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Living the Simple Life

A former editor of THE VEDANTA KESARI, the author is the Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Chandigarh.


QUESTION: Why is possessiveness considered wrong? Should we not own things or have friends?
ANSWER: Let us recall the notice put on certain railway stations: ‘Less luggage, happy journey’. Or think of a person burdened with many items of luggage dangling from his hands and shoulders and another person happily striding ahead with just one bag on his shoulder! So also possessiveness adds to our botheration. One has to spend a lot of time and energy in acquiring and keeping them. If they are lost, we feel sorry. Further as we become attached to them, we become dependent upon them for our happiness. Instead of happiness, they bring suffering. They rob our precious time and energy, which could be better utilized for higher pursuits.
There is one more side of this idea of living simple life. Think of the widespread poverty. All over the world, there are so many people living in poverty, unable to have two square meal a day or have proper clothing and housing. In such a condition, it is indeed criminal to possess more than one’s basic needs. Every extra morsel of food we take is snatched from someone who eats just half meal a day. Possessiveness of friends is also as bad. True love is never possessive. Possessiveness is bondage and no one likes to be bound. True love gives freedom to the person loved.
QUESTION: How to get over this possessive tendency?
ANSWER: First of all, let us be convinced that possessiveness is bad and the less we possess, the better it is for us and for the society. Second, whenever we are tempted to add to our possessions, we should ask ourselves, ‘Can I do without it?’ In at least 70- 80% cases, we will find that we can do without it. We must remember that we cannot become happy by having more. If it were so, millions of people who possess so much wealth but are so unhappy would not have been there. Let us keep our needs simple and know that there is no end to man’s greed.
QUESTION: If we are to become desireless, then how can we motivate ourselves to do anything?
ANSWER: If one really becomes desireless, one will achieve the ultimate goal of human life called Moksha, where there is unalloyed bliss. Then one need not do any work because one will be fulfilled and full of joy always. But until we reach that we need to work. We should therefore work as a spiritual discipline. Our inspiration should come from our desire to grow spiritual through doing work. The Gita constantly advocates us to do our duty, our assigned work without any selfish motive. ‘If a man works without any selfish motive in view,’ says Swami Vivekananda, ‘does he not gain anything? Yes, he gains the highest. Unselfishness is more paying, only people have not the patience to practice it.’
T h e  V e d a n t a K e s a r i   March  2 0 0 8