How purification can empower us all

Purification is often equated with being puritanical, which may evoke images of holier-than-thou people morally policing everyone else. Influenced by such images, we may not want anything to do with purification. However, purification is empowering, for it aligns our perception with reality.  

Suppose someone has the impurity of alcoholism in their consciousness. Just to get a few drinks, they risk losing their money, health, reputation, relationships, life. If they could be purified of alcoholism, they would be able to better value the things that are of actual value, and their life would be so much better.  

We may not have any impurity as gross as alcoholism, still we are vulnerable to other impurities such as lust, anger, greed or simply distractedness. Even a warrior as powerful as Arjuna was infected by weak-heartedness, which obstructed him in fighting the most important war of his life. Pertinently, Krishna cautioned him to avoid giving in to that impurity (Bhagavad-gita 02.03). And learning to resist impurity is the essence of purification. 

How can we purify ourselves? Different traditions prescribe many specific dos and don’ts, following which may seem puritanical. However underlying such specifics and superseding them all in potency is the paramount purificatory principle: linking with the all-pure divine, Krishna. Just as touching a hot object heats, connecting with the all-pure one purifies. To connect with him, bhakti-yoga provides us many effective ways. 

When we practice bhakti-yoga, the resulting purification doesn’t just protect us from illusory perception; it also equips us with spiritual perception. Thereby, we learn to increasingly appreciate the thing that is of ultimate value: Krishna himself. He is the embodiment and fulfillment of everything our heart longs for (07.19). In loving him purely, we find life’s supreme solace and satisfaction. 

One-sentence summary:

Purification removes the mismatch between the things we value and the things of actual value. 

Think it over:

  • How is becoming purified different from being puritanical?
  • How can we purify ourselves?
  • What are the two ways purification benefits us?

***

02.02: The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.

 

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