There is a sovereign royalty in taking no thought for oneself. To have needs is to assert a weakness; to claim something proves that we lack what we claim. To desire is to be impotent; it is to recognize our limitations and confess our incapacity to overcome them.
If only from the point of view of a legitimate pride, man should be noble enough to renounce desire. How humiliating to ask something for oneself from life or from the Supreme Consciousness which animates it! How humiliating for us, how ignorant an offence against Her! For all is within our reach, only the egoistic limits of our being prevents us from enjoying the whole universe as completely as we possess our own body and its immediate surroundings.
Such too should be our attitude towards the means of action….
I am not even discussing the idea of need, for it is quite arbitrary. I knew a Dutch painter who had come here, and done Sri Aurobindo’s portrait (it seems this portrait is still existent). This Dutch painter was practicing yoga. And so, one day, he told me this: “Oh! As for me, I think I can do without anything. Truly I believe one can reduce one’s needs to a minimum. But all the same, I must have a tooth-brush.” I had not yet lived in India at that time, otherwise I would have told him: “There are millions of people who have never had a tooth-brush and whose teeth are quite clean. This is not the only way of keeping one’s teeth clean.” But at that time he was quite convinced that one could do without everything except keeping one’s mouth clean. And for him, to keep one’s mouth clean meant having a toothbrush. That gives a very exact picture of what goes on in people’s minds. They cling to something and think they need it. And surely it is a complete ignorance, for perhaps there is real necessity like that of having a clean mouth (that seems to be in any case quite necessary), but that association of the toothbrush with the necessity of having a clean mouth is quite arbitrary. For it is not so very long ago that toothbrushes were invented.
There was someone else also who told me: “Oh! I can absolutely do without anything at all” – we were speaking of a walking-tour with a minimum of baggage on the back (when you are compelled to carry it for miles on end, four or five kilometers a day, you try to reduce the weight of your bag as much as possible); so we discussed about what was indispensable and had to be put in the bag. He said his toothbrush. Another told me he needed a piece of soap (usually this spins round very simple tiny things of this kind). But here how many people there are who have never used soap, and that doesn’t prevent them from being clean! There are other ways of being clean. That’s how it is, one is fixed in all kinds of small ideas and believes there are indispensable needs. And then, if you travel a little around the world, you notice that what is a need for you is for others something they don’t even know of, something they have never seen in their life, which doesn’t exist and hasn’t the slightest importance of any kind. Hence is it not indispensable. It is just the result of an education and life in a particular environment. And these things are quite relative, and not only relative but transitory.
5: 368, 369
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