17.16 – How long will we hide ourselves from ourselves?
When our room is in a mess and a respectable guest arrives, we hide the mess in the background. If we keep doing this repeatedly and never clean the mess, then over time it becomes too massive to be hidden. Cleaning up that accumulated mess turns out to be an exhausting burden that makes us regret: why didn’t I clean regularly?
This principle is true for our mental room too. All of us have some kind of mess within our mind, say, immoral sensual cravings or malicious revenge fantasies. When people arrive in our mental room, that is, when we have to interact with them, we push the messy feelings in the background of our mind, and speak and act in ways that conceal our dark side.
Such concealing becomes acutely problematic if we never try to purify ourselves, if we continuously act like morally upright individuals while letting messy feelings pile up internally. Over time our mental room becomes so filthy, that is, our emotional responses become so reprehensible that we can no longer hide ourselves (our mental condition) from ourselves (our true self, the soul). Purifying the accumulated mental mess turns out to be a herculean time-consuming task that makes us regret: why didn’t I clean regularly?
Thankfully, due to the omnipotence of the cleansing process of devotional service, self-purification is never impossible. Still, it’s far easier and much safer when done regularly.
Why safer? Because, whereas the physical mess is passive, the mental mess is active and seductive. It pushes us into base actions which can get us into a lot of trouble and which can even wreck everything that we cherish in life.
No wonder then that the Bhagavad-gita (17.16) recommends prompt and diligent purification (bhava-samshuddi) as an austerity of the mind.