As I stood over my recently weeded garden bed the other day, a feeling of peace and contentment came over me. The rains of early June had given the weeds just what they needed to overtake my planted veggies. With the weeds safely decomposing in my compost pile, the veggies I had carefully planted had room to breathe. Within days they were obviously larger and their color more vibrant.
Why does it feel so good after we take a shower or clean our house (or weed the garden for that matter)? One might argue that the impulse for cleanliness is a reflection of the purity that lies at the essence of each of us. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we seek to remember the divinity at our core.
In his book “The Splendor of Recognition”, Swami Shantananda describes the world as a mirror reflecting our own consciousness. This mirror, rather than reflecting what is outside, reflects what is inside. “I am a mirror and my life is nothing but a reflection of my consciousness.”.
Our feelings of imperfection, of being less than, come from our urge to merge back into the ultimate freedom of supreme consciousness. In other words, we feel separate from God and we yearn to reunite.
There are three impurities that separate us from experiencing our true nature:
anava-mala causes us to feel separate from god. This causes us to feel unworthy and alone. The associated emotion is sadness.
mayiya-mala causes us to see objects and other people as separate from ourselves. We begin to compare ourselves to others. The associated emotion is anger.
karma-mala makes us perform actions to aquire some objects and avoid others. This causes the impression that there is too much to do and too much to know. We begin to feel overwhelmed and incapable. The associated emotion is fear.
Our experience of separateness is a thought to be an impurity, dust on the mirror of our consciousness. The science of yoga deals with how to clean off our mirror and recognize our connection to all that is. However, it is essential to recognize and accept that our mirror will continue to become dirty as long as we live in this physical world. The afflictions of the Malas are a given, a necessity even for functioning in this world. An obsession with cleanliness (spiritual or physical) might be just as unhealthy as living in unconsciousness.
Within each of the Malas lies an opportunity. We may temporarily transcend each affliction and know our true nature in a more complete way than might have been possible without experiencing the separation first. In addition, our experience of the malas gives us the ability to be compassionate to others as we see them suffer, and even the ability to help them clean off their own mirrors and know themselves more fully.
When we feel our suffering increase, we can look to the Malas and discern which of them is causing our suffering. From there, we can take action to clean the mirror of our consciousness. Sometimes all it takes is washing the dishes and wiping down the sink for us to remember who we really are.