A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the world’s foremost teacher and guide to the practice of Vedic spirituality, gives a take on the virtues and happiness to be found in a simple life based on local farming and spiritual focus.
In the material world, there is nothing fully enjoyable for the spirit soul. Just like a fish, which is an animal of water, it has nothing to enjoy on the land. If, by mistake, a fish thinks that “I shall be like an elephant and enjoy on the land,” that is not possible. Similarly, we are spirit soul, or Brahman, to use a Vedic term, and we have nothing to do with this material world. Brahman means seeking happiness. The Supreme Brahman is eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge. Since we are part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman we are also intrinsically eternal, blissful, and full of knowledge.
In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, “In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”
Krishna consciousness, our original spiritual consciousness, is so nice that if one is perfectly situated in it, then one’s condition will be like as it is described above. Achieving this stage, one will forget about any other profit. We are hankering after profit, profit after profit. “I have got so much money, I want to make it double. When it is double I want to increase it by tenfold. When it is tenfold, I’ll make it hundredfold.” Our civilization goes on increasing like that.
SIMPLICITY IS HAPPINESS
In former times people were satisfied if they could construct one brick house. Now they are not satisfied with a brick house. They want to make it a hundred—or two hundred, or a five-hundred-story house. And when they construct a five-hundred-story house, they’ll think of a thousand-story house. This is the nature of selfishness, of greed. People hanker after more profit, more profit, and more profit. But if one is situated in Krishna consciousness, then one is satisfied.
Fortunately for us, some of our students have taken very large tracts of land in various places in the world to develop a society based on Vedic knowledge. It is a simple life, eating simple things, grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and they are saving their time for advancing in spiritual life and self-realization. Modern civilization is implicated in ugra-karma, or intense, painful activities – everything is so complicated. The government is complicated, the society is complicated, the economics rules are complicated, foreign exchange is complicated – everything has become so complicated.
Because we have given up our original spiritual consciousness we have become entangled in the different varieties of materialistic activities. Now we need to simplify it. The Krishna consciousness movement’s aim is to simplify, to save our valuable life, to save the valuable time. This human form of life is very valuable. The Bhagavad-gita says that only after many, many births we have got this important life, the human form of life. Now we have to save our time to utilize it for spiritual development. So far as we have got this material body we want to maintain it. For that Krishna has given us every chance. Anywhere you can get some land and a cow. You can grow grains and vegetables, and have fresh cow’s milk. That is sufficient for our maintenance.
People need to give protection to animals, have sufficient milk and produce butter, yogurt, grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This is possible for everyone. Thus we find in the Bhagavad-gita that Krishna advises protection of cows. This is essential because if cows are cared for properly they will surely supply sufficient milk. We have practical experience that in the various farms in our society we are giving proper protection to the cows and receiving more than enough milk. In other farms the cows do not deliver as much milk as in our farms. Our cows know very well that we are not going to kill them, they are happy, and they give ample milk. Therefore this instruction given by Krishna—cow protection—is extremely meaningful. The whole world can learn from Krishna how to live happily without scarcity simply by producing food grains and keeping cows. The meat-eaters may protest. In answer to them we may say that killing animals for food is immoral and destructive to the spiritual advancement of human society.
So let us try to make an attempt to organize a “simple living, high thinking” scheme based on the Vedic knowledge. I am requesting all my students to develop this idea and show a good example to this Western part of the world, where people are always engaged in ugra-karma, or intense and harmful acts. Things are becoming very implicated and very complicated. We really need to simplify our lives by the guidance of proper knowledge, spiritual knowledge. Human life is meant for simple living and high thinking; not other way around.