Simple Living and Spiritual Experience

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What do you mean when you say ‘simple life’? Instead of having five-star food, you have dry roti and dhal. How do you define simple living? Different people have their opinion about it. My observation and experience of various teachers and masters, who have struggled through life to come to a state of realization, has been the striking factor that life is not complicated. Simple living means uncomplicated living, not negation, not rejection, not change of thought, not change of idea, not change of anything.

Spiritual life and the spiritual experience also leads to transcending the complex nature of the mind and connecting to the simple, untainted expression of the spirit. These are the two words: simple living means uncomplicated living. What makes life complicated? Expectations, desires, ambitions, attachments, immaturity of mind, immaturity of intellect and immaturity of emotions.

The dissipated, distracted, disturbed mind is the complicated mind leading to complicated living. When the complicatedness of the mind subsides, life becomes easier to live, and that is called simple living.

In spirituality, the same thing happens. As you go beyond the gross nature of the mind, by dealing with your shortcomings and strengths, and by cultivating the strengths, you are observing and dealing with your mind. It is a process of personal observation and the drive to change.

That process of self-awareness is spiritual. In this process of self-awareness that we undergo in raja yoga, through pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, we are making our life simple, and our spiritual awareness continues to develop.

Making life uncomplicated is simple living, and giving a clear focus and direction to the mind to develop, evolve and grow is the spiritual experience. They both go together and therefore are synonymous with each other. One cannot have a spiritual experience without simple living, and one cannot live simply without spiritual experience.

Somebody once asked Buddha, “How does one know that one is progressing in spiritual life?” He said, “The indication of that progress is that your desires and dissipations of mind will become less. The desires which connect you to the world and make you chase the mirage of happiness will lessen. When the desires become less, one’s involvement and participation with the world will be streamlined. Once life is streamlined and there is clarity, direction and focus, peace enters your life. Life becomes simple, and spiritual awareness develops.” This is not only Buddha’s answer. It is the answer inherent in all spiritual traditions.

9 October 2009, Ganga Darshan, Munger