Most of the time, people make life complicated. Modern urban life is almost a mirror of complexity.
Most people have the idea that city life is complex yet trivial. Therefore, people who live in cities feel tense and busy, and it is very difficult to simplify life.
Some people or artists, who cannot tolerate city life, relocate to a remote area, build a small wooden house and live a so-called “simple life”.
Of course, such a life style accomplishes simplicity externally. But whether life is truly simple or not depends on one’s attitude toward life. If we cannot grow our own food and weave fabric for making clothes and therefore need our daily necessities from other people, it requires a complicated process and work by other people to meet our basic needs. A self-sufficient life style may seem simple, but it creates complexity in other aspects. This kind of simplicity is no longer simple.
Simplicity of life is actually a state of internal harmony, an attitude. It is not the external form or the contents of life. Some people live a “hermitic” life style in the city, utilizing the convenience that the city can provide without creating complicated elements and burdening other people. This is the real “hermitic” life, the real simplicity.
Nowadays, city life is inevitable. One cannot and should not need to escape. Why not utilize the existing convenience and harmonize mind and body, without chasing fashions or following the trends but just meeting the needs for living? One can actually simplify the mind. One can see and deal with daily activities and happenings with a mind of simplicity. Even in eating and sleeping, just remain simply focused and take care of things without adding extra elements.
It is most important to have a mind of simplicity. If the mind is simple, everything will follow. Otherwise, even with many external forms of a “simple life”, as long as the mind is complex, simplicity remains just a form.
The mind of harmony and cultivation is simplicity.
(2005/3/27 Written at Ipoh, Malaysia. Published in the book 《閒事心頭》by YBAM Buddhist Digest Publication Board )