Spiritual Blossoms
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Dear Reader,
Welcome back to the feature ‘Getting Spiritually Better’ which we had suspended a few weeks back. We are happy to resume it with many interesting topics in the pipeline. Like earlier, ‘additional notes’ and ‘points to ponder’ on the main theme are presented. We hope this will be useful in your study circles. Any feedback on or articles for this feature are welcome.


After a break, we resume our series: Getting Spiritually Better. In the last article in this series, we discussed the nature of the Atma at length. Some readers felt it was too heavy and that has been commented upon in some of our Reflection articles. The Atma is supposed to be absolutely Pure. In that case there is a puzzle, which is what we start with this time.

Some people have a doubt: “It is said that I am the Atma. The Atma is pure. But I am also told I have to get rid of impurity. If I am the Atma, how then can I be impure? What is this double talk?”

Good point. This is the sort of doubt that often assails the seeker. In this part of our continuing series, we shall try to clarify the doubt. All of us are aware of the question that is often asked: “Who am I?” The proper and spiritual answer to this is: “I am the Atma.” Unfortunately, the matter does not quite end there where practical aspects are concerned. At the practical level, we are not just the ‘bare’ unadorned Atma but the embodied Atma, or Jivatma as one sometimes says. Whereas the ‘bare’ Atma is like the free atmosphere, the Jivatama is like the air confined inside a balloon. The Jivatama thus exhibits the characteristics of confinement, whereas the Atma does not. What this means in practical terms is that whereas the Atma is pure, the Jivatma as an entity can be impure. Even here, we must be careful in our statement. The Jivatma, it was said earlier, is the embodied Atma, or Atma resident in a gross and subtle body. It is the bodies that are impure and not the Atma resident within. The Subtle body, it has been mentioned in earlier articles, is nothing but the Mind. Basically the Mind is pure to start with, but it can and does get contaminated by wandering all over the external world, dragged of course by the senses. Thus, the impurity that one must get rid of is essentially the contamination associated with the senses – the five senses of perception [Karmendriyas, as they are called], and the five senses of cognition The Water is  Pure, only the container is distorted[Jnanendriyas, as they are called]. It all comes back to ‘Mind & Sense Control’ which we have elaborated upon earlier.

Swami explains the perception of ‘impurity’ as follows. He says: Suppose we take crystal clear and pure water and put it in a coloured bottle, say, red. Then, from outside, the water in the bottle could be mistaken to be a fluid red in colour. This conclusion is evidently not correct. It is the bottle that is red and not the fluid inside. Thus, the Conscience [which is the analogue of the air trapped in a balloon] of even a wicked man is always pure; it is a different matter if the man does not pay heed to his Conscience. By itself, the Conscience per se IS pure. Even if it does not make its presence felt, the Conscience, nevertheless, IS there.

Achievement of Internal Purity [Anthakarana Suddhi] must be a prime target for one on the spiritual path. In simple terms, this translates as harmony of thought, word and deed. One should not think one thing, say another, and do yet another. Such inconsistency is the hallmark of imperfection, and must be avoided.

Swami has given a number of simple yet effective recipes for ensuring internal purity. He often says, for example [citing the Buddha]: See no evil, hear no evil, do no evil. Another of His maxims is:


Bend the body means ‘do not yield to the cravings of the body’ [e.g., for being lazy]. ‘Mend the senses’ tell us to keep the senses under strict control; they start all the trouble. When steps one and two are fully implemented, then the Mind dissolves, and the Spirit becomes free. In the language used earlier, the balloon bursts, and the air confined within it merges with the atmosphere – in spiritual terms, the Jivatma achieves Liberation, merging with the Eternal Atma.

Two useful analogies may be given regarding how the Atma, though embodied, remains pure and unaffected. Consider first a nice ripe mango. Suppose it is left to become over ripe and then rot. Clearly, the fruit at this stage is not eatable. However, the seed within is not affected and can in fact be safely planted to produce another tree yielding good fruits. The Screen of Atma is untouched

The second analogy: Consider a movie screen. On this is projected a film that depicts earthquakes, torrential rains and floods, raging forest fires etc. At the end of the movie, the screen is there just as before – naturally. It has not been made wet by the floods, not torn asunder by the earthquake, nor burnt by the fire – it is ridiculous to think that it would be. In the same way, the Atma within the embodied one is unaffected by the impurity of the body and the mind holding the Atma.

To sum up: The Atma is ever Pure, even when ensconced in a human body. In an individual, the Atma plays many roles; for example, it provides the prime motive power for all the vital forces and actions. Above all, it plays the role of Conscience. To give an analogy, consider an electric motor. The motor runs on electric power. Atma is like the electric power. If the motor malfunctions, the current cannot be blamed; it is because of problems with the motor itself – the windings might have got damaged, the bearings might have worn out, the shaft might have got bent, and so on. In the same way, the Atma remains Pure, even while residing within an evil person. The evil associated with the person is entirely related to the ‘casing’, i.e., the senses and the Mind. It is these that must be cleaned if the person is to become Pure. Becoming Pure does not mean making the Atma Pure!

Stop not till you reach the destinationSome food for thought: Sometimes, the answer to the question “Who am I?” is given as: “I am I.” Sage Ramana often did this. Swami too sometimes says this. Why? What is the difference, if any, compared to the answer considered above, viz., “I am the Atma”? Think about it!


  • The above material deals with what might loosely be called “Spiritual Impurity”.

  • To talk of impurity, one must have a reference that is 100 % Pure. In Spirituality, God is that reference. We shall start with the axiom that God is Eternally Pure, always without Blemish, and totally Unsullied.

  • OK, granted that God is Pure. Baba says that man also is God. Does that mean that man also is 100 % Pure? All indications are that this is not so. Clearly, something is wrong somewhere, is it not?

  • Not really. God certainly is Totally Pure. As for man, DEEP within, he is Pure for sure; but his outside is generally dirty.

  • How come, if man also is God?

  • Swami gives a clue to the resolution of this problem. Recall that He often tells us: “I know I am God but you do not.”

  • How is that? Because man is BELOW the senses whereas God is always ABOVE the senses – that is why.

  • Then does it mean that remaining below the senses has something to do with man’s impurity? Yes of course, in fact, everything!

  • How do senses spoil Purity? Simple. Senses allow the six enemies of man to enter the Mind. They are: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and Matsarya, i. e., Desire, Anger, Greed coupled with Miserliness, Attachment, Pride, and Jealousy. These are the sources of contamination.

  • The starting point is really desire. If desire is strictly checked and controlled, then the rest is taken care of.. That is why it is often said:

    QUESTION: “But can not one have legitimate desires? How can such desires be called an impurity? A man is engaged in business. He wants to succeed. How can that wish be dubbed an impurity?” ANSWER: “Impurity is anything that differentiates or distances one from God. God does not have any desires, including the so-called legitimate desires!”

  • QUESTION: “But is this not asking for the Moon?” ANSWER: “Not really. Man has come from God. Life is given to enable man to get back to the source, namely God. God is Pure. Only the Pure can combine with the Pure. Oil cannot mix with water. Only water can mix with water. Therefore, if man wants Bliss, then he must reunite with God. If he wants to reunite with God, then he must try to be as Pure as possible. Anything that comes in the way of this reunion, no matter how legitimate it might seem, IS an impurity. Tough luck, but that is the way it is!”

  • An example to illustrate the above point. Imagine a passenger who boards a train say in Bangalore and wants to go to Delhi. On the way, the train stops at a big station. If the passenger becomes curious, gets out, and starts exploring that city, the train might leave without him! He would then have to get into another train and continue. But it might happen that due to habit, he might again get down at another station and once again miss the train! Our Journey to God must not be a sequence of interruptions like this. However, that is what is really happening in the case of most of us, though we are not aware of it. This example teaches us that distractions inevitably cause delays. Hence, impurity is anything that delays man’s journey to God. All the items listed earlier, are great obstructions.

  • OK. Agreed that one must try to become Pure. So what must one do? Simple. To start with, we must purge ourselves of various animal qualities like anger, for example. That is why Baba often advises that whenever we are seized with anger and the like, we should repeatedly tell ourselves, “I am not an animal; I am a human being”.

  • But that alone is not enough. One must aspire for a higher status, and keep on reminding oneself, “I am not merely a human; I am God!” Hence the Vedic injunctions like: Aham Brahmasmi, meaning, “I am God!”

  • QUESTION: “Is it not a crime, a blasphemy to declare I am God?” ANSWER: “Not if it is said the right way. Right way means that one does not say this as a proud announcement to the world, but as a reminder to one’s own self about how one should conduct oneself.”

  • QUESTION AGAIN: “What does that mean?” ANSWER: “It means that like God, one must aim at being the Embodiment of compassion, forbearance, selfless Love, etc.”

  • OK, agreed all that is desirable, but is it not a tall order to ask man to become 100 % Pure like God? Is that ever possible? Has anyone ever done it?” Ah, this is precisely where God’s Infinite compassion comes into play! If, unmindful of whether we are going to succeed or not, we just say, “God, I love you dearly. I AM going to do this, and I know You will help me,” then, God, appreciating our faith, will unite us with Him even before we have become perfectly Pure.

  • But this is incredible! Yes it is, and that is what God’s Infinite compassion is really all about. We do not realise that God is not expecting 100 % success from us. He just wants to know how serious we are.

  • In other words, all we have to do is to convince God that we don’t care about success and failure, and that we are REALLY determined to reunite with Him; that for this, we are prepared to do anything, make any sacrifice, and even attempt to become 100 % Pure. If we start making the effort with this conviction, then God will forgive imperfections and reach out for us! That is God!!

  • Look up the story of Kannappa Nayanar in, Message of the Lord, page 381. This is the story of a young son of a hunter chieftain. This boy is uncouth, totally oblivious of the scriptures, etc. But he loves God intensely, and is ready to make any sacrifice. Once he proves his intentions, God immediately reaches out for him, without waiting for full purity or whatever. God tests only the quality of out faith and not our Purity! Thank God for that, because that offers real hope!

  • Recall our earlier article entitled: The Good and the Bad [ARUN: no 7. H2H, vol. 2 issue 2]. It was stated there that in Creation, first there was inert gross matter. From that came plants. From plants evolved animals. And from animals evolved man. These steps constitute the LOWER of phase of evolution. After this comes the higher phase in which man rises to the level of God, from Whom he originally came. This ascent is possible only with focus on INTERNAL Purity – note, Internal Purity! That is very important.

  • In turn, that precisely is where Mind and Sense regulation assumes importance. Hope you agree!

  • Can you try and list the different ways in which the Mind gets seduced by the senses, and what we must do to prevent that? If you have some nice methods, why don’t you share with others via H2H?


Volume - 2 Issue - 13 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004