Sutra 2.41: sattva shuddhi saumanasya ekagra indriya-jaya atma darshana yogyatvani cha
And, such a habit of cleanliness also leads to the purification of the whole substance, peace and basic goodness of mind, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses, as also the ability (and the qualification) to attain self-knowledge. Translation and interpretation by Swami Venkatesananda
You know that common saying “cleanliness is close to godliness”? That’s essentially what sutra 2.42 is telling us, just from a yoga perspective rather than a religious one. Cleanliness is then a path to one’s true self rather than to a mythic being.
I wonder about this. What is “cleanliness”? What is purity? Aren’t those relative terms? I don’t know any two people with the same standards of clean, so how does the average person exploring yoga approach saucha? Saucha as given in the yoga sutras is a fairly universally defined purity –it’s simply a state that allows you to experience yoga (or the opposite of which will get in the way). But if you’re still just sorting out what Yoga and the true Self are, that definition might seem a bit heavy handed. Is there a way to break it down and apply it directly to one’s daily living?
In modern, Western society, cleanliness of person and home isn’t typically a big issue (or again, it might just come down to differing standards). I spoke a little to cleanliness of diet last week, which is definitely a trickier topic for many of us. What about purity of mind? Can your thoughts contribute to your cleanliness or obscure your path to yoga?
Some will say, yes, of course. Others believe “right action” is more powerful than “right belief.” I think it’s up to each of us to explore. Can you change how you connect to yourself simply through limiting the thoughts that would pollute your day with harmful negativity? Would purity of mind help you find cleanliness of body and environment? Or vice versa?
I suspect yes, resoundingly so. I might put my mind in a good place by cleaning my house and not skimping on the tricky corners. Or I might put a positive spin on my thoughts to put myself in the mood to clean at all! The intention of feeling “good” either through your actions (to influence your thoughts) or through your thoughts (to influence your actions) can be all you need. Start your day expecting to smile as you walk down the street, and you might find yourself doing so internally even more so than externally. Start your day with a yoga class, whether you “feel” like going or not, and you just find it shifts your mood and puts you on track for the rest of your day.
Like all of the practices of yoga, discovering clean habits and pure intentions in your own life will take some trial and error –preferably with the guiding advice and wisdom of a teacher who knows you well.
Saucha might start with your daily shower, but it certainly doesn’t need to end there. Happy exploring!
Hari om, om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.