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A Book of Simple Living Hardcover – 10 Feb 2015
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This is the kind of book where one expects to find a dried flower bookmarking the pages still carrying a trace of fragrance, it is like curling up on a window seat with an old friend the comfort is almost instant.
A lyrical, spare new work-part writer's workshop, part meditation. Bond is candid as ever, in speaking of his reconciliation with a certain kind of loneliness, his willed choice of a certain kind of monkish existence greatest of all is his union with the natural world around him, his lifelong love for his mountain home. Anyone as yet unacquainted with Bond's enduring grace could well start here.
It's hard to say what's more charming, Ruskin Bond's simple prose or the surroundings he describes. But it is obvious that one feeds on the other: charming surroundings lend themselves to charming prose [A Book of Simple Living] is barely 150-pages long, like a bowl of clear soup that you finish in no time, but by the time you are done with it, you feel satiated as if you've had a five-course meal.
We suggest you pick it up because this 150-pager is a real gem: Simplicity at its best. The small lessons on nature, people, companionship, contentment, happiness, fortitude, perseverance, generosity and so on that the author doles out to the reader through his jottings are real treasures. Ruskin lets you have the breath-taking Himalayan experience without leaving home.
A simple recipe for happiness...Any reader who goes through this book can only agree that Ruskin Bond has indeed discovered the recipe for a happy life. Bond's keen eye for detail is visible throughout the book.
About the Author
Ruskin Bond was born in Kasauli in 1934. He grew up in Jamnagar, Dehradun and Shimla, worked briefly in Jersey, London and Delhi, and moved to Mussoorie in the early 1960s to write full time. One of India’s best loved and most popular authors, Ruskin Bond has written over a hundred books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, including the best-selling classics Room on the Roof (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), A Flight of Pigeons, The Blue Umbrella, Time Stops at Shamli, Night Train at Deoli, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra (winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Rain in the Mountains. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.
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Following is excerpts from the book which I found insightful.
I doubt anyone in single-minded pursuit of enlightenment ever finds it. A good monk would be a mild sort of fellow, a bit of sensualist, capable of compassion for the world, but also for himself. He would know that it is all right not to climb every mountain. A good monk would know that contentment is easier to attain than happiness, and that it is enough.
If you want something very badly, don't try too hard to seek it out, don't pursue it - better still, don't want it badly. You can generally get success if you don't want victory.
Happiness is a mysterious thing, to be found somewhere between too little and too much. But it is as elusive as a butterfly, and we must never pursue it. If we stay very still, it may come and settle on our hand. But only briefly. We must savour those moments, for they will not come out way very often.
A long and never-say-die search for the perfect window. This would be one way to sum up my life.
Live close to nature and your spirit will not be easily broken, for you learn something of patience and resilience. You will not grow restless, and you will never feel lonely.
To be unconcerned about a desired good is probably the only way to possess it. To paraphrase Lao Tzu - one sure way to lose the world and everything in it, is to try grasping it.
If you owe nothing, you are rich. Money doesn't make people happy. But neither does poverty. The secret, then, is to have as much as you need - or maybe a little more, and then share what you have. "I enjoy life," said Seneca, 'because I am ready to leave it.
One of life's greatest pleasures is free. It lies in watching a plant grow - from seed to seedling, to green branch to bough, to flower to fruit.
It isn't by throwing things away - and, invariably, replacing them - that we avoid cluttering up our life. It is by holding on to things that have been good and faithful to us. A trusted familiar knows how to live with us, finding its own space, giving us ours, and saves us from the need to hoard and possess that comes from feeling incomplete.
"Always tell the truch," wrote Mark Twain, "then you don't have to remember anything." With every lie we surrender a little of our peace of mind, because we never lie only once; a single lie births ten others. The trick, I suppose, is to make the effort to be truthful, for nothing liberates us like the truth. A life of simplicity is impossible without it.
We don't have to circle the world in order to find beauty and fulfilment.
After all, most of living has to happen in the mind. To quote one anonymous sage from my trivet: "The world is only the size of each man's head."
Love is as mysterious as happiness - no telling when it may visit us; when it will look in at the door and walk on, or come in and decide to stay.
"Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way?" (Thoreau)
Wherever I went, the stars were there to keep my company. And I know that as long as I responded, in both a physical and mystical way, to the natural world - sea, sun, earth, moon and stars - I would never feel lonely upon this planet.
I learned early - without quite realizing it - that the pleasure of travel is in the journey, and not so much in reaching one's destination. Destinations rarely live up to the traveller's expectations. And the pleasure is further reduced if you're checking your watch all the time. In travel, as in life, give yourself plenty of time, so that you won't have to rush - you miss seeing the world around you when you are in a great rush, or if you seal yourself off in air-conditioned cars and trains, afraid of the heat and dust.
The adventure is not in arriving, it's in the on-the-way experience. It is not in the expected; it's in the surprise. You are not choosing what you shall see in the world, but giving the world an even chance to see you.
To know one's limitations and to do good work within them: more is achieved that way than by overreaching oneself. Do what you know best, and do it well. Act impeccable. Everything will then fall into place.
In truth, I have yet to meet a neurotic carpenter or stonemason or clay-worker or bangle-maker or master craftsman of any kind. Those who work with wood or stone of glass - those who fashion beautiful things with their hands - are usually well-balanced people. Working with the hands is in itself a therapy. Those of us who work with our minds - composers or artists or writers - must try to emulate these craftsmen's methods, paying attention to every detail and working with loving care.
If I am not for myself,
Who will be for me?
And if I am not for others,
What am I?
And if not now, when?
-- Hebrew sage Hillel
We make our own luck. It's courage, not luck, that takes us through to the end of the road.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou can'st not then be false to any man.
The universe is full of magical things
patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
-- Eden Phillpotts
"Passing By" -- poem
Enough for me that you are beautiful:
Beauty possessed diminishes.
Better a dream of love
Than love's dream broken;
Better a look exchanged
Than love's word spoken.
Enough for me that you walk past,
A firefly flashing in the dark.
Declarations of passionate love or undying friendship are fine in their own way, and perhaps necessary; but the important thing is to feel comfortable with someone, and not have to keep proving yourself in one way or another. In moments of rare intimacy two people are of one mind and one body, speaking only in thoughts, brilliantly aware of each other. I have known such moments - and who knows, I may know them again!
We can't be perfect, but it is good to aim for perfection. Which is never easy. It takes time, concentration, commitment, sacrifice. You have to give up things, certain pleasures, in order to give all your attention to the on thing that really matters - a cure for a disease, a scientific discovery, near-perfect singing voice, mastery over a musical instrument, skill at a particular game, the completion of a literary masterpiece that people will actually read, the tilling of a field, the weaving of cloth. In the effort lies the achievement; but only if the effort is true and made with all your heart.
Be like water, taught Lao-Tzu, philosopher and founder of Taoism. Soft and limpid, it finds its way through, over or under any obstacle, sometimes travelling underground for great distances before emerging into the open. It does not quarrel; it simply moves on.
Journalist: What is the secret of your energy?
'The secret,' I told him, 'is to give in to my lazy nature. Sleep when I want to, eat when I want to, read a lot of books and sit on old walls, dreaming.'
People ask me why my style is so simple. I think it is because I want my readers to feel what I feel, to see what I see, and big words and big sentences get in the way of this sharing. It is clarity and honesty that I am striving to attain; there can be no lasting connection with my readers without these. And to be clear and open is to be simple.
The heart of the matter is never complicated. Nor do we need too many words to get to it and share it. My theory of writing is that the conception should be as clear as possible, and that words should flow like a stream of clear water. You will, of course, encounter boulders, but you will learn to go over them or around them, so that your flow is unimpeded. If your stream gets too sluggish or muddy, it is better to put aside that particular piece of writing. Go to the source, go to the spring, where the water is purest, your thoughts as clear as the mountain air; where there is no struggle.
My preference, though, is for wild flowers. Most things that will not be tamed are more appealing than those that are eager to please.
We shall not spoil what we have by desiring what we have not, but remember that what we have too was the gift of fortune.
What we should worry about is not desiring what we have not, but desiring too much, and desiring only for ourselves.
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