Tag: stoics

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

Focusing on your purpose

It is one of the fundamental laws in life, that you have finite time, and using it for any particular purpose is where you will see results, not elsewhere. Let’s take an example say you work 60 hours a week at your job, but you would like to be a writer. Now that book you have wanted to write will not magically write itself, as almost every waking hour is dedicated to your work, i.e. not writing. It’s called a tradeoff, this is what life is one tradeoff after another. You spend your time doing this and you can’t do that other thing. The problem is not that we are making tradeoffs, it is often that we are focused on the wrong thing.

If you really want to work 60 hours a week on your job because you love your work then, by all means, do it, but be aware you may be giving up family, friends, hobbies, and relaxation. We have created a society where many of us can work from anywhere and we have so many tools that make this possible. I am constantly being interrupted by messages sent to my phone by various apps that I feel like I am never off the clock. To make it worse we have a global workforce, where you will often work with team members in China, Europe, India, Mexico, and the United States just to name a few. What this means is early meetings and late meetings the day is being stretched and so are we. What used to be a manageable length day now becomes a marathon.

Just remember you get what you focus on and nothing else. Make a habit from time to time to analyze what you are spending your time on and weighing it against where you want to go.

Namaste

 

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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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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

 

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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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Those who think they can damage me

How can you be damaged by people who don’t even know who you are?

They may have some cursory understanding of you, and yet they feel obliged to judge you, and instead of taking the high road they say or write disparaging things about you. These are the trolls of the internet, those who’s only purpose is to spew negative rhetoric about you. The trolls haven’t taken the time to learn about you, or digest your work with an open mind.

Remember they are not intellectuals, philosophers, or students of your work. You need to take the same attitude that Epictetus does and laugh at them and move on. These are not critics they are hate mongers and their feedback is not worthy of your consideration.

I only consider feedback from people that know me well. Life is too short to be absorbing negative messages from fools. Continue on with your good work and support those that have your best interests in mind. Remember those trolls and hate mongers can only cause damage if you let them.

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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Leisure for the mind

You have to love Seneca, he always provides profound guidance, which I have so thankfully been accustomed to receiving over the past year or so. To me this is pretty straight forward. For you or me to have time to think or even to relax we need to be either a poor man, or resemble a poor man. He goes on to say that “study cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply”. So to be a great scholar maybe you need both the luxury of time and a life that is not too complex, so as not to compete with your studies.

Finally he states and “living simply is voluntary poverty”. Now mind you Seneca was not poor, but I think he could see that the pursuit of wealth was not healthy to obtaining the state of mind needed to relax the mind if you will. Just like the rest of us we often know the path, teach the path, but struggle to follow it ourselves.

Let you life be simple today, do what you must to earn a living, but keep a bit in reserve for you studies.

Namaste

 

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Let silence be your general rule

A nice quote from Epictetus and if you are like me you wish this would be read and understood by the continuous talkers we all know and love. Why would silence be the preferred default state of being? Being silent allows you to be a better listener, and thus learn more. Being silent allows others to express themselves, which is a show of respect. The second part of the quote advises that if we need to talk to say what is necessary and in as few words as possible.

I often see in business just the opposite, people who talk and talk, sometime, is just filling in spaces of time, endless babble if you will. In fact this is often encouraged so that we have something to say at a meeting, instead of ending it earlier, we feel compelled to rant on about often meaningless stuff. Corporate America could gain much from studying the stoics, but don’t hold your breath, the endless babbling will continue.

Use this quote as advice for yourself or maybe for a friend. Forget about the babbling fools, they will not change, it is not in their DNA. Philosophy is not for fools, they have no need for it, nor will they ever understand it.

Namaste