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Cleanliness: A lifetime mission


Sanat Sankrityayan 2015-10-21


Haath jhaadu le buhari, kar saaf sarkhail Par buhari so age saaf chaubare mail ~ Chheetswami

(Take a broom and clean the deep-seated vices (sarkhail)/ But before that, you had better clean your surroundings)

Asven reft cleaen vitae (Old Greek proverb)

(Cleanliness is life………It’s the vitality)

In every language, every society and every community since time immemorial, cleanliness has retained its place as the foremost individual, social and collective quality.

Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan wrote in his brilliant book, ‘ The Hindu way of life,’ that ‘regardless of any religion or belief system, it’s cleanliness that has been accepted in the eastern consciousness as the door that opens and leads to god.’

Somewhere one has to say with a tinge of regret that cleanliness, that has always been our collective concern, has lost its shine (pun intended) literally and figuratively in India. We look towards the West and South East Asian modules of cleanliness despite the fact that once the whole world learnt from us how to clean the hearts, minds and our surroundings.

Today, we talk about Japanese education system and its emphasis on cleanliness because Japanese children first learn the lessons in cleanliness at schools.

Singapore City Board and Management Authority (SCBMA) fine those who spit and litter. But millennium ago, Chanakya wrote, ‘Citizens, who spit and dirty their vicinity must be put behind the bars for a day to realise that it’s an unsocial behaviour’ (ASAMAJIK KRITYA).

Look at the expression: Asamajik Kritya. It means, even nearly two millenniums ago, uncleanliness was an UNSOCIAL BEHAVIOUR.

Alas, today, it’s almost an acceptable behaviour! Why? It’s because we’ve become too casual in our attitude towards cleanliness. When we can’t broaden our CIRCLE of INFLUENCE by taking an individual step, how will it flower into an ABHIYAAN (mission/movement)?

But fortunately, things are changing slowly and steadily. People are taking interest and initiative at personal level which is being felt: Main akela hi chala tha jaanib-e-manzil magar/Log aate gaya, kaarvaan banta gaya (I set out all alone/People kept joining and it became a caravan).

Our Prime Minister Modiji’s dream of Swachch Bharat is the noblest initiative towards modernisation and making India a developed nation. Mr D K Somaiya of Bengaluru too has whole heartedly embraced Modiji’s dream. He is putting relentless effort through implementation of Gandhian Servant Leadership which focuses on making on-going efforts.

Cleanliness is a constant awareness:

To inculcate the idea of cleanliness, it’s a must to drill this wholesome idea into every individual as a collective and holistic awareness. Have you ever thought, why we make cleanliness mandatory during festive occasions, esp. Diwali? We believe that Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) doesn’t arrive when there’s uncleanliness. So very true and also a noble thought. But can’t it be made NOBLER by thinking and believing that every day is Diwali or a festive occasion? By doing and thinking so, there’ll be cleanliness all over and all-round the year/s. Why stipulate a specific day for such a good thing? Feel Diwali every day from within and keep your home and surroundings clean throughout the year, nay years! Lakshmi will never leave you!!

To further explain it, cleanliness is everyone’s moral and ethical duty and it must well up from within. We as Lean-Kaizen practitioners see to it that from Directors to Doormen all should wholeheartedly participate in cleaning the set-up/organization.

This came from Buddha’s exhortation to his 44 core disciples, among them Anand being the closest and senior most. Buddha would first hold the broom, start sweeping and give yet another broom to Anand who would follow suit. Soon the entire monastery would join in!!

Gandhi ji set a precedent by cleaning toilets himself. This helped kill the ego and set an example to be followed by others without reluctance. C F Andrews (Gandhi’s closest friend and a Scottish missionary) observed, ‘ When Bapu cleaned the toilets, it appeared gross at face value, but the subtle outcomes of it were immense and inestimable.’

The whole process of cleanliness becomes a spontaneous act of joyful expedition, which gave English the beautiful expression: Don’t whine, while shine.

One of the 5s of Kaizen is SHINE (Seiso)-Clean and inspect or inspect through cleaning. Organizational cleanliness is as important as social or collective one.

To encapsulate, cleanliness must become a mission and include all as parts of it. ‘To begin it from home, you can spread it to Rome.’

This emphatic saying fully justifies the spread and impact of cleanliness from home to Rome. Let’s chip in and be a proud participant in Cleanliness Drive, not just to make the country clean but also the whole world. Cleanliness is after all a key and fundamental mantra to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

Cleanliness is also an indicator of a higher personality. Evolution Theory also covers the aspect of cleanliness as a way of ascension. “Shuchi” or Hygiene (closest translation) is a Vedic Class differentiator as the Aryans (Better People) evolved. Spiritual Cleaning is a way how one can reach the Godhood we all are equally capable of.

I recommend a five step agenda for Inclusive Cleanliness:

  • Let’s begin with ourselves and the immediate surroundings
  • End the cycle of dirtiness by evolving and setting up clean processes
  • Spread to the neighbours, society and localities
  • Subordinate other agenda like, urban living, city traffic and poverty to getting cleaner everyday
  • Celebrate and rejoice, make others drop in to check out the results

Thanking you all for the patient reading, Yogesh Vaghani (Chairman, Vedzen Consultants Pvt Ltd)


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