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Finding the center,
By A Customer
This review is from: Enchiridion (Paperback)
Nowadays people tend to think a "stoic" person is one who bears up under sorrow without complaining. While this is somewhat true, it is a blindered view of what a Stoic aspires to. Epictetus was a freed slave, apparently born sometime during the middle of the first century. He became the leading teacher of Stoicism and an immense [though indirect] influence upon the emperor Marcus Aurelius, the closest the world has ever come to having a "philosopher-king." The Enchiridion is a "digest," a sampling of the heart of Epictetus' teaching, which must not be thought of as Epictetus' own ideas, but rather as his embodiment and distillation of the "truths" of Stoicism as brought forward over several centuries to his day. His aim was to live a life, and to teach his students to live a life, of calm and peace and happiness, in which outward events, no matter how hideous, cannot disturb. In this, he was similar to the Buddha, teaching his students to rise toward nirvana. The basic principle of Stoic philosophy, as maintained by Epictetus, was simple: we, as human beings, control only our responses to what happens around us: we cannot control events; we cannot make others do what we wish; we cannot even control whether we get sick or not: we CAN control how we react toward events, and it is toward this that we should direct our efforts. The Enchiridion is a wonderful book, a soothing balm, a great place to begin: read it slowly; think about how its teachings can be applied to your daily situation; then strive to apply them. When you feel that you have a good grasp of the Enchiridion, THEN go on to the Discourses. Stoicism is not a matter of learning "doctrines" or "dogmas": it is a matter of bringing your spirit into line--a goal to strive toward, without ever truly reaching it. The Buddha believed that all life is suffering, and that we must learn how to transcend that suffering. Epictetus' view of the world is more positive: life contains both good and bad, but we must learn how to control our reactions to both. His teachings are a manual for the striver
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Initial post: Nov 29, 2009 2:53:20 PM PST
P Presta says:
Seems like you've made a common error in your interpretation of the Buddha's teachings. Anyone can see that there is some joy in life, the Buddha was not contradicting that. Rather, he was merely saying that the endless process of birth, old age, sickness and death is one that you ultimately want to get out of.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2010 12:43:32 PM PST
It seems to me that what the reviewer referred to is The First Noble Truth of Buddhism: Life is Suffering.
He didn't go into interpreting.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2011 9:12:01 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 25, 2011 9:14:07 PM PST
J Gilmore says:
He did go into interpreting when he stated, "[Epictetus'] teachings are a manual for the striver". That's okay - viewing Buddhism as pessimistic and passive is an extremely common interpretation. First of all, Buddha's exhortation is not pessimistic but simply true. No matter what success the individual achieves (through stoic means or otherwise) his life and all his descendants will suffer from disease, frustration and old age -- and will die into nothingness along with the sun and universe [all the talk of leaving a legacy (for descendants that will suffer anyway) and a future happiness in the heavens are simply mental avoidance tactics.] Is the previous statement pessimism or simply the truth of the matter? Buddha shows the true way to help oneself and others - but it takes a close study to understand the teachings and know where to direct one's efforts.
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