May 2011

Your life will be blessed if you need nothing until you have it.
– Chinmaya

The above quote is an advice given by Pujya Gurudev emphasizing the importance of practising contentment in our daily living.

It is said that the richest man is the one who is truly contented in life, and not the one who has lots of possessions, as has been widely misunderstood.

 “Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone; Who is powerful? The one who has governed his passions; Who is rich? The one who is content; and who is he? No one!” says Benjamin Franklin.

A rich man came to a Swami and offered him a thousand rupees. Swamiji asked the rich man, “You are offering me a thousand rupees. How much do you have for yourself?” The rich man answered, “Swamiji, I have many lakhs of rupees with me.” Swamiji asked, “Do you still wish to have more?” “Surely yes!” answered the rich man.

“Then I shall not accept your thousand rupees”, said Swamiji. “For a man must not receive from the one poorer than he!”

When the rich man expressed his inability to understand, Swamiji elaborated, “Though I have nothing, I desire nothing. You have so much, still, you desire more! Surely the person who desires to have is poorer than the man who feels satisfied and desires nothing!”

Our possessions have nothing to do with contentment. It is said, “A begging bowl was large enough for the saintly Diogenes, but even the whole world was too little for Alexander!”

Now, how to develop contentment?

First of all, we must realize the fact that any amount of indulgence is never going to give permanent satisfaction. Rather, satiation of desires only intensifies our craving to indulge more and more.

The name Mahmud Gazni once spelt terror all over India. Wherever he went, he looted, plundered, kidnapped and killed. In those days the temples of India were repositories of great riches. The idols were made with precious metals and adorned with precious gems. Mahmud ransacked these temples and killed the priests looting everything. From the year 1000 to 1026 he mounted at least 17 raids against India. It is estimated that Mahmud took from India jewels, gold, and silver in excess of 3 billion dinars, in addition to hundreds of thousands of slaves. He lived an indulgent life and had 9 wives and 56 children.

But alas, at the time of death, all the wealth that he had amassed was of no avail to this ruthless conqueror. He lay on his death bed with profound agony, tortured by the memory of his countless crimes and sins. He had lived a life tainted by greed, lust and violence. All the wealth he had captured could not bring him a moment’s peace in those crucial final hours of his earthly life.

On his death bed, he called his ministers and counsellors and warned them not to live as he had lived. He instructed them thus, “When I die, open my hands and let them hang loose outside my coffin as you take my body in a funeral procession. Let the people realize that despite all the wealth I have looted, I had to leave this world empty-handed.”

Contentment makes the poor man rich, while discontentment makes even the rich man poor!

 No one has ever attained total satisfaction by indulgence and fulfilment of their worldly desires. It is like trying to quench the thirst by drinking salty water, or putting off the fire by pouring ghee to it. Hence says the Bhagawad Gita, “The desirer of desires can never be happy”.

 Contentment consists not in adding more fuel, but in taking away the fire!

 Once having realized that worldly pleasures and gains cannot give us total contentment, the next question is obvious, i.e. what else then, can give us total fulfilment?

The scriptures answer our problem saying that the true contentment comes not from outer acquisition, but from the inner realization that it is the very nature of the Self to be content. The Self, being the abode of Eternal Existence and Infinite Bliss, is the only place where our joy seeking mind can fully rest in peace. Once we realize this, our mind will stop wandering outward, like a well-fed pet dog which never gets attracted by the filth in the streets.

Just as a rich man’s son need not struggle to gain his father’s property, all the wealth already being his, we too, the children of the Heavenly Father, have inherited from Him His true nature, the Self, which is our very own. It is available for us at all times and in full measure. It contains all that we seek in life – security, freedom, joy, love, peace or contentment.

But sad to say, our condition is like that ungrateful son who, having lost touch with his rich father, is leading a beggarly life pestered by unending wants.

Blessed indeed is the one who, having realized this, shifts his attention from without to within. And with this shift comes the final end of an otherwise endless journey started billions of births ago, culminating in a perfected state of having everything and wanting nothing.

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Posted in: Chintana

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