Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
Everyone has heard this expression and the most people would probably agree with it. The yogis of the yore felt the same way and that is why they listed Shaoca, which means cleanliness and purity of mind, as the first of five principles of self-controlled conduct (niyama), which are designed to bring an individual into harmony with his or her internal environment. If your goal is to reach a higher state of consciousness, then it is important to maintain a degree of cleanliness and order in your immediate surroundings. Keeping your body, clothing, living and working areas in a clean state has an immediate effect on one’s mind. So, for a yogi, and indeed for the most people, it is well understood that attention has to be paid towards these external factors. Against this backdrop, it has always been a very difficult effort to encourage Indians to maintain a cleaner environment. But it is heartening to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done exactly what our founding fathers should have done the moment India got Independence. When Modi takes inspiration from and widely quotes our iconic leaders, he does not indulge in mere political tokenism; he is in true terms inspired by them and is trying to implement their vision that has been ignored for decades by motivated and short-sighted politicians. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which the government undertook on October 2 this year, is Gandhian both in word and spirit. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, according to a government statement, aims at fulfilling the dream of clean India of Mahatma Gandhi by his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. Modi’s ‘clean India’ campaign will certainly have a great impact on and change the look and feel of government offices across India.
The Mahatma’s visualisation of cleanliness was three-pronged–a clean mind, a clean body and clean surroundings. Holding that ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’, he emphatically wrote, “We can no more gain God’s blessing with an unclean body than with an unclean mind. A clean body cannot reside in an unclean city.” Gandhiji knew this. He understood that total disregard for cleanliness meant a moribund and subdued soul. A proud civilisation prefers a cleaner, healthier environment. In order to crush the soul of the common man and woman, garbage and litter had been made ubiquitous. Along with freedom movement, he also ran many awareness campaigns to make people more sensitive about their immediate environment.
Our ancient texts, epics and culture all teach us the importance of cleanliness. Even the Harappans and the Mohenjo Daro people had laid out efficient sanitary system thousands of years ago. The Hindu religion lays emphasis on cleanliness in a very ritualistic manner. We cannot even go to temples or perform worship in an unclean state. In the gurukul tradition, hygiene and purity were the primary subjects, which every student was initiated into. India is recognized as the religious and spiritual capital of the world, but even our temples and holy places are now well known as the filthiest on the globe.
The Japanese philosophy of making children clean their own school toilets goes a long way in inculcating a sense of responsibility and love for cleanliness during the foundation years of a child. It may offend many, but the fact remains that Indians are quite okay with filth and garbage around them. They will keep their homes spic-and-span but will willingly tolerate garbage in their neighbourhoods, streets and roads. Today, Indians create garbage and then ignore garbage. We have reconciled to live with garbage. In fact, garbage has now become part of our culture. Garbage dumps on the roads, streets, lanes and bye-lanes are a common sight in India. Sewage taken out from the drains is left in the open for days to dry up and again fall in the drains from where it was removed. Our eyes have gotten used to seeing open sewages and our noses have gotten used to stink. There is so much garbage and filth around, but we don’t even notice it. In most of foreign countries, littering is a serious offence and heavy fines deter people from throwing unwanted things on the roads. In India, anybody can throw anything anywhere; there is no law to prosecute the offenders. Following the call of the Prime Minister, the broom is in demand and its value is shooting up with Narendra Modi urging everyone to devote minimum two hours every week towards cleanliness. Needless to say, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is the crying need. Speaking at India Gate, Modi said, “If Indians can reach Mars; they certainly can clean up the country.”
Will this exercise be limited to one event with the Prime Minister walking with children the way the Mahatma used to do and visit Rajghat, Valmiki Basti and India Gate? The visuals of the event showed the official accompanying the PM laughing and smirking. It seemed that they were not taking the effort seriously; rather it was one big joke, a media exercise of playing to the galleries. What is needed is a gargantuan change in behaviour and it is hard to see that happening: large crowds at the Red Fort were moved by Modi’s speech–but still left the grounds strewn with litter.