This blog post will look at how Buddhist thought deals with the concept of simplicity.
The capacity to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. – Hans Hofmann
There are so many things that are different in our modern society compared to the societies in the past. We have so much overabundance in the form of food, materials to build houses, and appliances that help us in our lives.
And this is to say nothing of the digital world. Everything is at our fingertips.
However, living in the fast lane can be stressful, draining, and you are likely to get tired much faster. If you are looking for a way to slow things down, decrease stress, and live a happier life, then simplicity is the way to go.
‘Simplicity in Buddhism’ is a broad topic and it’s not easy to have a single post that covers the Buddhist treatment of simplicity.
For this reason, I will only discuss a few important aspects of simplicity and how a Buddhist would deal with certain situations.
Buddhism and Simplicity
Simplicity is one of the main teachings of Buddhism. Being simple means being clear, straightforward, and easy to complete or comprehend.
Simplicity brings grace and beauty to the person who possesses it as well as a feeling of ease.
The Buddha would never lose sight of the fact that his teachings would not be understood by everyone, and so he would always try to provide the information in a way that would allow his audience to understand what it meant based on intuitive or direct knowledge.
In fact, one thing and one thing only did Buddha teach, suffering and how to end suffering. Buddha often summarized his immense knowledge into the most basic terms that were comprehensible to all audiences.
The core tenets of Buddhism are: to stop suffering, follow the path to peace and happiness, and to live a good life. There’s nothing too difficult to grasp there, right?
Buddha taught how all human beings are interconnected and equally deserving of religious care because the road to salvation is open for all.
It does not matter if one carries a caste name, since all people possess the potential ability to learn how to become a monk or even a layman.
All that matters is that one remains a wholesome personality by adhering to moral codes and simple practices such as reading texts.
The Buddha wasn’t too fond of the ritual performed by the Brahmins.
As such, it’s safe to assume that Siddhartha’s philosophy about religion and spirituality wasn’t founded on the principles of Brahmanism since he didn’t agree with a lot of what it had to offer later in life.
The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, belonged to the warrior caste of the Shakya (Sakya) clan in northern India and actually devoted a lot of his early years to taking care of his own materialistic needs.
He married a woman named Yashodhara and they had a son together. He enjoyed living a life that was more luxurious than that of the common person.
He had a beautiful home, nice clothes, good food, and lots of people who waited on him. But despite all of this, Siddhartha realized that something was missing from his life.
As a result, Buddha left his palace at Kapilavastu one day and became an ascetic.
After having tried living a life as an ascetic, the Buddha decided to focus on purely religious and philosophical matters so as to help people find true happiness within themselves.
While he profoundly affected history’s yogis, or contemplatives of philosophy, it can be said that most of his metaphysics was common knowledge before his time.
Confucius in China and Socrates in Greece, he is a spiritual genius whose ideas have been the subject of endless debate, study and veneration.
Though his philosophy was shared by many who came before him, it is the Buddha’s teachings that still resonate today.
A lot of the tenets of the Buddha are what most people would call
common sense. The problem is that common sense is not that common.
However, we mustn’t undermine the ways in which he had so profoundly altered both what it meant to be human and set forth a paradigm of reality that would lead others to seek an enlightenment that would previously have been considered impossible!
The great thing about Buddhism, and why it’s likely to remain a dominant religion for the foreseeable future, is that it’s
adaptable. You can be a Buddhist and still eat meat or get a tattoo.
In fact, the rules of the religion are more like guidelines. They’re meant to help you live a better life, to be a better person, and to realize that you have a choice in how to treat others and how to treat yourself.
It’s a path to enlightenment, to a better life. And that’s what has made it such an appealing religion to so many people for so long.
Buddhism, for instance, does not deny the existence of popular gods and people’s tendency to worship them.
Gautama Buddha was not, so to say, an atheist. Buddha didn’t reject or denounce the existence of popular gods. He acknowledged that they are powerful celestial beings, but he insisted that they are not deities to worship.
Since Buddhism does not exactly worship any god or higher being, the gods may instead best be defined as beings that are helpful if you’re a good Buddhist.
These gods aren’t worthy of Buddhist worship. They can be considered akin to angels.
But Buddhism isn’t focused on prayer and worship. If anything, it builds confidence in the belief of karma and existing as a human.
You can follow Buddhism and not necessarily worship or pray to any deity you see fit. It’s taught that the gods may help those who have good hearts/karma – not that they have the solution to the afterlife or even religion for that matter.
The spread of Buddhism across Asia was likely helped immensely by the fact that its teachings were so simple.
The first principle is, religion is open to everyone and it’s basically a system of morality.
That is perhaps the reason we see that the Buddha’s original teachings outside of India have remained relatively pure.
Nonetheless, by the time Buddhism arrived in China, it had already taken on many of the elements of local religious practices. This made it even easier for the religion to adapt to the different cultures of the time.
Zen Buddhism Simplicity
Among all forms of Buddhism, Zen has some of the most distinctive characteristics. The practice of Zen Buddhism originated in China and later spread to other countries like Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
Simplicity is an important aspect of Zen Buddhism. In Zen practice we train in minimalism. Purity and a lack of distraction are a integral part of a Zen Buddhist’s life.
Zen Buddhism is about finding the simplest way to live our lives. The simplicity lies in its core beliefs and how it goes about its day to day life. In Zen practice all of nature is treated with a sense of appreciation.
In Zen we completely remove the unnecessary. We focus on how we can simplify and eliminate things from our life so we can achieve a greater peace of mind for ourselves and ultimately everyone else.
In Zen training, we try to develop a sense of generosity for all the objects/people/places that come into our lives.
Anyone who practices Zen learns early on to appreciate the things they own and know how to take care of them better.
In practicing Zen, we train in cleanliness and simplicity. Everything we do is done mindfully and respectfully to nature and all of those around us.
No matter what another person has done they are still deserving of kindness, especially if they are at their lowest point.
Minimalism turns the idea of consumerism on its head.
Minimalism is the idea that simplicity is joy. It suggests that more is not always better, and it infers that what’s considerably less could also be better.
When one makes an effort to live a minimalist life, they can experience a certain kind of joy from being just around the essentials. The unnecessary is often seen as a distraction from doing what really matters in life.
Minimalism says that there are things you own that are just in the way. By eliminating these things, you’ll create space for things like peace and happiness!
Take a look at your lifestyle and ask yourself which features could be cut out that wouldn’t impact your happiness.
Now, some may disagree with what you deem as “unnecessary” but that’s okay.
Minimalism isn’t about living by what the masses think you should be doing – it’s about living by your own regulations and standards so you can feel relief from all the burdens in your daily life!
“Less is more.” This is a beautiful concept by the Japanese, one that encourages simplicity and serenity above all else. It was derived from Zen Buddhist roots, which focus strongly on mental peace.
The Japanese minimal approach encourages the art of uncluttering your house, focusing instead on simplicity, harmony with nature and removing everything that causes you undue stress or annoyance.
Minimalism teaches that possessions are no guarantee of happiness, so its principles encourage living with less.
Minimalist-inspired design is spreading through the world, including in western cultures. This type of design can be found everywhere from interior design to architecture and even with people’s lifestyles.
Minimalism is a popular style choice for those looking to streamline.
In today’s materialistic world, people are finding themselves more bogged down with the never-ending agendas of modern life than ever before.
Embracing minimalism is a way to get back to basics, take some time out for yourself, get involved in the process instead of remaining so tied up in consuming it all at lightning speeds.
By prioritizing your needs you can eventually remove yourself from the middle of the never-ending grips of consumerism.
However, the practice of
Zen Buddhism simplicity does not mean you have to give up all your comforts.
Embracing minimalism offers an opportunity to re-evaluate and reflect on what truly matters and pares down our daily routine to its raw essentials.
Minimalism serves as a way for us each to discover the true meaning of living in this world.
Is Simple Life More Meaningful?
Simplicity also means being less attached to your possessions. If you are able to simplify your life you will be able to have more control of your life.
Simple living is a lifestyle characterized by not having an excess of material possessions. It’s about getting back to the basics in many ways.
Have you ever thought about how clothes were once used as a way to cover up and protect our bodies?
They were designed to help us survive the harsh conditions of wherever we lived. It’s good to remember those reasons.
If we do, it will make us appreciate those things for their true purposes and not for other factors like status or complexity.
Keeping in mind the original purpose of everyday items is critical to simplifying one’s lifestyle and determining what matters most in life – because let’s face it, there are only 24 hours in each day and you do not want to have too many material possessions that will ultimately lead to overwhelming yourself in the end.
We can still be happy with a very simple life, if we just try to remember what the original purpose of things is – and yes, I’m talking about our minds as well as our bodies.
The simple life doesn’t just help us save time or money, it also helps bring about a sense of calmness and tranquility that otherwise might be too impossible to maintain.
Being aware of how precious time is can allow us to make certain choices because it enables us to put things into perspective.
Being simple in nature can help relieve stress and live a happier lifestyle.
If we let go of the things that may not be crucial, we will be able to see more clearly and breathe easier knowing we’re honoring our purpose on earth and getting to where we want to go without having too many distractions around us that keep us from reaching the end goal we’ve set for ourselves.
And we should try to keep things neat and orderly, whether it’s inside our own heads or on the outside of us.
A thing that contributes to having a neat and stylish, clean appearance is an attitude of calmness toward our surroundings. The way we look on the outside is an indication of the way we feel on the inside.
When we’re relaxed and free of stress, we often look our best – it’s as simple as that. If there’s value in having things like fine fabrics or high-quality accessories, they will certainly make us more likely to attract others who share similar tastes.
A person with adaptability doesn’t act for their own benefit; they do not care about glory. A less complex life makes it easier to focus on what is really important which also happens to breed healthy living habits like self-control.
Simplicity enables us to present ourselves as the Buddhas do, such that we avoid complicating our lives or making people uncomfortable.
Making money or becoming rich is never a Buddhist goal. Treating our possessions as decomposable things – objects – is contrary to Nekkhamma (non-attachment).
If we let our fashion choices lead us to become trendy, vain or materialistic we will inadvertently be taking part in an unwholesome or morally unjust action.
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in complexity but when we choose to view things from a more simplistic point of view, there’s less at stake and less pressure attached because there’s no worry about what other people could potentially think about.
When one becomes a master of minimalism, there is no need for them to fret over trends and become stressed out every time they leave the house with too many unknowns.
If we keep busy all day styling our appearance to entice others into thinking we’re richer than we actually are – how can we ever focus on discovering what really makes us feel content and fulfilled?
The Buddha said in ‘The Twin Verses’ of the Dhammapada:
Whoever lives only for pleasures,
with senses uncontrolled,
immoderate in eating, lazy, and weak,
will be overthrown by Mara,
like the wind throws down a weak tree.
Whoever lives not for pleasures,
with senses well controlled,
moderate in eating, has faith and the power of virtue,
will not be overthrown by Mara,
any more than the wind throws down a rocky mountain.
Then he added:
The one who strikes others is not a hermit;
one is not an ascetic who insults others.
Not to blame, not to strike,
to live restrained under the law,
to be moderate in eating, to live alone,
and to practice the highest consciousness—
this is the teaching of the awakened ones.
Now, simplicity isn’t as difficult as it sounds, but it will take some work.
For example, meditation, when practiced correctly, goes a long way toward clearing away these obstacles to achieve greater clarity where one can see themselves and everything around them without distortion or bias.
When you can clear away all the unnecessary layers blocking your view of yourself and reality, then you will gain insight into the meaning of life itself as well as your role in it all!
A nice aspect of the simplicity these types of practices present us with is their effectiveness at simplifying our thoughts, which is due to the fact that we’re not consumed with seven million thoughts flying somewhat furiously through our heads.
If something appears relevant, look beyond its immediate presentation and figure out if there’s anything valuable you could garner from it or if it’s really nothing more than nonsense.
Usually we see things distorted by emotions, desire, prejudices and other mental clutter which basically come in the way of establishing a relationship with reality.
It also prevents us from devoting our time to greater goals than merely succeeding or failing at various tasks during the working day or keeping up with what’s new at this week’s favorite soap opera.
The conclusion we can draw from this is that most eastern and western philosophical approaches encourage individuals to simplify their lives as a means of making them more meaningful.