David Brooks, in his book The Road to Character, makes a distinction between what he calls “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues”. Brooks defines resume virtues as the accomplishments that contribute to external success, while eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned at a funeral, the ones that sit at the core of ones being. [paraphrased from page xi)
Like virtue, purity has an external and internal process. Personally I find it easy to fall into the trap of external purity as an end in itself. I am programmed to equate purity with cleanliness and to focus the crux of my efforts towards outer appearance. I can forget to reflect on the condition of my heart and mind, which is where the real conversation about purity resides.
This is not to say cleanliness is unimportant, but is it in service to the way we want others to see us, or is it in service to creating an environment where a pure heart and mind can flourish. Perhaps Patanjali, with this niyama, is inviting us to acquire more of a taste for internal purity and the actions that cultivate it.
Week One. This week discern your intentions when you perform acts of external purification. Every time you take a shower, clean up your surroundings, do something for someone else, or engage in your spiritual practice, ask yourself if you are doing these acts in order to “look good” or in order to create a container where your heart and mind can be purified.
Week Two. This week reflect on the qualities of a pure heart and a pure mind. What needs to happen externally for these qualities to flourish internally in your own life?
12th in a series of reflections on the yamas & niyamas