“A Krishna conscious person does not make much endeavor even to maintain his body. He is satisfied with gains which are obtained of their own accord. He neither begs nor borrows, but he labors honestly as far as is in his power, and is satisfied with whatever is obtained by his own honest labor. He is therefore independent in his livelihood.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.22 Purport)
If someone tells you that they feel like they gain so much more by having less, it seems like a clever play on words. To gain is to accumulate, is it not? To lose things means to decrease that which you have accumulated. Hence it is a lessening of something. How, then, are you gaining anything? In the life of the yogi, pleasure is increased the more unwanted things are removed. In life outside of yoga, more and more things are accumulated, with the pleasure steadily decreasing.
Hoarding is so commonplace in industrialized nations that they have reality television shows dedicated to the most egregious hoarders. It’s very easy to gather things when they are readily available. One day you buy a pasta making machine. The next you buy a picture frame. Perhaps the day after you buy a new jacket and some pants. You keep adding on things like this and pretty soon you run out of room in your home. You have to find a storage area in the place of residence to dump your stuff. This area also comes in handy to store the items you purchase in bulk from the popular discount club. You can buy six months’ worth of toilet paper at one time, but you need somewhere to store it.
As more and more stuff goes into storage, you start to forget that you have it. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you go out and buy a new version. When the older version pops up unexpectedly later on, you now have double the amount that you need. Back to storage the items go. In this way so much gathers that you don’t know what to do with it. It taxes your brain just thinking about how to go about removing all the stuff. You have to sift through everything first; you don’t want to carelessly get rid of something valuable.
Lost in all the “mess” is the sobering reality that so much stuff was accumulated because each new item failed to bring happiness. In our youth we may beg our parents to buy us a certain video game, telling them that this will be the last game that we will ever want. Of course that won’t be the case. If the game were that good, perhaps we wouldn’t need anything else, but since playing games is not related to our true identity, the purchase of a single game cannot do anything to bring lasting happiness.
The life of the yogi is tied to the constitutional position of the individual. Spirit is the essence of life. If you have the essence of something, everything else really isn’t necessary. If you have a working television, whether the screen is small or large isn’t that important. If you have milk, you can make cheese and yogurt if you want, but the milk is really what’s important. Every object has its essential functional unit, and if you have it then you can start to think about enjoyment.
Yoga is the discipline that addresses the needs of the essence of identity. In yoga there is no need for so many external objects. This is because the body itself is not required for the soul’s existence. Think about it for a second. Whether you have long hair or short hair, your ability to live isn’t affected. The fact that you’re wearing pajamas or a three-piece suit has no bearing on your identity. You are alive and kicking in either case. Thus the clothes do not make you. You can live without them.
You can also live without video games, furniture, an expensive car, a lavish home, a large bank balance, and even relationships with other people. Not that you have to necessarily go without these things, but they are not vital to your existence. In yoga, the vital force is targeted, and since this is the case not much is required for survival, either physical or mental.
The yogi naturally loses interest in external objects. The more the yogi gives up, the happier they become. This is true because of the increased ability to practice yoga, and not necessarily the renunciation itself. I can live in an empty room and still be a miserable person. In fact, we fear being bored so much that we scramble to find things to do on long airplane flights. Who wants to sit around and do nothing all the time?
The yogi can sit in an empty room and be just fine. This is because they constantly think about God. They can also be in a room full of people and do the same. Either condition is just fine. The key is that they are no longer attached to those objects which are not conducive to yoga. Such objects are known as maya, which is a Sanskrit word that means an energy. It also means that which is not, a kind of illusion. The object in the window of the store seems to whisper to us, “Buy me and you’ll be happy.” The internal suggestion is an illusion, because if such an object could make us happy, we would have no need to buy similar objects afterwards.
The most advanced yogis are completely renounced. They usually don’t even have families. This allows them to travel freely and practice their yoga without hindrance. They teach others how to practice yoga as well. In this state, the ties are severed clean, and wherever they rest their head is home. Narada Muni is a famous example of a renounced yogi who has so much while externally having so little. He only carries around his vina, which is a stringed instrument. With it he plays music that accompanies his chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
We may think that such a life is boring, but imagine if you could play your favorite game all the time. Picture being in your ideal situation. This is what the yogi has through their mind alone. It is the mind which ultimately determines happiness. We are pleased when the sun is out and dismayed when the clouds pour down rain for extended hours, but ultimately it is the influence the conditions have on the mind which determines mood. If you could convince yourself that the sun will come out again and that you will be happy, then even the depressing rain won’t get you down.
Narada Muni remains happy because he gets to glorify God through chanting His names and talking about Him with others. You can’t glorify any other person in such a way. If you love your wife that much, she will get sick of you smothering her with praise all the time. She complains that you don’t buy her flowers, but if you got her flowers every day, she would either get spoiled or stop appreciating them. She would feel uncomfortable in indebtedness.
God cannot be smothered in love. Real yoga cannot be checked by any material condition. As the yogi’s pleasure increases with the less they have, we see that yoga is superior to material action, or karma. If yoga is superior based on the pleasure index alone, it is most certainly worth giving a try. Those who follow Narada Muni today always chant the holy names of the Lord, who is the Supreme Spirit. He is not a sectarian figure worshiped through faith alone. He is scientifically described in texts like the Bhagavad-gita, which explains yoga as well. As yoga is a spiritual activity, it is open to any spiritual entity, i.e. any living being.
To keep acquiring things my mind is trained,
But no pleasure found, though everything gained.
Having less can actually mean more,
No worries over where objects to store.
Impediments from divine path cleared,
Towards thoughts of God mind steered.
Like Narada Muni chant holy names alone,
And in any condition happiness own.