We are on the move again. We will have slept in four different hotels in the last week. Moreover, the maximum weight for flying in India is 15 kilograms (33 pounds). That’s the limit of our portable possessions these days. Being a New Age wandering sadhu imposes a forced simplicity, a paring down to the essentials. That is a good thing for a yogi.
One of the most memorable quotes of Paramhansa Yogananda is, “Simplicity of living plus high thinking lead to the greatest happiness.” Real simplicity is the voluntary renunciation of attachments. It’s not doing without material goods—there are billions of people worldwide who live in abject poverty, which we see daily in the work Ananda does with the widows in Brindaban, India. But voluntarily transferring one’s yearnings from the things of the world to the desire for God is quite different. This frees the heart and mind.
The essence of the spiritual path is to overcome the instinctual compulsions that surround and protect the ego. This cannot be done except by willing, enthusiastic surrender of everything that you think you own and all that you think you are. The ego tells us that this is madness, that it will end in misery. The soul and the guru, however, silently cheer us on.
How do we achieve simplicity? The first and obvious thing is to get rid of the unnecessary “necessities.” Look at each of your possessions and ask these two questions: “Do I use it? Do I love it?” If the answer to both of them is “no,” then it is probably old baggage taking up space in your closet and your heart. Give these things to others who actually need them and keep paring down until you feel a sense of freedom not only from your possessions but, more importantly, from the need to possess.
Simplicity of being is harder to achieve than the minimization of owning. And yet, the process is similar. First you must be calm and centered enough to begin to observe your “bundle of self-definitions.” Then ask the same two questions in a slightly varied form: “Do I need and use this self-definition? Do I love it because it is leading me to freedom?” This allows you to drop those darkening qualities: pride, negativity, jealousy, anger, doubt—the numberless soldiers of the army of the materialist Kaurava clan of the Gita.
And it allows you to focus on supporting the few useful soul-qualities represented by the Pandavas: the ability to avoid evil, the ability to do what is right, fiery self-control, pranayama, and expansion. These plus devotion to God and Guru are all one really needs.
The life of a wandering sadhu, where you surrender the need to control your circumstances, is good for the soul. A friend summed it up this way: “Life becomes very simple. There isn’t much that I do except serve and meditate.” If our goal is freedom, what else do we need?
In joyful simplicity,
Listen to talks by Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi during their India tour here.