The Hindu: Making a clean cut

The Hindu: Making a clean cut

The Hindu: Making a clean cut

Scholars of all faiths opine that cleanliness will have to come out of places of worship to our neighbourhood to make the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan successful

Cleanliness has become a buzzword today, courtesy Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Central Government through its various ministries is spending crores of rupees to achieve this task. Majority of people are hopeful we will be able to achieve our objective by the stipulated date of October 2, 2019. But the question that still lurks behind some of our minds is whether this task will indeed be achieved, considering the various impediments.

The question is why we, a country with five centuries plus a great civilisation and boasting of followers of all the major religions of the world, have not moved ahead in this direction till now. Do our religions really focus on the subject of the cleanliness? If yes, where lies the fault? Discussion on this important subject was initiated at the behest of Indialogue Foundation in its Annual Interfaith Dialogue where scholars and experts of various religions spoke on the subject of Cleanliness in Religions, under inspiration from the most heavily highlighted national campaign.

President of Indialogue Foundation, was of view that cleanliness is the major focus of most world religions and traditions. “The Quran highlights purity of soul, heart and body. Islam has uniquely stressed on the subject of cleanliness when Prophet Mohammad said that purity and cleanliness is half of the faith. Islam gives great stress on both physical and spiritual cleanliness. From washing face, hands and feet five times a day as preparation for mandatory prayers, in the name ofwudu, to various prescribed baths on various occasions, and keeping the surroundings clean, Islam also stresses on inner purification through seeking roohani or spiritual elevation and attaining purity through eradicating all evil thoughts from mind in the name of Allah.”

It is the constant remembrance of God in various acts that lead to spiritual elevation and thus spiritual purity. “Roza or fasting is an example where the believer attempts to rid himself of all evils of body, mind and senses. Thus cleanliness has to take place in totality and not merely physically.”

Swami Shantatmanand of Ramakrishna Mission stressed upon the idea of cleanliness being central to all religions. “Swachhata or cleanliness is one of the prerequisites of abhyasa yoga and a lot of stress has been put on it. Similarly, the practice of taking bath before going to temple or before any important occasion or puja seeks to clean the physical body. Most religions talk of this journey from gross to subtle, by way of observances, washing oneself, putting on clean clothes. Similar rituals are followed by more and more inward journey towards attaining purity.”

Just as in Islamic concept of fasting, various fasts have been prescribed among the Hindus too. “Fasting is not only to abstain from but it is to restrain the sense organs from their outward journey by making them inward-seeking. On Shivaratri, the entire night of fasting is prescribed.”

Dr. M.D. Thomas, Chairman and Director of Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies observed that fasting makes us evolve as a better human being. It is an occasion to clean ourselves in mind, body, heart and spirit and also in our thoughts, words, sentiments and attitudes.

“Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not just for government to achieve. Every human being has to contribute. Cleanliness will have to come out of the churches or places of worship like temples, gurudwaras and come to streets, parks, roads and our neighbourhood. Roughly half of our country is garbage. I wonder why religions, with their focus on cleanliness, have not inspired us to keep our surroundings clean. Religion will have to inspire and motivate us and come down to our ordinary lives otherwise it will only continue to talk of ritual purity whereas we will continue to live in filth and garbage.”

Swami Nikhilanand of the Chinmaya Mission said that one who has clean mind attains God. “Cleanliness is next to godliness. It just does not mean outer environment but also cleanliness of our mind. If our mind is clean, it is easier for us to clean the outer world also…Fasting, not only prescribed among Muslims but in all other religions, is a beautiful means to clean body and mind. It helps us detach from various worldly lingering, and if truly practiced, may lead to cleanliness of heart as well as the surroundings.”

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, who specialised in study of Islam, remarked that all religions in the world have come with only one express purpose, i.e. to clean. “Cleanliness not only from outside, of roads and houses, but to clean the man of inferiority complex, satanic thoughts and bad behaviour. All religions are united on this. Islam stresses a lot on cleanliness. Prophet Mohammad even described it as half of the faith. Ramadan is an attempt to cleanse ourselves, to train ourselves not under the duress of Governmental pressure but to cleanse ourselves internally and externally for the sake of remembrance of God. Fasting in the month of the Ramadan is a training for acquiring righteous traits and good habits that help a man cleanse oneself of all things that create problems in the society.”

Rabbi Malekar, the Rabbi of Delhi Synagogue, said, “It is unfortunate that despite such a great stress on cleanliness, all the discharge from toilets and bathrooms of thousands of ashrams in Rishikesh and Hardwar end up going into the Ganges.”

Source: The Hindu


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