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External And Internal Purity As Spiritual Discipline In Hinduism – Sauca

External and internal purity as spiritual discipline in Hinduism is known as Sauca in Hinduism. Suchi means pure and sanctified; to be suchi is Saucha. External sauca is cleansing is the body with clay or soap or ointment and water. It also includes cleanliness of eatables, drinkables, items of clothing and our environment. On the other hand, internal cleanliness means purity of mind (resolves to quiet passions and desires), intellect (thoughts) and ego.

Saucha is one o the basic steps of the ashtanga (eight fold) Yoga practice of Patanjali. It is one of the five niyamas or observances – sauca santosha tapa svadhyayesvara pranidhanani niyamah – [purity, contentment, austerity, study and devotion to God (Yoga Sutra II-32)].

Patanjali proclaims the outcome of observing saucha as disgust of one’s own body-organs and repugnance to physical contact with others (saucat svanga jugupsa parainrasamargah – Yoga Sutra 2/40), because love of one’s own organs and infatuation to touch and embrace the body of the opposite sex detracts from brahmacharya (celibacy), an important yama (abstinence) for success in Yoga.

Saucha (purity habit) develops repugnance to all such regressive tendencies. Not only this, but sauca also purifies the internal apparatus (antahkarana, sattva), ensures tranquility and happiness of mind, makes citta (mind-intellect-ego combined) steady and focused (ekagra), develops control over the sense and capability of self-revelation (sattva-suddhi-saumanasayaikagrendriyajayatamadarsana yogatvanaica – Yogasutra 2/41).

In fact, two types of sauca yield the above-mentioned two types of results. Regular sauca (cleansing) of the external organs and skin of the body generates disgust for one’s own body organs because of their nature of frequent defilement by contamination with filth, outer or inborn. We come to understand the reality behind the shining veil of skin, whether our own or of others, which fills our mind with a sheer repulsion for bodily contacts.

On the other hand, by internal sauca – by purifying our mind with pious resolves and divine imaginations, the intellect with pursuit of truth and righteous thoughts, and sublimation of our ego on a divine plane of mind – we get inner and outer steadiness, which is needed to attain the state of Samadhi, the experience of self.

Yoga philosophy suggests two methods for purification of chitta (mind, intellect and ego), one psychological and the other physical. The psychological method is to be friendly, i.e, maitri, with those who are happy, have compassion or mercy, i.e., mudita to those who are righteous; and ignore, i.e., upeksha, those who are sinners or are vicious (Yoga Sutra 1/33)

Another method is by establishing physical control over respiration. This is called pranayama, which is one of the eight parts of Yoga practice. The simplest form of pranayama consists of three steps –

  1. Inhaling the air through breath, puraka, slowly without sound for a certain measure of time
  2. Retaining that air in the lungs, kumbhaka, with calm for double the time
  3. Releasing the breath, recaka, slowly without sound. This ratio of time can also be 1:2:1 or 1:4:2.

In a reverse order, the breath may also be retained outside. Pranayama can be of many varieties. Although it seems to be a physical practice, at an advanced stage it becomes a psychophysical practice because mana (mind) and vital prana (force) are interlinked; where prana gets stopped, mind too becomes still. Pranayama purifies the body and citta, both.

Besides kayika (physical) and manasika (mental) purity, one should observe purity in speech also by avoiding filthy, vulgar or vicious language.