By Swami Divyananda
After years of dedicated service in Integral Yoga ashrams and centers in California, New York, Virginia, India and other places, Swami Divyananda now travels more than ever, calling the entire world her home. Along the journey, she has learned some insightful lessons on the rewards of simplicity and saucha, which she shares in this article.
“Moreover, one gains purity of sattva, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses and fitness for Self-realization.” –Sutra 41, Book Two, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Among the ethical teachings of Raja Yoga, only saucha (purity) warrants two sutras. Saucha is not one of the more popular teachings of Raja Yoga since, in sutra 40, it is associated with disgust for the physical body. However a good look at the benefits listed above is certainly enough to awaken our enthusiasm, plus it is straightforward and uncomplicated. The entry-level practice of saucha consists of keeping up with our personal hygiene and maintaining order and cleanliness in our surroundings. It is one of those practices that Sri Gurudev would describe as “elementary but elephantary.
When Sri Gurudev first came to America, he was surrounded by throngs of eager students, most of us in full revolt against the values of our parents. Cleanliness was not one of our priorities. He saw our devotion and saw our lifestyle, and he must have glimpsed the big job he had ahead. “Your parents should have trained you in these things,” he commented and then added, “This must be my karma.” Then he set to work. “It’s not that cleanliness is next to godliness,” he admonished us, “cleanliness is godliness!”
At one point we begged him to attend our meditations and infuse his spirit into us. He would not. He said “I’m always with you, whether or not I’m there in my physical body, and I know how you meditate by how you work.” All the markers were there for him, clear as day. Did we check to see if the pen worked before we handed it to him? Did we wipe the rim of the coffee jar before recapping it? He was exacting. Each moment mattered, every action mattered, and “nothing misses me, Miss.” He noticed how we closed a door, and how we moved a chair. In hindsight we realize he was training us to develop the consciousness of relaxed alertness necessary for meditation.
Sri Gurudev moved through the same world as we do, but his world was mysteriously different. He saw more, he cared more, he was more careful. He was attentive to each “insignificant” detail. He folded his dirty clothes carefully; he was never in a careless hurry. When staying at a hotel, there was no leaving the room for the maid to clean up. He straightened up the room, made his bed, carefully placed the towels he had used. He was in love with his world and the world was in love with him: there was always beauty and synchronicity around him. For Sri Gurudev saucha was the natural expression of an unencumbered mind. His peace was pristine, and his environment was pristine as well. Cleanliness and purity were a natural expression of his consciousness.
Though I loved Sri Gurudev’s example, I could not seem to follow it. It turned out that I was missing a key piece of information: It is easier to keep your things in order if you have fewer of them. In this regard, some of my best teachers emerged from the gentle people of India.
One of the surprises of India was to step off a chaotic and trash-filled street into a private home that was freshly swept, completely tidy and sparsely furnished. Many times I visited the homes of our educated, well-dressed and competent sangha members, to discover that their whole family shared two rooms and that my friend’s possessions filled a total of two shelves. Their example stood in sharp contrast with the typical environment of an American home and the clutter to which we are accustomed. . .
Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2013 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.