Ideals and Values/Purity of Intellect
Purity of Intellect
47.1 Internal Purity versus External Cleanliness:
Purity of Intellect means that that we should keep the mind pure, and free of evil thoughts and behaviors.
The relationship and relative importance of inner and outer cleanliness can be understood with an example. Consider a clear glass filled with water. If the glass is dirty from outside and clean from inside, it looks dirty to you but you can still drink water from it. But if a glass is dirty from inside and clean from outside, not only does it look dirty, but you cannot even drink the water from it. And of course, if the glass is dirty from both inside and outside, you will not even touch it.
Similarly, if our mind inside is unclean, it starts showing in our external behavior and no one will feel safe to come into contact with us. But if our mind is clean, then even if we wear shabby clothes, some people will look beyond our shabby appearance and would like to interact with us due to our good inner nature.
So the conclusion is that it is best to be clean from both inside and outside, but inner purity and cleanliness is definitely more important than outer purity and cleanliness.
“They who are pure at heart are pure even if impure externally. And they whose hearts are impure are impure even if they be clean from outside.” Nītidvishashtikā of Sundara Pāndya, verse 44
47.2 How can we keep our Intellect Pure?
There are many ways to keep our intellect pure.
- We should eat pure food. Eating food that is clean, not too spicy or salty, not too oily, not too dry, is healthy and wholesome is beneficial not just for our body but also for the mind.
- We should associate with good people. We should avoid the company of bad people because they will have a bad influence on our minds.
- We should cultivate good habits. We should give up bad habits.
- We should keep busy with useful work. An empty mind is devil’s workshop.
- We should read good books and avoid bad books.
- If possible, avoid seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and speaking bad things.
- Worship God and meditate.
Story on Purity of Mind: Saint Ravidas and the Golden Bangle
In Varanasi lived a humble cobbler named Ravidas, who used to make his living by repairing the leather shoes of his customers. In those days, cobblers were looked down upon as unclean by others because they handled leather which came from the hides of dead animals. However, Ravidas did his work diligently, and constantly remembered God and sang his praises in his heart while working.
One day, a Brahmana knowledgeable in all Hindu scriptures came to Ravidas to get his shoe repaired. Out of humility and respect for the scholarly Brahmana, Ravidas refused to take any money from him for repairing the shoe but asked him for a favor. Ravidas had saved a small copper coin from his heard earned money, and he requested the Brahmana to offer it to Mother Ganga when he went to Haridwar, another holy city on the River Ganga. But Ravidas insisted – “Do not just throw my coin into the river. First say to Mother Ganga that Ravidas has sent this gift for you. If only she stretches out her hand, place the coin on it. Otherwise, do not offer it to Mother Ganga.”
The Brahmana was amused and thought that Ravidas was a fool to think that a hand would stretch out of the river Ganga to accept his coin. Nevertheless, when he went to Haridwar, he did do what Ravidas had requested. Suddenly, a hand stretched out of the River to take the coin and said – “I am glad to accept my son Ravidas’ gift to me.” The Brahmana was shocked, but the hand came out again - this time holding a beautiful golden bangle. River Ganga then spoke in a human voice – “I am sending this gift for my beloved son Ravidas. When you travel to Varanasi, please give this bangle as a gift to him on my behalf.”
The Brahmana became greedy upon getting the bangle. He thought – “Who will believe that River Ganga gifted a precious bangle to a poor and ignorant cobbler Ravidas? I will gift this beautiful bangle to the King, and he will give me a lot of money in return.”
The Brahmana took the bangle to the King who gifted it to the Queen. But the Queen wanted an identical bangle for her other wrist too. The King now warned the Brahmana – “Go and get me another identical bangle, or I will get you imprisoned.”
The poor Brahmana did not know what to do. So he took the bangle to Ravidas in Varanasi and narrated the whole story. Ravidas did not feel angry with the Brahmana at all. Instead, he said – “I am so happy that my mother Ganga sent me a gift.” Then he brought a bowl of water in which he used to dip pieces of leather (to make them soft) that he used for repairing shoes, and said – “If my mind is pure, may Mother Ganga appear in this bowl.” (‘jab man changaa to katori mein ganga’).
A miracle happened – the Brahmana saw the River Ganga flowing inside the bowl, and he also saw several similar bangles in the bed of the river. Saint Ravidas then pulled out a bangle and gave it to the Brahmana, asking him to give the 2 bangles to the King.
The Brahmana was greatly humbled. He realized that all his mastery over scriptures was worth nothing in front of the humility, purity of mind, simplicity and devotion of Ravidas- a mere cobbler. He went to the King and narrated the whole story to him. The King was amazed and the entire royal family turned up to honor Ravidas. Everyone used to think that Ravidas was dirty because he was a cobbler who worked with an unclean material like leather. But so pure was the mind of Ravidas, that River Ganga (which itself is said to purify us when we take a dip in it) considered Ravidas as Her own son.
Today, the birthday of Sant Ravidas is a Federal holiday in India and 16 of his compositions have been included in Guru Granth Sahib, the scripture of Sikhs.
Story: Sant Shankardev of Assam and the Pure Fisherwoman Rādhikā:
The Tembuwani river in Assam is a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra. In the rainy season, the Brahmaputra caused a great backflow of water into the Tembuwani river. As a result, the people living on the banks of the Tembuwani river had to suffer a lot. The swollen river washed away their homes, crops and the soil in the fields.
The villages approached Shankaradeva and sought his help. The saint decreed that if a chaste woman were to pour some water into the stream with a vessel that had holes all over it, the river would subside permanently. The wives of Brahmanas, Kayasthas and all other upper caste men were approached with a request to do so, but they obviously declined. “How could water stay in a vessel with holes in it,” they said?
The villagers went in a large group to Shankaradeva to convey the bad news that no high born lady was willing to take up the challenge. At the same time, a fisherman named Purnanda and his wife Radhika were going down the Tembuwani river on a boat. Seeing the crowd, they too approached the saint. When Radhika heard the cause of the meeting, she promptly ordered to help out. Everyone including her husband was aghast at her audacity. How could a humble fisherwoman do what the high born ladies could not? But Shankaradeva intervened and asked the fisherwoman to observe a fast in honor of God and come to the site the following day, carrying water in the perforated vessel.
The next day, the lady did as she was told. Everyone was stunned to see that the humble but pious fisherwoman, with the blessings of the saint and God was able to carry water in the perforated container without losing it. As soon as she poured it into the Tembuwani river, the waters of the river immediately came to a standstill. This miracle allowed the villagers to construct a dam to divert its flow and prevent flooding in future.
Through this miracle, Radhika and Shankaradeva showed that being born in a high caste does not make one superior, and members of the so called low caste can also be more pious and accomplished than the former. Fishing was considered an unclean profession in India at that time, and fishermen and fisherwomen were therefore considered dirty persons. But Sant Shankaradeva recognized the fact that it was the purity of Radhika’s mind that made her suitable for doing a task that no one else could have done.