Cleanliness of body is necessary for physical health. Dirt and disease go together. Disease germs breed and thrive in dirt; and the epidemic diseases which sweep over a country and carry off thousands, are generally the results of the dirty habits and surroundings of the people. This is why cholera, for instance, is such a scourge in beautiful Kashmir; for the river Jhelum is made an open sewer by the people of the hundreds of villages along its banks. No one can keep healthy who is afraid of soap and water. Not only the regular washing of hands and face, but the frequent and thorough bathing of the whole body, and the wearing of clean clothes, are conditions of good health.
Moreover, cleanliness of body is also necessary for self-respect. No one can expect to mix with decent society if he is not clean and neat in dress and person. It is an insult to respectable people to meet them with dirty face and hands, and soiled and evil-smelling clothes. A gentleman would feel ashamed if he could not keep himself scrupulously clean.
An old proverb says, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." This means that cleanliness comes next to godliness in importance. But in practice it has been interpreted in a different way, and made to mean that godliness can dispense with cleanliness.
In the middle Ages in Europe, and in some places and classes in India, godliness was associated with dirt. The old ascetic monk, and the Indian fakir, was considered to be all the more holy tor being filthy. They lived in "the odour of sanctity", and a pretty foul odour it must have been! But true godliness surely means cleanliness of soul and body; and the old proverb should read, "Cleanliness is a part of godliness."
But even more important than cleanliness of body is cleanliness of mind. To call a mind clean or dirty is to use metaphorical language.
Just as light is a symbol of truth and goodness, and darkness of ignorance and evil, so dirt is a symbol of moral evil and...
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