SHAUCHA – Personal and Planetary Cleanliness

Do you remember Pig Pin, from the “Snoopy” cartoons of Charles Schultz? Pig Pin always had a dark cloud of dirt and negative thoughts around him like a grey aura. Pig Pin is an example of someone who could benefit from the practice of Shaucha. It is one of the Niyamas form the Patanjalim Yoga Sutras that is usually defined as purity or cleanliness. Schucha comes in two basic categories, external and internal.

External cleanliness (bahir shaucha) refers to keeping the body and environment clean. This includes skin, hair, yoga mat, clothes, office desk, car, clean air, rivers, oceans, etc. Bad personal hygiene habits can be unhealthy and a distraction for yourself and others.

I will never forget the time I was having trouble concentrating in a yoga class because the person next to me had terrible body odor. It was only halfway through my practice that I noticed that this stinky person was me.

Did you know that there is a swirling plastic trash vortex in the Northern Pacific Ocean that is about the size of Texas? Using bio-degradable products, minimizing plastic consumption, eating a plant based diet, recycling, buying organic produce, using solar and wind power are just a handful of ways in which we can make a contribution towards Planetary Shaucha.

Internal cleanliness (antar shaucha) involves detoxifying the body and purifying the mind. Eating a healthy plant based diet with regular physical exercise (asana) is best for cleaning and detoxifying the physical body. Heavy, oily, spicy foods should be avoided. Pure diet allows the mind to be alert, cheerful, clear and fit for concentration. If the body is not healthy, and for example, one of our internal organs is diseased or out of balance, meditation is not possible.

Buddhism and Yoga both refer to six poisons that negatively affect our spiritual heart. These poisons afflict our mind and create suffering and negative karma. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois lists these six poisons in his book Yoga Mala as: kama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (delision), lobha (greed), matsarya (jealousy) and mada (laziness). These afflictions can be minimized by practicing for a long period of time with dedication and non-attachment to results. Ultimately these poisons can be removed from one’s personal field of cause and effect only by deep and skillful meditation.

These six poisons can be symbolized as dirt that surrounds the spiritual or causal heart (not the physical heart or the energetic heart, anahata chakra). As spiritual practice deepens and evolves, this dirt is slowly washed away and the light of our true eternal Self shines forth. Fruit of successful yogic practice are qualities such as maitri (friendliness), karuna (compassion), sukkha (happiness) upekshanam (equanimity / indifference) and generosity. These qualities allow us to break the chain of negativity that persists here on planet Earth. Be the change. Cleanse and purify, rise and shine – Behold the jewel in the lotus.