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◷ 6 min read - Jan 6, 2016

The Secret Teachings of the Simple Sages of Simpletonea

In a land far away and a time long forgotten, there lived a folk known as the Simpletoneans. They were a simple people these Simpletoneans, living their simple lives doing simple work, sleeping in simple houses and eating simple meals. Like most sentient beings, however simple they may be, the Simpletoneans suffered from many pains and aches. They suffered from cold when it was cold and from heat when it was hot, they suffered from hunger when they did not get enough to eat and from nausea if they ate too much. And of course sometimes they would fight. All it took was for two of them to fall in love with the same third Simpletonean. Also, unless one enjoyed a simple beating, one would rather not make a complex comment about the mother of a Simpletonean.

One eventful day a strange man came to visit the land of Simpletonea. Little is known about where he came from and his name remains a mystery to this day. Legend has it he was a handsome and simple man, but that he was also complex, but complex in a good way and very elegant, as Simpletonean historians were quick to remark. He came bearing a simple gift, a knowledge that he taught the Simpletoneans. He taught them what they could do in order to stop suffering when it was cold or hot, whether they were hungry or nauseated. He taught all the Simpletoneans, each according to their disposition, and on the seventh day of the seventh month of his visit, no Simpletonean would harm another, not for love and not for a complex remark. Some would still suffer a little here and there, but they knew what to do. And so the strange man left the Simpletoneans and ventured forth. This strange man went down in Simpletonean history as the first of the Simple Sages, a new religious order based on his simple, yet complex (in a good way) teachings.

The Simple Sages taught each new generation of Simpletoneans how to overcome suffering, each according to their disposition. After many peaceful years, Simpletonea was made part of a larger country named Complicatia. The powers that were decided that Simpletonea no longer had autonomy and would have to obey Complicatian law. It was not a big deal. In fact, many Simpletoneans welcomed the change because as part of Complicatia, the Simpletoneans would gain access to advanced Complicatian technology. Soon every Simpletonean household would have home appliances that made life easier, albeit a little more complicated. The Simpletoneans learned new ways to communicate and structure their lives. There literally was a gadget for anything. If one wanted to make a complex comment about another's mother, one could now do it from a safe distance.

There was a downside to all of this, however, because with all these new and exciting changes, the Simpletoneans became quite distracted from their practice of the teachings of the Simple Sages. After only a few decades of leading their new lives, these teachings were all but forgotten and the former Simpletoneans, now fully integrated Complicatians, began to suffer again. They suffered when it was too hot or too cold or when they were hungry or nauseated. With their new technology they could adjust the room temperature to be just right and they always had enough to eat. They never quite overcame suffering from eating too much, but that seemed a small price to pay. As their lives became ever more complicated, however, new and, well, complicated ways of suffering emerged. Some of the new jobs involved complicated planning that would keep the Complicatians up all night pondering and scheming, so that they were not getting enough sleep. And who would have thought it possible to suffer from worrying about losing a job one hates at a company one despises? Their children attended complicated schools and learned how to create the many complicated gadgets that made their complicated lives bearable. For the first time, as far as any former Simpletonean could remember, children suffered from being stressed. The elderly sometimes complained that everything was better back when life was simple, but then again, nobody could remember a time when the elderly did not complain about things having been better in the past.

The few Simple Sages that remained preserved the knowledge of freedom through the ages. There are very few of them left now, but they do exist. I know, because I met one. He was a handsome and simple man, yet complex in a good way. I noticed him because he carried a smile, something I had not seen often during my travels in Complicatia. I asked him how it was that he smiled when nobody else did. He asked me how it was that I did not. I explained all of my problems while he listened attentively. When I was finished, he simply told me the story of the Simpletoneans and how he was one of the few Simple Sages of old. Then he said, "Back when life was simple, suffering was simple. Now life is complicated and suffering is complicated. But suffering remains suffering and the path to the end of suffering remains the path to the end of suffering."

I asked him to teach me, and he did. He expounded the secret teachings of the first of the Simple Sages to me. Actually, he said that they were not secret at all, but that people tended not to listen unless he called them secret. What a clever man. He explained that the first Simple Sage taught the farmers to ask themselves, "What is going on right now?" all day long during their farming activities. The scientists he taught to ask, "What am I conscious of right now?" as often as they could during the day. He offered many alternatives, depending on the disposition of whom would listen. The ones I still recall are "What is it like to be me right now?", "Am I present right now?", "Am I aware right now?" and "How am I?". One is to repeat such inquiries as often as possible until one's whole life is lived in full awareness. The Simple Sage also taught me a few techniques of training the mind, that would speed up the process to free oneself from suffering, simple or complicated. He called them meditation. Towards the end of this lecture he smiled and told me another "secret". The question "How am I?", he said, became part of common curtesy in many cultures. Every "How are you?" ever spoken was an echo of the words of the first of the Simple Sages, and one should use these words to become fully aware whenever one hears them. "You will know the remaining Simple Sages by the way they smile and listen when they ask you this question." he concluded his teaching. Then he ventured forth.

Of course this is a story, a work of fiction, but the teachings are not and I invite you to try and see for yourself if they work for you. Remind yourself to be aware all day, every day, and see how that affects your life.