Simple living, high thinking
Contrary to its colloquial understanding as naivety, the word simplicity has a much deeper meaning. A search for the meaning of simplicity reveals synonyms like humility, modesty, meekness, truthfulness, unpretentiousness, honesty, frankness and transparency. It also refers to a state of innocence and purity. Simplicity after all is really not that simple.
Simplicity is natural to one who is deeply immersed in spiritual practices. Srila Prabhupada displayed these qualities of simplicity in his personal character, in the message he taught, and the lifestyle he led. Given the hedonistic pursuits of our material living that has complicated our existence with its concordant anxiety, stress and conflict, Srila Prabhupada had the spiritual insight to advocate a return to an uncomplicated lifestyle in harmony with the earth and the real need of the soul. He critiqued the rampant materialistic civilisation as the cause of our entanglement and resultant suffering. The process he gave is simple − try to understand who you really are, understand that the material existence is temporary, that we have a higher goal, and that your actions result in determining your destination. Furthermore, the spirit soul will only be peaceful and joyful when reunited with the source of its joy and love – the Supreme Lord. To achieve this, he presented the timeless Vedic wisdom that advocates the chanting of the Lord’s Holy names as the simple process for liberation in this age – nothing complicated.
Srila Prabhupada’s personal lifestyle was simple. He was a humble mendicant who always considered himself a ‘servant’ of others. His habits were clean and pure and he followed the regulative principles of scripture – no gambling, no intoxicants, no meat eating, no illicit sex. His heart was not contaminated by greed, selfishness or sexual desire. He was a renunciant, a sannyasi, dressed in saffron, effulgent and pleasing in appearance to the observer. He simply spoke the message of God. He rose early to conduct his personal spiritual practices of chanting, and participated in the temple programmes wherever he was, setting an example to his followers.
His humility, modesty, meekness, truthfulness, unpretentiousness, honesty, frankness and transparency were inspiring qualities to his followers and harkened to a simpler lifestyle underpinned by a deep philosophy. ‘Simple living, high thinking’ became a motto of ISKCON. He promoted self-sufficient farm communities in which people would live and pursue their occupations according to their natural propensities while living God-centred lives. Srila Prabhupada was an expert in engaging people according to their natural propensities in serving Krishna. Thus he established various institutes staffed by his disciple artists, cooks, architects, authors and editors, scientists, publishers, book distributors, teachers, temple presidents and priests. At no stage did he take any credit for his achievements or promote personal prestige, rather he acknowledged everything as the mercy of God and the efforts of his ‘sons and daughters’, his disciples, whom he said were sent to help him in his mission. Although ISKCON became greatly successful in building wonderful temples and attracting thousands of followers, Srila Prabhupada always remained detached and unaffected by these and gave credit to others. He could have amassed great wealth, but he was careful to use everything only in the service of Lord Krishna. He kept his own life simple and recommended the same for his disciples.
“We simply give people the chance to hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead… and the actual result is that all over the world people are responding to this process and becoming pure devotees of Lord Krishna.”
Interested to learn more about Srila Prabhupada and Krishna Consciousness? You can explore our online resources, ask a question or visit a temple.
What is my real identity? Who is Krishna? What is bhakti yoga?
Read the books of Srila Prabhupada, one of the most prolific authors of commentaries on and translations of Vedic texts.