Purification is the act or the process of making something pure to eradicate the foreign or polluting elements from something. The word purification can be used to refer to chemical processes of purifying something like the water purification process, distillation, and chromatography. There is also a purification in quantum information theory called the Schrodinger-HJW theorem, or simply the HJW theorem. Purification, moreover, also has a religious connotation.
The concept of purity is fundamental to religions all over the world. In the religious and spiritual sense, purification can refer to the processes of ritual purification and purification of souls after death in purgatory. Purification is also used in reference to the Christian liturgical feast of the Purification of the Virgin, which occurs at an early episode in Jesus Christ’s life during his presentation at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
According to various religions, ritual purification refers to the process by which a person is rendered free of uncleanliness. Ritual purification is done especially before someone starts praying to a deity. Ritual purity is considered a state of ritual cleanliness and is essential for the act of worship.
Holy objects and religious places may also be purified to maintain spiritual cleanliness. It does not necessarily mean physical uncleanliness, but physical cleanliness is also important to keep something ritually pure.
The rituals of purification date back to the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. The earliest recorded religious systems, especially the Ancient Near East like the Ancient Egyptian religion, Sumerian religion, ancient Canaanite religion, etc., had ritual purification practices.
Ritual Purification In Christianity
There are many ritual processes for purification in the Bible for sexual relations, menstruation, death, animal sacrifices, childbirth, etc. Baptism is considered one of the most crucial ritual purification processes in Christianity.
Baptism is performed by sprinkling or pouring water on a person’s head or by partially or wholly immersing them in water thrice, once for each element of the Trinity. Baptism is a Christian sacrament for admission and adoption. Almost all denominations within Christianity follow it.
Various orders of monasteries also follow ritual purification processes. The Rules of Saint Benedict outline multiple methods to be followed by Benedictine monks and nuns to help maintain their purity.
Ritual Purification In Islam
Ritual purification in Islam is primarily embedded in preparation for salah, which is the reading of the namaz or ritual prayer for Muslims. Certain acts invalidate one’s ritual purification, such as sleep, emission of blood, contact with the opposite sex, etc. The person has to do the ritual purification process again.
Women have to do the purification after their menstruation period and after any sexual activity. Some Islamic schools also believe that ritual purification must be done to hold the Quran. Ritual purification is done in the form of ablutions – wudu and ghusl.
Ritual Purification In Hinduism
Various traditions within Hinduism have different ritual purification processes. There are no coded purification rituals that need to be followed by everybody since the rules are generally made for the brahmins, but the rules are stricter in orthodox communities.
Bathing one’s body in the holy river Ganges is considered one of the processes of ritual purification. It is done especially after the death of someone in one’s family to maintain purity.
There is also a ritual cleansing of the idol of the deity called abhisheka. The idol is bathed in water, curd, honey, rosewater, etc. There are rules to be followed after the birth of a child in one’s home called sutak to maintain the religious purity of the family.
Purification After Death
According to the Catholic tradition of Christianity, Purgatory is an intermediary state after the physical death of a person where the soul goes for expiatory purification. The purification process in the purgatory finally separated the elect from the damned.
Various Christian religious scriptures state that the purification at purgatory is done through the medium of a cleansing fire. All those who die in God’s grace but are not entirely purified in their lives have to go through purification to achieve a state of holiness, which is essential for one’s path to heaven.
Indian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism also believe in the process of purification of souls after death in Naraka.