While apppearing for IAS etc exam in late 60s ( now called, Civil Services Exam ) conducted by UPSC , one of the Essay topics given was , ‘ In praise of idleness ‘ . Since the topic was rather unconventional, I opted for it. While I do not remember now what I wrote in the matter , it helped me sail through in the Examination.
All creative activities happen in silence and solitude with thoughts absorbed in the subject under consideration. A scientist remains cocooned in his laboratory to experiment . Albert Einstein remained immersed with his paper and pencil to create revolutionary ” Theory Of Relativity “. A writer or an artist has to remain engrossed with his ideas to sprout into an artistic creation. A sanyasi seeks solitude and silence for carrying out his tapasya undisturbed. Pooja or worship can only be performed with single minded devotion keeping thoughts of the world at abeyance.
Only those who dabble in philosophy, pursuit of Life Sciences, litrature, art or meditation etc need some idle hours to pursue their interest. Only a person who has means to stay idle, has sufficient wordly affluence to tide over his apparent idleness, can afford to do some creative work. In the past, the kings and rich land lords used to patronise artists so that they could devote time in pursuit of their artistic activities, unconcerned with the means of living.. The world has progressed through ideas created by “idlers”. By idleness I do not mean a person who is lazy, shirker, day dreamer, wool gatherer or procrastinator. I mean here a person who is engaged in intense mental or spiritual activity in trying to solve a problem concerning human life be it economic, political , literary, philosophical, scientific or spiritual. This obviousy requires time away from mundane activities. A time away given to deep thought or cogitation or meditation.
An angler is a perfect example of an idle person. He sits for hours together beside a river to bait a fish. He may come a cropper but can we say that he has wasted his time and effort. He is in communion with the river and the period of sitting unmoved with an objective to catch a fish in a way rejuvenates him watching the waves of river dancing and frolicking. He will, however, be frustrated if catching fish is not a hobby but a sole means of survival. Those who have to work for a living can not afford to sit idle. An Edison spent hours upon hours , failures after repeated failures , to invent an electric bulb but failures goaded him to try differently until he succeeded. A Buddha or Mahavir or even our Swamiji spent years in woods or seclusion doing tapasya and eventually were enlightened. But supposing they failed, there may be thousands like them who spent years in arduous tapasya, but may be, did not receive enlightenment or blessings of the deity they were devoted to. Do we call them idlers ?, No, if we go by the saying of Gita , ” Arjuna, he automatically regains in the new birth the spiritual insight of the previous birth; and through that he strives harder than ever, for perfection in the form of God realization (verse 6.43 ).
Meditation, as Swami ji, would vouch, is the most creative form of idleness. We can meditate only if we are free from the worry of home and hearth. We can meditate only if the world is not too much with us, if we , for a time, keep away from the allure of desires and constant dialogue of the mind. Meditation means now there is no doing only happening. Meditation is when the observer is totally dissolved in the observed and what is left is pure observing. Meditation simply means now there is only divine. The body has become a passage for the divine. ” He , who is happy within himself in the delight of the soul, and even so is illumined by the inner light, such a yogi identified with Brahma attains Brahma, who is all peace and bliss ” ( Gita: Verse 5.24 ).