“With grace and gratitude we dry our clean hands and realize the slate can be as clean as we allow it to be” – this is a quote I found printed on a liquid soap bottle! Later I realized the brand name for this product was “Grace”! http://www.thebeautyoflifeblog.com/2010/12/best-hand-soaps-philosophy-amazing.html Clean hands could also refer to the purity in our actions, emotions and thoughts. The slate could refer to our equipment: Body, Mind and Intellect and the clean slate an analogy for a fully engaged person always available and useful to some one in need.
What do we mean by cleanliness anyway? A piece of cloth is clean when there is nothing attached to it – not any color, dirt or odor. After all, dirt, color and odor are all parts of nature. Why do we shun them, when we seek cleanliness? There is an invisible order in the nature. Everything, yes even a speck of dirt has its place in this order. When there is even the slightest alteration or change in this order, a mutation occurs. Changes like this happen all the time. For any such perceived change we want to restore the order. We want to restore the cleanliness. Then a new order is perceived. Yet, nothing has changed in totality or in the larger perspective of the Universe. One who realizes this consistent and unchanging nature of the universe progresses from a state of mind of “I am OK and you are …?” to “We are all OK”. In that state of mind cleanliness is not a permanent stain that must be removed at all cost. Instead cleanliness is the natural and inevitable re-arrangement required as a normal part of daily life. This is generally described as pursuing one’s calling or duty.
When I need to clean the floor off its dirt and odor, I need a clean cloth! When I want to clean one surface, I seek out a clean cloth and use it and make it dirty! This is really paradoxical, isn’t it? May be there is nothing that can be clean in an absolute sense? This applies to all our actions, emotions and thoughts. No one can be pure or perfect in all aspects. Any action, emotion or thought will result in perturbations. The challenge is to keep the larger picture in mind. When I do something is there an impact on the larger common good? At the same time, am I consciously aware of the local perturbations and address them as best as required? In other words I need to use a clean cloth to remove the odor or stain from a spot on the floor, so that the room is useful to many. Then I also need to clean the cloth off its stain and odor to restore it to be clean again! One cannot shy away from cleaning the floor, only to preserve the cleanliness of the wiping cloth!
Through continued use, the cloth gets stained and worn out. It gets tossed out and a fresh one is brought in. At that time no one is reflecting upon or grieving for the loss of the old cleaning cloth. The same goes for us as individuals also. As we engage in our actions, emotions and thoughts, through the passage of time we do get stained and worn out. The end of our life determines our “wash cloth” being tossed out. But, unlike the wash cloth, which is used at the discretion of the user, we have the discretion to choose and engage in actions, emotions and thoughts that helps to clear the perturbations around us. Do not let the fear of getting stained keep you away from the engagement in your actions, emotions and thoughts for the larger common good. As you do, pay attention to local perturbations as well, such that the stain you accumulate with time is also minimized. After all, the cleaner the cloth, longer it is useful!
The slate – a flat piece of stone used as a chalk board – has the purpose only when we use it. After each use the slate is wiped clean. Then it is ready for next use. Just as the slate, life has a purpose when we engage in activities with a sense of purpose. Just as the slate, one can be as clean as one permits the self to be engaged. Life has the purpose when we willfully engage in actions, emotions and thoughts. Slate has to be used by others to be purposeful. We have the option to be useful based on our own drive and engagement!
What are the actions one needs to engage in?
Every person at any moment in life has activities to be performed which are appropriate for the moment (described as duties). However limited in merit they may appear, it is better to perform one’s duty rather than attempting to perform the duties or activities belonging to others. By carrying out appropriate activities one is responsible for in an enlightened manner, one is not stained by them. B.G. 18. 47
Arjuna! the duty or work ordained by nature (due to one’s place and circumstances in life at a given moment) should not be abandoned. All activities have stain connected with them, just as the fire is covered with smoke. B.G. 18. 48.