Tag: Marcus Aurelius

The Stoic Buddhist

Marcus Aurelius and the Buddha

I recently changed my byline to The Stoic Buddhist and you may ask why? It is partially due to the many books I have read on Buddhism and Stoicism. So one reason is the interest I have in both philosophies, but as my studies progressed I started noticing some pretty interesting similarities. In this blog post I just want to focus on a couple of the things stoics and Buddhist’s have in common.

Well back to the question about the byline. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me one can embrace multiple philosophies and sometimes even just certain tenants. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Both Buddhism and Stoicism have always encouraged independent thinking analyzing what you feel is true and real in the world. I doubt that the Buddha would have objected too much if someone wanted to read the works of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus. Both Stoicism and Buddhism take an analytical approach to philosophy as opposed to a faith based approach of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Buddha was not a God and either was Marcus Aurelius or Seneca, and in the case of the stoics far from it. So in my life and studies I borrow from both, calling myself a Buddhist first and foremost, that also has a keen interest in stoicism.

Two of the more common themes that I noticed in both Stoicism and Buddhism are about desiring less and not fearing death.

Desire

Both Buddhism and Stoicism teach that there is inherent suffering involved with desires. The more you desire the more unhappy you will be, ever wanting more. The Buddha taught that the root of suffering was desire and Epictetus equates freedom to limiting what you desire.

Another quote from Marcus Aurelius speaks to the idea that very little is needed to be happy.

Actually Marcus Aurelius wrote extensively in his book Meditations about the need to control ones desires and the destructive nature of vices and materialism. As you know this was a Roman Emperor who could have had anything he wanted, but practiced a huge amount of self control in the way he lived. I think both the Stoics and Buddhists recognized that desires led to excesses, creating suffering and ultimately preventing one from leading a more noble existence.

Death

It is my understanding that both Stoicism and Buddhism viewed death as a natural part of life and not to be feared. With that said the Buddhist might believe that you will be reborn into another life; the Stoic will just state that this death is part of natures life cycle and your body is given to the earth. In either case as a Stoic or a Buddhist you will be expected to not fear death, to be courageous, and calm upon your demise.

Whether a Stoic or a Buddhist it is not death to be concerned with, but rather how well you have lived. Was the life you had meaningful and of service to mankind? To the stoic philosopher or a dedicated Buddhist a life satisfying selfish desires is a life wasted and not worth living. Another similarity between the Stoic and Buddhist view of death is that it begins when we are born with each day we die a little bringing us that much closer to our final demise.

Below is a quote from the Buddha from the Pali Canon , Sali Sutta that illustrates the nature of life and death.

From Marcus Aurelius a quote on the inevitability of death and our response to it.

While this by no means is meant to provide any kind of exhaustive comparison between similar views shared by Stoics and Buddhists, I wanted it to be more of an introduction to the idea that there are some aspects of the two philosophies that they have in common. As death pursues us all I hope there will be time to go into a more detailed analysis of where the two philosophies converge.

There is no way of cheating nature of our own inevitable destiny. We all will face death, some sooner, some later, but it will surely come. With that in mind whether you are a Stoic or a Buddhist; it is all up to you to live an authentic life and cherish each day.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from Seneca.

“You want to live-but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying-and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?”

Namaste

How the wise view time

I don’t know when it all started maybe a couple years ago, but I came to the realization that my time on this earth was limited. This begins to happen for most of us once we realize what is left in terms of years is only a fractional portion of the time we have already lived. This only becomes more acute as you progress from your 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and so on. It’s not so much anxiety, but it becomes more of a value proposition, weighing the value of time against the way you live your life. You begin to question how you are spending your time and why you spend this limited time working at a job that maybe pays well, but doesn’t support the value of time paradigm that you now find yourself so acutely aware of.

Maybe you find yourself trading that precious commodity, your time for the accumulation additional wealth. I think this is a trigger for a lot of people in their 50’s and 60’s who begin thinking about retirement. You begin to realize the opportunity cost of staying at your less than fulfilling job. You become preoccupied thinking of all the things you want to do that you just don’t have time to pursue. I know for myself things like a career path, promotions, and all those other things that seemed important in my 40’s occupy little space in my mind today. This understanding of the value of time, which you should have had all along becomes so much more important than the accumulation of wealth and the agony that often accompanies it. Instead of mellowing out as we age, we often become less tolerant of the bullshit and wish for more autonomy and freedom to pursue what really matters to us.

The feeling of regret for not realizing this long ago comes up and you may feel you have wasted years or even decades running on the hamster wheel for monetary rewards. Then again maybe you have had a great career, but realize it’s time to pack it in and start something new. In either case you are faced with the decision to keep doing the same old thing or break free and use the remaining days, months, or years to do something else. If you are a fan of the stoics you will find a lot of material devoted to death and the importance of living life in a meaningful way. One of my favorite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius:

Don’t let your fears or habits dictate how you will live your life. Be like the wise person and give your time the value it so rightly deserves.

Namaste

Not for appearance sake

One of the themes I understand from studying the Stoics like Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius is the idea that above all you should do the right thing. Another way of putting this is to be a good person, first and foremost. Doing the right thing is not done for accolades or praise, but simply because it is the right thing to do. If you find yourself more concerned about how the things you do are perceived by others then you are missing the point.

Maybe you are not doing the right thing or being a good person because you find it inconvenient taking too much effort. Being lazy or selfish is not an excuse for shirking your responsibilities and doing what is right. The stoic ideal requires self-discipline and adhering to the principle of doing good. A selfish me oriented attitude will never result in doing the right thing, nor will living a life focused on impressing other people.

Put your ego aside today and think is what I am doing the right thing, is it good for the world, or is it self serving?

There is such a thing as an honorable life, but it is not easy. Doing the right thing is difficult in this me oriented world, but you have greatness inside you and you just need to release it.

Ask yourself today, as Epictetus would, am I doing this for the sake of appearance or because it is the right thing to do?

Namaste

 


This post was proofread by Grammarly.

 

Taking life to seriously

I sat around this morning drinking coffee, and playing my To-Do list in my head over and over like I typically do wondering if I would ever get it all done on time and how all these future events would transpire. Does any of this sound familiar? Anyone with a modicum of drive and determination falls victim to this kind of routine, and quite frankly it sucks. Here’s the thing we all take life too seriously and we suffer because of that. Sometimes I have to remind myself that a year from now I probably won’t remember all the shit I worried about today, and ironically no one else will either.

The Stoics especially Marcus Aurelius often thought about just how insignificant we are in the scheme of things. I can assure you that no matter how successful you are at work, once you move on and within a couple years or less you will be just a distant memory to those who remain. The company or organization you work for will march on without you because that’s what they do. So lesson one is stop taking your work or yourself so seriously, really in the scheme of things, it’s not that important. I know this is hard to hear because you put so much of yourself into your work, you have tied your identity to what you do, not who you are.

I can hear you now and I can hear myself saying, well that’s great, but I have a lot of shit to do, and if I want to keep earning a living I need to get it done. Most of us can’t just jump off the hamster wheel and join a Buddhist monastery, we need to provide for our families and all that other stuff. When I talk to myself and yes I talk to myself, I try to simplify and tell myself it will all get done, but only if you focus on one thing at a time and stay present. Being present not only makes you more productive so you can eradicate that to-do list, but it also reduces your anxiety as you are not focusing on the future.

Another benefit of focusing on the present moment is that you begin to find joy in what you are doing. Here’s my advice, fuck the productivity benefits, screw the fact that you are getting more done for others; focus on the present for yourself so you can gain some enjoyment from what you are doing.

Namaste

 

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It’s the truth I’m after

This is one of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius who was the Roman Emperor 161 to 180 CE and a pretty awesome Stoic Philosopher. Let’s take a look at what this quote really means:

“It’s the truth I am after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”

Sometimes I like to draw a parallel between Stoicism and Buddhism, but in Buddhism, the truth is known and it is referred to as the Four Noble Truths. That doesn’t mean Buddhists don’t seek the truth, they certainly do, my reference is to what the Buddha taught as the ultimate truth in the Four Noble Truths. Here Marcus Aurelius is seeking the truth and reminding us that the truth cannot harm us. We can seek the truth or as he says we can live in self-deceit and ignorance. I think this quote by Marcus Aurelius is inspirational and prescriptive, seek the truth, and avoid fooling yourself and being ignorant.

What other way should you live your life, but seeking the truth? Seeking the truth means being inquisitive, learning, and not being satisfied with bullshit explanations. Don’t believe the stories people tell you, when they want you to do things, question them. Your favorite word as a truth seeker is “why”. As a truth seeker, your life will have more meaning and you will enrich your understanding of the world.

Go ahead my friend the world needs more Truth Seekers! 

Namaste

 

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About Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius (/ɔːˈrliəs/ or /ɔːˈrljəs/;[1] LatinMarcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli), and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

Marcus was born during the reign of Emperor Hadrian to the emperor’s nephew, the praetor Marcus Annius Verus (III), and his wife the heiress Domitia Lucilla. Following the death of his father, Marcus was raised by his mother and grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (II). After Hadrian’s adoptive sonAelius Caesar, died in 138, the emperor adopted Marcus’ uncle Antoninus Pius as his new heir. In turn, Antoninus adopted Marcus and the son of Aelius, Lucius (later to rule as Emperor Lucius Verus alongside Marcus). Hadrian died that year and Antoninus became emperor. Now heir to the throne, Marcus studied Greek and Latin under tutors such as Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. He kept in close correspondence with Fronto for many years afterwards. Marcus married Antoninus’ daughter Faustina in 145. Antoninus died following an illness in 161.

The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the MarcomanniQuadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges in the Marcomannic Wars; however, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. He modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire is believed to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people. Lucius Verus may have died from the plague in 169.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Marcus chose not to adopt an heir. His children included Lucilla, who married Lucius, and Commodus, whose succession after Marcus has become a subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Meditations, the writings of “the philosopher” – as contemporary biographers called Marcus, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, monarchs, and politicians centuries after his death.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius

Accept whatever comes to you

Marcus Aurelius was one of the few great Emperors of Rome and a Stoic Philosopher. Most of what he wrote was targeted at himself, creating a philosophy of  life for him to follow. His destiny was to become the Emperor of Rome, and this was something he felt that he needed to accept. I’m sure this wasn’t an easy decision for him, as the weight of the Empire was squarely placed on his shoulders. You might equate it to being the President or Prime Minister, except that in Roman times you were not only the leader, but often considered a God.

Each of has a destiny that is set forth for us even though sometimes we don’t realize it and often we fight against it and are not accepting. This quote is more about living your life in acceptance of what unfolds and understanding that this acceptance turns out to be what you need. When I say a destiny I’m not saying it is predetermined, but that this destiny evolves and we either accept it, or we fight against it. Acceptance will provide happiness and fulfillment, where fighting against it will result in resentment and pain.

This is one of the Stoic themes that life should be lived with acceptance and you should appreciate what life provides for you. This doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to something else, it just means that you should not get caught up in forever wanting something you don’t have.

What will it be for you, acceptance of the destiny that is unfolding for you, or rejecting what is transpiring in your life?

Namaste

 

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Marcus Aurelius (/ɔːˈrliəs/ or /ɔːˈrljəs/;[1] LatinMarcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli), and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

Marcus was born during the reign of Emperor Hadrian to the emperor’s nephew, the praetor Marcus Annius Verus (III), and his wife the heiress Domitia Lucilla. Following the death of his father, Marcus was raised by his mother and grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (II). After Hadrian’s adoptive sonAelius Caesar, died in 138, the emperor adopted Marcus’ uncle Antoninus Pius as his new heir. In turn, Antoninus adopted Marcus and the son of Aelius, Lucius (later to rule as Emperor Lucius Verus alongside Marcus). Hadrian died that year and Antoninus became emperor. Now heir to the throne, Marcus studied Greek and Latin under tutors such as Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. He kept in close correspondence with Fronto for many years afterwards. Marcus married Antoninus’ daughter Faustina in 145. Antoninus died following an illness in 161.

The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the MarcomanniQuadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges in the Marcomannic Wars; however, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. He modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire is believed to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people. Lucius Verus may have died from the plague in 169.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Marcus chose not to adopt an heir. His children included Lucilla, who married Lucius, and Commodus, whose succession after Marcus has become a subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Meditations, the writings of “the philosopher” – as contemporary biographers called Marcus, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, monarchs, and politicians centuries after his death.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius

 

Except to reason

Marcus Aurelius was if nothing else a rational man. In this quote he rightly espouses that nothing else should guide you in life but reason. Not emotions, greed, lust, or any other vile thoughts. In many ways this is the same philosophy that Ayn Rand used in her books The Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged. When we seek to go down a path that is void of reason we are taking a big risk that could manifest itself into addictions, stupid decisions, and an all around miserable existence.

Let the stoics help guide you to a better place in your life. You are constantly bombarded by so many things that will challenge you, and if you can stay grounded knowing reason alone is your basis for living, then you will be at peace. Most people around you and in society as a whole will not live a life based on reason, and you quickly see what the consequences are for them.

If it is not rational, if you can’t use reason to understand it and guide your decisions then don’t do it. If you are reading this blog you are a person of reason, and it is your responsibility to be the rational person and set an example for those around you. This is even more important now when so much fear about this pandemic is all around us.

Be like Marcus Aurelius, be the stoic!

Namaste

 

If you would like to support this blog, check out the awesome selection of eBooks at:

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Marcus Aurelius (/ɔːˈrliəs/ or /ɔːˈrljəs/;[1] LatinMarcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later by Niccolò Machiavelli), and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius

 

 

10 Powerful Lessons From The Meditations Of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius picture of

The video below is from the YouTube channel Everyday Stoic. I think you will really enjoy this as much as I did. You can find many more of my favorite YouTube videos on this blog on the YouTube Videos page.

 

“Meditations (Medieval Greek: Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, romanized: Ta eis heauton, literally “things to one’s self”) is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement.

It is possible that large portions of the work were written at Sirmium, where he spent much time planning military campaigns from 170 to 180. Some of it was written while he was positioned at Aquincum on campaign in Pannonia, because internal notes tell us that the first book was written when he was campaigning against the Quadi on the river Granova (modern-day Hron) and the second book was written at Carnuntum.

It is unlikely that Marcus Aurelius ever intended the writings to be published and the work has no official title, so “Meditations” is one of several titles commonly assigned to the collection. These writings take the form of quotations varying in length from one sentence to long paragraphs.”

Source: Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditations

Namaste

 

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Live knowing you will die

This is not an uncommon theme with the stoics and for a good reason in that it is so true. Marcus Aurelius was not just a philosopher, not that there is anything wrong with that. In fact Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. Most of his quotes deal with very pragmatic things, in this case the fact that you will die someday, maybe this very moment.

If you may die wouldn’t it be important that you understand that time for you is not infinite. This fact alone should guide your thoughts and actions. We are all so caught up in our day to day life, that we forget to focus on what is most important. Most of our time is worrying about trivial shit, seeking gratification, and making a terrible mess out of our lives. What if I woke up everyday and said thank you for being alive, and then reminded myself that I may die at any time. Would that change the course of each day, maybe and maybe not. It sure would be better than getting up and thinking another day in the matrix, get on the hamster wheel and start running.

When it really comes down to it, we don’t want to think about our mortality and we find lots of excuses for putting off achieving important things in favor of doing what is easy. After all I will start writing that book next year, get in shape later, quite those disgusting habits someday. We look to the future, a future that Marcus Aurelius reminds us is tenuous at best.

Thinks like a Stoic – I could die tomorrow.

Namaste

 

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A model personality

How do you see yourself?

Do you think you are lazy, unworthy, prone to anger, or lacking direction in your life? What Epictetus is advocating is to see yourself as something greater than you currently do. He even goes so far as to say imagine yourself a model personality, maybe someone like Epictetus, Seneca, or Marcus Aurelius. It could be anyone that you admire, maybe Winston Churchill,  Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or anyone that you aspire to be more like. Use that model character as your guiding light that leads on a course of to follow in terms of speech and action.

Once you have chosen that individual or ideal for yourself now act upon it in both your public and private life. It does no good if you ramble on in public about your philosophy if you cannot implement it in your personal life. If you want to be kind, compassionate, loving, understanding, and calm then do this at all times. It’s not only a philosophy, but it must become a way of life. Don’t study the Bible, the teachings of the Buddha, or the Holy Quran, and go about your life as normal. Just thinking about being a better version of yourself does nothing; you must think then act.

I don’t advocate Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Stoicism, or any other religion or philosophy. In fact any of these mentioned provides guidance on how to live a model life, but you are free to choose one or all of them for yourself. An example of this is the Dali Lama who often talks about loving kindness and compassion and by all accounts his actions support his teachings. So the challenge for the day is to take any of the tenants from your studies and actually implement it in your actions. As it becomes more challenging to be virtuous, during these stressful times, it also becomes more important to act as that model character you want to become.

Who do you aspire to be?

Namaste

 

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