Source : Google photo
Synopsis : Buddha said that the root of suffering is attachment. It was true then as it is now and more so because we can’t seem to let go. The blog looks at the idea of letting it go at a certain age and how it can transform your life in a simple way.
There was a time in ancient India when the kings and queens renounced their crown and wealth to go into retirement from their official duties and seek their spiritual improvement in an ashram located deep in a forest.
Their a spiritual guide called a rishi or a holy man took them under his care and taught them the meaning of life and how to attain total detachment from all worldly affairs to devote the rest of their life entirely to God. They did this by accepting a primitive life in the forest where they learned to live for the first time in their privileged life how to scrounge for food in the forest and did all the chores they were required including cleaning, sweeping their surroundings, milking the cows and live a simple life. They learned of scriptures to get valuable lessons to practice what they learned.
Now you can imagine a king and his queen who were used to all their worldly comforts in their palaces and who did not have to do anything except rule were now to live in a forest alone and away from all their riches, servants and their worldly duties for the first time so it was for them a great step but they did it unhesitatingly by stepping down from their throne and abdicating it to their heir.
This renunciation of a king of the worldly affairs won him great respect among his subject and elevated him and his queen to a level only the saints and great spiritual leaders attained by sacrifice, complete detachment to everything they owned and the acceptance that nothing in this world is worth holding on to that binds a person down with its chains that are hard to unshackle.
This concept of renunciation of everything one is used to and accept a life of austerity, poverty and sacrifice in order to devote all his time to spirituality in order to attain nirvana was deeply ingrained into the people who chose to be a monk or a sadhu and is still practiced by those who have chosen this life voluntarily. They successfully detach themselves from everything they valued before they became monks including all human relationships they had with their relatives, friends and others.
But it is a lot harder to do it than one can imagine especially if you are used to your comforts and all the human relationships so it takes a great leap of faith, very strong determination and willingness to change your life so drastically all of a sudden.
It is different for those who from their childhood decide to choose a life of austerity and monkhood and devote the rest of their life to become closer to God through their spirituality. It requires of them years of studies of scriptures, rigorous training under the keen eyes of a great spiritual leader until they are deemed fit to wear the saffron robes and accept all that it implies.
But it is a lot harder to quit as a king or a person of great wealth and importance to renounce life and accept a life of poverty and sacrifice by living alone in a forest under the most primitive conditions, sleeping on a grass mat and looking for wild fruits and berries to survive.
We now live in the world where the materialistic life is not only hoped for but we devote our entire life to attain it. Those who become rich find it very difficult to give up all they have acquired over the years so they become a prisoner of their wealth. They simply cannot let go because the concept of letting it go at a certain stage of their life is alien to them so they find it very difficult to accept. By letting it go I do not mean that you have to renounce everything and become a monk or a sadhu although many have done so.
But if you are a person used to your creature comfort that you have acquired through hard work, education and tenacity, you are just like the most people who are scared of the unknown in life and lack courage to leave their comfort zones and travel to see the world and get to know how other people especially the poor people live.
You cannot just go to any country without knowing where to stay, what kind of food is available there or how to get around so you look for someone who lives there and can help you reduce your anxieties. It is unthinkable for such a person to go alone somewhere and seek adventure but there are those who love it and enjoy greatly.
In the Hindu religion, the renunciation is greatly emphasized to attain a desirable level of spirituality but not everyone is capable of it. You will see very rich people living in their mansions within high walls and guarded by sentries and ferocious dogs because they are afraid of losing it someday if they have acquired their wealth illegally. We hear of cases daily when the income tax people suddenly raid their premises and confiscate everything that is illegally acquired and demolish their mansions if built without proper approval of the authorities.
There are those who flaunt their wealth in the most vulgar manner by showing off their garages full of hundreds of cars that they never can use. Others flaunt their wealth by showing off their jewelries, their mansions and their extensive empire of valuable properties but are secretly worried about losing it all to tax authorities or to litigation caused by those who want it. They worry about the high taxes, high maintenance cost of properties and the bank loans they have to pay back.
Rich people in general have more to worry about than a poor or ordinary person who has very little to lose and just gets by somehow living modestly. The rich worry about their safety and the safety of their children because big time criminals are attracted to them like flies who try to take away from them all they have acquired so they have round the clock security, high walls and ferocious dogs.
But this world is full of more poor people than the rich although they too aspire to become rich someday and start acquiring the same shackles that tie up the rich. In fact the poor people who have come into the middle class find it very hard to give up what they have accumulated through hard work, diligence and savings so they will laugh at you if you talk to them about giving it all up to live a simpler life without any encumbrances. It goes against all they believe in so they try to hold on to whatever they have because they believe in more the better aspect of the capitalistic life.
But a time comes in everyone’s life when people should ask what is the meaning of all we have acquired and why it is so important to keep them. Can we bring with us all that we have to where we are going eventually? The ancient Egyptians thought so and had their tombs filled with gold, silver and precious furniture after their death but only to be looted by vandals and thieves later.
Similarly the properties left behind by the rich after their death ends up in courts and under long and bitter litigation by those who are left behind. The huge property of Michael Jackson is a case for study here.
So the idea of renouncing everything makes sense to some people who one day decide to give it all away to poor people, to orphanages or to the charitable organizations who do good work and need the charity to continuing their good work. We hear of Bill Gates or Warren Buffets who have donated billions of their wealth to charity and continue to do so. There are many such examples.
There was a king called Harshavardhana who lived thousands of years ago in India who went to Prayagraj where a great religious fair was held every 12th year and still does today. There he donated all the wealth of his empire to the poor pilgrims. When his treasury was empty, poor people still flocked to him for help so he started to give away his gold ornaments on his person but still more people came so he gave away his clothes to them until he stood naked and declared that he had nothing more to give. His queen then covered him with her shawl but the King went back to Prayagraj during the next fair with more treasures than what he previously had given away. He was a king who had a great charitable heart who sincerely believed in letting it all go to help the poor.
But we too can let go when we are old. You do not need your big house and swimming pool, you do not need your farm house or the penthouse you bought. You do not need your fancy cars anymore because your eyes are weak so you don’t drive any longer. You do not need your closet full of fancy clothes and all the gadgets that fill your shelves. You do not need your great collection jewelry unless you are extremely greedy and want to flaunt your wealth in a most vulgar way that attracts the con men and thieves.
So the idea of downsizing everything in your life at a certain age starts to make more sense than before so you sell your big mansion and move into a small house that is just right for you. If the kids have gone away as they usually do then you do not need a big house anymore. If you still need to get around then a small electric tricycle will get you around wonderfully.
In your old age, what you need most is money that you have tied up in unproductive properties that have become a liability due to its high maintenance costs and taxes.
Some people give it all up by monetizing all their assets and move into old age homes where they get to meet other retirees with similar penchant for downgrading.
Now I am not suggesting that you become a pauper to live a life of poverty in your old age and renounce everything to become a monk or a sadhu to go and live in a forest like the kings and queens used to do long ago.
I am suggesting that downsizing makes more sense when you are old and do not need all the things you have that can help you live a comfortable life after getting rid of them. In our old age that spares no one, the money becomes your best friend. It allows you to live the rest of your life with dignity somewhere and still maintain your independence.
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