Who can do this? Let us try to think of God. We see, and most of us can testify from our experience, that when we go to our meditation chamber or the temple and sit for meditation, hundreds of undesirable thoughts invade our minds. We are supposed to meditate upon God, 'This is the time, О Lord, when I have come to hold communion with You'. When we think of Him, the thought of Him may come to our minds for a few seconds or minutes. But after that all kinds of unwelcome thoughts will come. These are signs of impurity. If the mind is pure, we will have constant remembrance of God. So purity is very, very essential. That is the reason why Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'. Therefore, purity is a sine qua non for any kind of spiritual unfoldment. But we cannot achieve this purity because of various sensuous desires. If we want to have ceaseless communion with God, then, in the language of Sri Ramakrishna, as you find it recorded in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, 'If the telegraph wire is broken, then communication will not reach the destination till the broken wire is repaired'. We may go on doing Japam and mediation, but if the mind is full of desires, then all our Sadhanas and bhajans will be in vain. Consider a pitcher filled with water. If we go on pouring water in it but there is a leakage in the pitcher, any amount of pouring will never fill the pitcher, as the water will simply leak out. In the same way, we may go on doing Japam and meditation, but through our Vasanas born of identification with the body-mind complex and various infatuations, the effect of all our Sadhanas and Bhajans will leak out. Unless we take pains to repair the holes and plug them with our spirit of detachment (Vairagya), it is not possible to fill the pitcher. As Sri Ramakrishna said, if we go on rowing a boat like a drunkard the whole night while the boat is anchored to the shore all the time, any amount of rowing will not move it. Likewise any amount of Japam and Tapam will not enable us to make any progress, if we do not take pains to root out our attachments.

     The Chandogya Upanishad says that when the knots of the heart are broken, one realises Gocl. This realisation of God is possible when one can practise constant remembrance of God. It has a technical name - Dhruva smrtih. This is not possible unless we have pure food. Through purity of food comes purity of intention, through purity of intention comes constant remembrance of God and from constant remembrance of God our bondages are cut and we become free. As far as the word 'food' is concerned in this context, there are two interpretations. Ramanuja has given an orthodox interpretation. By 'food', he means, in the religious sense, food according to prescribed laws of Sattvika food. But Sankaracharya gives an ethical and psychological import to this word 'food'. Anything we take in through our five senses, i.e., Rupa, Rasa, Sabda, Gandha, Sparsa is 'food'. Every moment of our existence we are receiving so many impressions through our five sense organs and through our memory and imagination. Anything we receive through the senses should be pure. Food eaten alone is not sufficient.

     As Sri Ramakrishna used to say, a man may take even pork, but if his mind is still on the Atman or God, he is blessed; and a man may take strict vegetarian food, but if his mind is on Kama, Kanchana, i.e., lust and lucre, then fie on him.

     Let us now quote that passage of Chandogya Upanishad regarding 'food':

     Ahara suddhau sattva-suddhih

     Sattva-suddhau dhruva smrtih

     smrti-lambhe sarva-granthinam vipra-moksah

     - From purity of food comes purity of mind, from purity of mind comes constant remembrance of God, and from constant remembrance of God one becomes free from all bondage - one becomes liberated. A clear mirror alone can reflect the face. So purity, Sattva-Suddhi, is stressed again and again by all the mystics and saints of the world.

     We must take care of all the five sense organs. All the sense organs are to be properly directed. Through any sense organ, let us not receive any kind of impure impression. We have already many impure impressions and these should be neutralised and counter-acted by good impressions. All the time, we should take only good impressions from the outside world. A question may be asked, 'I have bad Samskaras, and my mind is such that I only receive bad impressions. However much I try, I cannot help receiving impure impressions'. The remedy is given by Swami Vivekananda. 'Would you wash dirt with din? Will sin kill sin, weakness cure weakness?'

     If we have impure impressions, impure Samskaras, then we should not emphasise it. We should not make much of it. To do so is wrong psychology. If one says, 'I have a bad habit; from childhood till now I have formed such a bad habit'. It is true that habit is our second nature but there is a greater truth that counteracts it. If habit is our second nature, then we also have a first nature. What is that? We are divine by our basic nature. We are 'Caitanya Vigraha'. Why not give greater stress on this? Why attach ourselves to the bodily failings only. If, because of the desires of the body, we can receive only impure impressions, is it not a fact that we are 'Caitanya-vigraha', i.e., is it not true that we are divine by nature and that divinity is our birth-right? So, we must cultivate this positive attitude, and if that is done, we can overcome all impure impressions.


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International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015






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