Think of some rich and famous personality, and mostly you end up hearing about the posh bungalows they live in, the swanky cars in which they drive about, a battery of security staff surrounding them, the expensive branded stuff that they wear or posses etc. The list goes on and on. However, have you heard of some personalities who are refreshing exceptions to this rule, who in spite of all their wealth or fame, are simple at heart and prefer to lead a simple lifestyle? Readon, to find out more!
Lifestyles of the Rich, Famous and Simple ∞
Warren Buffet is best known as the most successful businessman who recently toppled Bill gates to claim the crown as the world’s richest person, and his net worth is estimated to be to the tune of $40 billion. Yet in terms of lifestyle, he is frugal and simple! For instance, he still lives in the same small 3 bedroom house in mid-town Omaha that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. He dresses up in normal clothes instead of big brand names. He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him. He says, in an interview with students from a Business School “I just naturally want to do things that make sense. In my personal life too, I don’t care what other rich people are doing. I don’t want a 405-foot boat just because someone else has a 400-foot boat.”
Narayana Murthy, who is one of the founders of “Infosys”, a giant corporation in the IT space, leads a simple lifestyle that quite contradicts his position in the corporate world! He still lives in the same two-bedroom, sparsely furnished house that he used to live in before Infosys became a success. His family does their housekeeping by themselves, and do not have servants!
Many other famous personalities such as Dr Abdul Kalam (former President of India) and Gandhi (Former freedom fighter) are known for their simplicity as well as their strength of character and selfless mindset.
It is refreshing to hear of the unwillingness of such personalities to make a scene of being rich or famous. It’s easy not to flash our cash when we have none, but it takes focus and a strong purpose to practise self-restraint in spite of being rich.
The refusal of such personalities to pursue an “I get what I want” existence – the hallmark of modern society – is refreshing to hear. At a time when crass greed masquerades as simple ambition and frugal habits are frowned upon, such reticence has few parallels.
Pitfalls of Over Indulgence in Luxuries ∞
Leading a high end, luxury-filled life has its own set of pitfalls. People end up having the overhead of maintaining and protecting all the luxury assets (such as posh bungalows, high-end cars, etc) that get accumulated over a period of time and are often caught in the wrong foot once bad times (such as recession) set in. We then end up restricting our scope for happiness as we measure our self-worth based on unnecessary possessions that clutter our houses as well as our minds. We then make ourselves vulnerable to a host of negative emotions such as greed and then anger, frustration and depression when we don’t get what we want, not to mention the envy when we are compared with others in our social circle. A deep sense of insecurity crops up, with changing market conditions, twisting political fortunes and crashing stock markets. These fears provoke men to abandon all moral scruples and time-honored spiritual values, creating a dog-eat-dog world. Recent examples such as the bickering within the Ambani Family and the Satyam scam speak volumes about the sorry state of affairs.
Many people who have indulged in a luxurious lifestyle have typically fallen into the trap of compulsive buying, instant gratification and uncontrolled greed for wealth and power. Some of them, such as Vijay Mallya (the promoter of Kingfisher group) have got themselves neck deep into debt. Vijay Mallya is well known for fuelling his flamboyant lifestyle by dipping into the revenues of his company which is now faced with an outstanding debt of more than Rs. 6000 crore, and is now almost at the point of selling off his company !
There are extreme cases like that of Saddam Hussein and Hitler whose extreme greed for wealth and power led them to wage unnecessary wars and ultimately invited their own destruction. There are also cases like that of Ramalinga Raju (founder of Satyam Computers) whose greed for wealth pushed him into corporate frauds and landed him into prison. Besides, there are many well-employed professionals who indulged in luxurious lifestyles, and over-leveraged themselves financially (in terms of huge loans on car and property, and credit card usage) and were caught unawares when the recession took away their jobs or cut into their salaries. Such are the results of succumbing to the cravings of the mind, which the simplistic lifestyle people (such as Warren Buffet) are spared from!
The restless nature of the mind ∞
We may fulfil our desires, but our mind remains dissatisfied. Mr Buffet and other rare persons of his ilk are fortunate to be spared the screaming wants of the mind. The human mind is fickle and, if let loose, knows no peace. As we unleash our passion to acquire the various pleasures, the mind points out the unattained delights. And the more elusive they are, the greater the passion to possess them. The enjoyment of all such things follows the law of diminishing marginal returns: Each successive pleasure derived from an object or person reduces our taste for that pleasure. A drastic gap occurs between the expectation of pleasure and the enjoyment experienced. To fill the gap, the mind desperately urges us to spend more, buy more, and go wild. In the ensuing race for happiness, the mind’s demands remain eternally unfulfilled. It is like scratching an itch: The momentary relief is accompanied by a greater itch, and the more you scratch, the more you itch. Repeated scratching causes only pain and bleeding. The mind’s nature is to either like or dislike (accept or reject) whatever we survey around us. This ensures that we are constantly oscillating between happiness and distress.
Lifestyle Alternatives for a peaceful mind ∞
“He who is content is rich”, said the wise Lao Tzu. Voluntary simplicity essentially helps us think clearly and results in a deliberate organization of life for a purpose, while getting rid of the unnecessary clutter, externally as well as internally. A simple lifestyle spares us of a lot of anxieties as there are lesser assets to maintain and safeguard. It allows us an opportunity to enjoy and be grateful for what we already possess, and to take a break and ponder over the higher purpose of our existence and fill our minds with positive emotions.
Love is a powerful, positive emotion. When we lead a life centred around prayer, love and service to God and humanity, we are filled with serenity. The petty wrangling of the restless mind to “get what I want, when I want” is replaced by a desire to improve the quality of our offerings and service to God and other fellow beings.
There have been cases of many people who have successfully led such a peaceful and serene life and even managed to kick of addictive habits such as drugs, alcohol and illicit sex.
The Vedic Observer ∞
The Vedic Scriptures extol the value of not artificially increasing one’s wants.
īśāvāsyam idam sarvam
yat kiñca jagatyām jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā
mā grdhah kasya svid dhanam
“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should, therefore, accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” (Sri Isopanisad, Mantra 1).
When we recognize the proprietorship of the Supreme Lord and contribute our little worth towards ensuring that the needs of all are taken care of, we lead a life of responsibility, peace and renunciation as, in the process, we renounce the deep-rooted conception that we are the ultimate enjoyers and proprietors.
If we find a wallet filled with loads of money, we have three choices: The first is to keep it for ourselves, the second is to leave it as it is (understanding that we are not the owner of the wallet), and the third is to find the rightful proprietor of the wallet and return it to him.
The second choice is similar to an intelligent philosopher who renounces worldly enjoyments, but the third choice (and the ideal choice) takes renunciation a step further and symbolizes a person who recognizes the rightful proprietorship of the Supreme Lord and uses everything in his service, which subsequently also benefits mankind. An example is that of many volunteers who distributed sanctified and spiritualized food (food offered to God as an expression of love and gratitude) to the victims of natural calamities such as the earthquake in Gujarat and the tsunami in southern India and Sri Lanka.
Thus, the great personalities mentioned above could take his renunciation a step higher and set a wonderful example for the world to learn from and emulate!
Authored by Vivek Devarajan