Saucha: Purity in Relationships

Saucha or Purity is one of the Niyamas or Commitments.

Times are changing rapidly. Households and marriages are breaking up and new non-traditional relationships are developing. Traditional or otherwise we need a few guidelines that allow us to measure our relationships. Rishis and yogis laid down a few simple principles, and using these you can examine any relationship. 

Life is Relationships

Rishis and yogis emphasised purity in relationships. This system of Yoga values may be ancient but human beings are still essentially the same. Life is still made up of relationships and relationships are nothing other than emotions, thoughts, speech and action. To maintain purity in our relationships we must be honest. A lie is any speech or action that seeks to deceive. Relationships based on deception are impure. But at the same time, truth without compassion is hard hearted, bitter tongued and cruel. A statement made be true, but it is not truth in its highest form. 

Practice truth at the level of emotions and thought but at the level of speech and action, ahimsa or non-violence is paramount.

Love means Non-violence  

  • We hurt the persons we love and we do not even know it. 
  • We hurt them with our demands and with our expectations. 
  • We hurt them when we take them for granted.
  • We hurt them when we try to change them to suit our whims and fancies.
  • We hurt them when we expect them to know our desires and to fulfil them.

Violence of this subtle nature exists in all relationships. For a pure relationship we must follow the highest principle of ahimsa: We must cease to hurt the ones we love. 

In fact, yoga defines Love. Love is non-violence or Ahimsa.

Forgive Yourself

To practice Ahimsa is no easy task. Often people hurt themselves while practising non-violence. We sacrifice our own desires even our principles, in an effort to be selfless. That is not selflessness; it is hypocrisy. For example, when you suppress your own feelings and convince yourself that you should marry someone you do not wish to marry because your parents want you to. By doing this you are harming yourself, your prospective partner, your   present and future families. 

Practising ahimsa means taking care of ourselves too.

Sometimes we make mistakes and feel guilty. Sometimes we suffer guilt even thinking impure thoughts. Impure actions and thoughts make our relationships tense and strained. For instance, feeling jealous of your brother or sister, or even your spouse. Jealousy brings with it guilt and strengthens the impure thoughts. Be gentle with yourself, a thought is only a thought and will pass if you let it. Unfortunately, most often we give such thoughts too much importance thus they strengthen, and lead us into greater suffering. If you have a violent or adulterous thought, let it go and the desire will pass. Even if you should act upon it, do not condemn yourself for the rest of your life. 

Forgive yourself. Unless you forgive yourself, no one will forgive you.

Love, Respect and Trust

We may have a loving and honest relationship but it may still be impure if we are excessively attached to it. Non-attachment does not mean indifference. It means freedom. Attachment, dependency and possessiveness in relationships is bondage. Non-attachment means mutual respect, not ownership. Your wife does not belong to you. Respect her individuality too. Your children are not your property, they are merely in your care. Know that they have come on this earthly plane on their own mission, not merely to fulfil your desires.

Whatever the relationship, irrespective of times and circumstances it will be pure only if it is built on the foundation of love, respect and trust. A pure relationship brings freedom and makes you strong. 

Any relationship that makes you weak and powerless is impure.


Brandon from Australia:
This article is beautiful, and you are beautiful, sweet Radhikaji. Thank you so much. Tat tvam asi.

Krishna from Germany:
Very moving article. Very nice write up of contemplation on Purity that is not just a surface level "You are pure if you do A,b c etc and unpure otherwise". Liked it.

One interesting part which led to me question myself. Here, "One lies if the intent is to deceive". But what if I actually lie (factually) to protect someone's feelings. An extreme example would be that a friend's pet has passed away but he/she is waiting for a surgery. Here the intent is clearly to not deceive, but the statements I make are factually a lie.

Shibu from Dubai:
Wonderful article of purity. Normally Soucha focus only external purity.But in real sense external purity is an aftereffect of internal purity. If we aware about our thoughts and emotions it will become pure, and also we have to be much more transparent in our self to others then only a good and pure relationship happening.This is the message i got from this.
thank you

Sreeram from Bangalore:
Couple of key takeaways for me

"Often people hurt themselves while practising non-violence. We sacrifice our own desires even our principles, in an effort to be selfless. That is not selflessness; it is hypocrisy."
One of the things I have been working on is being assertive. I have a fear of confrontation and for long, I have let this fear define me. To mask the fact that it is the fear that is driving my action, I created a "calm" person ego who doesnt get frazzled easily. As a result, I have suppressed situations where I should have been true to my feelings and confronted others. This created samskaras where I still get thoughts like "I should have said this" or "I should have done that" for things that happened many many years ago.

"A pure relationship brings freedom and makes you strong. Any relationship that makes you weak and powerless is impure." This is insightful. One of the challenges to implementing this in our relationships is that there is social expectations around possessiveness and not exhibiting that behaviour is interpreted as a sign that you dont love that person. Unless both parties in the relationship understand and assimilate this in their life, I am worried that it will lead to a rocky relationship. Maybe that is a good thing for the overall relationship. But it is a choice between Saucha and Ahimsa.

Meeta from Bengaluru:
A wonderful article on purity. I love the way Radhika ji has mentioned about purity of relationships. Often we look for purity in our external word, of course which is necessary and important. However after reading this i felt, it is very important to be pure in our thoughts, the way we communicate and the way we perform our duties. Surely if we have pure intentions relationships will be more meaningful, long lasting and easy going.

Suravi from Nepal:
This is truly an inspiring article for me and I have learnt a lot from it. I really liked the idea of practicing the truth at the level of emotions and thought but at the level of speech and action, ahimsa or non-violence should be the priority.This for me was very touching.Thank you so much.

Choi Yan from UK:
Thank you Radhika Ji,
I really love your wisdom on saucha in relationships and I've never heard it before in this context but it makes a great deal of sense to me. That our lives are nothing but one big relationship and a chance to really take a look at how we affect ourselves and those around us with the thoughts we think, words we speak, actions we take and decisions we make. Definitely something I'm constantly working on. How to live as the truest expression of love....Many blessings.
Yan x

Manisha from United States:
I feel there can be a lot of confusion with respect to the word 'purity' and what it means when it comes to thoughts and actions. By applying purity to relationships, you have offered a number of distinctions that are clarifying. For example, what you shared helps me to understand even better how we can express ourselves honestly with kindness ... and also without succumbing to morals or customs prescribed by the society, community, or family in which we live. What I especially loved was the emphasis on practicing truth with compassion in all types of relationships.

After writing a few thoughts here, I then scrolled up to read what others shared. I can relate to what Sreeram is saying about the sorts of thoughts that can arise as a result of a fear of confrontation. It's very refreshing when we successfully and compassionately express our true feelings and watch as the fear dissipates. Sometimes it might not come out the way we want, but even then the air seems to clear and often everyone can breathe a bit more freely somehow. Additionally, I was thinking that sometimes we may be on the receiving end of someone coming clean, so to speak - maybe someone lied or didn't quite tell us the whole story or neglected to ask for something in advance, etc. I feel these are opportunities also to practice saucha in the relationships - with practice, we can be gracious in how we receive this news. Especially if it is a matter that was causing the other person a lot of angst, but is not a big deal to us - what a relief it is for the other person to have shared the truth with us.

Also, Shibu's reference to transparency really resonates with me -- and the more we understand ourselves, the more transparent we can be in our relationships.

Thank you for the post and to everyone for sharing their thoughts!

Dave from Canada:
Thank you Radhikaji for sharing this profound and balanced contemplation.
There are many layers that resonated. First of all, the central message of shaucha being an observance applied in relationships was something I had not considered. It felt very relevant and overlooked.
I always considered shaucha more like a personal purity from innermost to outermost. Almost a 'cleanliness is next to godliness' where the observances superficially of personal hygiene, tidiness, and more deeply of purity of thought, feeling and orientation were the intent.
Here there is an expansion of Shaucha as non-violence, truth and non-attachment in relationships as well as self-forgiveness. As many specific examples were detailed I felt the relevance as to where I could implement this counsel. Specifically, the points of not trying to change another, taking someone for granted, harming a loved one whether through words and expectations, compromising ourselves. and attachment in relationships were poignant and potent reminders for me.
In internal dialogue recently, I had by chance focussed on forgiveness of others as well as self-forgiveness. I brought before my interior gaze each individual in my life where there was an issue ending with myself and had a dialogue, culminating in forgiveness. It felt wonderfully healing and at the end it was if my heart was quiet and clear and still - shaucha!
Thank you again for this reflection. I look forward to exploring and applying these principles in internal dialogue.
Om Shri Gurubhyo Namah

Balaji from Hofheim am Taunus, Germany:
The explanation of Niyamas here addresses the basic foundation of human emotions and ways to practice Saucha as a Niyama without hurting oneself as well with the people with whom we are connected to ( Close circle as well other circle) in our relationships.
It also provides a clear understanding of what Ahimsa is and how to approach the relationship with care, commitment, non-attachment with immediate family members as a custodian and not as someone who owns them.The suffering from one's one self created Guilt is a major cause for many sufferings and diseases of this world, and the article explains how to get rid of self created guilt for just having an impure thought. It changed my perspective completely. Pranam.

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