Question: Is taking a bath essential prior to Jap? What should one wear during the Jap?
It is more appropriate to sit in front of an altar after taking bath, wearing clean clothes and perform worship in the morning with due salutations and reverence. It keeps the mind happily steady and helps in its concentration. But when duty hours are odd, a person is sick or where it is not possible to arrange for water, one can perform mental Jap without the help of Mala. Scriptures recommend cleanliness of body and clothes as a pre-requisite for any religious practice or worship. Since a routine of wearing freshly-washed clothes during each session of Upasana , is to be maintained, one is advised to be clad only in a two-piece garment, one each for covering the upper and lower parts of the body e.g. Dhoti - Dupatta. However, for protection against cold an additional under-garment can be worn. Though the pundits prescribe cleanliness of body and clothes, it is not considered mandatory for all occasions. Situations may arise when the worshipper finds it difficult to adhere to this rule strictly. Under such circumstances, one should not discontinue the routine of worship. Otherwise, the aspirant is totally deprived of even the partial benefit. Besides cleanliness, the objective of these preparatory rituals is to help the worshipper in getting rid of lethargy. A sick or weak person may wash his arms, feet and face, or if possible wipe the body with a wet cloth. Woollen or silken clothes do not absorb dirt and perspiration to the extent cotton wears do. Nevertheless, these too require cleaning at certain intervals. Since, now-a-days silk is obtained by boiling live silk worms, silk wears are no longer considered appropriate for a spiritual practice. These are not recommended for Upasana . The same holds true for animal hides. The ancient sages used hides of animals who died a natural death. This is no longer true. Animals are being killed for their hides. Now-a-days a variety of other floor-spreads (woollens, synthetics) are available ,which may be used; and cleaned by washing or through exposure to sun from time to time.