In this monthly series on the Yamas and Niyamas, senior Integral Yoga teachers offer wisdom and reflections on applying these foundational principles of Yoga in daily life from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This month’s focus is on Saucha, purity.
FROM THE HOLY BIBLE:
Matthew 5.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
When we reach the pinnacle of purity (saucha) we abide eternally in peace and joy, experience God in, or to be more accurate, as everything, ourselves included.
How will we know we are established in purity? Sutras 2.40 and 2.41 explain that through the practice of this niyama deeper understanding of the human body occurs, and one gains cheerfulness, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses, and fitness to realize the Self.
FROM THE WISDOM OF SWAMI SATCHIDANANDA:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” What is meant by purity, then? How do we make ourselves pure? We have to make the senses, mind, body, pure by going within. Then we can see how much impurity we have, refine it and clean it. Once you clean the mind and body, the God within you reflects. You get the divine vision. Otherwise, we always see outside with our colored vision. If the mind is already colored with so many things, we will understand things only with this colored mind. Do not allow the mind to remain colored or disturbed. As the mind, so the individual. As you think, so you will become. So, clean the mind first. To achieve this we have to go within. That’s why the kingdom of God is within you.”
FROM THE BHAGAVAD GITA:
16.3 “Full of vigor, always forgiving, courageous in adversity, pure in body and mind, no hatred toward anyone, and never puffed up with pride —these are the characteristics, Arjuna, of a man or woman destined for a divine life.”
18.5 “Self-sacrifice, self-giving, and self-discipline, in fact, should not be renounced. Instead, they should certainly be continued, because such actions purify the mind and make you wise.”
FROM THE TIRUKKURAL:
“The man whose conduct is pure is honored by all: purity of conduct is therefore to be prized even above life.”
SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA’S PERSCRIPTION FOR PURIFYING THE HEART:
“What is the object of seva or service? Why do you serve poor people and the suffering humanity at large? Why do you serve the society and the country? By doing service, you purify your heart… Only the pure in heart have the vision of God.”
SWAMI VENKATESANANDA – PRACTICE OF SAUCHA IN DAILY LIFE:
“Saucha, in simplest language, is cleanliness of body, mind and environment… If you experiment you will understand this. One day sit for meditation with dirty feet, the next day clean just your feet, and the next day take a bath and see the effects yourself. You will understand the difference…
“Firstly, the body must be pure. The practice of asanas helps to remove both impurities from the gross body and blockages to the free flow of prana. Then the mind must be pure. No evil thoughts should arise in the mind. Your motive and your feeling must be pure.
“So cleanliness is not only washing hands, dishes, etc., and keeping your surroundings clean, but it embraces and encompasses the whole personality. Body, mind, heart, and soul should be clean.”
FROM THE DHAMMAPADA:
“We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
“We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable.”
FROM THE LOTUS PRAYER BOOK:
Prayer of Yellow Lark of the Sioux
“O Great Spirit, who’s voice I hear in the winds,
and who’s breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I come before you, one of your many children.
I am small and weak. I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and let my eyes ever behold the
red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made, my ears,
sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may know the things you have taught
my people, the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able
to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me ever ready to come to you with clean hands and
straight eyes, so when life fades as a fading sunset, my
spirit may come to you without shame.”
1. Looking at my physical environment, with what regularity do I clean my home, car, and other items that I use?
2. Is my clothing usually clean and neat?
3. In observing saucha, do I avoid rigidity?
4. Do I maintain the same level of cleanliness and order at work as I do at home?
5. If I were to simplify my life, would this make the practice of saucha easier?
6. Do I spend as much time inwardly purifying the mind and heart as I do outwardly cleaning the body and the world around me?
About the Author:
Swami Priyaananda is a senior disciple of Swami Satchidananda with thirty years of experience in the practice of Integral Yoga. She served in the Integral Yoga Health Services division and the Distribution Department at Satchidananda Ashram in Connecticut, as well as Executive Secretary and Coordinator of the Living Yoga Training program at the Ashram in Virginia. Currently, she is Vice President of the Office of Spiritual Development and Manager of Satchidananda Archives.