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Unlike other Prime Ministers…

October 21, 2011

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” — Henry David Thoreau

For last two years, I have been doing experiments with my life, questioning my beliefs, my thoughts. I have questioned my needs and have successfully found many reasons to lead a simple unassuming life. However there are days, when I have to struggle to keep my sanity alive, when I begin to think of all the luxuries that my “education” and “degree” could buy; when I start to question my new found principles.

July 19, 2011 was one such day. It was 10PM and I was strolling on the platform in old Delhi railway station, waiting for the train to Chakki Bank. I was going to Dharamsala for a few months. The monsoons had not yet come to Delhi and it was hot and humid. The station was dirty and crowded and the train was late. I as usual had booked a sleeper class ticket. The heat and the headache together were making me miserable and fret over my decision.

I was walking on the platform when I saw an old Buddhist monk sitting on a chair, waiting for the train. He was dressed in the traditional saffron robes. I had spent the last 3-4 months near monasteries with many monks and so went closer to him to see if I knew him. And yes I did know him. He was Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche, the then 71 year old Prime Minister of Tibet. When in Deer Park, I had the privilege to listen to his talk on ‘Hind Swaraj’. I had heard a lot about him, how he is regarded as one of the leading Tibetan scholars of Buddhism, an authority on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, and how humble he was in each of his actions.

I remember it very clearly. He was sitting on one of the seats and quietly counting the beads in his hands. There were two young men, dressed in suits standing a little away from him with his luggage. I went and sat down in front of him with folded hands. I told him about myself and how I had first met him in Deer Park. I told him about my journey and the work I would be doing with one of the Tibetan school. We talked for sometime and he shared his thoughts on education. Finally he smiled, asked me to keep in touch and went back to his meditation. I thanked him and left. People were looking at us, wondering at who this man was and why was I sitting down in front of him. Of course no one knew that he was the Prime Minister of a country and more over one of the highest authority on Buddhist teachings after Dalai Lama.

To go from Delhi to Dharamsala, you either take a train to Chakki bank (8-10 hours) and then go to Dharamsala by road (4 hours) OR take a flight from Delhi to Dharamsala (1.5 hours). Someone later told me that he hardly takes flights.

The train came and he walked into 3rd AC compartment. I had changed. The incident made me feel stupid and helped wash off my doubts hopefully for ever.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2011 16:47

    Nice post Consti do write more about the work you would be doing at the Tibetian school.

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    • October 21, 2011 17:15

      Thanks yaar.. I am already done with my work thr.. I was volunteering with the school for 2 months teaching science there and doing some activities.. Have come down to south for a few months now..

      Like

  2. October 21, 2011 17:26

    Beautiful, I like the Thoureau quote expecially. I wonder if there is a way one can realise this without first simplifying his/her life :). That formula can be the starting point of realization for those who dont dare to leave the other luxurious life.

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    • October 21, 2011 17:37

      🙂 I do not think simplifying life has to do anything with (not) living a luxurious life.. I think it is more about being with yourself and understanding your choices

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  3. October 21, 2011 18:20

    Did you meet the new younger prime minister of Tibet educated from Harvard?

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  4. October 22, 2011 01:53

    Starting thought and ending note – both are so beautiful. Have you heard of the book The Secret – The Power? Believing that resources are limited, we tend to think that enjoying a luxurious lifestyle is a sin. May be we can enjoy life with an abundance of resources, while still creating more resources and contributing to the happiness of many. It all boils down to what keeps us motivated and bursting with joy so that we can keep passing it on. If we are not comfortable and enjoying fully, sooner or later we will get tired. Also, the minimum resources needed to be happy varies with individual. The idea that the universe has everything in abundance might be true. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf8zqdu3TtA

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    • October 24, 2011 07:57

      It comes down to the question – “What do you consider as resources?” Are all the animals, plants our resources, here at our disposal? Or are we here just to be with them? We do not know the answers. I think it is what do we want to believe – I want to be with them live with them with minimal harm to them. That for me would be a enriching (luxurious) life. Enjoying a luxurious life is not a sin only if you are removing hundreds of species from the face of earth every single year in order to live that kind of life. Of course I do believe in human potential and that Universe has more than enough for us. But then do we continue our mindless rampage is the question Or leave the rest for others (whoever they may be)
      Read this – What a Red Indian had to say? and you will get what I am trying to say.

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      • October 24, 2011 22:55

        Very nice article. Had read it on your blog sometime. Agree with you. Minimal harm is the key. With as less needs we are able to survive, the lesser the harm. We usually focus more on consumption and less on creation and regeneration. Also the degree of consumption keeps increasing every year. To what extent we are able to simplify and reduce our needs depends on our will. A saint can go devoid of everything including clothes. If not to that extent, to whatever extent possible, reducing needs should benefit everyone. The important thing is to be happy about it. The way Warren Buffet is.

        When I stick to comparatively lesser needs, it gives a very satisfying feeling and clarity of thought. On the other hand, if I think of photography as fun, buying a nice camera feels good. That again is a lot of resource consumption. Consuming resources is not the evil, but harming the planet is. And all of our production processes do that in some way or the other. Expecting humans to stagnate consumption goes against their nature, given their active left brain. Our best shot is to ensure that no harm is done during our “development activities”, and replenish the damages we inflict.

        A red Indian tribe or a villager living in harmony with nature lives way better and more happily than the most affluent Americans. Our way of living has found more sources of energy and consumes even more. If we don’t harm the planet during the various processes, and correct the consumption-regeneration ratio, we are also not bad.

        I don’t have an answer to the question on a personal level. Just sitting in a comfort zone right now.

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  5. October 26, 2011 08:37

    @ Apoorva – Agree to what you have said here… I do not know if any one has an answer to the questions.. Keep struggling 🙂

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  6. November 5, 2011 16:27

    Thank you so much for recommending Old Path White Clouds. I am not even half-way through the book and already feel blessed to have got my hands on it.

    Like

  7. Kamal permalink
    August 12, 2012 00:54

    The CTO of the only company I used to work for, came in cheap AXN cycle, wore nothing except simple t-shirts and trousers, used some basic 1100 kind of mobile. Made a lasting impression on me..

    Like

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