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Date Posted: 14:14
Author: Eponymous - 30 Jul 2001
Subject: Simplicity, Luxury and Attachment
In reply to: ketch - 29 Jul 2001 's message, "Re: What Vow of Poverty?" on 14:13

The apposite definition of ‘simplicity’ is ‘absence of luxury’.* Trivially, monks who vow to live in the absence of luxury must actually live in the absence of luxury to fulfill that vow.** Mata lives in luxury.*** Therefore she has not fulfilled her vow.

As to the psychological plausibility of the doctrine of nonattachment, I’m not sure why you mention psychologists; I didn’t. Similarly, I’m not sure why you try to counter the arguments with what Yogananda taught; the whole point in that paragraph is that what Yogananda taught on this matter is psychologically unrealistic.

Let me restate the arguments at greater length. A person who goes out and buys an expensive luxury car for his own use and enjoyment is manifesting a desire for a luxury car he does not yet own. It is simply nonsensical to say, “I’m going to go out and purchase for my own use and enjoyment an expensive luxury car for which I have absolutely no desire.”

Similarly, taking ameliorating measures in the case of loss is a clear manifestation of attachment to things; an “attachment” is just a feeling that binds or attracts you to something. What “nonattachment” to any physical possession would entail is that our hypothetical car owner would not at all lament the theft of his car, wouldn’t report the theft to the police (except to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice – certainly not to recover his car), wouldn’t seek insurance compensation, etc.**** The same goes for the roof over his head or the shirt on his back, or any other possession that he formerly enjoyed. “Those things were there, now they’re gone – it makes no difference to me. I am not attached to those things.”

It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that this psychological model is absurdly improbable (not to mention dysfunctional). But it is, as far as I can see, the model entailed by the doctrine.

* Of course this isn’t the only definition. Other definitions of ‘simplicity’ refer to the quality of being “simple or uncombined”; or to candor (i.e., the absence of affectation or pretense); or to a “lack of sophistication or subtlety”; or to foolishness; or to “clarity of expression.” But while you will find many references to the vow of simplicity as being simply a vow of poverty (or the renunciation of luxury), you will find none that refer to it as a vow to be uncombined, or to be unsophisticated, or to be ham handed, or to be foolish, or to be clear. (And even if you did find such a reference, I’m not sure how it would help.)

** Monks that take similar vows certainly must live similarly as to the content of those vows. As far as I know, the Catholic Church does not require a vow of simplicity, so the comparison to the Pope and Archbishops is apparently inapposite. (Of course, if the Church does require the vow, then the pope and the archbishops are probably breaking it.)

*** Of course it may be arguable in some cases whether or not something is a “luxury,” but it is hard to see what sort of argument could be made that an $800,000 estate isn’t a luxury to a monk whose sisters and brothers (all of whom took the same vow of simplicity) live in the equivalent of a bachelor pad.

There is also the simple fact that Daya Mata, while vowing poverty (=simplicity=absence of luxury), apparently enjoys a dwelling space many times greater than the global average. Assume that the value of the property she inhabits is only $700,000. $700,000 in the San Gabriel Valley will get you well over 3,000 square feet. Divide by two (DM lives with her sister) and you get an average dwelling space of 1,500 square feet per occupant. The global AVERAGE per capita dwelling space is around 40 square feet. DM’s space is therefore something like 40 times greater than the AVERAGE. One therefore need not suggest that DM ought to live in squalor to point out that she clearly lives in relative luxury.

**** Moreover, he wouldn’t even have installed a car alarm, since taking preventive measures is equally a manifestation of attachment.

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