Purification of Impurities

Two of the Brahmavakyas in Vedas are, “Tat Twam Asi” and “Aham Bramhasmi.” These mean “Thou Art That” or “I am Brahma” respectively which imply the same thing. The prime purpose of human life is to make these not remain just lines from the scriptures to be appreciated but to translate these into real life. […]

Two of the Brahmavakyas in Vedas are, “Tat Twam Asi” and “Aham Bramhasmi.” These mean “Thou Art That” or “I am Brahma” respectively which imply the same thing. The prime purpose of human life is to make these not remain just lines from the scriptures to be appreciated but to translate these into real life. An Indian philosopher, Sri G.V. Vethathiri (1911-2006), used to say Almighty is nothing but human minus impurities. This statement is of the essence both from the readings in the scriptures as well as the sayings of various religions, spiritual leaders, sects, and others. Consciously or unconsciously we all aim to better ourselves in this endeavor of achieving perfection. However, the impurities pull us down in our journey of consciousness. In Vedas, these impurities have been described as kama (desire), krodh (anger), madh (vanity of inferiority or superiority), moh (attachment to time, place, person, object), lobh (greed), and ahankara (ego). All of us have varying levels of these six impurities that vary from time to time and situation to situation.
Kama (desire) starts to take shape around adolescence and then for most people, it starts to decline in old age. Unchecked desire leads to pain and misery. Krodh (anger) manifests whenever something is not obtained, or fulfilled the way we want it, or is not given to us at the appropriate time that we have planned. We have all experienced the ill effects of anger on ourselves as well as others from time to time and have faced negative lasting sequelae ensuing from it. Madh (vanity) starts to become apparent when we start comparing ourselves with others. This results in either getting jealous or getting depressed. Both these emotions have a negative toll on us and others. Moh (attachment) starts early on in childhood when we get attached to our mother but then its source starts to change for most people. We get attached to a memory (e.g., time), place (e.g., we do not want to change our residence), person (e.g., we get attached to family members and friends), or object (e.g., we get attached to our car). If that modality is taken away from us, we suffer enormous pain and sorrow. Lobh (greed) usually starts in adulthood when we start earning money and often there is no satiety. All of us have needs and wants. Once needs are met then wants should be curtailed but that seldom happens. So, in the process, we must work harder, harder, and harder. We look at other people’s needs and start wanting them. As a result, there is no peace of mind. Ahankara (ego) is the byproduct of success. All of us experience some form of success in some field or the other from time to time and if someone challenges us our ego rebels. We cannot digest criticism. We start thinking, “I am great,” “I have done this,” “I have achieved this,” “I have so much power,” and so on. This type of thinking often lands us in conflicts and disrupts our peace of mind.
Everyone despite their best intentions is unable to escape the vicissitude of these six impurities in their lives. So how do we channel our energies to combat the negative influences of these impurities and continue the journey of purification? Yoga provides guidance in this regard. There are four major schools of yoga and one can adopt one or a combination of a few or all of these. Let us examine each one. The first school of yoga is Bhakti Yoga. Applying this approach, we can surrender our consciousness to the Almighty, a deity, an honest spiritual leader, a true guru, a well-respected elder, or any other role model whom we and others respect and lead our lives following in their footsteps. If that person is alive then we must ensure that this person is not going to misuse our trust. This approach is typically well-suited for children and simple-at-heart people.
The second school of yoga is Gyana Yoga in which we use Vichara (thoughts). We introspect on each of our thoughts, words, and actions with a fine-tooth comb. So, for dealing with Kama, we choose ethical pathways that do not cause harm to ourselves or to others at present or in the future and only indulge in those. For dealing with krodh (anger), we develop the disposition of patience. In dealing with madh (vanity), we develop equanimity through our thoughts, words, and actions in our relationships with others. For managing moh (attachment), we must inculcate a sense of dispassion and compassion. To reduce lobh (greed) we must practice charity. Finally, for the elimination of ahankara (ego), we must foster a sense of gratitude, serve others, and treat everyone as our equal. This is typically well-suited for intellectually inclined people.
In application of the third school of yoga, Raja Yoga, one can meditate on a form (object), on the formless form (a philosophy, a mantra, a syllable, etc.), or formless. The meditation brings the electromagnetic waves of the brain to subtler wavelengths as recorded on the electroencephalograph (EEG). From the faster frequency beta waves (14-40 cycles per second) that the EEG records in activities of daily functioning the mind gets subtler to alpha waves (8-13 cycles per second) to theta waves (4-7 cycles per second) to delta waves (1 cycle per second). Such meditation automatically starts to purify the mind. This approach is typically well-suited for disciplined practitioners who can establish regularity in this inner travel.
Finally, we have Karma Yoga, or the selfless service path. This entails unconditional, unswerving, unselfish discharge of one’s duties. The word “duty” has its origin from the word, “due.” Whatever we are is the result of the efforts of so many members of society either directly or indirectly who have shaped us and repaying for that service is duty or Karma yoga. When one renders such a service once again automatically consciousness begins to shine with pure qualities. This approach is typically well-suited for people who like to work hard. So, we see that the purpose of life is to purify ourselves to merge with pure consciousness and this can be achieved by working on eliminating our impurities. This can be done by applying one or more approaches of Yoga such as Bhakti, Gyana, Raja, and Karma.
Dr. Manoj Sharma is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA. He is an avid practitioner of Kundalini Yoga