Home » Paramhansa Yogananda, Spiritual Development

Why Simple Living?

by Paramhansa Yogananda
Summer 2009 8 Comments

Plain living and high thinking are among the highest teachings of  the masters of India.  At the very start of a student’s training, plain living is emphasized.

Pitfalls of luxury
Fostering the desire for luxuries is the surest way to increase misery. Day and night the worldly man thinks of money, clothes, food, drink and other material objects.

Though he obtains these things, he does not enjoy them fully, for he is never satisfied. Either he is always looking for more or he is afraid of losing what he has. Often he becomes so engrossed in making money that he doesn’t have time for the material comforts after acquiring them.

A luxurious material life is pleasing only to the eyes; few realize “what price material comforts.” Overly luxurious living results in an excessive expenditure of nerve and brain energy and a reduction in longevity.  Worries, lack of freedom, and misery are the harvest of a materially busy life, devoid of God and the appreciation of God’s beauty in life and nature.

Don’t be a slave to money or possessions. Those who work for the ego and its desires become entangled in the net of ever-recurring earthly desires. Learn to live simply, renouncing unnecessary “wants” and constantly increasing desires.

What are your real needs?
People are so busy multiplying their material comforts that they end up considering many unnecessary things as essential. Often they are in debt from buying new automobiles and clothes on the installment plan, while ever grasping for more things and plunging deeper and deeper into prolonged work.

It is important, therefore, to differentiate between true “needs” and “wants.” A desire for a pleasurable sense object is often mistaken for a need instead of an artificially created want. Very few people know the real meaning of needs or necessities.

What are your real needs? Shelter, food, clothing, health? There is little difference between eating food from a gold plate or an iron plate. The food in both cases is equally satisfying to hunger. Learn to use cheaper things in an artistic way. Your needs are few, while your wants can be limitless.

Concentrating on needs is an antidote for the insatiable greed for money or possessions. Boil down even your needs. If the need is boiled down to specific things, it can then be easily satisfied. Focusing your attention on one “need” at a time is the first step in the right direction.

Your real needs must be met, but too much time is wasted in rushing about acquiring more and more transitory “necessities,” which merely support the impermanent bodily house of the immortal soul.

God will give you what you need
Houses, money, and automobiles may be necessary to modern existence, but unless you give some time to God and meditation, you can never make life truly happy. To cut life off from its divine invigorating source depletes it of the truly satisfying joys of existence.

Seeking first the Kingdom of God, as Jesus taught, is the surest way to lasting happiness. When by meditation you reclaim yourself as a true child of God, you will receive not only God’s imperishable kingdom of everlasting bliss, but also all the perishable things you need. The imperishable Kingdom of God contains within it all the perishable goods of the world.

The essence of true spiritual living
When Jesus told people to seek God first, he was not telling them to neglect the material life. He was speaking only against giving it one’s entire attention.

Few people, however, know how to balance the material and spiritual life. Many people think they must first have prosperity and only then can they think of God. But those who ignore God to seek perishable material things end up wallowing so deeply in the mud of desires and mundane worries that they cannot extricate themselves.

Everyone can follow the inner teachings and true essence of Christianity. They can avoid luxury and satisfy only their real needs. True Christian living, and all spiritual living, consists of seeking God’s peace and joy in meditation and making one’s material life very simple.

Balancing the material and spiritual life
The material life should not be neglected but it should be lived in God-Consciousness. You must put your principal thought on God, the Giver of life and its necessities. Acquire everything you need with the thought of God, with your attention resting on Him.

Most people, however, are unable to balance the material and spiritual life. The material man acts with the consciousness that he is the doer and makes himself miserable through his likes and dislikes. He is unaware of the joy and freedom that come from knowing that God is the Doer and working with one’s attention focused on Him.

By regular meditation, people can train their minds to perform all the duties of daily life with the consciousness of God within. All materially-minded men and women should understand that their lives can be freed from endless physical and mental ills simply by adding deep daily meditation to their schedule.

Make service your goal
People must also realize that all work and business activities are for the sole purpose of serving others. Without this understanding, strenuous work and business activity produces nervousness and greed for money. Make service to mankind, rather than money, the goal of all your activities and you will see your life change for the better.

God has sent man into this life so circumstanced with hunger and desires that he must work. Whoever eats has to pay for the food, and it is better to be able to buy your own food than to live on charity.

A man of God, however, works diligently not for any selfish desire but to please God and to share the fruits of his actions with God’s children. Learn to work with the consciousness that God is the Doer and with the goal of serving others. That is the sure way to happiness.

Simplicity leads to happiness
Happiness blooms naturally in the hearts and minds of those who are inwardly free, contented with simple living, and willingly renounce the clutter of unnecessary, so-called “necessities. True happiness is lasting, because it is spiritual in nature, whereas the “happiness” based on sense pleasure soon turns to sorrow.

God is the source of all life and all prosperity. When, by meditation, you achieve a deep contact with God, you will know that whatever God has, you also have. It isn’t what you own, but what you can acquire at will, that is real prosperity.

From articles and lessons, 1930-1942, and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Explained, Crystal Clarity Publishers.

Resources: To read, “What is True Wealth?” by Swami Kriyananda, click here To learn more about Money Magnetism by Swami Kriyananda, click here

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8 Comments »

  • I think that spiritual life is much more important compared to our earthly life.

  • Simon says:

    Thank you very much. It´s a very beautiful article.

  • Simon says:

    What a beautiful article. Here in Africa it is the poor that teach us how to live simply on the bare necessities and rejoicing in what we have.

  • George says:

    Like so many others, I have recently been forced to learn to live on less money. I thought I was embracing simple living, and compared to many, I was. However, when necessity forced me to examine literally every penny I spent, I realized, as Yogananda stated so beautifully, that my life was full of luxuries that I was not enjoying and I truly was never satisfied.

    It has been very freeing to let go of things I only thought I needed and pare my life down. This is not the first time I have done so since coming onto the spiritual path. But each time feels new and brings additional and deeper lessons.

  • Jill says:

    What a beautiful article. Here in Africa it is the poor that teach us how to live simply on the bare necessities and rejoicing in what we have.

  • manivannan.G. says:

    “God will give you what you need” is excellant article…

  • Priyadarshini says:

    Like so many others, I have recently been forced to learn to live on less money. I thought I was embracing simple living, and compared to many, I was. However, when necessity forced me to examine literally every penny I spent, I realized, as Yogananda stated so beautifully, that my life was full of luxuries that I was not enjoying and I truly was never satisfied.

    It has been very freeing to let go of things I only thought I needed and pare my life down. This is not the first time I have done so since coming onto the spiritual path. But each time feels new and brings additional and deeper lessons.

  • Charo Díaz says:

    Thank you very much. It´s a very beautiful article.

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