Purity is a prerequisite to happiness. Take a moment to pause and reflect on that. If you’re still sceptical, imagine yourself in a cluttered, disorganised, and unclean room – clothes strewn across the bed and chairs, half-empty cups and plates scattered on the floor, the air thick with the smell of stale food, and every available surface covered in dust. Now come back and appreciate the cleanliness of your surroundings.
If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows one like a shadow that never leaves.
— Dhammapada, Chapter 1, Verse 2
Physical purity is definitely a significant first step to peace and happiness, but not sufficient unless it is accompanied by mental purity. The tidiness of a place becomes secondary if our own body or clothes are not clean. And the same logic extends to our mind, too. An impure mind acts as a magnet for misery, regardless of the physical environment. But what exactly makes our mind impure? One might say – negative emotions like greed, jealousy, envy, hatred etc. While these emotions may be indicative of an impure mind, they are merely surface-level symptoms. The true source of impurity is deeply embedded in the fabric of our thoughts.
The Pendulum of Thoughts
Our mind is nothing but a continuous stream of thoughts and emotions. If we closely monitor these thoughts, we’ll find that they are predominantly occupied with past events. Thoughts of favorable past events elicit pleasant feelings, while thoughts of painful memories cause suffering. But the story doesn’t end there. When a pendulum swings to one extreme, it gathers enough energy to swing to the other extreme as well. Naturally, we wish favorable past events to repeat in the future and obsess on finding ways of avoiding circumstances that may cause previously experienced pain and hurt. We begin to construct an ideal future in our heads. As soon as it reaches perfection and we pause to marvel at the beauty of our idealistic creation, the pendulum starts swinging back, ready to bring with it all the past baggage that threatens to shatter our dream future. And in this way, the pendulum of our thoughts keeps perpetually oscillating between these two non-existent extremes.
The Root of Impurities
Craving for favorable circumstances is called Raag (Attachment), while the obsession to avoid unfavorable circumstances at all costs is called Dwesh (Aversion). Attachment and aversion, two sides of the same coin, are precursors of every negative emotion that can be considered an impurity of the mind – greed, insecurity, hate, anger, envy, to name just a few. In Vachnamrut 37, Shrimad Rajchandraji says – “जहाँ तहाँ से राग द्वेष रहित होना, यही मेरा धर्म है” (My only religion is to become free from attachments and aversions by any means).
Thus, constantly ruminating about the past and the future is the root of all impurities. It naturally follows that purity exists in the only remaining slice of time – the present moment.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is the art of pulling your mind away from thoughts and stories that don’t necessarily have anything to do with reality, and bringing it to the beauty of the present moment. It might be the tiniest of the three dimensions of time, gone before one can even blink, but the present moment is where life actually happens. All the greatest achievements of mankind in history happened in the present moment. And that holds true for all of your accomplishments in life as well. The present moment is where the mind rises above all attachments and aversions. The present moment is where it experiences the elusive peace and happiness it was looking for in the past and the future. The present moment is where it reaches the stillness from where anything and everything new can be created.
But mindfulness is not a switch that you can turn on or off at will. It is like a muscle that needs consistent training and patience. For starters, mindfulness doesn’t mean eliminating all impure thoughts, but rather being aware of them. People go their entire lives unaware of their mind’s slavery to the past and the future. Becoming aware is the first step towards freedom and purification of the mind. But what is truly required to fast-track the process is a meditation practice, preferably one that includes focussing on the breath. Meditation is to mindfulness what exercise is to our muscles. When guided by specific meditation techniques, our awareness gradually expands, dissolving all impurities. And once mental purity reaches a certain threshold, it can sustain itself independent of the external environment. Chances are you will still need to clean your room every day. But you will do so basking in the joy and peace of your soul.