Stoicism & Buddhism

I always hear about Stoicism and how each one of us should be a stoic during uncertain times, but I never really compared it to other schools of philosophy. After reading more about Stoicism and Buddhism I was surprised to learn that there are a lot of similarities between the two. Stoics believe that some things are within our control, while others are not, and that we should not worry about what’s not in our control. Stoicism has four virtues: Practical wisdom, justice, courage/fortitude (moral strength), and temperance (moderation/discipline), while Buddhism on the other hand has four noble truths: suffering exists, it has a cause, there is an end to it, and finally, there is a way to end it.

We can see that Buddhism central beliefs revolve around suffering, what about Stoicism and suffering? In Stoicism, we should not worry about the past and the future, but rather on the present.

In the eyes of the Stoics, the two great ills which prevent us from achieving fulfilment are nostalgia and hope, specifically attachment to the past and anxiety about the future

The Greek Miracle – Ferry (P. 41).

Worrying about (what was, could have been, could be) would lead to nothing but more suffering, which in stoicism is called the dichotomy of control, we should just worry about only what’s up to us. But what does that mean? Is hope a bad thing? Is ‘good nostalgia’ about our childhood necessarily bad? I have a hard time deciding on that hope is ‘bad’ or ‘good’. I feel like we should keep hoping that things would turn out good but also accept that any expectations may fail. What couldn’t convince me that ‘hope is bad’ was the thought of when I returned home to my family when COVID-19 pandemic started, I was hoping that I didn’t have it and somehow transmit it to my parents, I was hoping, and making myself feel good, that I will not transmit it to them. Was it a bad thing? Not necessarily. 

The comparison the Ferry did was interesting in that the reader wouldn’t have noticed which proverb belongs to the Stoics and which belongs to the Buddhists, like the one below. Both philosophies tell us that we should focus on the present moment.

You must learn to live as if this present moment were the most vital of your whole life, and as if those people in whose company you find yourself were the most important in your life

The Greek Miracle – Ferry (P. 44).

This Buddhist proverb stuck to me in that because there are so many derivatives to it such as “live your life as it’s your last day on Earth” and in that during these days we are not spending our days with those who we love the way that we should. We spend times with them while our minds are busy with our phones and all the notifications that we get, we spend it worrying about school, about external things but never giving them a 100% of our attention that they deserve.