Minimalists in History: Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)


“Buddha taught that suffering is caused by desire (or craving), which is ironic since the TV tells us that we should crave particular products because they will end our suffering – ‘If I only had a new iPad, my suffering would finally cease!'”

– Christ Tecmire

Siddhārtha Gautama, more often called Buddha, is the sage upon whose teachings Buddhism was founded. The word Buddha is actually a title, not a name. It means “awakened one” or “enlightened one.”

While there is uncertainty among historians about the details, scholars believe Buddha lived sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE and that he taught and founded a monastic order in India.

Collections of teachings attributed to Buddha were passed down by oral tradition and committed to writing about 400 years later.

“The Buddha spent the next four and-a-half decades spreading his teachings throughout India, explaining the Four Noble Truths and the Middle Way to all who were ready to understand them, regardless of wealth, sex, age or caste.”

– Cynthia Thatcher

The following sayings related to minimalist living are attributed to Buddha:

“High thinking and simple living – This is the teaching of the enlightened ones.”

“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasure of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles.”

“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?”

“Joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart.”

“How blissful it is, for one who has nothing. Attainers-of-wisdom are people with nothing.”

“The craving of one given to heedless living grows like a creeper.”

“Greed ruins the mind as weeds ruin the field.”

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

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”

“Happy indeed we live, free from avarice amidst the avaricious….Happy indeed we live, we who possess nothing.”

“Beset by craving, people run about like an entrapped hare. Held fast by mental fetters, they come to suffering again and again for a long time.”

“As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.”

“You don’t have any cows to lose.”

Many Buddhists tell the story of Buddha and the lost cows. This version is from Terry Hershey, author of The Power of Pause: Becoming More by Doing Less:

One day the Buddha was sitting with his monks. A distraught farmer approached. “Monks, have you seen my cows?”

The Buddha said, “No we have not.”

The farmer continued, “I am distraught. I have only twelve cows, and now they are gone. How will I survive?”

The Buddha looked at him with compassion and said, “I’m sorry my friend, we have not seen them. You may want to look in the other direction.”

After the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks, looked at them deeply, smiled and said, “Dear ones, do you know how lucky you are? You don’t have any cows to lose.”


4 thoughts on “Minimalists in History: Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)

  1. Hello Christy,

    I truly enjoyed this post.

    I’m glad to see that you have included Buddha as one of your minimalists in history.
    It’s interesting to note that “the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Buddhism and in Hinduism, which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate” (Wickepedia

    Meditation has such as strong connection to positive psychology, and also to simple living.


    • Thanks, Carol. You’re absolutely right about the benefits of meditation, which are well proven by science. Readers who aren’t interested in Eastern spiritual practices can research other religious types of meditation (for instance lectio divina for Christians) or secular methods of meditating (atheist Sam Harris recommends vipassana)

  2. Christy it is ironic that this week you selected Buddha as your minimalist as my granddaughter who is six is recently watched a movie on Buddha and is exploring her views in light of the movie. She’s asked me to tell her more and I’ll share some of the ideas you included here with her.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.