November 16, 2012

Amazing Feats of Simplicity: The Ancient Teachers

Lao Tzu riding his ox, a symbol of strength, patience and benevolence
Have we collectively failed as students in the school of life? Should we have our knuckles wrapped for not listening to our teachers? I am not a proponent of pain, but eons of ignoring our lessons must be rectified before we are sent to the detention room indefinitely.

I don't know of a single teacher worth their salt, historical or contemporary, that has espoused the positive aspects of wealth accumulation and worldly goods. Similarly, ancient texts generally do not record the 'excellent' results of greed and individual acquisition.

Nor does ancient wisdom advise that future generations exploit nature to the point of collapse.

Unsurprisingly, virtually all ancient teachers that are still remembered today, taught through their lives and their words, the value of living simply in harmony with each other, and the world around us.

Kagemni, an ancient Egyptian philosopher, wrote a text to help students select the right teacher. It reads like a template for the teachers of the past whose teachings have endured.

The Egyptian philosopher's ideal teacher:
  • performs good deeds without expectation of reward
  • respects their responsibilities to the community, and focuses on service to others
  • has compassion for all living creatures
  • accepts joy and sorrow with equal mind
  • is always happy, and
  • lives according to their guiding Principles.
To the good teacher, Kagemni tells prospective students, "gold and dross are as one, nectar and poison are as one, and the king and the beggar are as one".

The following simplicity-related wisdom is from ancient teachers of which I am sure Kagemni would approve. Perhaps if we had heeded their message earlier, we would live in a more enlightened, evolved world today.

Lao Tzu

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”


"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."


"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."


"The greatest wealth is to live content with little."


"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?"

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”


“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”


“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.”


“The worldly comforts are not for me. I am like a traveler, who takes rest under a tree in the shade and then goes on his way.”

Can we learn our lessons on time and avoid endless punishments in our cages of ignorance? Our teachers can only open the door - we have to make the choice to enter ourselves. 


  1. Replies
    1. My pleasure. There is so much that it is hard to choose, except for the glaring omission of recorded wisdom from our female teachers.


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