The Stoic Path to Buddhist Enlightenment

I had thought that I might continue my analysis of the Stoic virtues, but I find myself traveling down a different avenue of thought.  You see, when looking over the virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice I noticed that when placed in that order they seem to dictate a clear path to will power.  With Prudence we learn to halt our impulses and consider our action carefully.  Temperance requires slightly more will power to moderate ourselves and not give in to passions.  Fortitude needs still more will which grants us the ability to ignore mental and physical discomfort and finally Justice, which i feel is the most challenging aspect of will power and requires us to always do the right thing, regardless of perceived cost. So in this way Stoicism can be seen as a path to Ultimate Self Control

I have made reference before to how similar Buddhism is to Stoicism and, having just read How to See Yourself by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I was once again struck by this fact.  Buddhism, as presented in this book, is all about attaining enlightenment.  Enlightenment, which we can easily call “Ultimate Self Awareness” for the purposes of comparison, is a part of self control.  I would say Self Awareness is a prerequisite to Self Control.

A part of what had turned me off Buddhism in the past was the principal that everything is illusion.  I felt that this encouraged a separation form from the problems of the world, which is dangerous in my mind.  After reading more, I’m glad to say that my opinions were based on a misunderstanding of the concept.  You see “everything is illusion” doesn’t refer to the fact that nothing is really real, but instead an idea that an object or event is seldom perceived as the thing itself but instead coloured by our own emotional responses to it.  The Buddhist concept of Emptiness calls for a person to try mentally strip away this, yes, illusion and see things for what they truly are.  The lack of emotional response is once again a very Stoic ideal.

I think the primary difference between Stoicism and Buddhism is that the Dalai Lama advocates replacing negative emotions with feelings of love.  The stoics argue that all extreme emotions lead to trouble.  Even the ones we would think of as being good.  I suppose where Stoicism becomes preferable to me is that Buddhism is a religion and therefore demands a specific belief in how the universe works, something based on faith and not fact.  Both, though, I feel are an excellent way of looking at and finding solutions to personal problems.  Stoicism and Buddhism can lead to being more centered and calm, both require toil to make it work.  Food for thought, anyway.

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