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Fashion: A Terrible Curse

by Swami Sivananda

This subject is not foreign to Karma Yoga. Only he who wears simple dress, who is free from this terrible scourge of fashion can do Karma Yoga. One should be fully aware of the disastrous effects of fashion. Hence I have introduced this article here.

People are dying after fashion. Men and women have become absolute slaves of fashion. If there is a slight error in the cutting of a gown or uniform, there are damage-suits in courts in London and Paris against tailors. Even Lahore and Rawalpindi have become fashion-conscious nowadays. You can see the multifarious fashions in the evening. Fashion consists in half-nudity. They will call this scientific, hygienic ventilation of the exposed parts. Half the chest, half-arms and half-legs must be exposed. This is fashion. They have full control of their hair styles. This is their Siddhi or psychic power. They can cut it and dress it in any way they like in a hair-dressing saloon. Fashion increases and excites passion.

Even a poor woman at Lahore pays five rupees for making a single ordinary frock. She never thinks a bit how her husband will be able to manage all these things. Poor husband, a slave of passion, a miserable soul, borrows something here and there, takes bribes in various ways and pleases his wife anyhow with an outward smile and an inward burning resentment. He kills his conscience, destroys his intellect and walks self-deluded in this world, and gets carbuncles and pyorrhoea as a result of his bad actions. He cries when he is in trouble: "I am a great sinner. I cannot bear this pain. I have done many bad actions in my previous birth. O Lord! Forgive, save me." But he never tries a bit to improve his lot in this birth.

The whole world can be clothed out of the cuttings of the vain, fashionable people. Money is wasted enormously on fashion. Man wants, after all, very little on this earth-a pair of ordinary clothes, four slices of bread and a tumbler of cold water. If this money that is wasted on fashion is utilised in virtuous actions, in charity and service of society, man will be transmuted into Divinity. He will be in the enjoyment of eternal peace and bliss. What do you see instead in fashionable people? Restlessness, anxiety, worry, fear, depression and pallor of face. They may be dressed in silken gowns or dinner suits in up-to-date fashion and style with stiff double collar ties and bows, but you see in their faces cheerlessness and ugliness. The canker of worry, greed, passion and hatred has eaten the very core of their hearts.

If you ask a Baron of England to remove his boots and hat when he is about to enter a Hindu temple, he feels he has lost all personality. Look at the vanity of an egoistic man! A small piece of leather, a cardboard covered with a cloth make up a mighty Baron; minus these he dwindles into an airy nothing. There is no spirit or strength in him. The pulse fails at the wrist. He cannot talk now with the same force. The world is full of people with a small heart and little understanding. They think that turbans and fashionable long-coats, hats and boots constitute a big man. A really big man is one who is simple and free from egoism and Raga Dvesha (likes and dislikes).

Why do ladies and men put on fashionable dress? They want to appear as important people in the eyes of others. They think they will get respect and honour by putting on fashionable dress. The wife wants to appear beautiful in the eyes of her husband. She wants to attract him. The husband puts on fashionable dress to attract his wife. The sister of ill-fame wants to get more customers by putting on fashionable dress. This is all delusion. Can a fashionable dress give real beauty? This is all artificial decoration. It is temporary, false, decaying, glittering beauty! If you possess divine virtues such as mercy, sympathy, love, devotion and forbearance, you will be respected and really honoured. This will give everlasting beauty even though one is clad in rags.

Fashion is a terrible curse. It is a dreadful enemy of peace. It infuses evil thoughts, lust, greed and devilish tendencies. It fills the mind with worldly taints. It begets poverty. Fashion has made you a beggar of beggars. Annihilate this desire for fashion to the very root. Wear simple clothing. Have sublime thinking. Do not keep company with fashionable people. Remember those saints who lead a simple life and those living today who are very simple. Simplicity will cause piety. It will infuse divine thoughts. You will be free from worry and unnecessary thoughts. You can devote more time to divine contemplation and spiritual pursuits.

A Sattvic man or woman is really beautiful. He or she does not require any artificial decoration with gold pins, with nose-screws or with any ornament or fashionable dress. Millions of people are attracted unconsciously towards them, even when they are in very poor dress.

How simple was Mahatma Gandhi in his dress! He had a loin cloth only. How simple was Ramana Maharishi? He had a Kowpeen only. A loin cloth and a Kowpeen were their personal effects. They did not want suit-cases or trunks to carry their dress. They were as free as a bird. Avadhootas like Krishnashram of Gangotri, Brahmendra Saraswati of Sendamangalam, Salem, South India, have not even a Kowpeen. They are absolutely nude. They are now in the same state as they were when they were born.

This body is like a big wound or ulcer with various filthy discharges. It has to be bandaged simply with any piece of cloth. Silken, laced borders and frills are not necessary. It is the height of folly to decorate this filthy perishable compound of flesh and bone with artistic borders. Have you realised your foolishness now? Stand up. Give up fashion now. Take a vow. Give me a definite promise that you will use simple clothing from this very second.

You came naked. You will go naked. Your silken waist-thread and upper-cloth even will be snatched for the use of your grandchildren, when you are on the deathbed. Why then do you make these ceaseless selfish efforts for earning money and preparing fashionable dress? Realise your folly. Learn to discriminate. Get wisdom of the Self and rest in everlasting peace.

O fashionable man! O fashionable woman! O ye slayers of the inner Atman! Why do you waste your time, energy and life in vanity, in running after fashionable dress. This is highly preposterous. The beauty of beauties, the undecaying source of beauty, the everlasting beauty is ever shining in the chambers of your heart. The whole beauty of this world is a mere shadow or reflection of that fountain-head of beauty. Purify your heart. Control your mind and the senses. Sit in a room and meditate on this Beauty of beauties, your immortal Friend, the Atman or the highest Self. Realise this Self. Then alone are you really beautiful. Then and then alone are you really happy. Then and then alone are you really rich. Then and then alone are you really a big man.

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