Stoicism and Buddhism

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
alicec19
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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by alicec19 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:51 am

clw_uk wrote:
Wed Dec 24, 2014 11:29 pm
It seems that all three have the same end but approach it from different angles.

The stoic uses reasoning to tamper emotional responses, however this is a past the post response.

The Pyrrhoinic sceptic weighs up both sides of an argument/perception and decides that since he can't know what is true he should then suspend judgement (and so then experience calm)


A follower of Buddha rests in clear mindfulness and awareness and so doesn't react to dhammas in the first place (after seeing their nature).


Personally I have tried all three philosophies and I have found scepticism to be the most ineffective in daily life mutuelles TNS, although useful for debates.


Stoicism was easier but I found that since it was past the post it only tampered dukkha

Dhamma I found to be best in not experiencing dukkha in the first place. That being said I still find some use from the other two schools.
The question of religion is rather complicated, especially when it comes to a known religion. We all have our own conviction and understanding of a given religion.

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by binocular » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Thu Dec 25, 2014 2:51 pm
clw_uk wrote:However doesn't stoicism achieve apatheia through the wrong view of materialism and determinism, the stoics being proponents of both?
Yes, that for me is what makes them so intriguing. They start out from the most appallingly rotten premises (theism AND materialism AND fatalism — one can scarcely imagine a worse combination of wrong views!), yet in spite of this they get it exactly right about eudaemonia (i.e. there is nothing in the Gotamī Sutta that a Stoic would deem an unworthy aim) and almost exactly right about the nature of the sage (the Stoic sage differs from the Buddhist arahant only in that the former is expected to busy himself with public affairs, while the latter is expected to be a bhikkhu, and thus more like the uninvolved sage pictured by the Stoics' great rival, Epicurus).
I don't find them all that intriguing. I think that stoicism is the stance arrived at by people whose health and wealth are still relatively good and intact. It's the mentality of the upper middle class, as long as birth, aging, illness, and death mostly stay at a polite distance. It's a mentality the requirement for which is material wellbeing.
Hence poor or chronically ill people do not seem to favor stoicism, even if at first glance they seem to be the best population for it and one who might need it the most.
But the fact that the Stoics sought apatheia on the basis of radically wrong views may also go some way to explaining why (on the Stoic writers’ own admission) none of their number actually achieved it — that is, nobody is regarded as having graduated from a prokopton to a proficiens, not even such worthies as Heraclitus and Socrates whom the Stoics held as their patriarchs. In effect, therefore, Stoic sagehood appears to be a merely theoretical ideal.
That's because birth, aging, illness, and death have a thing for bursting people's bubbles.

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:33 am

Greetings,
binocular wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm
Hence poor or chronically ill people do not seem to favor stoicism, even if at first glance they seem to be the best population for it and one who might need it the most.
Without going back in time it is hard to validate this theory, but I strongly suspect that, through sheer necessity, the "poor or chronically ill" were far more stoic in the past than they are today. I also suspect this stoicism had more beneficial consequences in relation to their mind-state than other approaches.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

Saengnapha
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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:15 am

waryoffolly wrote:
Wed Dec 24, 2014 4:32 pm
Has anyone checked out stoic philosphy?
It's quite astounding to me how many similarities there are with buddhism.
Supposedly the skeptic Pyrhho studied in India and brought some philosophy back with him. -Perhaps he is the link between the two?

Here is a very, very abridged intro to stoicism:
http://hackthesystem.com/blog/stoicism- ... hilosophy/

Please read at least the two "steps" in the article before responding.
Greek Buddha, Pyrrho’s Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia, by Christopher I. Beckwith is a book which deals with this topic. Pyrrho's system was as close to the Buddhist tetralemma as anything I've come across. Interesting reading.

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samseva
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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by samseva » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:12 am

binocular wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm
I don't find them all that intriguing. I think that stoicism is the stance arrived at by people whose health and wealth are still relatively good and intact. It's the mentality of the upper middle class, as long as birth, aging, illness, and death mostly stay at a polite distance. It's a mentality the requirement for which is material wellbeing.
Hence poor or chronically ill people do not seem to favor stoicism, even if at first glance they seem to be the best population for it and one who might need it the most.
You should read a small portion of the biography of Epictetus—one of the most important figures of Stoicism in history.

He was born a slave (freed at the age of around 67) and his leg was permentantly damaged because his master beat him, which left him crippled. ;)

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:35 am

samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:12 am
He was born a slave (freed at the age of around 67) and his leg was permentantly damaged because his master beat him, which left him crippled. ;)
I remember Christmas Humphreys, the British Buddhist popularizer, would often tell the story of Epictetus's equanimity when his sadistic master was torturing him by squeezing his leg in a vice.

"If you tighten the vice any more, my leg will break," said Epictetus.

The master gleefully went on tightening it. There was a sharp crack.

"There," said Epictetus, "I told you that my leg would break."

:candle:

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Sam Vara
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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:19 am

Dhammanando wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:35 am
"There," said Epictetus, "I told you that my leg would break."

:candle:
Do I detect just a hint of self-righteous satisfaction in that statement? "I told you so!"

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by binocular » Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:36 am

samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:12 am
You should read a small portion of the biography of Epictetus—one of the most important figures of Stoicism in history.

He was born a slave (freed at the age of around 67) and his leg was permentantly damaged because his master beat him, which left him crippled. ;)
I talked about the "mentality of the upper middle class"; this mentality isn't limited to the upper middle class, but can also be found in people in the lower class, but who aspire to become the upper middle class or who otherwise hold that the mentality of the upper middle class is the best one.

There is nowadays a revival of stoicism, and from what I've seen, the people who are interested in stoicism today (and who write books about it or advocate for it) are people with the mentality of the upper middle class, even though many of them don't actually belong to it.

Bottomline: I think that stoicism requires a kind of idealism about life, and this idealism is more likely to be found in the upper middle class, and in people who aspire to it. I think one has to experience a measure of material wellbeing (or at least imagine such wellbeing and aspire to it) in order to then be able to confidently, peacefully think that one will be able to face all problems calmly.

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Dhammanando » Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:36 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:19 am
Dhammanando wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:35 am
"There," said Epictetus, "I told you that my leg would break."

:candle:
Do I detect just a hint of self-righteous satisfaction in that statement? "I told you so!"
I think his words are simply those of a thoroughly convinced (and logically consistent) theist and fatalist, saying in brief what he says at greater length in his Encheiridion and Discourses. Especially the latter, in which Epictetus seems to talk about his legs quite frequently:
* * * * * * * * *

What is by nature free, cannot be disturbed or restrained by anything but itself. But its own principles disturb it. Thus, when the tyrant says to anyone “I will chain your leg,” he who values his leg, cries out for pity, while he who sets the value on his own will and choice, says: “If you suppose it will do you any good, then chain it.”
“What! Don’t you even care?”
“No, I don’t care.”
“I will show you that I am master!”
“You? How should you? Zeus has set me free. Pray, do you think He would suffer His own son to be enslaved? You are master of my carcass only. Take it if you will.”

* * * * * * * * *

Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to happen exactly as they do, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.

Disease is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless the will itself chooses. Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not to the will. And add this reflection on the occasion of everything that happens; for you will find it an impediment to something else, but not to yourself.

* * * * * * * * *

What then should a man have in readiness in such circumstances? What else than “What is mine, and what is not mine; and what is permitted to me, and what is not permitted to me.”

I must die. Must I then die lamenting? I must be put in chains. Must I then also lament? I must go into exile. Does any man then hinder me from going with smiles and cheerfulness and contentment?

“Tell me the secret which you possess.”
“I will not, for this is in my power.”
“But I will put you in chains.”
“Man, what are you talking about? Me in chains? You may fetter my leg, but my will not even Zeus himself can overpower.”
“I will throw you into prison.”
“My poor body, you mean.”
“I will cut your head off.”
“And when did I ever boast that my head alone cannot be cut off?”

These are the things which philosophers should meditate on, which they should write daily, in which they should exercise themselves.

* * * * * * * * *

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Javi » Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:14 pm

Were they materialists really? I thought they were more like panpsychists. The logos is supposed to be also intelligent and rational as well as a fiery aether like stuff.


Anyways, I've always preferred the Cynics, they seem more like serious ascetics
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by samseva » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:17 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:36 am
samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:12 am
You should read a small portion of the biography of Epictetus—one of the most important figures of Stoicism in history.

He was born a slave (freed at the age of around 67) and his leg was permentantly damaged because his master beat him, which left him crippled. ;)
I talked about the "mentality of the upper middle class"; this mentality isn't limited to the upper middle class, but can also be found in people in the lower class, but who aspire to become the upper middle class or who otherwise hold that the mentality of the upper middle class is the best one.

[...]
It's not because a small pocket of individuals in the 21st century uses a philosophical system—that is more than 2300 years old—for a specific purpose, that it makes that philosophical system for the "upper middle class who live comfortably and with good material wealth."

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by aflatun » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:48 pm

Javi wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:14 pm
Were they materialists really? I thought they were more like panpsychists. The logos is supposed to be also intelligent and rational as well as a fiery aether like stuff.


Anyways, I've always preferred the Cynics, they seem more like serious ascetics
Yeah they're confusing like that. I think the way Bhante said it was nice, they're kind of theists and materialists all at once.

I've never checked out the cynics at all, what's a good read ?
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Dhammanando
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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Dhammanando » Sat Oct 14, 2017 12:22 am

Javi wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:14 pm
Were they materialists really?
They were thorough-going materialists, though given the conjunction of this with panpsychism, along with the very peculiar qualities that Stoic physics ascribes to matter, their materialism was clearly very different from the kinds commonly met with today. According to Fr Copleston this was true of classical materialisms in general, excepting only that of Democritus, which does indeed resemble the modern (or at least 19th century) sort.
Javi wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:14 pm
I thought they were more like panpsychists. The logos is supposed to be also intelligent and rational as well as a fiery aether like stuff.
Though rational, the creator god Zeus and the spark of reason that he implants in every human being are both said to be composed of the fire element and nothing but the fire element.

Javi wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:14 pm
Anyways, I've always preferred the Cynics, they seem more like serious ascetics
The Cynics were passable enough, I suppose, if one's taste runs to pratyekabuddhas. Still, they never produced anyone comparable to that trio of mensches: Cato the Younger, Musonius Rufus and Epictetus.

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Javi
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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Javi » Sat Oct 14, 2017 12:57 am

Interesting, though, if for the stoics matter is conscious, then its pretty much something else altogether than what we would call "materialism" today, more like a neutral monism a la Russell.

As for the Cynics, I'm not sure I see them as having a pratyekabuddha bent, after all, they saw themselves driven by philantropia (love of man) to deface the nomos of society and thus in a way, they saw themselves as providing an important service for their fellow men - that of the socratic gadfly or the watchdog of virtue.

But maybe I'm just defending them because they were always my favorites, Diogenes in particular. I've always thought that if Cynicism was still a living tradition, I might have become a Cynic during my early days of philosophical studies! :rofl:
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by binocular » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:20 am

samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:17 pm
It's not because a small pocket of individuals in the 21st century uses a philosophical system—that is more than 2300 years old—for a specific purpose, that it makes that philosophical system for the "upper middle class who live comfortably and with good material wealth."
Who else except those who are doing relatively well in the material sense can 1. afford and 2. manage to have a stoic outlook on life?

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Dhammanando » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:50 am

binocular wrote:
Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:20 am
samseva wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:17 pm
It's not because a small pocket of individuals in the 21st century uses a philosophical system—that is more than 2300 years old—for a specific purpose, that it makes that philosophical system for the "upper middle class who live comfortably and with good material wealth."
Who else except those who are doing relatively well in the material sense can 1. afford and 2. manage to have a stoic outlook on life?
Well, anybody can afford it. If you have a Stoic outlook on life, then not "doing relatively well in the material sense" is treated merely as an aproêgmena (dispreferred indifferent), not as an evil. It's not an evil because its power to impede aretê and eudaimôn is not absolute and in the case of the Stoic sage has been wholly eradicated.

As to whether one can manage to have it, I think probably not (at least not via Stoic methods) given the Stoic writers' admissions of personal failure that I mentioned in an earlier post. Nonetheless, even attempting it and falling short led to some pretty class acts on the part of the more virtuous Romans.

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by cjmacie » Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:49 pm

Another mention associating Stoicism with Buddhist influence is found in Alexander Wynne’s Buddhism: An Introduction (2015), page 180 (emphasis added):

“It is likely that Buddhists had already reached Bactria in the third century B.C., when it was still ruled by the Greeks, for the Pali sources claim that a Greek called Yonadhammarakkhita [“Yona” as in Ionia] took part in the Ashokan missions. Further Buddhist missionaries probably travelled west from here, within the Eastern Greek empire that stretched all the way to the Mediterranean, for early Manichean texts from the neighboring Iranian country of Parthia show a few traces of Indian Buddhist terminology. A Buddhist influence on Pythagoras and the stoics is also likely, and a later influence on Christian monasticism is possible; the claims of the Persian scholar Al Biruni (973-1048), that the ‘samaniyya’ religion existed in Iraq and Syria before imperial Persia extended its support to Zoroastrianism, must therefore be taken seriously. But however far west Buddhism spread, without any state support and with major powers favouring other religions, it ultimately came to nothing.” (… that is until the 20th century.)

A passage in the Wikipedia article on Stoicism is suggestive:

“Philosophy for a Stoic is not just a set of beliefs or ethical claims, it is a way of life involving constant practice and training (or askesis, see asceticism). Stoic philosophical and spiritual practices included logic, Socratic dialogue and self-dialogue, contemplation of death, training attention to remain in the present moment (similar to some forms of Eastern meditation), and daily reflection on everyday problems and possible solutions. Philosophy for a Stoic is an active process of constant
practice and self-reminder.”

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by samseva » Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:17 am

cjmacie wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:49 pm
“It is likely that Buddhists had already reached Bactria in the third century B.C., when it was still ruled by the Greeks, for the Pali sources claim that a Greek called Yonadhammarakkhita [“Yona” as in Ionia] took part in the Ashokan missions. Further Buddhist missionaries probably travelled west from here, within the Eastern Greek empire that stretched all the way to the Mediterranean, for early Manichean texts from the neighboring Iranian country of Parthia show a few traces of Indian Buddhist terminology. A Buddhist influence on Pythagoras and the stoics is also likely, and a later influence on Christian monasticism is possible; the claims of the Persian scholar Al Biruni (973-1048), that the ‘samaniyya’ religion existed in Iraq and Syria before imperial Persia extended its support to Zoroastrianism, must therefore be taken seriously. But however far west Buddhism spread, without any state support and with major powers favouring other religions, it ultimately came to nothing.” (… that is until the 20th century.)
After reading Stoic authors, I always see so many similarities with Buddhist teachings that I come to the conclusion that Stoics had to have been exposed to them to some degree.

Thanks for the above excerpt, it seems I wasn't imagining it. :smile:

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by Javi » Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:24 pm

samseva wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:17 am
cjmacie wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:49 pm
“It is likely that Buddhists had already reached Bactria in the third century B.C., when it was still ruled by the Greeks, for the Pali sources claim that a Greek called Yonadhammarakkhita [“Yona” as in Ionia] took part in the Ashokan missions. Further Buddhist missionaries probably travelled west from here, within the Eastern Greek empire that stretched all the way to the Mediterranean, for early Manichean texts from the neighboring Iranian country of Parthia show a few traces of Indian Buddhist terminology. A Buddhist influence on Pythagoras and the stoics is also likely, and a later influence on Christian monasticism is possible; the claims of the Persian scholar Al Biruni (973-1048), that the ‘samaniyya’ religion existed in Iraq and Syria before imperial Persia extended its support to Zoroastrianism, must therefore be taken seriously. But however far west Buddhism spread, without any state support and with major powers favouring other religions, it ultimately came to nothing.” (… that is until the 20th century.)
After reading Stoic authors, I always see so many similarities with Buddhist teachings that I come to the conclusion that Stoics had to have been exposed to them to some degree.

Thanks for the above excerpt, it seems I wasn't imagining it. :smile:
I wouldn't be so hasty with this conclusion. Convergent evolution is totally possible as well. People said the same thing about Taoism and Buddhism but its pretty well established they developed independently for some time before influencing each other.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Stoicism and Buddhism

Post by samseva » Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:46 pm

Javi wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:24 pm
I wouldn't be so hasty with this conclusion. Convergent evolution is totally possible as well. People said the same thing about Taoism and Buddhism but its pretty well established they developed independently for some time before influencing each other.
I've never found Taoism to have similarities with Buddhism, but there are just too many similarities between Buddhism and Stoicism. Also, like the excerpt mentions, Buddhist missionaries roamed those parts of the world at that time, and this isn't only mentioned in this book. It is actually more difficult to believe that philosophers at that time didn't come into contact with Buddhist missionaries and the teachings.

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