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What It Means To Be Clean on Day 13 (the “missing” Wednesday post, with a nod to Sunday) February 28, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Changing Perspectives, Daoism, Faith, Healing Stories, Health, Hope, Mysticism, New Year, One Hoop, Peace, Philosophy, Religion, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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[My apologies for this very late Wednesday (the 24th) post (which is also a preview for Sunday the 28th). You can request an audio recording of Wednesday’s practices via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes. *** DON’T FORGET THERE’S A “FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT SPECIAL ON MARCH 5th! ***]


“But, before we enter on the subject, let it be observed, that slovenliness is no part of religion; that neither this, nor any text of Scripture, condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly this is a duty, not a sin. ‘Cleanliness is, indeed, next to godliness.’ Agreeably to this, good Mr. Herbert advises every one that fears God: —


Let thy mind’s sweetness have its operation Upon thy person, clothes, and habitation.


And surely every one should attend to this, if he would not have the good that is in him evil spoken of.”


– quoted from Sermon #88 (“On Dress”) by John Wesley, inspired by The First Epistle General of Peter (3:3,4)

There are hundreds of references to washing and being clean in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and in the Qur’an. In Judaism and Islam, people are commanded (by God) to wash before certain acts and, in particular, before certain prayers – and also to avoid certain elements because they are deemed “unclean.” In Judaism, specifically, ritual washing is divided into hand washing and full body immersion. In Islam, ritual cleansing includes washing specific body parts (i.e., face, arms, head, and feet) and also full body immersion. In the Christian New Testament, there is an emphasis placed on ritual feet washing. Yet, for all these references to being clean, one of the most well-known “Biblical” quotes about “cleanliness” doesn’t actually appear in any sacred text associated with the Abrahamic religions. Instead, the earliest recorded English reference is from a sermon John Wesley gave in the mid-to-late 1780’s.

The sermon, “On Dress,” was inspired by a letter addressed to Churches in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor who were experiencing religious persecution. The letter, attributed to Saint Peter the Apostle, not only recommended appropriate conduct in how one should interact with people from different stations (“Honour all….”); live under non-Christian rulers (“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”) and deal with false accusations (“… with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men;”); it also outlines how one should conduct one’s self when faced with suffering (“… ye take it patiently…”) and how women should or, more specifically, should not dress. However, The Reverend Wesley’s sermon did not just address the dress of women. Instead, the good reverend spoke of all Christians. He outlined how extreme people could go in their interpretations and applications of Saint Peter’s guidance – and also, emphasized the idea that extreme interpretations and applications miss the point. Then he explained that the importance of the Biblical instruction lies not in outward appearance but on the inward experience.

Yoga Sūtra 2.40: śaucāt svāngajugupsā parairasamsargah


– “From purity/cleanliness arises sensitivity to the unclean nature of one’s own body and [physical] unmixing.”


Yoga Sūtra 2.41: sattvaśuddhisaumanasyaikāgreyendriyayātmadarśanayogyatvāni ca


– “[From purity/cleanliness arises] pure wisdom of the heart, cheerfulness of mind, the power of concentration, victory over the senses, and the ability to directly experience our Self.”

In outlining and explaining the Yoga Philosophy, Patanjali offered ten ethical components: five “external restraints” or universal commandments (yamā) and five “internal observations” (niyama). The very first internal observation is śaucāt, the practice of “cleanliness.” I have a bad habit of just referencing śaucāt as it relates to the physical body (e.g., food, drink, bathing, etc.); but the practice is intended to cover everything that we consume. And, eons before John Wesley shared his observations from the pulpit, Patanjali offered the same conclusion: to quote the good reverend, “Then only when you have cast off your fondness for dress, will the peace of God reign in your hearts.”

It is all too easy to look back, historically speaking, and focus on hygiene. We can even point to specific historical conditions – or to the fact that certain texts specify what kinds of water are permitted and which kinds are not acceptable (according to religious law). What do we do, however, with the fact that some scripture outlines ritual cleansing that does not involve water? Closer examination reveals, however that these ritual practices are about more than physical hygiene and the elimination of contaminants. The practices are about purification; a fact that is reinforced with the practice of the niyamās in yoga.

“‘Consider purification, tapas, which literally means “to melt,” as in refining ore. The purpose of purification is not pain and penance, but to deliberately refine one’s life, to melt it down and recast it into a higher order of purity and spirituality. The goal is very important; it is not self-punishment but refinement – to shift from human existence into Divinity!


There are three main methods of purification: the refinement of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds – also called the purification, respectively, of one’s instruments of mind, speech, and body. When you modify these three you automatically change for the better.’”


– Krishna speaking to Arjuna (17.14) in The Bhagavad Gita: A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley

The purification of mind and speech can be experienced when practicing the second niyamā, santoşā (“contentment”), which is a foundation for the practice of non-attachment. Patanjali combines the final three niyamāstapa (“austerity or heat”), svādhyāya (“self-study”), and īśvarapraņidhāna (“trustful surrender to [the Divine]”) – and refers to the combination as kriyā yoga or “union in action.” Anyone can practice these elements at any time, but it is interesting to note that these elements – as a combined practice – are found in rituals from around the world. For example, the observations of Lent; Passover; and fasting during the Baha’i 19-Day Fast, the month of Ramadan, and/or for Yom Kippur all full under the rubric of kriyā yoga. Celebrating Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage involving a ritual bath in one of four sacred rivers (determined by a 12-year cycle of rotation) also falls under this same umbrella. (Note that, with the exception of Yom Kippur, all of these rituals are either currently being observed or will be observed between now and the 2nd week in May.)

All that being said, Day 13 of the Lunar New Year does not, in and of itself, involve ritual cleansing. It is, however, a day when people who celebrate the 15-day Spring Festival traditionally eat “clean.” A lighter, often vegetarian, meal on day 13, is a way to help the body clean itself after the heavy feasting over the previous two weeks and to prepare for one more round of feasting during the Lantern Festival (on Day 15).

Day 13 is also the day when some people celebrate the birthday of the “God of War.” There are lots of different stories (and names) associated with the “God of War.” Some of the legends relate to a general who showed great loyalty; other stories relate to an acclaimed general who became a goddess who showed great empathy. While this is not seen as a good day to get married or have a big celebration, it is believed that offering prayers and gifts to the God of War on Day 13 will bring peace to a household and give businesses a winning edge. Regardless of the title that is used, the God of War is viewed as a protector of individuals, homes, and businesses; as well as the patron of “fraternities,” including the police (and other brotherhoods).

“‘We three—Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei—though of different families, swear brotherhood, and promise mutual help to one end. We will rescue each other in difficulty; we will aid each other in danger. We swear to serve the state and save the people. We ask not the same day of birth, but we seek to die together. May Heaven, the all-ruling, and Earth, the all-producing, read our hearts. If we turn aside from righteousness or forget kindliness, may Heaven and Human smite us!’”


– quoted from “Chapter 1. The Oath of the Peach Garden” in Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (English translator unknown)


Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.


DON’T FORGET! This Friday (March 5th) there’s a “First Friday Night Special” (7:15 PM – 8:20 PM, CST) – at which time, I will encourage you to “give something up” / “let someone go.” Additional details are posted on the “Class Schedules” calendar!




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