Hindu teachings on the importance of purity of thought and speech

Guest writer

In my previous article, I explained the teaching from Hindu Scriptures that Dharma – righteous conduct – was most important above all else.  In the absence of Dharma, devotion to God, unparalleled generosity, acquisition of knowledge, renunciation of the materialistic worldly possessions, etc. would all be simply and completely lacking.

In this article, I would like to explore two aspects of Dharma that I had not previously mentioned – purity of thought, and purity of speech.  So, it is not just conduct that matters, but also the hidden thoughts of the person, and the speech which can sometimes be covered (couched or disguised) to appear benevolent, helpful, and non-malicious.

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Hindu scriptures speak in great detail about “Shaucha” – which means cleanliness; and it refers to cleanliness of body as well as mind.  Hindu scripture Manu Smriti says that “Non-violence, Truth, Non-Stealing, Cleanliness/Purity, and Sense Control, are all part of Dharma, and must be practised by every individual, no matter what societal class they belong to”.

Cleanliness of the mind is very challenging.  Hindu scriptures have listed the “impurities” that can cause the mind to become contaminated as: kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada (false pride or egotism), and matsarya (jealousy).  I am sure that you can add to this list based on the teachings of your religion or faith.  The Bhagavad Gita describes these afflictions of the mind (specifically the first three) as the gates leading to hell, and that it is imperative for every person to make every conscious effort to eliminate them from one’s mind.

Adhering to falsehood, even when knowing the truth, is another sign of an impure mind.  How many of us do this, knowingly or unknowingly?  Especially when adhering to falsehood adversely affects another person, or another group of people, or another society.

Hindu scriptures give us many practical ways in which to combat contaminants of the mind.  For example, self examination, asking oneself reasons for negative thoughts, can keep a check on anger or lust.  Doing charitable actions can override the urge to lust after or envy another person’s wealth.  Saying good words about others, and displaying good manners in interactions with other people can mitigate demeaning feelings.  If something wrong was said (or done), apologizing to the wronged person has a huge effect on not just the other person but on oneself as well.

An important point from Hindu teachings is this: we must avoid persons who engage repeatedly in immoral thought and foul speech.  In current context, this would extend to print and electronic communications as well.  No matter if the offside communication media seem to entertain or amuse, we must shun them, silently or openly.

If we are unable to wrestle successfully with the negative forces that affect the cleanliness of our mind and the purity of our speech, we must constantly refer back to scriptures, and also seek support from spiritually advanced beings.  If persons with large followings in our community are unable to have a good understanding of the power of impure speech, which can have a substantial impact on a large number of people, then it is up to us spiritual educators to convey the teachings about Dharma to such persons, regarding the grave disservice that can happen to community and humanity through impure thought and impure communication (speech and electronic message).

Humanity, in its current state of turmoil, needs more of pure thought, communication that is uplifting and not harmful, and righteous conduct (Dharma).

Suresh BasrurSuresh Basrur practises the Hindu faith, participates in inter-faith activities in Victoria, and speaks to audiences about Hindu religion, philosophy and practices

You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE

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