A Life lesson in minimalism from Comrade Bardhan

Important Note: This Blog will continue to feature my daily blogposts. In addition, on Sundays, public holidays and long weekends, I will feature The Happiness Road Series and my #HelpYourselfToHappiness Vlog Series!

Here’s today’s blogpost!

The best way to be happy and content is to want nothing, cling on to nothing and just be!
A.B.Bardhan (1924 ~ 2016)
Picture Courtesy: Jitendra Gupta/Outlook
Three weeks ago, veteran Communist leader (CPI), A.B.Bardhan, passed away. I am not a communist. But I admired Bardhan’s simplicity, integrity and down-to-earthiness greatly. Even so, I was surprised when I saw a picture (see below) going viral on social media. Shot by someone called Bhupinder and shared by Bardhan’s close associate Vineet Tiwari, a writer from Indore, the picture shows the only possessions that Bardhan left behind: a rusted almirah, some clothes, a pair of shoes and a red suitcase that he used while traveling. Bardhan, I gleaned, did not even own or rent a house – after his wife Padma passed away in 1986, he moved into the CPI headquarters in New Delhi, Ajoy Bhawan. I have never known Bardhan personally. So, I am not sure if he was happy or what his idea of happiness was. But going by the tributes that flowed upon his passing, I believe that he was a much loved and respected man.
Picture Courtesy:
Bhupinder/Internet/Vineet Tiwari
My own admiration for Bardhan grew exponentially when I saw the picture. I have learnt from Life that minimalism – the art of living with bare essentials – is the key to happiness. Isn’t it a great idea to live with just a few sets clothes, and perhaps a passport if you love traveling, a mobile phone and a laptop with high speed internet connectivity? You may want to consider owning a house if you can afford one, or perhaps just rent one. After all, at the end of the day, you just want a roof over your head, meaningful work to do and some food to keep your body nourished and healthy.
I am reminded of a Zen story. A visitor arrived at the home of a Master. The home was just a small hut. It was absolutely barren. No furniture. No bed. The Master sat and slept on the ground. He ate fruits from the orchard in the neighborhood and drank water from a stream nearby. He had one robe which he washed and re-wore every day.
The visitor was intrigued. He asked: “Master, how come you have nothing here. How do you live without anything – no furniture, no utensils, no clothes?”
The Master looked at the visitor and said: “Sir, you too have come empty-handed – no furniture, no utensils, no clothes!”
The visitor was surprised with the Master’s remark and exclaimed: “But I am just a visitor!”
The Master, beamed a big, glowing, smile and replied: “So am I!”

That’s what we all are. Mere visitors on this planet. And to live here – and be happy – we need nothing more than the bare essentials! For almost 7 years now, my wife Vaani and I have been following a simple principle: anything, barring our passports and important documents, that we have not used, we have been giving away – every six months. This process helps us sustain a free flow of positive energy while keeping our home clutter-free. This energy, we realize, is the key to inner peace and happiness. Each person’s idea of peaceful living and therefore their version of the bare essentials will vary. But our experience has been that the lesser we want, the lesser we cling on to, the happier we are.

Let your loss go and embrace your new reality

When you dwell too much on a loss, you suffer. Period.
Earlier this week, someone we know shared his story of loss during the Chennai floods with us. His car was drowned in the deluge and Ford has quoted Rs.2.62 Lakh for fixing it. His insurance claim will cover about 50 % of the cost, the balance however has to be paid by him. “Initially, I could not even reconcile to the fact that my car was sunk. I wept. I felt miserable for a few days. When I got the quote from Ford, I was shattered. Then I just shrugged it all away saying, ‘If the car has to be fixed, it has to be fixed.’ I felt better. When I looked beyond my loss, when I looked around me, I saw so many people whose livelihoods had been wiped out in those seven hours. I felt my loss was still manageable. I have accepted my loss for what it is. I don’t suffer on this count anymore,” he said to me over a cup of tea.
He’s a young man. This was his first car. His sentiments are perfectly understandable. I really admire his ability to have sorted out his perspectives over his loss within himself.
To be sure, that is the only way. You have to go through the phases of grief, grief-induced-suffering, grudging acceptance, acceptance and moving on over every loss. You suffer only when you refuse to accept a situation for what it is. The more you cling on to your grief, the more you will resist what has happened and what is happening to you. Grief, interestingly, is very comforting. It’s strangely a warm feeling to be wallowing in self-pity. People will come to you, hold your hand, support you, dote over you and perhaps even pamper you when you are in grief. But how long can people be with you? They have their lives to deal with. At some point, people will peel away. But because you have become used to your grief, you continue to be in that grief-zone – so you will go on suffering.
Suffering makes Life very difficult. Suffering is what you invite into your Life by refusing to accept the Life that you have been given. Your personal choices cause all your suffering. But like my young friend, if you can look up from your loss, you will realize the futility of clinging on to your grief. That’s when you will accept your new reality. The moment you accept a situation – any situation – you will stop suffering!
It is as simple as that.
Just as death is inevitable, so is loss. Whenever you are faced with a material loss or emotional loss (a break-up, poor chemistry with someone), you must reason that everything is impermanent. Including your own Life. Consider this: A car that’s lost can be replaced with a new one! But a moment lost – grieving and suffering – will never come back. Already, your Life is shorter by the time you have taken to read this post. So, stop your suffering! Let your loss go! Embrace your new reality for this is the only one you have right now!

If you can soak in Seetha maami’s wisdom, you are home!

You come with nothing. And you will go with nothing. Then, as Osho, the Master, asks, “Why all this drama in between?”
Kapoor’s Bean in Chicago and the Karamay imitation
Photo Courtesy: The Economist
Our son studied at the University of Chicago. We have visited him on a couple of occasions when he used to live in Chicago. One of the many attractions of downtown Chicago is a sculpture in Millennium Park called “Cloud Gate”, nicknamed the Bean, by celebrated India-born British artist, Anish Kapoor. It’s a fun sculpture, though it is a very serious artistic creation too, for tourists because of its brilliant photo-taking opportunity – given its unique reflective properties. We have also been there in front of the Bean and shot our pictures as a family. So, I was rather intrigued to read in a recent issue of The Economist that a city called Karamay in western China was unveiling a sculpture very similar to Kapoor’s Bean later this month. This has apparently left Kapoor fuming.
Kapoor’s reaction surprised me. The Economist reports: ““In China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others,” he (Kapoor) said, vowing to take his grievance to the highest level and pursue those responsible in court.  Mr.Kapoor expressed hope that the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, would join him in his crusade for his copyright. Yet Mr.Emanuel took a very different view of the Karamay version of the Bean. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” he (Emanuel) said (and added), “And if you want to see original artwork…you come to Chicago.””
It’s a pity Kapoor is not getting what Emanuel has to say! I agree with Emanuel on this one. Because I come from the Osho school of thought.
This whole lifetime of ours is spent in acquiring – from a name at birth to qualifications to wealth to patents to relationships to assets – only to give up everything when leaving this planet. So, this way, living in a forever-acquiring-mode, we are completely missing the essence of Life – which is to experience everything that comes to us or happens to us in Life.
To be sure, you must never be serious about what you can never hold on to, what you have to lose any which way and what you can never save for use in another lifetime (as far as each of us experientially knows, there isn’t another lifetime; this is it!). There is no point in being so serious about what you own, what is yours and most of what you want to fight for. Even this lifetime is a gift – you didn’t ask to be born, did you? Your birth, as a (well-ordained, in most cases) human, is your biggest, priceless, gift. (And yet, imagine, so many sweat or sulk over material birthday gifts that money can buy!!!) By fighting silly battles with people and over issues that are inconsequential in the longer term of your definite-to-expire lifetime, you are squandering precious time.
Last evening, our close friend Janaki, coincidentally, shared what her mother-in-law, Seetha, has told her in the context of Life. I believe it is pertinent to quote Seetha here: “I have gone to several cremation grounds over a period of time. What I have found is that nobody has been able to take anything with them. You too look around. If you find anyone being able to take anything with them, do let me know.” Seetha’s wisdom is elementary and, therefore, unputdownable.
I think Kapoor (and his fight over the Bean) is but a metaphor. There’s a Kapoor in each of us. We are often clinging on to people, relationships, ideas, opinions, IPRs, property, money and what not. And through each act of clinging on, and with each avoidable battle we fight, we are suffering. The only way to escape all that suffering is this: soak in Seetha’s philosophy. If you can get it into you, and have it stay there, well, you are home! Enjoy your Sunday, meanwhile, this one isn’t ever gonna come back!