Less Luggage, More Comfort…

‘Less luggage, more comfort; make travel a pleasure’, ran the slogan of Indian Railways till the early 1970s, persuading the passenger to travel as lightly as possible. The catchphrase held strong relevance in the context of steam engine-powered trains resembling black monsters belching out thick clouds of smoke, and crude train journeys of that long ago period, when rail was the most viable mode of travel for longer distances, ranging from several hundred to a couple of thousand kilometers involving transits varying from overnight to a few days, when individuals and families journeyed around carrying many large and unwieldy pieces of luggage. It was as if everyone was lugging around micro versions of entire housings, greatly encumbered and severely fatigued by travel weariness at the time of reaching destinations. At destination stations, it was again a melee of hired porters dragging down huge pieces of baggage from rail compartments and heaving it up on their heads for the laboured trudge to exit gates. The post-journey travel fatigue mandated a recovery period stretching to a day or two to enable a person to regain a general state of fitness for the tasks ahead.

The scene underwent a gradual evolution in the years that followed in the form of faster and less polluting diesel and electric engines, replacing the highly polluting coal-fired steam locomotives, speeding up trains and reducing transit times, upgrades of facilities at stations, integrated kitchen cars offering on-board catering and air-conditioned coaches enhancing overall comfort levels. Travel baggage refined to compact back-packs and sleek boxes fitted with strolley wheels and extendable handles enabling easy carriage virtually eliminating dependence on porters. The traveller since morphed into a lighter being, unencumbered and self-sustaining, aided by fewer pieces of easy-to-handle luggage and faster transits from origin to destination locations.

For most people, the journey through life appears to be more or less like travels on board Indian trains as it obtained till the greater part of last century, crudely powered by polluting fuels of greed, divisiveness and hatred, slow-moving and constrained by several pieces of heavy baggage of acquisitions and unduly strong attachments to possessions. Progress in life is misconstrued as a process of addition, feverishly filling up external deficiencies and satiating greed through material possessions. Life is unknowingly wasted in adding things at all levels, physical and mental. There is accumulation of objects and data, erroneous opinions and perceptions, unhealthy desires and attitudes against the stark truth that no one in the real sense is ever deficient to begin with. Instead of appreciating the right path to divinity, we choose to complicate things by our desire for something from outside that we think is missing and deemed as required to fill up the deficiency, when the real need is to clear the dust obscuring our brilliance. The traveller cannot progress by adding artificial layers on otherwise clear mirrors of perspectives and allowing the self to be weighed down by excessive baggage. The requirement is not to add but to subtract, not to maximize but to minimize, to strip down to bare minimum. Not to go on satisfying endless wants but to keep discarding possessions that are superfluous and things that can be given up, lightening the baggage retaining just the bare essentials. The bad habit of addition makes us hoarders, making it difficult for us to move forward. Subtraction then becomes addition multiplying happiness.

Hoarding material possessions creates too much noise drowning out the melody of life, the grand music of the inner self, to listen to which one needs the silence accruing from an irreducible minimum of desires and possessions. The journey is from the illusion of our being something by way of artificial culturing, social construct and accoutrements, to the reality of nothing, to the universe of supreme intelligence and compassion. The progress from the boundary of physical defines constituting the human body to the boundless source of creation is the very basis of the spiritual process. The search for the infinite is a journey inwards, not to any outward region. We may want to traverse the length and breadth of planet earth or explore the galaxies or delve still further into micro-nano divisions of ‘god-particle’ in the hope of divining ultimate reality, only to figure out the chimerical nature of such endeavour. The only way to cover distance from the individual to the cosmic is to journey inwards. Turning inwards to reclaim one’s true nature does not mean acquisition but realization, not by riding on beliefs and dogmas but by seeking. Not by relying on those wonderful instruments of human survival called sense organs which present distorted impressions of reality perceiving something only in relation with everything else; not by cerebral exercise of acquiring new beliefs or philosophies as such knowledge merely appears to polish prevailing ignorance by making it more lustrous. True seeking propels one towards the experience of existence as borderless unity, not as an intellectual theory but as a living experience. Borderless unity can deliver the seeker to an entirely new dimension enabling access to the very source of creation.

What is my progress and evolution as a traveller treading the spiritual path? I consider myself to be a traveller and not a pilgrim as yet. While I cannot boast of any significant accomplishments, I have, over the years, taken many steps to lighten my baggage. Total abstinence from tobacco and alcohol, practicing vegetarianism and generally simplifying my lifestyle have been a few at the sensory level. Closely complementing it is a conscious effort to give more and receive less, to banish hatred, selfishness, greed, while welcoming acceptance and inclusion, and ushering in a greater degree of moderation and balance in all activities.  The journey of Christian and his family to the celestial city, as depicted by John Bunyan, speaks of sensual pleasures as dangerous diversions of the soul that must be rejected, the treacherous wilderness replete with slough and hills of difficulty serving as motif of inner struggles to be overcome, the hard path the soul must trek almost every day and thereby gaining in strength of character and endurance of spirit, where the dedicated and persevering pilgrim is also rewarded with beautiful palaces and delectable mountains surrounded by singing birds all the way to  celestial city lined with golden streets and fragrant flowers. Where is that celestial city and how to reach it? The answer lies in discarding the noxious and highly polluting coals of envy and avarice, lightening our luggage by retaining only bare necessities and thereafter connecting our engines to the electrifying power of loving kindness and infinite compassion, to surge forward with all speed towards soul consciousness. “The foundations of man are not in matter, but in spirit. But the element of spirit is eternity”, said Emerson. Soul consciousness brings in the realization that no matter what happens by way of temporal loss or gain, success or failure, acclaim or defamation, one can still remain stable and peaceful because ‘I the soul’ cannot lose anything. What happens in life is a karmic play of cause and effect but the soul is the master creator capable of endless creation and manifestation of all that is good. Hence embrace the wider space and move on; as Emerson would have it, “The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough”.

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48 thoughts on “Less Luggage, More Comfort…

  1. I love how you compared traveling and how we progress in life. That is a great analogy and connection. When we have less possessions on our backs and have only the essentials, the more we are free to soak up the moments around us as we travel – less worrying about keeping an eye out for our things. Likewise, as we move forward in life into different chapters, we have to let go of the past in order to better ourselves.

    So good to hear you are feeling much better about lessening your baggage over the years. Often, these changes we make to our lives helps us to see life in a new direction and that’s how we come to learn.

  2. AT HIS DOOR

    I reached
    I waited………
    When will I enter?
    I wondered…
    Keep the baggage out!
    I heard.
    I looked around
    ‘But I don’t have any!’
    I kept thinking…
    Hi Raj,
    Above is a quote from one of my poems. I had written it during those moments, which you have described so philosophically in this post.
    We don’t even realise how much of baggage we lug around; how much of negativity eats into our arteries and becomes a part of our blood. You are so right…we need ‘to discard the noxious and highly polluting coals’ which only smoulder us, darken us, unawares.
    Thank you for a wonderful reminder. Love that Emerson’s quote too.

  3. Less luggage, more comfort; make travel a pleasure’

    The first time I went overseas I took a fairly large suitcase. The second time I took a suitcase that was half the size. From then on I took something that is basically a back pack, But which also has rollers!

    Sometimes less is more.

  4. A marvellously eloquent and clearly structured article Raj, for which many thanks. The cupidity we become acculturated to in consumerist society is easily transferred into what Chögyam Trungpa often termed ‘Spiritual Materialism’ – the notion that the spiritual path is one of acquisitiveness: of garnering higher moral values, of gleaning insight, of increasing sagacity, of greater clarity of mind, of acquiring powers of concentration, and so on. It seems that many of us go through this protracted phase of what is, when it comes down to it, merely a form of self-improvement, whereas the task is for the self (small ‘s’) to dissolve in Non-duality, Moksha, God, call it what we will. There is a great paradox in all this, for without seeking, we never (or hardly ever) find what is intuited to be beyond ourselves, and yet in our seeking, we strengthen the erroneous notion that there exists a subject (‘me’) which will acquire, or absorb into, an object (Non-duality, Moksha, God). Do you see it like this my friend, or do you have a different take?

    • Thanks very much, dear Hariod, for your, as always, incisive observations. Spiritual Materialism is an interesting oxymoron to describe the pursuit of knowledge acquisition. If, however, there is a negative overtone in Chogyam Trungpa’s take on pursuit of knowledge per se, I am in respectful disagreement with that line of thought, for the self-improvement that comes with knowledge encompasses virtues like discretion and wisdom. The world needs a steady flow of these attributes. Soul consciousness as cited here is another term for Advaita or Non-duality, where all beings are extensions of self, where the dual entity of you and me or the dichotomy between subject and object, are non-existent. It is the converging point of Buddha’s desirelessness and infinite compassion, and Shankara’s ‘Tat twam asi’ or ‘That thou art’. There is no paradox in seeking if it wisens the seeker into shunning dogma and sectarian faith, enabling true liberation which in other words is attaining expansion of self across entire universe, realizing divinity in the essential unity of all creatures through unconditional love for all. Trust this clarifies…

      • Dear Raj, please note that Chögyam Trungpa, and myself in my comment above, were making no blanket observation about the transference of material cupidity into spiritual endeavors. All that is being suggested, is that it may be “easily transferred” – meaning unwittingly, yet not ubiquitously so – into the spiritual arena, and that, I think, may be commonly observed in contemporary Western spirituality.

        _/\_ Hariod

  5. Loved the analogy here Raj of the baggage we carry along our various journeys and the material we hang onto along with the baggage of thoughts which weigh us down through our spiritual journey.. This passage was excellent “Where is that celestial city and how to reach it? The answer lies in discarding the noxious and highly polluting coals of envy and avarice, lightening our luggage by retaining only bare necessities and thereafter connecting our engines to the electrifying power of loving kindness and infinite compassion, to surge forward with all speed towards soul consciousness. ” Beautifully said dear Raj.. Thank you my friend

  6. This such a comprehensive and critical analysis of the journey of life in such succinct words…never easy to encapsulate the philosophy of life in the analogy of train and the development that has taken place in the engines and engineering of running train. Yes, luggage conveys so much about our life, we keep accumulating the material wealth through out of life and in end we take the help of spirituality to give away everything.

    Indeed Spiritual Materialistic is an oxymoron and we live in such paradox. Indeed the art of living, is an art of giving up things in life, forgiving others, loving to appreciate others, living a life with grace and full of gratitude…there is stage and age phenomenon we all go through, where at a particular age and stage we all do the same but we look at others with attitude and not extend our gratitude, for instance we preach and teach our children not to do something which we have done freely and where we have learnt a lot by experimenting and exploring. We learn from doing mistakes…

    Always your analysis has such depth and diversity, I keep coming to dissecting and absorbing the finer facets hidden between the lines like the nuggets of wisdom. Thanks for sharing with us…
    😀

  7. Thanks Nihar. Your mention of stage and age phenomenon reminds me of the four stages of life prescribed in our scriptures, viz., brahmacharya, grihasta, vanaprasta and sanyasa. Well, that is another story…best wishes.

  8. A beautiful analogy. The journey of life is indeed similar to the journeys we make from one place to another. As said the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, the soul is eternal, it just travels from one body to another, leaving a body in the same way as we leave or get rid of torn clothes. “Vasamsi jeernaani yatha vihaya” …loved this post..extremely profound, I should say….. 🙂

    • Thanks Mani for the perceptive comment. Talking about soul, the most authoritative reference point is the Gita and the Upanishadic texts. You rightly referred to Gita. The ancient scriptures of India have profoundly influenced many learned writers and thinkers in the western world, and Emerson is one of them.

  9. Reblogged this on Everything Indie and commented:
    Some excellent words of wisdom about travelling lightly on this journey we call life.

    Quote from the article that touched me deeply: “Soul consciousness brings in the realization that no matter what happens by way of temporal loss or gain, success or failure, acclaim or defamation, one can still remain stable and peaceful because ‘I the soul’ cannot lose anything.”

    Thank you Rajagopal for this thought-provoking post on Graleview, Less Luggage, More Comfort…

  10. Pingback: Less Luggage, More Comfort… | Everything Indie

  11. Thank you Raj. this post is like a train it conveys a lot and it is good traveling with you.
    We could also make the analogy all the noise of the train drowns out ‘the melody of life’.
    The way you used that line just rang all the bells and whistles for me.
    This did not drown out the ‘grand melody of the inner self.’ Another one liner of yours.
    It was more like the train guard giving me the all aboard signal.
    I think Sue Dreamwalker has already said my feelings,
    That brings to my mind ‘the electrifying power of loving kindness and infinite compassion.’ _/\_

  12. A comprehensive post on the futility of carrying unnecessary load when an alternative exists to lay it down. Many of us are now aware of this feeling of helplessness to rest our minds and yet unable to do so. The only way out for each one of us is to find our own ways of doing sadhna or dhyan (meditation) to quieten our minds and reduce the traffic of thoughts.
    Thanks Raj for this beautiful post.

  13. A beautiful and thought provoking post, Raj. You make it all seem so clear and so simple with your train analogy. I think in reality, it is anything but. We do live in a world of addition though, I know this obsession to accumulate physical wealth is not new, but I think the effect is snowballing out of control. We only believe what we can see and touch. And so far as I can see, for the vast majority, going to church is merely paying lip service, and even worse, the church knows this but don’t care, so long as it gets bums on pews! Sorry, my expressions are nowhere near as eloquent as yours. 😊 I am referring to your thoughts on religious dogma. Real wisdom, and perhaps the divine, can only be accessed by personal experience, and seeking of knowledge, not be acquiring what we are told. What you said about this reminds me of the well of knowledge and the 5 springs, or senses, do you remember that? Anyway, I really enjoyed your post, food for thought. I’m all for simmering this life and getting rid of excess baggage. 😁

      • Thanks Ali, for sharing your thoughts on the subject. I recall our exchange on the Irish Fives. It is a good sign that numbers of church-goers are dwindling across Europe, Mediterranean and Americas, as these structures really do not promote any spiritual fervour. All the same, the grand cathedrals and temples of worship must be seen as manifestations of divinity in the artistic splendour that they display. Travelling lightly through life’s journey is as simple as keeping things simple. But it is not easy to keep it simple, and therein lies the challenge.

  14. I loved the line about inward journey overwhelming the need for man to travel across cosmos. I’m so glad your journey has already begun on a smooth note.
    I wish I could rid all negative thoughts, anger, road rage and flourish on positive vibes. But the best thing is, that its an acquired quality, not inherited. So there’s still plenty of hope for everyone to strive towards it.
    Travel light is an advice worth its ‘weight’ in gold.

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