On the Teachings of the Buddha and the Stoics

The Buddha and the Stoics would agree that part of wisdom is realizing what we have power over and what we do not.  Our mind is one thing over which we can have power, provided that we cultivate it.  It is principally this insight and the guidance that these great human beings offer into how to cultivate a peaceful mind and a harmonious life that has brought me back to their nourishing wisdom again and again.

Your suffering is not inevitable, these great teachers tell us.  It is the product of the way you relate to yourself, your life, the events that befall you, your own thoughts, and feelings.  If you cling, if you push away, if you are ignorant, you suffer.  If you learn to let go, to accept, and to understand, your suffering diminishes.

Happiness is the product of a balanced life, say these sages of two great cultures, Ancient India and Rome.  Cultivate inner harmony and you will cultivate harmony in your larger life. Cultivate harmony in your larger life and you will contribute to harmony in your world. Find the peace that is within in silence, beneath the stream of thought.  Abide in it and as it, for that, you are.

Peace is not to be attained, for it is already present; it must only be recognized.  To recognize it, we must settle down the conflict, harmonize the parts of our being, and attain serenity through acceptance.  Failure to accept and constant conflict with the realities of life drain us, disempower us. Acceptance liberates.  Realized peace energizes.

Ultimately, I believe these teachers would agree, the secret of my life is that it is not ‘my’ life at all.  Life is not mine; I am life’s.  Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius pointed us to the interconnectedness of the cosmos; the Buddha did as well, pointing out that all things depend on all other things, nothing stands alone.  To know myself, I must know the universe; to know the universe, I must know myself.  The mind is in the world and the world is in the mind.  If I thrash about in the river of life, I will only drown myself in problems I have myself created.  However,  If I trust myself to the flow of life, I will find myself carried, as a swimmer is carried by the power of a rushing river.

The true value of the words of the Buddha and the Stoics is that they are not mere words to remember, but pointers to a more harmonious, serene, peaceful, and joyful life.  They are teachings to be returned to again and again, and more importantly, teachings to be lived.


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