Swami Nityananda Giri speaks about
Purity in Day to Day Life
Purity in our day to day life is of utmost importance for a spiritual journey as well as for a normal happy living and a harmonious society. This has been emphasized from the Vedic age and even the modern thinkers put onus on it be it Mahatma Gandhi or Shri Aurobindo. Shri Aurobindo has said, “Do not imagine that truth and falsehood, light and darkness, surrender and selfishness can be allowed to dwell together in the house consecrated to the Divine. The transformation must be integral and integral therefore the rejection of all that withstands it” (The Mother: Ch. 1). But the tragedy is that we want an amalgamation of all the paradoxical qualities in our life. We want light but prefer darkness, we aspire for truth but adopt falsehood, and again we want to surrender to the Divine for a life free from sufferings but do not want to discard the selfishness. The end result is failure in pursuing a divine life. Whether we pursue a divine life or not this human body is a house of the Divine. “Inside this house of nine doors the embodied being resides doing nothing himself and getting nothing done by others” (Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita: 5-13). The house with nine doors is our body with nine openings, viz., two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, organ of procreation and anus. The embodied being is the Divine and that is the Truth, Knowledge and Bliss principle within the body to which actions are denied in its purest form. Then who is responsible for the actions both physical and mental be it positive or negative and thereby reaping the results? This is the ego-self. Due to the effect of ignorance (avidya) the Knowledge principle identifies itself with the body-mind interactions giving rise to ego (asmita) or ‘I thought’. Then we have desires, since ‘I thought’ gives rise to a series of thoughts which can be categorized as ‘I want’ i.e., cravings (raga) or ‘I do not want’ i.e. aversions (dvesa). In the lower side of this ego reside the body, life and mind with all its desires and hatreds, the rigid mental ideas of finding happiness in the enjoyment of senses and fulfilling the cravings of mind, the limitations and incapacities of life and mind while on the higher side resides the Truth and therein the harmony of life by realizing the Consciousness of Oneness. So it is natural for a normal human being to imagine that living a life of both truth and falsehood can go together. But if we choose higher goals in our life we must bring purity even though we are rooted in ego since after cessation of ego we have nothing more to do. Hence it is said, avidyaya mrityu tirtva vidyayamritamashnute.
(Ishopanishad -11), one crosses the death through the ignorance and attains immortality through the Knowledge. Even if one is not aspiring for wisdom but is happy to live the life with normal human desires still then he/she has to bring purity in his/her living, thoughts, speech and action otherwise he/she has to suffer from his/her bad actions (karmas). One cannot escape that.
All the religions and spiritual communes all over the world have laid emphasis on purity in day to day life not only for seekers of knowledge but also for ordinary people to have a harmonious living. Keeping that in mind the fist limb of Yoga is known as Yama or righteousness. This is the foundation practice. For a simple and happy life with peace, prosperity and goodwill we need to practice purity or righteousness. The cause of violence and intolerance in present day society is the increase in unholy practices. A businessman or an executive with greed for money prefers corruptions, bribery or black-marketing. A youth is allured by drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Sex and violence are becoming a modern day practices. Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Shankar, Gandhi, Vivekananda are no more ideals of a vast majority of youth; they try to blindly imitate the life style of a hugely popular personality in society who may not be necessarily following the path of righteousness. If we do not see morals and only see glamour, how can we build a harmonious society or how happiness will descend in our lives with such a living? We must have to follow the eternal moral values laid down by the thinkers of all the ages.
The first step for a living a happy life is to bring purity in our daily life, and that has been named as Yama in Yoga. This is a must for all the sections of human civilization irrespective of jati, viz., religion, caste, color, language, age and sex; desha, country; and kala, era or time, and this is the great austerity covering all sections of humans (Yoga sutras: 2-31). One may not practice all the eight limbs of Yoga but has to practice righteousness. The five basic tenets of righteousness are nonviolence, truth, non-stealing, sexual restraint, and not to coveting things or to live with minimum. The ascetics of Jainism also take a vow to observe these five. Rishi Yajnavalkya however has described yama-s to be ten; they are sexual restraint, kindness, forbearance, charity, truth, purity, nonviolence, non-stealing, sublime rhythm in life, and control of organs (Yajnavalkya Samhita: 3-313). Whether these are ten or five we have to understand that all those noble activities required for a good and harmonious living are Yama. In Indian mythology the Lord of death is also named Yama. If we do not perform yama-s, then the Lord will fix us in his trap to punish us with sufferings. In other words the rule of the Nature punishes us if we resort to forbidden activities.
Bhagavan Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi had given strong emphasis on nonviolence in their teachings. In Jainism this is the most essential religious duty for everyone. Nonviolence means to give up violence, not to injure or kill, this means not to cause pain to anybody by the activities of body, mind and speech, and not to find fault with others. This is developing a feeling of amity towards all. Instigating or approving violent actions done by others is also violence. The degree of violence depends on the degree of cruelty involved in the act, may be the conspirator or planner of a violence is much more cruel than a less educated executer. When we use harsh words, defame someone or speak untruth this also comes under the purview of violence. Animals may resort to violence for collection of food, protection of body, countering fear and competition for sex, but being humans we also do the same. Then can we call ourselves rational? Moreover we are using violence for name, fame and power. This is the reason our life is becoming a hell. We are becoming our own enemy. We need love and compassion, not violence.
Vegetarianism has developed as an offshoot of nonviolence. Cruelty is involved in killing an animal for food. If we want to develop compassion and love within us we should not kill animals. These are not our natural foods since nature has not given us the sharp incisors and long canine teeth equired for a flesh eater. The body cells and organs of an animal also contain a bit of impression of the conscious element and hence animal flesh as diet will bring in unnecessary impressions of sex, violence, fear etc., of the animal killed to our body system thereby interfering with our process of evolution. Moreover these bring in metabolites of animal killed to our body system which can act as toxins. We need compassion to save an animal, not to kill it.
We should live a truthful life for peace and harmony. Here comes the need for not to speaking a lie, not to deceive others, speaking truth, speaking righteousness and not to cause anxiety to others, and not to speak in a way that initiates a quarrel. Truth should be learned by contemplation and by developing the discriminating intellect. It is truthfulness that makes our relations strong. One, who resorts to cheating in relations, it may be between husband and wife, between brothers or between friends, the cheat pushes his life into furious darkness of frustration. Upanishads say, satyameva jayate nanritam, satyena pantha vitato devyanah (Mundaka Upanishad: 3-1-6), truth alone wins, not the untruth, the path of devayana is laid by truth. Truth is the vehicle to the world of gods or immortals (devayana). A person established in truth has such a will power that his noble wishes materialize.
Non-stealing is another virtue everyone must have to practice for purity. Many people including even the highly educated ones do not hesitate to acquire wealth by unfair means. This is a huge problem in our society as we suffer from greed. Not to steal others’ property and money, not to make an income through such acts as deceiving others and by unfair means like bribery, black marketeering, evading taxes, taking commission from the work for which one is paid or it is a moral obligation, would qualify under non-stealing. One should not make money violating laws, hence violence and stealing are the same. Stealing is also another form of untruth. The laws of certain countries may permit their banks to keep the money accumulated in another country either by stealing or by evading taxes. But this is against morality and humanity. One must not cheat any person, society or country by any means. Even having greed in mind for others’ property and wishing to have a relation with another’s husband or wife is also stealing, hence for a healthy life and society one should not develop such thoughts. We think that by having material prosperity by any means can bring happiness, but let us ponder whether this really happens.
Sexual Restraint or continence is another righteous quality. Scriptures describe eight types of coupling, viz., remembering or thinking, foreplay or even joking, singing the glory or talking about, approaching or looking with intention, speaking or secret talk, making a vow or resolve, trying or attempt, and the act or execution with regard to sex as eight modes of sex. Have we ever pondered that the obsessions with these take us to what state? Life has some other meanings not just sex. It is not about denial of sexual life we are talking about; a human is allowed to have a sex-life but only within the social rules and norms. Sex is for procreation for the continuity of the race and not for pleasure. Pleasure aspect is of course involved there; otherwise one may not be interested in procreation since it involves a lot of responsibilities. Even if it is used for pleasure it must not encroach into other’s rights. Those leading a family life should be faithful to their partners and should have sex as per the sanction of the scriptures. Persons with higher goals should observe sexual restraint in body, mind and speech. Unfortunately in our society incidents of rape, adultery etc., are increasing taking the lives of both the victim, the accused and their relations to endless miseries.
Non-Acceptance (Contentment with Minimum or not to posses more) is to reduce our wants, for a happy life. We should not collect more items of enjoyment and should be satisfied with minimum needs. This will help in proper distribution of items in the society and will give us satisfaction. We can call this a Vedic system or Yogic system of socialism that existed much before the emergence of the idea of socialism in the western world. This strengthens the noble quality named charity. Not to waste the things, not to spend lavishly, accepting that everyone including the animals have a right to the resources of nature come under this. This virtue brings detachment towards sense objects. In India it is wrongly conceived as an idea to live in poverty where as this actually teaches to reduce personal wants and inculcates a sense of detachment. We need to remember that wealth is also a power of the Divine and should be used for the purpose of the Divine. How we do it is our test for a divine life.
Non-addiction is another virtue essentially required for individual health and social harmony. One should not to be addicted to alcohol, smoking and/or any drugs like marijuana, opium, hashish, cocaine and tobacco etc. These things kill our humanity, suppress our consciousness and we are not able to take the right decisions. An addicted person can resort to violence, falsehood, stealing, adultery and all bad things like a machine run by a devil. Our human evolution is based on the further development of consciousness and the seat of this consciousness is our brain, spinal cord and nerves. The drugs have a very bad impact on them, viz., drowsiness, depression, exuberance, hallucination and so on, and these take us back to animalism. If we perform all these righteousness then our life will be successful and our society will transform into a heaven.
In modern society we find other types of addictions such as watching television or hanging to internet. Productive hours are lost only watching this serial after that serial, in switching one channel to other, and even watching the same news in all the news channels. Does this addiction really add anything to our knowledge? Internet can be a good source of gathering information but internet addicts are involved only in chatting or spending their time in useless activities that are not helpful in strengthening knowledge. Moreover film, television and internet addicts are not judicious in selection thus ending up in watching sex, violence, passions, adultery etc.
In Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita (16-21) it is said, There are three gates to the hell to ruin our soul; they are desires, anger and greed, and therefore one should leave these three. We all experience how desires, anger, greed, hatred, delusion, infatuation and other such vices ruin our life and mental peace. We need to control anything that relates to evil tendencies of our mind. This is called self restraint, and this is the control of senses and mind. We should offer the senses of hearing etc into the fires of self restrain (Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita: 4-26). Here restraint includes the control of five sense organs, viz., ears, eyes, skin, tongue and nose, and the control of five organs of action, viz., speech, hands, legs, organ of procreation and organ of fecal excretion (digestion); and again the control of the eleventh organ i.e. the mind is of utmost importance since the other ten organs are actually controlled by the mind.
So also it is important to inculcate virtues in our life. We should regularly prepare ourselves to discard the demonic characteristics within us and acquire divine properties. The detailed listings of the divine and demonic properties are given on the sixteenth chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita. Fearlessness, purity of mind, establishing in yoga of meditation for realization, charity, control of sense organs, oblations and sacred duties, studying scriptures, austerities, righteousness of mind, body and senses, nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstaining from malicious gossips, compassion, absence of craving even on contact with objects, no egoism, no fickleness, vigor with sublimity, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, not to be reactive, not to seek excessive honor and other such qualities are described as the divine properties. On the other hand the opposites of these like stubbornness, arrogance, pride, anger, hypocrisy, ignorance, demonstrating ones wealth and power, not knowing the difference between activities to be performed and abstinence, un-cleanliness, bad conduct, falsehood, unholy desires, anger, hatred, jealousy, satisfying ego, sensuous pleasures or lust, to be blinded by wealth and power, brutal force etc are the demonic properties.
We have no license to do anything and everything we wish to. We all are bound within the boundary of human values. If we break these values we shall encroach into others’ rights, and shall harm the freedom of others. This will result in opposite reactions against us. So forbidden activities are to be discarded. The normal human tendency is to go for enjoyment by fulfillment of desires. These desires are many and have no limit. If we leave our actions and enjoyments uncontrolled, and run after them, then that will result in big social, moral and psychological turmoil. So scriptures of different religions and seers had formed the social rules to canalize those. For example if a person is after sexual enjoyment like a beast that would result in a social and psychological catastrophe, so moral rules are framed to give sanctity to such an enjoyment within the limits of a married life along with performance of the family obligations and duties. The same is true for acquiring wealth. If one steals or earns money by corruption that will encroach others’ right to enjoyment of wealth, but one can earn wealth by honest efforts. This is giving a controlled direction or vent to the uncontrolled desires so that the enjoyment is done with social harmony.
Advaita Vedanta emphasizes pursuing six-fold virtues for its students -as sama, dama, uparati, titiksha, shraddha and samadhana. Sama is the control of mind, we cannot do anything with an uncontrolled mind, and such a mind is responsible for all the vices. Dama is restraining the external sense organs. Sama and dama are to be practiced by all for armony and not just by the students of Vedanta. In uparati these external organs are so restrained that there is cessation of their activities for enjoyment. Titikhsa is tolerating adverse situation and this can be called as austerities. Shraddha is faith in the Vedas and Guru whereas samadhana is a state of concentrated mind.
Yoga system also emphasizes on cleanliness leading to purity, contentment, austerities, self-study and devotion to God to the practitioners under niyama(s), observances. An average person should practice cleanliness and contentment. Cleanliness is essential for a healthy living. Cleanliness leading to purity (shaucha) can be divided into external cleanliness and internal cleanliness. Under the external cleanliness comes keeping the surroundings clean so that physical body does not suffer from diseases and an aesthetic sense is developed, and body purification processes leading to a healthy body suitable for long life. The internal cleanliness is the cleanliness of our internal organ i.e. the mind. In present day Indian society un-cleanliness is a major problem. Though many follow personal hygiene but so far as community and environmental cleanliness is concerned we lag far behind though we have a problem of large population. It is good that awareness is developing.
Contentment is a mental attitude; it has nothing to do with physical possessions. One may become a billionaire but can remain ever a mentally poor, so the real poverty and feeling of poverty are different things. Once the feeling of poverty is eradicated then there is contentment and the feeling of poverty is not eradicated by gathering many. This does not at all mean that we should adopt poverty. Contentment is also to be established in all situations and all facets of life, not simply with material possessions. Results of our works always may not be according to our expectations, again sometimes situations may suddenly become unfavorable but one has to learn to be contented. Contentment gives us happiness and dissatisfaction leads to sorrow. Eradicating hankerings from the mind is contentment. But we should remember that developing lethargy and thereby remaining satisfied is not the real contentment.
According to the teachings Bhagavan Buddha, “From right understanding proceeds right thought, from right thought proceeds right speech, from right speech proceeds right action and from right action proceeds right livelihood”. So we have to make noble our thinking, belief-system and thought processes. Nowadays we find discussions in different foraabout positive thinking and belief system. Before we do any work or speak that first takes shape in our mind, so we have to purify our mind and have to develop a belief system that is conducive to our personal growth and social harmony. What we are is due to our belief system and this is responsible for all the virtues or vices we possess, for our life style, our workings, our successes and failures.
More details could be found in the book Kriya Yoga – The Science of Life Force authored by Swami Nityananda Giri.