A pure mind is a happy mind. Are you unhappy? You are afraid to say, because by this definition – a pure mind is a happy mind – if you admit you are unhappy, then there are impurities in your mind. Unhappiness or pain is a stain on the mind; a stain on the mind is a pain. Do you want to check the level of your purity? Just check the total content of your thoughts. How many happy thoughts do you have, and how many unhappy ones do you have? How many pleasant thoughts do you have, and how many painful ones do you have?

We like to think of ourselves as mature persons, but then in contradiction, we see ourselves throwing tantrums. We throw all kinds of tantrums, visible and invisible. More often they are invisible tantrums and, when we cannot contain them inside, they become visible. It could be a nasty letter. It could be a horrid remark. It could be a banging on a wall, or of a door in the house. Only a few people, those closest to us know we throw these kinds of tantrums. No matter what kind of makeup and polish we put on our faces, no matter what exterior we show to the world, we know ourselves. And those with whom we have close relationships also know what goes on in our minds, what ups and downs we constantly go through.

Is there a way around these ups and downs? Many people think there is, through renouncing the world. After all, they reason, all the spiritual teachers say the things of this world are not important; we should seek spiritual knowledge, we should renounce. Perhaps. 

One day I was sitting and listening to my teacher, Swami Rama. Someone asked, “Well Swamiji, tell me about renouncing.” He replied, “What do you have to renounce?”  The questioner was a single young man, without a penny in his pocket and no responsibilities. “In order to renounce,” he said, “you should have a house, or a wife, or children, or fame, or power, or wealth. Which of these do you have that you want to renounce? Gather these first and then come and talk to me about renouncing.” Those who have gathered these, ask them about renouncing. They have to think twice, four times, about renouncing.

Renunciation – rising above the world – is the highest form of spiritual and emotional maturity. But, in the minds of many people it has become synonymous with quitting and dropping out, shirking the responsibilities of creativity that have been given to us by our birth. Renunciation must not be confused with quitting. The injunction to an average person is, “go forth and prosper,” not to be weak, but to create and give.

The process of renunciation is not a process of withdrawing into oneself and sitting around doing nothing, while carrying on with all manner of thoughts and desires of the mind. What point is there in being like the two monks who were practicing silence, yet fighting over a little bed of straw? They had renounced their wealth, their families and their houses, but what had they renounced? Nothing. Many people who talk about renunciation are only resigning, not renouncing. They are running away, escaping, quitting, getting rid of· their responsibilities, but retaining the same painful emotional content in their minds.

Emotional purification, how then is it achieved? Not through renunciation. Nor by following some quick, straight­forward formulas and prescription that we can write down and follow to achieve emotional and spiritual maturity: one, two, three, four, five; A, B, and C; project A for this week; project B for next week; project C for the third week; and so on. In nine weeks’ time I shall be an emotionally and spiritually mature person. Then I can go to my spiritual teacher and say, “Now I am emotionally and spiritually mature; will you give me enlightenment?” Every time we embark on such a project of self-improvement, -we end up laying into the hands of our ego.

Ego isn’t a bad thing; it’s a function. It’s a function of the mind. It makes us say, “I am something.” But when the ego makes me say I am that which I really am not, then ego becomes a hindrance. Let us talk of aspirations. Mind, intelligence, ego, and the totality of the mind stuff, all these four aspects of the inner person are considered to be insentient. They are not conscious of their own being. The only principle that has consciousness is the pure self, and that pure self is hidden because its life is covered by these other four, including ego. 

It’s like a brown paper bag that is lit by the light of the light bulb inside. It has no light of its own. Yet the bag seems to impart a certain minor amount of illumination. An inexperienced person who does not know all amenities of modern science and civilization, seeing this apparition for the first time might say, “Oh my! You have a luminous brown paper bag.” Instead of thinking – it is an illuminated brown paper bag, he thinks it is a luminous brown paper bag. The brown paper bag of the mind and the ego sees the light from within, sees the light from the pure self. This seeing of the light is often mistaken to be consciousness. In reality it is only the pure Self that has consciousness. If only the pure self has consciousness, how do I know when I am emotionally and spiritually mature?

If you have painful thoughts and feelings remaining with you, then you have karma yet to be fulfilled. How do you know when your karma is paid for? When do you know you owe no more debts to anyone in the world? When you have soothed everyone you have irritated, you will have irritation left in the mind so long as you have not yet soothed everyone. In the process of soothing everyone you purify yourself emotionally and attain maturity. It is not possible for a human being to have dropped something negative into his surroundings and walk away clean. 

Emotional purification, how then is it achieved, without renunciation, without quick formulas? The method is like washing your clothes. When you pick up your dirty clothes you are not judging yourself for having made them dirty. If you treat your clothes like this, why not your mind also? Treat it the same way. When you find your hands dirty, do you sit there feeling guilty and condemning yourself for letting them get dirty? “Here I have gotten my hands dirty again, it’s never going to work. I’m no good, I always get my hands dirty.”  Do you feel guilty about the floor of your house? “I promised to keep the floor of my house clean, but I keep getting it dirty. I give up, I’m never going to clean it again. It can never remain clean, it’s impossible. I’m no good.” Of course, you don’t react that way. When the floor of your house gets dirty, when your laundry gets dirty, when the skin of your body gets dirty, you go and you wash it and you start out again fresh. That which is your most intimate possession, your mind, why not at least treat it the way you treat a paint brush? After you are done painting, the brush is filled with paint and you put it in a solution where it will become clean. Treat your mind in the same manner.