Quaker Reflecttions

If simplicity of living is a valid principle, there is one important precaution and condition of its application. I can explain it best by something which Mahatma Gandhi said to me. We were talking about simple living, and I said that it was easy for me to give up most things but that I had a greedy mind and wanted to keep my many books. He said, 'Then don't give them up. As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired.

Richard Gregg, 1936


Comments

  1. language can be ambiguous... G's statement is wonderfully true, but only in the sense that a person should only really want a few things... and is clear about what those are. modern man is confronted with so many "things" that his wanter goes crazy, resulting in the desire-bound condition that G would not recommend... imo, anyway...

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  2. Hmmmm. I think Gandhi's wisdom goes deeper than that. There are so many who would say, "Give it up anyway." But Gandhi acknowledges that what is relinquished under duress, even self-imposed duress, is, in fact, never really given up. As such it eats away at one more than keeping the object originally would have done. But I think you're absolutely right about the direction in which Gandhi is pointing.

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    1. you're quite right about that... it didn't occur to me in that way at the time... tx....

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  3. Perhaps what's been given up is significant. Is the item being given up merely the result of habit--if so, those can be given up with little long-term results. However, if it is a significant part of the person, then that will pose serious problems.

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    1. Fred,

      Exactly--so as Gandhi notes--it should not be surrendered until such time as it "interferes with that which is more greatly desired." It seems to be about personal evolution toward surrending what Quakers would refer to as "cumber."

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    2. Steven,

      "cumber" a great term--it suggests something bulky, heavy, clumsy, and awkward.

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