The importance of cleanliness and tidiness


Arjun and Cahit were good friends, but living together presented its own unique challenges. Arjun soon realised that in terms of tidiness and cleanliness they had different perspectives. It was a little ironic for Arjun because his mother used to frequently berate him for being messy when he was growing up. Now, rather belatedly, he understood his mother’s perspective and felt a little guilty for his past uncaring attitude. But, with the evangelism of a recent convert, he wasn’t happy if things were a mess in his own house. As a result, he often found himself cleaning up after his friend, but at the same, he resented having to do it. In many ways, Cahit was an excellent friend – kind, dynamic and cheerful. Yet Cahit’s cheerfulness wasn’t always sufficient compensation for Arjun’s frustration at living with this underlying tension.

Arjun was also annoyed with himself for how much it affected his consciousness – he felt he should have greater equanimity in dealing with the situation; he didn’t always deal with it like he would have liked.

Once he mentioned it in passing to a good friend, Sachin.

“Sachin, I really love visiting your house. It has such a good vibration, you can feel the Master’s presence here.”

“Well that’s very kind Arjun. How’s it working out living with Cahit?”

“Fine. Cahit’s a good chap. Only we do seem to have different approaches to cleaning the house.”

Sachin laughed – as if reading between the lines.

“So, who does the cleaning in your house?” asked Sachin.

“Well, we share the cleaning 50-50. Cahit makes a mess. And I clean it up.”

Sachin laughed heartily, though Arjun was a little surprised by his own strength of feeling. It was like something inside had forced its way out and found expression.

Sachin smiled compassionately and said.

“Yes, Cahit’s a very good boy. But we all have our personal foibles.”

“Firstly. Although it may be a bit frustrating to do the lion’s share of the cleaning – it is worthing bearing in mind that – it’s infinitely easier to clean up a house than it is to make someone who is miserable, cheerful. What I mean is Cahit definitely has a weakness in this area, but you could be living with someone else who is clean and tidy, but has some much more serious problems. Everybody gets fed up with their living companions at some point, so we have to be careful what we wish for!”

“It is also worth mentioning that, as a general rule, the Master would say try and make it work with the people who you are living with. If you move around hoping your problems will be solved, they won’t. You will just meet them in another form and in other people.”

“However, having said that – if someone else’s lack of cleanliness is affecting your living space, then we should endeavour to improve the situation. Our Master really demanded and expected the very highest standards of cleanliness. Let me tell you a story. Once the Master told us in advance he would be coming to expect our workplace – five days notice we had. As you can imagine, we worked so hard in making the place immaculate. We thought there was literally nothing more we could do. The Master came and carefully examined every room – the kitchen, bathroom, our offices – with meticulous attention. After his blessingful inspection, he gave us the grade “All right.” I don’t know if it would have been possible for us boys to get ‘good’, to say nothing of excellent!”

“In your situation, maybe the best thing to do is to speak to Cahit and work out some minimum standards of cleanliness and tidiness – especially for shared living areas. Also, you have to be very careful – if you carry around this inner resentment, it is very bad for your state of mind and it is not good for Cahit either. It would be better to outwardly talk to Cahit and express these important issues, rather than nurse an inner grievance.”

“It reminds me of a story about our Master many years ago. After a deep meditation, the Master asked people to come up and share what annoyed them about their friends. Can you imagine? The Master asking disciples to speak about the failings of their friends!”

“Well as you can well imagine, we were a little surprised and quite reluctant to say anything! But, out of obedience, some boys did go down and they spoke about what irritated them about their friends. I have to say – it was a bit different to the usual afternoon function!”

“Now this is my understanding of the Master’s intention – so you can take it with a pinch of salt. But, if we nurse unspoken grievances. If we inwardly attack our brother and sister disciples then it is very damaging to our inner life. But, if we clear the air, it can help create a much more harmonious relationship. Of course, everything has its time and place. The Master didn’t mean we should always be telling people what they are doing wrong! but if something is deep inside, that is different.”

“Another anecdote I remember. Once the Master was watching a boxing match on tv, because he really admired one of the boxers. But, still some disciples were surprised and they asked the Master why he was watching such a violent sport. The Master replied. ‘It is true boxing is violent – and it goes without saying I am against any kind of violence – but in the inner worlds our vital and emotional beings can be just as aggressive – if not more so than a boxer!’ The Master finished by saying how he wished his disciples would cultivate more harmony in both their inner and outer worlds.”

Sachin continued:

“Going back to the Master encouraging disciples to speak about their frustrations, I have to say it was quite a rare occurrence, and if one had such an intention – you could misinterpret it. But, if you read the Master’s writings, he explains so vividly the importance of being kind and offering goodwill to other people. But sometimes the real kindness is to speak directly to people and make them aware of why they are causing a disharmony.”

“Well, Arjun you’re very kind for listening to my mammoth talk, I don’t know if it makes any sense.”

“Yes, very much so.” said Arjun

“Well, if you don’t mind. One other story I should share with you Arjun. When I came to the path, I was worse than useless in the world of cleaning. I thought so long as I was meditating and busy serving the Master, I could leave my room like a beer garden. But once the Master scolded me in a very significant and illumining way. The Master told me directly ‘Sachin, Can you not please clean your room? Every night, in my subtle body, I try to visit and bless your soul whilst you are sleeping. But, even in my subtle body, so painful it is to visit when your room is so messy. I appreciate your dedication, and inner aspiration, but we have to give due importance to the physical. If we don’t keep our body, house and room clean, we block the descent of the divine forces. The Supreme and your Master will forgive you, but your own soul will not. Your soul is so embarrassed that my inner beings have to suffer so much because of your untidiness. All that sincere aspiration you are cultivating is diminished because you have left your room in such an undivine state. My dear Sachin, always you have to be ready to welcome your Master.’”

“Well as you can imagine, I felt both suitably embarrassed but also moved by the Master’s love and concern. When the Master says he meditates early in the morning for our own benefit, we have to believe this is not just an idle promise.”

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