Purification of Body and Mind
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:
Asmita, Raga-dvesa, Abhinivesa, Klesa.
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.
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'.
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.
further quotation from the Vivekachudamani will be relevant
in this connection: Verse 337 says:
samsaktimato na muktih
dehady' abhimaty'abhavah |
no jagaranam na jagratah
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.
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.
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.
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
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
eva tatas tato'dhikam |
vivekaih parihrtya bahyam
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
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.
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
says some valuable things in verse 335 of Vivekachudamani.
Let me draw your attention to the verse:
niruddhe manasah prasannata
sudrste bhavabandha- nasah
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.
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
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:
tvam caitanya vigrahah |
na jahasi kim ||
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
us now quote that passage of Chandogya Upanishad regarding
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.
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?'
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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