Choose what you need, drop your wants, and you will always be happy – despite the circumstances!
There was once a time in my Life when I did not know the difference between what I wanted and what I needed. I was driven by an urge then to gratify myself every single time that I thought of acquiring something. I wasn’t a spendthrift exactly, but yes, I indulged myself a lot in acquiring material stuff that enhanced the quality of my Life’s experiences. Then, Life’s Master Plan pushed me and my family to a state when we could not, on our own, even afford what we needed – bare necessities like food, clothing and a roof over our heads. Yet, with amazing grace, we always got what we needed. Our needs were eventually fulfilled, each time, in the nick of time. One moment it would appear as if we did not have something and suddenly someone would walk into our Life and give us what we needed at that moment – this never happened in ways we could have imagined, but it certainly did happen unfailingly. This experience of being cared for and provided for by Life has helped me understand the difference between want and need.
To be sure, intrinsically, all of us are simple folks. We know what we need. But it is when we start confusing our wants as our needs that we become dis-satisfied with the Life we have. In the days when we owned cars, I ensured that our Hyundai Accent and Santro were maintained in top-notch condition. Every time the cars got dented beyond an acceptable level or the upholstery got worn out, I would just sell the cars and buy new ones. I did not buy luxury cars. I simply bought the same models – Accent and Santro. And when I felt my cars needed to be changed, I was restless until I actually did that; a process that often took weeks. Over a 7 year period, I had changed my cars four times. This prompted one of my friends to quip: “Hey AVIS! You change cars as if you are changing your shirt!” I realize now that it was my want, my desire, to have gleaming new-looking and great-smelling cars that I was confusing in my head as a need to maintain them in “top-notch” condition. Today, I am car-less. The last car we had, a 15-year-old Mitsubishi Lancer, a gift from a friend in 2009, had to be disposed of in January 2014 because its maintenance costs were huge. Having got used to living without a car, using auto-rickshaws, Uber or Ola, to get around, I understand now that I don’t even need a car! Life is far simpler without one. I am not saying I will not acquire one. I well may – when I feel the need for it, surely not because I want it!
Our wants actually enslave us, holding us hostage. Clearly when something is possessing you, like your want will, how can you be happy? The way to ring in happiness and inner peace is to understand what you need and be content with it. Even if you don’t have what you need, always trust Life to provide it for you. Letting go of your wants can magically transform your Life. Here’s a Zen story to illustrate the point. Someone asked the Buddha: “I want happiness. Please teach me how I can get it.” The Buddha replied: “Drop the ‘I’, drop the ‘want’, you will be left with ‘happiness’!” Beautiful, isn’t it?