Goku’s Simple Life

son goku wave

Goku lives a simple life.

Like a wandering pilgrim, Goku’s only possessions are a martial arts uniform and occasionally the nyoi bo staff.

Goku is almost single mindedly focused on his martial arts cultivation.

Chi-Chi handles all of the domestic affairs, including the caring of their house, the monetary concerns, and the raising of children.

This reminded me of my own life and how it is a bit too complicated.

By an average person’s standard my life may seem rather simple: An average guy with an apartment and some stuff. There are also career, family, social relationships, time, personal projects, and trying to achieve many things simultaneously. Perhaps too many.

In regard to physical stuff in particular, at times all of the external content can feel a little heavy, because each one of those items is connected to my emotions. Each material item, when picked up, transports my memory back 5, 10, in some cases even 15 years. They all carry emotional weight. An outsider cannot see or feel this.

I recently read a book called The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, and it emphasized the importance of simplifying our lives.

I also read a blog post on Man vs. Debt that presented the idea of taking inventory of all the items in your possession, one by one, and the benefit of the process.

So that’s what I did.

Taking Stock and Letting Go

Son Goku falls through hell

I counted every single item in my home and car: Every spoon, every pencil, every piece of clothing, and every game, miniature and cable.

They were recorded by hand and then entered into a spreadsheet (here). It was an exhausting process.

The end result was 1,706 items.

The number was surprising. How could I own so much?

When I looked at the spreadsheet of all the items from a zoomed out perspective, it seemed to almost amount to the culmination of my external worth. As if this was the entirety of my life.

But I knew this wasn’t true.

What would I be without all of these things? Would I still be me?

Yes. And perhaps even more so.

During the taking of inventory I threw some items away and designated others for donation. I donated three bags of clothes, electronics, and other items to Goodwill.

As time goes on, unwanted books and other items will be sold or donated. Why keep what has already been utilized?

There’s a story from Buddhism that states that once you’ve ridden your hand crafted boat to the other shore of nirvana, it is important to remember not to be attached to the boat. It was a beautiful boat and served you well. It was the vehicle that made your journey across the ocean possible. But now that you’ve made it this far, it’s time to let that vehicle go. Otherwise you cannot move forward.

Some items were easy to let go, while others were difficult. For example, my DBZ t-shirts, which I had worn since high school.

It was hard to look at each item practically, and ask if I really needed it or would use it in the future. Often I discovered that the item had been with me all these years for purely sentimental reasons.

Ultimately it is the attachment to the items that matter. Not the physical items themselves. Without attachments, anything can be let go if it’s no longer needed. Likewise, without attachments, the amount or value of material items isn’t important. Ideally, everything we own can be made of gold, yet we are not attached.

The entire process was liberating, as it allowed me to take stock of life, internally as well as externally. It was empowering to realize what I have available, and to control things, rather than have things control me.

To gain, one must lose. Because there is more empty space, I feel freed up and lighter in spirit.

Imagine how it must feel to be like Goku, as described in the final episode of Dragon Ball GT:

Full of joy and care free.

Gentle, with a good heart.

This is the Goku everyone loves.

happy goku young

I recommend that you try this activity for yourself. Begin with a single section of a room and expand from there.

Tackle life with as much energy as Goku, and you’ll be sure to succeed.

14 responses to “Goku’s Simple Life”

  1. Collin says:

    This entry is really inspiring to me. It has bothered me lately that I don’t feel like I could ever let go of my material possessions and own nothing. I feel very weak to be almost controlled by inanimate objects because of what they represent to me. I live so much in the past that I can’t possibly be in control of my own future. Thank you for sharing your own experience with this topic!

    • Derek Padula says:

      You’re on the right path, Collin. To have enlightened to the realizations you’ve expressed here, you’re clearly somebody who looks within. Looking within is the key to comprehension, and putting into action is the vehicle for genuine improvement.

      There’s a phrase that my Shifu, Li Hongzhi said. "When it is time for an attachment to be let go, it will naturally manifest." It seems to me that now may be the time for you to let go of your attachments.

      This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to let go of the physical objects; Only your mental attachments to them. Nevertheless, if you can lose the physical objects without being moved, that is the test that will show you where you stand. At that point, petty losses or gains will no longer affect you, and your character will have improved.

      It may help to try and broaden your mind and think about larger perspectives. Try meditation. Or try watching one of those videos where it shows the earth in relationship to the solar system, Sun, galaxy, and universe. As it pulls back from the earth your mental scope will continually increase, and your attachments to the things of this world will seem less and less important.

      When you exert your true willpower and take control of your mind, then your mighty strength will come out. At that point the inanimate objects will seem laughably small. Too small to even think about. And perhaps at that moment, you will truly be present.

      I’m glad the article inspired you. The article is 5 months old and you’re the first one to comment on it. Thank you! And I wish you well on your journey!

  2. cob1 says:

    Materialistically, I’m a minimalist by nature. To my name lie only a guitar, some black tee shirts and general health care items(vitamins, soap, toothpaste/brush). Additionally, I have a collection of magic cards which, while unnecessary, serves a function of relief for me when I cannot find the state of meditation which brings me the peace.

    Are there less vain things that we should also try to give up, in your opinion, Derek? That is, as functions of the mind go, are there any that should be given up or simplified? Do you think that as someone with an analytical personality, I would find it more difficult to give up any mental processes that would require this?

    I notice that my thought patterns tend to extend, this typing is stream of consciousness(as most are) and as you can see and probably know, the path of the empty mind has a lot of barriers that transcend vanity for me…

    I guess the question that would have been most succinct and saved us all the time it took to write and read this would be: Beyond vain attachment (attachment to material), what other barriers do you think lie between us and the Goku state of mind? Is it feasible to do so?

    I just realized I have a necklace on that I don’t think I have taken off in 7 years. Is this an example of something that I should remove? Or if it’s at the point that I don’t notice it, have I been freed of that attachment?

    Vanity and complexity of life are two things I think about deep into the hours which insomnia has claimed. Aside from vanity being a pet peeve of mine, especially living in the official vainest city in America (most vanity plates in a single US city), and being in such an international city built around… well… many things which require a complex system of organization to work successfully (which we don’t have yet haha), the two just seem so intrinsically related to me… This is a subject that I could go on about for weeks with questions and ideas but, I’ll stop here for now. Before the end of the rant turns into an even larger one

    • Derek Padula says:

      In terms of materialism I don’t think you need to physically lose the items. It’s more about changing your mind. Some religions will strip you of everything, but you can be attached to anything in life, including your monks robe or sandals.

      While Buddha Shakyamuni was alive his monks even became attached to their begging bowls. He had to give a Dharma lecture where he said that there are plenty of nicer things to be attached to in their homes, and that if they didn’t want to take cultivation seriously, they should return home. Physically they had given everything else up, but the attachment remained in their minds and still controlled their thoughts.

      In regard to the mind, there’s a whole slew of attachments. Anger, Jealousy, Lust, Dishonesty, Fear, Gluttony, Comfort, and an endless list of Desires. Each of these its own beast, and they work together to make sure that they survive within your mind. You try to defeat one and the others will defend them. It’s very difficult to overcome while in the midst, but very simple in hindsight.

      I’m also a very analytical person, and the thing I have found the hardest to do is stop thinking. And there’s no magic cure to make us stop thinking. My understanding is that our thinking is a reflection of our attachments, and only by gradually letting go of of our desires, fears, self validation and concerns, can we ultimately attain an empty mind. You can forcefully try to stop thinking, but after a few minutes, at most, the thoughts will come back.

      Thinking is of course is a natural aspect of being human and living in this world. That’s why I find it necessary to have a cultivation practice that allows you to deepen your state of concentration and stop the thinking, unless it’s necessary.

      A lot of the benefit also comes from being disciplined enough to say No to certain things, like distracting or negative influences. And by virtue of being able to control your thoughts, when you do need to think, it will be more clear.

      A simple mind is not complicated. To me, becoming more like Goku means simplifying our minds. In order to do that we may have to let go of notions, concepts and habits.

      For your necklace, I would agree, if you don’t even realize it’s there anymore, it’s probably not a big deal. But I can’t say with precision since your mind is its own.

      I also struggle with the questions you mention, but only in regards to myself, such as the words that I write or speak, or my physical appearance. I’m letting go of the concerns more and more, and I think they stem from a lack of confidence and internal strength. Also the desire to make sure I am heard clearly, and possibly validated in return. Getting much better though!

  3. Goku seems to have an ideal life and attitude, but it helps that he’s a saiyan and can easily survive without having to subject himself to activities he doesn’t enjoy but has to do to earn a wage etc. Is it possible to live like him when you are subject to the forces of an imperfect human society. I feel like it is, or I hope it is – I’m just not sure how? Thoughts?

    • DerekPadula says:

      I struggle with the same dilemma. It’s certainly not easy to be in it without being “in it,” if you know what I mean. I think that’s the wonder of the truly simple minded and enlightened.

      I saw a documentary a few months ago called Monks in the White Cloud, or something like that, about Buddhist hermit monks in China who live in a hut and have nothing to eat but what they grow or find, and nothing to do but meditate all day. It was astoundingly thought provoking. But then at the same time I wonder how much they’re really improving since they aren’t facing any conflicts. Yes they have hardships, but is their character being tested on a daily basis? In Goku’s case he is often thrust into conflicts unwillingly. They come to him unasked for, so he gets opportunity after opportunity to improve.

      This leads me to believe that the only way to truly reach a Goku-like state is to immerse yourself in society without actually being a part of it in your mind. You have to overcome all of the attachments that normal, everyday people have, and go beyond it. I fully believe this is possible. It just takes time and a lot of hard work.

      • I just very randomly found out about your reply here. The last four months have thrown up their fair share of challenges. And so will the next four. How close do you think you are to reaching such a state (although I’d imagine its more like a process – more like playing keepy-uppies with a ping pong ball where you may drop the ball and lose control, having to go again, than say, pushing a stone to the top of the hill and there you are, you’re done, you’ve ascended to Goku-ness). Keep up the good work, its a unique road to go down, and I’d imagine it has taken a lot of bravery to make it work.

        • Also I was wondering what techniques or processes you use yourself to maintain such a state?

          • Or would you say looking at that way is already a misguided approach in itself?

          • DerekPadula says:

            I don’t believe so. Some Daoists or Zen practitioners would say “you’re already perfect.” But if that’s true, the world would already be perfect. My belief is that most humans need a bit of work, and that’s why we are here. The awareness to recognize this in yourself and seek the Way places you light years ahead of all those people who don’t even know why they exist or go to work each day.

          • Interesting – thank you. Just bought the book, I’m looking forward to reading it and wish you the best of luck with your other work.

          • Christopher Aquilino says:

            You are “already perfect”. But they mean “perfect” differently.

            There’s nothing /invalid/ about you. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change. Doesn’t mean staying the same is bad. It just means, wherever you’re at, it’s a valid path—valid place to be in. You can come from any direction.

          • DerekPadula says:

            I found that I needed structure and discipline to keep the right mindset. That’s why I practice Falun Dafa meditation and study the teachings every day. It not only provides an infinitely wondrous and endless amount of insights into the universe (and Dragon Ball), it also gives me the strength I need to avoid all the junk and filthy stuff that is out there while I stay immersed in society. It keeps me going each day.

        • DerekPadula says:

          It’s a continual process. It’s said that even a Buddha can fall down if he is not careful. To reference the Bible, remember that Lucifer used to be an angel in Heaven before he fell down and became Satan. This is even more true for us human beings on Earth, subject to continual temptation.

          Even while I was typing this I felt the pull of temptation, but I said, “No” and stayed focused. And that’s what it’s about. The power of protecting your character, maintaining your virtue, staying true to your ideals, and having the strength to say No.

          You’re right that it does take bravery. But that’s what being an idealist is all about. I like to say, Make your ideal your new real.

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