Simplifying Life

Simplifying Life

Date Posted:
November 2010

Rinpoche gave the following advice after a student told him that a friend had a dream in which a wise old man appeared and said, “You have to simplify your life.” The friend said that she was attracted to Buddhism, but it seemed too simple. The student reminded her friend of the advice that was given to her in the dream: that she needed to simplify her life.

That’s good advice for everybody. Everybody needs to simplify their life. That’s why there are so many problems, because people don’t simplify. It’s the answer to everything. The problem is everybody wants more and better of everything. Always wanting more and better brings expectation and people become competitive. If it’s competition to benefit others, that’s okay. But people are not satisfied with what they have, for example, they have one friend, then they want another friend. They never find satisfaction with anyone because of following desire. Even if they find the most beautiful person in the world, a person who generally people would regard as being the most beautiful, they may be happy at the beginning but, after some time together, there are problems.

I wonder if there’s anybody who is so happy with the person they’re in a relationship with that they never want to look for anybody else? Of course, there are different reasons that people don’t go after others. They might have desire for others but they stay in the relationship they’re in to preserve their dignity or because they don’t want a disaster. Reasonable people want to avoid disaster.

The student said to Rinpoche that her mother used to have the opposite view; not that Buddhism was too simple but that it was too complicated. Rinpoche replied as follows:

Complicated is not the point, ignorance is: the mind not knowing, not understanding. What is complicated is not the text, it’s the mind. But once you know, it’s not complicated. It’s like a computer. If you don’t know anything about computers, computers are complicated. But, once you know about them, they’re not complicated. It’s like counting to ten. It’s difficult to count to ten for those who don’t know how to do it. Once you know, it’s not difficult. What is difficult is ignorance, not knowing.

In life, if you don’t know how to make decisions, that’s due to ignorance. Knowing what is right, what is beneficial to practice, and what helps others, and knowing what is wrong and brings harm to yourself and others is Dharma wisdom. The most important thing is Dharma wisdom. Even if you have ordinary clairvoyance, if you don’t have Dharma wisdom you can’t make the right decision, because to make the right decision you need knowledge of karma. Here, I’m not talking about the clairvoyance that the Buddha or high-level bodhisattvas have. Ordinary clairvoyance is limited. With ordinary clairvoyance you can tell what will happen in the future, but to make the right decision you need more than that—it has to be made based on Dharma, by understanding karma. What we need is to create the cause of happiness: virtue.