Hi Luke - because you don't like complications, in general you should be practicing highest yoga tantra or Dzogchen. because they were made for exactly that (people who don't like complications).
Hmm, it's possible that you're correct. Since I've never practiced these things, I can't really say. But I always thought that one had to go through all the lower tantra stuff and that to go directly to practicing HYT or Dzogchen just wasn't considered proper in Tibetan Buddhism. I guess I felt that it was best not to do Tibetan Buddhism at all, rather than to do it "improperly."
Oh no, HYT is introduced up-front in Nyingma and Sakya and is pretty close to up-front in Drikung Kagyu (my experience of Drikung is that it is up-front but this may not be the actual case). However in both Sakya and Nyingma (esp. Nyingma) HYT is the main thing (in Nyingma it is basically the only thing). I don't really know about Gelug or Bon but my impression in Gelug is that the meditation people are doing is at least Yogatantra and probably HYT. The point is that is is mostly meditation rather than performing extensive rituals. However in the Sarma schools in particular you will be taken through an extensive study of the Madhyamika view.
Nyingma Dzogchen is in fact "progressive" (one begins with a HYT practice but this is meditation centric - however in Nyingma these meditations can become somewhat complex). But there are some Dzogchen teachers who teach "Dzogchen First" (or Dzogchen (almost) Only). Like Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, although he is not the only one.
However for many people, even HYT is complex. So probably you should only practice Dzogchen. However that also means you must trust the guru and like meditation (all the Dzogchen only people will jump in at this point "ungt-oh, Dzogchen is *NOT* meditation, etc. - it's not doing something contrived, etc. , it's simple and all your delusions dissolve into the nature of mind like writing in water, etc. - that's true but for most people it still takes effort because we are severely spiritually polluted and overwhelmed by distractions).
That sounds very beautiful and pleasant, but it begs the question: does one really need a guru to realize the nature of mind?
Yes (see my more extensive response on this). BTW, did you need anyone to teach you how to eat healthily, to bath once or more a day, etc.? To toilet train yourself? Did you discover anything profound on your own? People need training for everything, except some mundane things after they have been well-trained. People do discover things on their own, usually math, sometimes in other disciplines. Most people do not. And people do not discover the nature of mind on their own. Did Krishnamurti, for example? Or David Koresh? There are many other examples.
Did the Zen master Bankei know nothing about the nature of mind?
Bankei did not discover Zen. Bankei rejected most things that people tried to pass on to him as received knowledge, esp. Confucism. Later he was taught zazen - he did not discover it on his own and he had been raised in a Buddhist environment consisting at least of exposure to Pure Land, Zen and Shingon. After sitting Bankei did indeed resolve the matter for himself. This is classic Zen. Aside from Shakyamuni Buddha, there are no self-made Zen masters. Zen masters are made because they found a teacher, sometimes even a bad teacher, who taught them practice. Once they got going some of them did extend practice forms, but even this is relatively rare.
_________________Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes
"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche