Q: How can I want the inconceivable?
M: What else is there worth wanting? Granted, the real cannot be wanted, as a thing is wanted. But you can see the unreal as unreal and discard it. It is the discarding the false that opens the way to the true. – I Am That – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
When I first met, a particularly bookish friend, he told me that he was getting rid of most of his books and have always lived on as little as possible. That inspired me to begin questioning my own careless amassing of objects, even items that were given to me as gifts. I was soon told about the Hojoki, by the same friend. The Hojoki is a poignant Buddhist text with powerful apocalyptic imagery describing the temporal world. Some would use the rather tired and cliched term “impermanence”, which has been so frequently attached to so many so called spiritual texts but I’ve rarely come across anyone who takes it seriously enough.
I was no better either, as I was often in a fitful state acquiring books rapidly, not to mention my penchant for nice clothes. Before I knew it, I had acquired a massive library, enormous enough that, should It topple over, it would have been fatal and yet most of the books remain unread. A pointless maiming.
It was in moving out of the UK and again out of Malaysia that I felt the lightness of not only discarding my belongings but many of the preconceived ideas and identities that “I” clutched on to. Leaving London and Malaysia also meant leaving behind a cultural and psychological narrative that I clung on too with tooth and nail. I do, however, still reminisce about the good old days.
Upon arriving in Virginia Beach, my friend wrote to me mentioning Fumio Sasaki’s Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living. A book on getting rid of possessions and modern Japanese minimalism. A very well written book with excellent advice and a lighthearted yet thorough treatment of psychological traits that allow for possessing objects. I did, however, find Sasaki’s repetitive admiration of Steve Jobs very jarring. Steve Jobs is certainly not the hero of minimalism that Sasaki believes. Sasaki also does not fully address data hoarding , in fact he encourages digitizing all information in view of storing them. Aside from that it is a brilliant book. I had come across Nagisa Tatsumi’s The Art of Discarding from Sasaki and read it straight after and it too is a brilliant book, with lots more examples and easy to follow advice. I highly recommend both books for anyone considering living on no more than just the essentials. This includes getting rid of gadgets and reducing if not getting rid of the internet and smartphone. There are several books that deal with doing away with gadgetry but I believe the most convincing are Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and Eric Brende’s Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology. I cannot recommend these two titles enough. They have given me a whole new world view on technology and proved to be great stepping stones that lead my private research into the effects of technology on people and the enviroment.
Aside from books on discarding objects, I have been reading my Nisargadatta Maharaj collection some of which for the first time and some I have been coming back to again and again over the past seven years. I have only two small rows of books on my shelves now and of which the majority are recorded dialogues of the three Maharaj’s (Nisargadatta, Ranjit and Siddharameshwar) and Ramana Maharshi. The rest being a few books on Pure Land and Zen Buddhism, six Loeb Classics translations of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus and a few translations of the Yijing.
Reading Maharaj and books on minimalism in tandem felt appropriate as I am no longer only discarding objects but also examining ideas such as the existance of objects, birth, my body, likes and dislikes, hopes and regrets and basically every-“thing“ in the field of consciousness in view of discarding them all.
Virginia Beach, US.