As we desire to be happy and free from wants, we should wish the same for others also. For this purpose we must focus our thoughts on the Divine Mother’s feet at least for a few moments every day. We are all Her children and we should develop the consciousness that the world is one family, and we are all members of that human family. Then alone can there be happiness in this world.
From this feeling of human kinship flows the obligation that each one should render what little help he can to the less fortunate in society. In this matter-of-fact world, one will have the inclination to help another only when one is oneself free from all wants and worries. But there are a few people who have developed the strength of mind to bear their own difficulties, to go to the succour of those in need. The impact of Western civilization has brought about several changes in our society. The love for one’s neighbor has given place to individualism. We are trained to look upon the state to provide institutional care to the sick and the aged, the widow and the orphan. Some families have begun to depend on hotels for their food requirements. We have also multiplied our wants; and most of us have become indebted. If we are to recapture the concord and contentment of a past generation, we must change our entire outlook and learn to depend less and less on the state.
If we examine the food habits of olden days, we will find that irrespective of caste or wealth, all people were satisfied with millets and other food-grains available in their locality. No indignity was attached to taking even ragi gruel. Raw rice was used only for special occasions and for making offerings to God. Now, everyone wants only raw rice. The result is rice shortage with the possibility of the reintroduction of ration for this commodity. In olden days, with the exception of kings and merchants, all people lived in huts, and in this respect, and in this respect there was no difference between a Brahmin and a Harijan. Cloth requirements were also limited. One used only cloth sufficient to cover nakedness and to obtain protection from cold. Men were satisfied with a cloth around the waist and a cloth to cover the body. Even well-to-do women went in only for cotton sarees worn by an ordinary peasant. This ideal was kept up by Gandhiji.
The disappearance of these simple habits, besides loading the family budget, has also widened the gulf between sections of society, resulting in ill-feeling and bitterness. Because the people have changed their outlook and also multiplied their wants, the Government is also obliged to borrow and plan for increasing the standard of living. India has the proud privilege of being the country in the world with the lowest cost of living. But things are changing. Before it is too late, we should pause and take stock of the situation. To begin with, we must put a stop to coffee and other drinks which are heavily draining the family purse. Our women should cease to wear silk sarees. By imitating the West in our clothing and other habits, we consume more cloth and also incur additional expenditure by way of tailoring, laundrying, hair-cutting, and toilet. A few started these wrong habits which have gradually spread among the rest of society. Let a few make a beginning in the right direction by giving up coffee and other costly habits, and in course of time others will follow them. In this respect the responsibility of rich people is great. They can set an example in plain living and utilize what they are able to save thereby to help the needy.
April 3, 1958.