Swachhata- Cleanliness is next to godliness

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that a “clean India” will be the best tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. The Father of the Nation had a penchant for cleanliness in his personal habits and strongly promoted it in society. Launching the Swach Bharat Campaign on 2nd Oct 2014 on Mahatma Gandhi’s Birth anniversary, the Prime Minister exhorted all the citizens of India to free the country of dirt and filth and make it a clean and green country as envisaged by our forefathers.

Bāhyābhyantara-śuci “One should be cleansed within and without.”  Bahya means outside, without. Abhyantara means inside. Unless we are clean, unless we are pure, we cannot harbor thoughts of the Supreme. The Supreme is described as the purest. In the Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna said, paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān: [Bg. 10.12] “My dear Kṛṣṇa, You are the Supreme Lord, Brahman.” And pavitraṁ paramam: “You are supreme pure.” There is no impurity. Impurity means material contamination, and purity means spiritual life.

Therefore our Scriptures say it is important that we maintain cleanliness both inside and outside.

apavitra pavitro vā

sarvāvasthā gato ‘pi vā

ya smaret puṇḍarīkāka

sa bahyābhyantara śuci

Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga deals with Yama and niyama that is, the steps necessary for both internal and external purity. Physical cleanliness is mentioned as Saucha but other moral disciplines like Ahimsa – Non-injury, Satya – Truthfulness, Asteya – Non-stealing, Brahmacharya – Celibacy, Kshama – Patience, Dhriti – Steadfastness, Daya – Compassion, Arjava – Honesty, Mitahara – Moderate Appetite are equally important for one to lead a life in harmony with the universe. People are advised to practice restraint in all respects not because they are forced to but because it is the most natural thing to do. Self aggrandizement is viewed as moral ineptitude. Vedic Culture spoke of an inclusive growth not one of environmental degradation and mindless plundering of natural resources.  It is all about integrating environmental, social and economic sectors when developing sustainable policies. Ancient tenets were altruistic; they spoke of one world one people as can be seen in the following maxims

Vasudevasarvam – the Supreme resides in all beings;

Vasudhaivakutumbakam – the entire world is one family

Sarvabhutahita – the welfare of all beings

If we were to follow these noble thoughts, would we ever dare to pollute this world for we would be filled with empathy for all living beings- a quality that is most lacking in individuals in the world today. So how can we bring back these qualities into our lives? By following the Vedic injunctions carefully for their underlying motive is Sarve janaha sukhino bhavanthu, loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu- may all beings be happy, may the entire world be happy. Let us bequeath a clean green world to our future generations.