Children, our society’s outlook and values are changing radically. Until two generations ago, simple living and self-sacrifice were our highest ideals. However, today most of us consider luxury as the most important thing. Wastefulness and extravagance have become part of our lifestyle.
There are people who spend thousands—tens of thousands—of rupees on extra comfort and extravagance. At the same time, their neighbours are starving. A thousand rupees can be the difference between a girl being able to get married or becoming a spinster. At the same time, other families reject their daughters-in-law and send her back to her parents because she did not bring enough dowry. Others spend lakhs and lakhs to celebrate their daughter’s wedding. There are so many incidences of such things.
These days, Indians tend to be very extravagant when it comes to weddings. In truth, weddings can be conducted simply, in front of a registrar. Even so, a wedding represents unity and auspiciousness. In olden days, the concept behind wedding celebrations was to make neighbours and friends happy, so that they would lavish blessings upon the newlyweds and, thereby, fill the new couple’s life with the nectar of peace and happiness. All that is changing with time.
We should not give more importance to external extravagance. With a little compassion in our hearts, we can reduce the amount of money we spend on our own child’s wedding and give what we save to help poor girls get married.
Today, Indian society—especially Kerala society—is becoming obsessed with gold. Our society has taught us that the Malayalam word penn not only means “woman” but also means “gold”. These days some women go around with more gold than an elephant wearing nettipattam (golden headdress put on elephants during festival ceremonies). We generally believe that we are not complete without gold draped around our wrists and neck. It has become an external expression of one’s pride. Amma would never say that purchasing gold is wrong. When gold is bought after thinking carefully, it can become a good investment. But being obsessed with gold is dangerous—especially when parents borrow money or sell or pawn property to cover wedding expense. Actually, this obsession with gold is not created by women, but by society.
We must maintain balance and simplicity in all our actions. Everything has its place. At the same time, by exceeding certain limits anything can become adharma. Exploiting the earth’s natural resources without regard for others is a sin. When bathing or washing dishes, we should be careful not to use more water than we really need. We should turn off lights and ceiling fans when we leave a room. We should never waste food. We must be careful with these things—so many people throughout the world are starving.
Our lives will become blessed if we shift our focus from fulfilling our own desires to helping others. If we are ready to end our bad habits and cut down on extravagance, we can use the money we save to help the suffering—people who cannot even afford one decent meal a day. Then, the light of goodness will not only illumine their lives, but also our own.
The writer is a world-renowned spiritual leader