The Prophet Mohammed, who devoted his life to teaching the Arab
people, cared not for ease or riches.
night he slept on a hard mat, and when he awoke his skin bore the marks of the
knots and fibres of his bed.
said to him, “O Messenger of Allah! This bed was too hard for you, and if you
had asked me I would joyfully have prepared a softer one, so that your rest
might have been better.”
Prophet replied, “A soft bed is not for me. I have a work to do in the world.
When my body needs rest, I give it rest, but only as a horseman who ties his
horse for a little while under the shade of a tree, to spare him from the heat
of the sun, and soon sets off once more.”
have a work to do in the world,” said the Prophet. That is why his noble life
was a simple one. Believing in his mission, he wanted to instruct the whole of
Arabia. He did not care for luxuries: his heart was set on loftier thoughts.
The following story from Arabia shows that
to a healthy soul the simple life offers more happiness than any other.
Maisun was a daughter of the tribe of Kalb; she had spent
her early years in tents in the desert.
day, she was married to Caliph Muawiyah, but although
he was rich and had many slaves, she was not happy with him; and in spite of
all the luxury around her, she could find no peace of mind. Often when she was
alone, she would sing softly to herself verses she had composed in Arabic:
garments of camel's hair are fairer in my eyes than the robes of a queen.
desert tent is lovelier to dwell in than the grand
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chambers of a palace.
young colts that run about the Arab camp are lovelier than the mules weighed
down by their rich trappings.
of the watch-dog who barks at an approaching stranger sounds sweeter than the
ivory horn of the palace-guard.
Her song was heard by the Caliph and he
banished her from his court. So the poetess returned to her tribe, happy to see
no more of the rich dwelling that made her sad.
In all countries, many people are
beginning to understand that a simple life is more desirable than a life of
extravagance, vanity and show.
There are more and more men and women who
though they can afford to buy costly things for themselves, feel that their
money can be put to a better use. They take a healthy diet instead of rich
foods, and prefer to decorate their homes with furniture that is simple, strong
and in good taste, rather than with cumbersome, ornate and useless articles
meant only for display.
every age, the best and most energetic servitors of earth's progress have known
how to lead a quiet and frugal life, which keeps the body in good health and
enables man to take a more active part in working for the common good. Their
example will always put to shame all those who pile up useless treasures and
become slaves to their vast quantities of servants, clothes and furniture.
cannot make a heap without making a hole; and too often the luxury of some
represents the poverty of many others. There are too many beautiful, great and
useful things to be done in the world for those who are not wholly devoid of
intelligence to be allowed to waste their time, money and thought in futile
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Saint Francis was an apostle of the Good Life.
He did not teach in order to earn money. His life was simple and his greatest
joy was to instruct the people by his example and his preaching. And he was
content with whatever food he was given.
day, as he and his companion, Brother Masseo, were passing through a town,
Masseo went down one street while Francis took another. Masseo was tall and
handsome, whereas the saint was short and plain-looking. People gave generously
to Masseo, but Francis collected only very little.
When they met outside the gates of the town,
they sat by a large stone on the bank of a clear stream that ran nearby, and
put together the alms they had received.
Brother Masseo,” cried Saint Francis with a joyful face, “we are not worthy of
so great a feast.”
“Indeed,” replied Masseo, “but what is there
to call a feast in these few pieces of bread? We have no knife, no dishes, no
cloth, no servant.”
it not a feast,” replied the saint, “to have good bread on a good table when
one is hungry, and fresh water from a limpid spring to drink when one is
This does not mean to say that poor people
should always be resigned to their miserable fare. But in any case it shows how
the contentment that comes from a noble life and the cheerfulness native to
beautiful souls can make up for the absence of material possessions and outer
thing is certain, that a simple life has never harmed anyone, while the same cannot
be said for luxury and over-abundance. Most often, the things which are of no
use to men are also those which cause them harm.
the reign of the famous Akbar, there lived at Agra a Jain saint named Banarasi
Das. The Emperor summoned the saint to his palace and told him:
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“Ask of me what you will, and because of your
holy life, your wish shall be satisfied.”
“Parabrahman has given me more than I could wish for,”
replied the saint.
“But ask all the same,” Akbar insisted.
“Then, Sire, I would ask that you do not call
me again to your palace, for I want to devote my time to the divine work.”
“Let it be so,” said Akbar. “But I in my turn
have a favour to ask you.”
“Give me some good counsel that I may bear in
mind and act upon.”
Banarasi Das thought for a moment and said:
“See that your food is pure and clean, and
take good care, especially at night, over your meat and drink.”
will not forget your advice,” said the Emperor.
truth the advice was good, for healthy food and drink make a healthy body, fit
to be the temple of a pure mind and life.
it so happened that the very day on which the saint visited the Emperor was a
fast-day. And therefore Akbar would only have his meal several hours after midnight.
The palace cooks had prepared the dishes in the evening and had placed them in
plates of gold and silver, until the time of fasting should be over.
was still dark when Akbar had them brought before him. Despite his haste to
take some nourishment, he suddenly remembered the words of Banarasi Das: “Take
care over your meat and drink.” So he examined the plate before him carefully
and found that the food was covered with brown ants. In spite of all
precautions, these ants had crept in and spoiled the Emperor's meal.
Akbar had to send away the dishes, and this
incident strongly impressed on his mind the useful advice he had received.
you will understand that Banarasi Das had not intended
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to warn Akbar merely against brown ants, but against anything in
his diet that might not be good for the health of his body or mind.
Many diseases come from an unhealthy diet.
who knowingly sells unwholesome products is in fact making an attack on the
lives of his fellow-citizens. And unwholesome products are not only those that
are adulterated or spoilt but all those that may be in any way harmful to eat.
story does not tell us that Akbar found brown ants in his cup as well, and yet
Banarasi Das advised him to be careful about his drink. For there are indeed
cups which look bright to the eye and which seem to contain a pleasant and
cheering drink but which are nevertheless full of danger for men. Foremost
among them are those which contain alcohol.
Prophet Mohammed taught that there was sin in wine and gambling; and therefore
all who respect the words of the Koran abstain from wine and gambling to their
on the other hand there are many good people all over the world who find it
right to take spirits. We respect their opinions. But these same people cannot
assert that it is wrong not to take alcohol.
then, there are people who think that it is wrong to take fermented drinks, and
others, on the contrary, who think that it is good, yet there is no one to
maintain that it is wrong not to take any. It is also debatable whether or not
it is useful to drink, but no one would dream of claiming that it is harmful
not to do so. And everyone would agree that in any case it is cheaper.
every country there are societies for temperance or even total abstinence,
whose members undertake not to touch spirits. And in certain towns it is even
forbidden to sell them.
in other places, the use of alcohol, formerly unknown, is spreading. In India,
for example, where abstinence had reigned
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for so many centuries, alcohol has been introduced, more terrible
than any demon in the ancient legends. For the terrible Rakshasas
of which they speak could be harmful only to the body, whereas alcohol has even
the power to kill thought and destroy character. So first of all it hurts the
body. It hurts the children of parents who drink to excess. It hurts the
intelligence of man and enslaves those who should be the servitors of humanity.
every one of us should be a servant of humanity; and if by our food or our
drink we weaken our minds or bodies, we are then only bad servants unable to
perform their task.
What happens to the soldier when his weapon is
broken, to the sailor when his ship has lost its masts, to the horseman when
his horse is lamed? And what can a man do if he loses possession of his most
no longer even has the worth of a good animal, for the animal at least avoids
eating and drinking things that may harm it.
Roman poet Virgil liked to live in the countryside. He admired the powerful
bullock that draws the plough and cuts the furrow where the next harvest will
spring up. Strong is his body, powerful his muscles and hard is his labour year
in and year out.
Virgil adds: “Wine and too much feasting are unknown to him. He feeds on grass,
quenches his thirst from running rivers and crystal streams; and no care
disturbs his peaceful slumber.”
temperate to be strong.
would be offended if someone were to tell you, “Be weak.”
Moderation increases the strength of the
strong and preserves the strength of the weak.
Remember the advice of Banarasi Das:
Take good care over the dish.
Take good care over the glass.
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