I knew one man who had a large family to take care of. He was a teacher in a small school and earned a meagre salary. He was also an astrologer but never charged money from anyone for his astrology consultation. He also freely taught school subjects like maths and physics to children in the neighbourhod. People were deeply affected – not just by his skills, but by his desire to give without expectation for self. This had a contagious effect; many lives were transformed. And while he lived simply in his personal life, his family members were never deprived of anything. In fact they grew to be respectable men and women in society and held high positions. This one man’s love and dedication helped many. His voluntary life of denying material pleasures for self and giving others care, influenced many others in his town.
He was actually feeding his soul by giving himself in service.
Remember there is a huge difference between poverty and voluntarily choosing to have less; and starving is not the same as fasting. Hence this man- because he was nourished deeply within- lead a physically and mentally healthy life as well. Therefore if we encourage people to take care of the soul’s needs- to give, people will be satisfied physically and mentally also.
Happy with Less
When we make choices to give, we’ll be happier even with less. And we won’t reduce our efforts- we work according to our potential and may even increase it, but keep our personal needs at minimum.
This lifestyle, however, would inevitably, directly conflict with modern consumerist culture. The modern economics is based on igniting desires in people – earn more, spend more, buy more and eat more! Modern civilisation can’t afford satisfied people. If people are content, who’ll buy the junk? How will the pockets of some grow? The economy will crash!
No wonder then, the Vedic culture seems to be at odds with the modern consumerist society. And also it’s a little surprise that peace is conspicuous by absence. How can there be peace when we talk of peace but simultaneously ignite desires in the hearts of people, to consume more? The Vedas compare this with adding ghee to fire. The more material desires we fulfill, the more fuel we are adding to the fire of our suffering.
But when you closely study the examples of Warren Buffet, Narendra Modi, Dr. Abdul Kalam and many more, you’ll see they work hard but live a life beyond the self. It’s only when we get out of our own tiny heads that we begin to touch the space of peace. For a person confined by the chains of his own desires, nothing is enough; he’ll ironically run everywhere and forever, and yet never catch the proverbial carrot of the donkey. For one free of these ropes of desires, he’ll be peaceful in his position; he has nothing to hanker or lament for- his peace is within.
Let’s reflect on Lord Krishna’s wise instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad gita (6.20-23)
“….established thus, one never departs from the truth. And upon gaining this, one thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even amidst greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom…”