By J P Vaswani
Only the simple things of life endure; it is the fundamentals of life that matter – not the artificialities
The world is too much with us,” wrote the poet Wordsworth. Truer words were never spoken! Caught in the mad rush for possessions, power and material acquisitions, we become prime targets for stress.
I happened to look around me when the car I was traveling in, was caught in a traffic jam on a busy road in Mumbai. All around us were glorious, impressive and very expensive automobiles. Music was blaring aloud from a few of them. Impatient drivers and passengers were reacting with anger and irritation. Agitated men were talking urgently through their cell phones.
How many are the gadgets that modern technology has blessed us with – and they do not seem to make us happy! They only add to the stress and tension of our lives!
Some people are always talking into three telephones at one time – while a cell phone sings aloud from their shirt-pocket.
I have seen young men and women walk down parks and green lanes with ear-phones from their stereos around their heads – lost to the world of beauty around them.
It was a wise man who said: it is only the simple things of life that endure; it is the fundamentals of life that matter – not the artificialities.
Keep it simple! That is the mantra which can help you reduce stress and tension. Keep it simple! Possessions and acquisitions may seem marvelous – but after a while, you do not own them – they own you.
A Tao story tells us of an artist who was so gifted that his fame spread all over the land. One day, he painted the picture of a snake. It was so lifelike, so real that viewers seemed to hear it hiss!
They praised the picture to the skies. The artist was so carried away by his own success and the adulation of his fans that he started painting the picture again. He touched up the snake; he made its eyes glow; he outlined the fangs so that they seemed to dart at you! He could not stop; he went on and painted feet on the snake!
The expression, “Painting feet on a snake,” has become a Chinese saying – an aphorism. It refers to situations that are needlessly made more complicated by people who do not know when and where to stop.
When our life becomes complicated with power and possessions, we move further and further away from the simple joys and pleasures of life. We fail to notice the green grass and the fresh morning flowers. We don’t have time to hear birds singing or watch our little ones smiling. We drift away from the state of childlike innocence and simple joy – which is our basic nature.
Simplicity is not self-denial. It is a return to those values that matter most in life. It emphasizes spontaneity and intuition. It helps us to discover the feeling of wonder and joy that we have lost as adults.
There are men who remain untouched, untainted by possessions – though that is rare! There was a wealthy businessman, who was also a sincere, simple soul. He owned an expensive jet in which he flew about from place to place. They asked him if he enjoyed his private plane. His reply was significant. He said it was certainly very convenient; but he had managed to travel without his own plane earlier; in fact, when he had been young and poor – he could not have dreamt of owning a jet – but it did not stop him from being happy.
A wealthy and famous actress was being interviewed on television. She had made a fortune that year – over a billion dollars. “Does it make you feel good?” she was asked.
“Yes and no,” she replied thoughtfully. “Everyone thinks it’s marvelous. So many people flock around me. But I really do not know who my true friends are and who are with me only for the money and the glamor. As for my daily life – it has not changed much, except that I work harder now.”
A group of young men and women were walking across a shopping mall. They were happy and relaxed; they were talking and laughing merrily. Not a care in the world did they seem to have. There was a young girl among them, who happened to glance at the window of a jewelery store which they passed. On display was a beautiful, brilliant, diamond bracelet. How it sparkled and shone! The girl’s eyes opened wide. She went close to the window to inspect the price. It was far too high – she could not afford it.
She caught up with her friends – but she was not the happy, laughing, bubbly girl that she had been five minutes earlier. Her cheerful, buoyant attitude had been replaced by a mood of glum disappointment.
This is the worst part about wanting things – getting them may give you momentary happiness. But not being able to get them often makes you miserable!
All things said and done, if you want to be truly happy, if you want to enjoy life as it comes, if you want to spread the sunshine of joy wherever you go, do not try to have the things that you want but try to want what you have! Contentment is the secret of simplicity: and simplicity is the secret of the happy life.
Dada Vaswani is the spiritual head of the Pune-based Sadhu Vaswani Mission
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