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Buddha’s Teachings Regarding Cleanliness in the Home

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

By “Jackie Writing Jackie”

Mental health professionals often encourage their patients to keep their homes clean and tidy. Cluttered, dirty interiors can interfere with mental health and wellbeing and hamper the peaceful, mindful state that is encouraged by the Shambhala way of life. One of the most important teachings of Buddha for everyday life, The Noble Eightfold Path, espouses values such as right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. It is interesting to note that keeping a home clean is intricately tied into many of these values.

Making a Right Effort

It is difficult to think of Right Effort without also discussing the Five Hindrances, which include sloth, torpor, or drowsiness. Starting the new day by making an effort to convert surroundings into a tidy, tranquil space is incompatible with the sloth that Buddhism shuns. Some Buddhists believe that sweeping, wiping, dusting etc. is a step in the path towards inner peace and contentment. In many ways, one’s surroundings are an expression and extension of oneself. Keeping one’s surroundings in an optimal state can be seen as a symbol of the effort one also makes to foster internal purity of thought and emotion.

Mindfulness in Cleaning

Regular cleaning can hone mindfulness by keeping home dwellers ‘in the here and now’. However, the opposite also is true. People are busy; most have many conflicting demands between work and family life. Therefore, it is often easy to overlook things that you cannot immediately see if you aren’t ‘fully present’. These things include air quality, for instance. Scientific experts claim that air quality in the average home can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. This is because toxic cleaning products, pressed wood furniture, and soft furnishings can all emit fumes that can harm respiratory health and pose a risk for other illnesses. Mindfulness cleaning encourages homeowners to give themselves fully to the task at hand, thinking of how to really clean homes in ways beyond the superficial. Thus, a mindful cleaning session might involve more than just scrubbing, sweeping, and polishing. It could involve deciding to make changes to routines such as ventilation or to replace toxic cleaning products and furniture with natural, healthful ones.

Concentration and Cleaning

The eightfold path speaks of Right Concentration – the importance of focusing on one thing at a time so as to be silent and attain peace of mind. When conducting daily cleaning, concentration can result in a better and deeper clean, since it can reveal things that may not be noticed when cleaning is done haphazardly. Right concentration invites Buddhists to focus on one thought at a time. When it comes to cleaning, this can be achieved in many ways, one of which is through dividing the home into different zones and focusing fully on one zone at a time. By not taking on more than one can handle, it enables one to carry out tasks in a calm and peaceful manner. This same concentration can be applied to other areas of life, since the average person has many small goals to achieve in one day and it is important to concentrate on each task so that they can be carried out well.

Letting Go of Attachment

The Shambhala vision embraces the transformative power of suffering. However, it also acknowledges that clinging to possessions can lead to unnecessary suffering, and that ideally, people should not become too attached to things. When a home becomes cluttered and there is no space to keep toys, tools, and other possessions, it can be used as an opportunity to give away a few items to those in need, or to find a way to store and keep items in order. Buddha spoke of letting go of desires, a lesson that is often interpreted as an invitation to delight in minimalism – or at least, to let go of intense attachment to things in our homes.

From letting go of desire to honing concentration, many of Buddha’s teaching can have a big application in the way human beings clean and tidy their homes. Uncluttered interiors can help instill a sense of mindfulness and peace, while cluttered surroundings can have the opposite effect. Cleaning is more than a way to hone concentration and focus; it also provides an opportunity to identify things we don’t really need that someone else’s life and happiness may depend on.

After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness, right through to news and current affairs. She has, in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.

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1 response to “ Buddha’s Teachings Regarding Cleanliness in the Home ”
  1. The areas that u so elocuently described is a space that I want to grow in. Mil gracias Jackie.


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