The Internal Laundry

The Jaina path to liberation or enlightenment lies in the pursuit of purity. What is purity? Body and soul being different, the soul is essentially pure in nature. Our life and the experiences we go through cling to the soul as polluting particles. If a ball were to fall into slush, you would have to wash it to make it clean once again. Just as mud particles stick to the ball, so do our karmas cling to our soul, sullying it.

Both good and bad acts invite karmic particles, which like iron filings drawn to a magnet, stick on. Our endeavour in life should be to get rid of them and return to the pure soul. This is a two-pronged process: we have to get rid of all that we have accumulated so far plus we have to prevent more from accumulating. Only then can we restore our soul to its original state of purity.

It is all about laundry even in the spiritual world! How does one ‘wash’ the soul? The ‘water’ to wash off karmic particles clinging to the soul is a combination of neutrality and detachment, just as hard to get a clean and reliable combination of two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen.

Neutrality and detachment are in a sense similar. You can be neutral under any circumstance only when you are able to view it with detachment. When you allow your emotions to experience a particular situation, it becomes coloured by subjective perception, likes and dislikes.

Many of us have learnt not to make a public display of our emotions, particularly when they are negative. However, we experience them all the same. Just visualise that each time you go through a strong emotion, it is engulfing your soul…much like arteries get clogged with cholesterol.

When we experience emotions of love, hate and anger, we are adding on many more particles. If we are able to go through an experience without passions raging, then no karmic particles are added on.

All this might sound impossible. Jainas have devised a technique that can help us do the above, through kayotsarga. It’s a technique that enables us to give the soul a ‘bath’.

The word kayotsarga is made up of two words: Kaya meaning body and utsarga meaning rising above it. Body and soul cannot be experienced at the same time. Either one or the other is experienced.

When we, living within the body, ‘discard’ it and begin experiencing the soul, then it is called kayotsarg – to experience the soul and stop experiencing the body. In this practice a gradual relaxation leads to detachment from body and other worldly activity. This detachment frees the jiva from bondage.

The statue of Bahubali in Sravanabelagola, Karnataka, is an example of this.

Drawing from this spiritual practice, Acharya Mahaprajna has devised a system of meditation called Preksha dhyan where kayotsarga is the first and last step.

Kayotsarga refreshes you as it slows down your metabolic activity to the minimum and then picks it up again, to help purification.

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