Impurity: 4 definitions


Impurity means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

Source: SOAS University of London: Protective Rites in the Netra Tantra

Purity and Impurity are key elements in Tantric ritual practice. Where the orthodox Brahmin performs the rituals in order to retain purity, the Tantric transgresses purity. The latter's participation in rituals that use substances deemed impure, such as meat, fish, human blood, or skulls, is an important characteristic of Tantric practice. [...] The Kaula's apparent non-Vedic, heterodox rituals redefined impurity as the state of bondage and ignorance. Here, impurity and purity become illusory categories that bar the individual from the recognition of the divine. Rather the focus on the pure-impure dichotomy, the practitioner is to abolish all distinctions between the two. Flood (2003, p. 215) explains the connection between the monarchy and the kāpālika-like practices.

Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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Yoga (school of philosophy)

[«previous next»] — Impurity in Yoga glossary
Source: ORA: Amanaska (king of all yogas): A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation by Jason Birch

1) Impurity can be denoted by the Sanskrit terms Mala, according to the Amanaska Yoga treatise which deals absorption, yogic powers and liberation.—The Amanaska referred to (or qualified) Samādhi with several terms, which are all negative; [e.g., amala/nirmala—it has no impurity;] [...] The fact that such terminology is found in the Amanaska indicates that descriptions of Śiva and the void-like meditative states in Mantramargic Śaivism, were the basis of the descriptions of Samādhi and Paratattva (the highest reality) in this treatise. The Amanaska Yoga was consistent with the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra’s definition of Yoga, yet it described Samādhi in terms different to those of Pātañjalayoga; such as “that which has no impurity” (amala/nirmala).

2) Impurity (of various kinds) is denoted by the Sanskrit term Aśuddhi, according to the Bhāṣya (commentary) on the Pātañjalayogaśāstra (i.e., The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali).—Accordingly: “Yoga is not perfected by one who does not practise Tapas. Impurity (aśuddhi), which is of various kinds because of beginningless Karma, affliction and habitual tendencies and because of which the network of sense objects stands opposed [to Yoga], is not weakened without Tapas. Thus, the mention of Tapas [in the root text]”.

Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

Impurity (of the body).—contemplation of the: s. asubha, sīvathikā.

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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: The University of Sydney: A study of the Twelve Reflections

Impurity (of the body) (in Sanskrit: aśucitva) refers to one of the “(twelve) reflections” (bhāvanā), according to Śubhacandra’s Jñānārṇava.—The human body is filthy, reprehensible, full of impurity, produced from semen and ovaries, and contemptible. How can it be praised when it is filled with blood, flesh and fat, has a skeleton of slender bones, is bound with tendons and has a bad odour? The body continually discharges putrid smells from its nine orifices, is innately perishable and dependent on other things (e.g. food and water, etc.). [...] How could the body be the source of pleasure when it has a skeleton of bones, is covered with a mass of skin, filled with the smells of a stinking corpse and subject to disease?

General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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