Re: Stoicism and Buddhism
- Hi, David:
I think there's a good connection between the two on a practical level. In fact, I consider myself a (secular) Buddhist, and found Buddhism before discovering Stoicism. I still practice the Eightfold Path today, mediate daily, and go to Buddhist events. This year, I put my Buddhism on a back burner while exploring Stoic practice.
I integrate my Stoic and Buddhist practice in a particular way, as I've found that both practices have their strengths & weaknesses. In brief: I find that the Stoic mental and thinking habits used to foster virtue are much more clearly laid out than they are in the early Buddhist suttas from which I take my practice, and so I use Stoicism for things that involve ethics and thinking clearly through things. I find the Buddhist conception of self and suffering to be very useful and accurate, and its practices related to self-understanding to be highly refined and useful. In short: anything related to clear discursive thinking I follow Stoic practice, and for most other things I follow Buddhist practice.
I should also note as a related aside that mindfulness is a little more than "be here now". Western mindfulness of the kind that's being integrated into modern psychotherapies has divereged from what mindfulness meant in the earliest Buddhist sutras. Buddhist mindfulness is literally "keeping something in mind" in a close enough way so that you can remember it in the future - like you're studying it (the word for 'mindfulness' in Pali/Sanskrit is sati/smrti, which comes from the root for 'memory'). This is somewhat similar to Stoic "prosoche" (although I have less of an understanding of the context of this term than I do for Buddhist 'sati' as I've studied the latter for longer). In particular, to have 'right mindfulness' in early Buddhism is to keep 4 things constantly in mind in various ways: the body, the hedonic tone of everything, the mind, and qualities of the mind. These are known as "the four foundations of mindfulness" and how to keep these four aspects in mind is laid out in a early Buddhist writing called the Satipatthana Sutta. Gil Fronsdal gave a talk on the differences between Western uses and Eastern concepts of mindfulness that can be found on Audio Dharma. I can't recall the specific title of the talk and couldn't dig it up with a quick search, but can find the specific link if there's much interest.
- «I remember reading somewhere that if we practice doing something that is physically difficult ( such as writing with your left hand when you are right handed ), the practice not only makes us more dexterous but also improves our will power in other areas of life.
I only think this is relevant because Marcus advocates holding the reigns of the horse with the left hand.»
In yet another Zen parallel, Martial Artists generally practice techniques with both hands and both legs - though I'm not sure about archery [kyudo] and sword [kendo].
IIRC same for yoga.