This is the text of the Public Speech delivered in the GBM on ‘Minimalism’.
So before I begin the speech, I want all of you to bring Gandhiji’s figure in front of your eyes. What do you see? What can you infer when I say that Gandhiji was an ultimate minimalist. Before that, who is a minimalist? Well to simply put it, Minimalist is a person who practises Minimalism. And what’s MINIMALISM? Well that precisely forms the subject of my speech today.
The highly talked about, followed and debated trend which started in foreign countries and has now come to India, or it seems so, is MINIMALISM. Technically speaking, ‘Minimalism is a tool to get rid of life’s excess in favour of all that is really important so that one gets fulfilment, happiness and freedom’. Minimalism is a lifestyle, a methodology of living life which says own less and get rid of all that you don’t need. Decreasing ones needs.
So before we go deep into the topic, let’s see WHY MINIMALISM?
Well I remember back in my 10th standard, we had a lesson in our History Textbook about the Industrial Revolution and the concluding line of that lesson was- With the advent of Industrial Revolution man became Materialist.
With the Industrial revolution, the number of Industries increased, goods increased, labour increased, and technology progressed; more consumer goods were made available. Because of this markets were set up. Jobs increased and hence the purchasing power of man also increased. Because many goods were available in the market and man had the ability to purchase them, he did so. It became a belief that, the more the consumer goods, the more the happiness, which is more of a misconception. Hence now has come the point where he felt a need to reflect that does he really needs all of it or is he falling prey to consumerism. Our surroundings have become market driven. Consider this- About a century ago, what did we need to brush our teeth- A twig of a Neem tree was enough. And what do we need now; we need a brush, a toothpaste, mouthwash, freshener, tongue cleaner, etc. And all these things come in various brands. We are so surrounded by stuff. And now man realised that Stuff, of all the things, does not give happiness. And hence he is going back to the roots. To the lifestyle of minimal needs, minimum possessions, maximum freedom. Towards Minimalism.
Why was there a need to minimise the NEEDS?
Some minimalist said, “I had everything I ever wanted… But it took everything I ever wanted to realise that I wasn’t happy.” So owning things does not guarantee happiness. Why might the possessions not give happiness? A saying, ‘The more you own the stuff, the more the stuff starts owns you.’ Everything in the world is impermanent. When you own something, you are attached to it. You remain engulfed in the web of your possessions and become reluctant to try new ventures. Hence attachment leads to suffering which is contradictory to the aim of Life- pursuit of happiness.
WHAT GIVES HAPPINESS?
If possessions don’t give happiness, what is it? Well, experiences give happiness. Doing things give happiness. Relationships give happiness. Possessions are a superficial, impermanent part of identity. Our experiences become a part of our real identity. So when you focus less on stuff, get rid of them you are left with ample amount of time, energy which can be invested in gaining more experiences, enriching relations. To focus on what’s really essential. And minimalism promises exactly this.
Indian philosophy has been a minimalist philosophy from its roots. Our ancestors had a satisfied living with minimum things they had. With the advent of technology, products have increased. Yes they are imperative to human development, but a mindful use of all the available things is necessary.
Anyone can practise Minimalism by following the simple, basic principles:
1) Own Less, Think before you purchase- It includes being mindful when you buy things. The maximalist market constantly needs intake, and hence it lures people by various means. Not falling prey to it, whenever you go out for purchasing something ask yourself a question, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is yes, you need to buy it. But if it’s a No or a Yes that comes after a long time, you don’t need that. Don’t buy it. And this strategy really helps because you have to care about only things that you need. And you don’t have to think about the things you don’t use and their maintenance.
2) De-clutter- At your homes you have lots of stuff piled up either as past memories or because we think they are going to be useful in some hypothetical future. Minimalism advices: Get rid of the extremely unessential things. And getting rid of doesn’t mean throwing things away. You can donate, recycle, reuse or give the things to those who need. Yes, it will be painful in the beginning, but at no point will you ever miss anything once it is gone.
3) Have fewer needs: Jainism, Buddhism, Zen culture all preach the same thing. Have less demands and needs. Lesser the needs, lesser the attachment, cravings and more content you are. Saints leave all earthly bondages to attain a high state of Godliness. Minimalism does the same. When you are more content, you gain a higher state. The feelings like envy, jealousy won’t haunt you. And getting rid of these feelings gives happiness. The basic needs of Stone Age man included only food, and then with advancements came food, clothing and shelter. And now with rigorous advancements in all fields including technology, needs have increased. We have to consider our needs properly and distinguish between needs and luxuries wisely. Having compassion for coming generations and using the resources wisely also includes in this.
HOW DOES MINIMALISM HELP?
Minimalism is liberating. It saves time, energy and most importantly money which are an intense motivator and stress reducer. It makes you content paving way to happiness.
We Engineers are minimalists. Why the Society does need us? Because we provide optimisation with minimal resources, economy. CSE-IT people, what do you do when you go for writing codes? You check for efficiency and complexity so that it works in minimum possible iterations and occupies minimum memory and is a perfect solution. The Technology and the Internet are instrumental in the transition to becoming minimalist. Hostel lives are a perfect example of minimalist lifestyle. The concept of Minimalism can be applied to various things in our life. The less, the merrier.
When I talk about minimalism, I can’t be a zealot and ask you to throw all your possessions and go live on Himalaya or something. I just say, adopt your version of minimalism. You don’t have to be a hardcore minimalist to begin with. Start from small things for small beginnings make great endings.
We started with the speech by mentioning Gandhiji; his whole life was an example of ‘Simple Living, High Thinking’. Minimalism promises exactly this. Minimalism is not a trend of the rich. If you like it, live it. Believe me; Minimalism is not going out of fashion anytime soon. And there are examples of lot of happy minimalists around. Just look out for it and Go Minimal!