"We buy things we don't need, with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. "(1). How sad but true! The modern consumer society leads us to believe that the more we have, the happier we are. But actually, the opposite is true. Less is often more!
Some people think: "if I only could have one hundred thousand dollars, I could do what I want, and then be happy. " Others believe: "if I only could do what I want, I could have what I need and be satisfied ". But a more sober, introspective person will discover that life is not about possessing stuff or doing things. Life is about being. It's about a state of consciousness that is not dependent on having or doing something. (2)
A few days ago, I was interviewed about living a life of modesty or demandingness, as part of a project by a Christian YouTube channel called ‚kirche urban '. What follows are some of the thoughts from the talk I gave and from the meditation about the topic in general.
One of our life mottos as devotees of Krishna is "simple living, high thinking," which means to maintain a simple lifestyle to have enough time for that which is truly essential - to cultivate our loving relationship with God. That loving exchange with God is what will give us ultimate satisfaction.
Unfortunately, we have forgotten our true eternal nature. Identifying with the material body, the conditioned soul tries to find pleasure through the satisfaction of the senses. But the problem with material desires is that they are unlimited. Trying to satisfy the urges of the senses will never come to an end. As one cannot stop a blazing fire by constantly pouring ghee upon it, one cannot satisfy one's material desire.
If the desires are somewhat fulfilled, we want more. If our desires are not fulfilled, we become angry, and if someone else gets what we want, we become envious. Or as it was expressed by Ivan Illich: "In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves; the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy "(3). How can one be satisfied and peaceful in the presence of greed, anger, and envy? Not the one who fulfills all his desires becomes happy, but the one who can reduce or tolerate such desires will become peaceful.
During my many stays in India, I experienced simply living in a literal sense, like sleeping on the ground on straw mats, washing my clothes by hand, or using coconut shells and sand to clean pots. Of course, here in our Zurich temple, we live a much more comfortable life, but in essence, the spirit remains the same: Living a modest life so that we have time in direct service and meditation about God.
Living a life of celibacy, not taking any intoxication, not having an income, living on donations and the generosity of others is part of our life in the ashrama. Our lifestyle of prayers, seva (work), the study of ancient books, mantra singing, and taking rest early might seem quite boring for an outsider, but the external simplicity gives room for great inner wealth. While externally, we might follow a lot of routines and restrictions, internally, we experience a lot of richness and freedom.
Some years ago, I had a wonderful encounter with the well-known, almost ninety-six-year-old Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. He explained monastic life as follows:
"If we don't differentiate between what we want and what we need, we lose sight of our goal. Then our needs (mostly imaginary) increase, our gratitude dwindle, and our true joy with it.
Monastic training reverses this process. The monk strives to want less and less and thus become more and more grateful for what he has. "
Wanting less to become more grateful for what we have, yes, that's simply living, high thinking. And that's not only meant for the monks - Everyone will find great inner peace with this simple formula: Reduce Needs — Increase Gratitude!
1 - Quote by David Ramsey, an American personal finance personality, radio show host, author, and businessman
2 - Adopted from ‚Relationships that work 'by David B.Wolf
3 - Ivan Dominic Illich was a Roman Catholic priest, theologian, philosopher, and social critic
Watch the short talk Meinrad Furrer (in Swiss dialect) mentioned in this blog here: