How To Observe Shaucha (Purification)

Patanjali Yoga Series

Patanjali Yoga has eight limbs and the first is Yama (abstention). There are five types of Yama which have been described in my earlier articles. The second limb is Niyama (discipline) which is also divided into five types -- Shaucha (purification), Santosh (contentment), Tapa (heating), Svadhyay (self-study), and Ishvara Pranidhan (bearing God). Let us explore Shaucha (purification).

Patanjali writes in his aphorism (I.40) that by observing Shaucha, body is protected and relation with foreign matter is eliminated. So how to purify and protect body from foreign matter?

  1. Take a bath early in the morning daily before the practice of Yoga. You may take a bath after Yoga also, but bathing is a must. By this foreign matter like dust, dirt, oily substances, sweating or even germs sticking to the body are washed away and the body remains fresh and healthy. This is external purification.
  2. After external purification, take care of internal purification through practice of Yogic exercises. Among all yogic exercises, Chakrabhedan is most useful. I have described it in my earlier article but to learn it, you have to see it from me directly. In the body, joints are the places where the flow of blood and other fluids slow down, and as a result fat and other foreign substances (even germs) find places to stay. Chakrabhedan exercise tries to clean up such deposits from joints as well as from all parts of the body. As a result, the body is fully purified and is protected from foreign matter causing disease. Any foreign matter which is not digested or killed in the body causes disease. Such matter should be removed from the body.

Patanjali describes in his next aphorism (I.41) that when the body is purified both externally and internally, a Yogi (practitioner) gets the following benefits:

  • Mind and intelligence are purified. When your body is completely purified and remains well and healthy, you don't think about disease. You give up all fearing thoughts from the mind. As a result, your mind and its subtler part, intelligence, get purified.
  • Mind feels satisfaction and concentration. When your mind and intelligence are purified and remain fresh, the mind remains satisfied always. A satisfied mind gets concentrated on itself. A sick man always thinks about disease and visits to doctors, medicine stores and hospitals. And then, if still not satisfied, visits to temples for getting the mercy of Gods and Goddesses. But God helps those who help themselves. So the mind always roams outside and doesn't get concentrated. But when these alien thoughts and fear are eliminated from the mind, it gets concentrated on itself.
  • Mind wins over senses. When body is not well and is diseased, senses convey the bodily pain to the mind incessantly. So mind always thinks about body, diseases, doctors and prayers to Gods. But once the body is free from diseases, senses no longer divert the attention of the mind and so mind gets concentrated.
  • Mind becomes worthy for realizing the Self (svarup). Patanjali has written in his third aphorism (I.3) that the aim of Yoga is to realize the Self or Soul. This is in conformity with the Upanishads which describe Soul (atman) as Brahman, the ultimate reality. There is nothing in this universe except Brahman, and Atman is nothing but Brahman. When mind is free from all thoughts relating to body and senses, it gets concentrated on itself (i.e. the Self). The subtler part of mind is intelligence and the subtler part of intelligence is Self or Soul (atman).

So by practicing Shaucha, body and mind are purified both internally and externally. Mind becomes subtler and purer. Then after years of practicing Yoga, you become able to realize or see your Self.


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