30 January 2012

The WISE way to a happy life

Extract from book about Marcus Aurelius*, which looks at his philosophy on living in the world:

Marcus Aurelius's teacher, Epictetus, said the aim of Stoicism was to become like the wise man or sage.  Living your life in a philosophical way, you could make a great deal of progress in the development of your character.
Against Nature
Begin each day by saying: 'Today I shall meet people who are interfering, ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious and selfish.  They are made this way because of their ignorance of what is good and evil.
'But I, who have seen the nature of good and its beauty, and of evil and its ugliness, know the inner nature of the man who does evil is the same nature as mine; therefore I can't be harmed by any of these men, for no one can impose on me what is degrading.
'I shouldn't be angry with my brother or hate him. For we are made to work in harmony, like a man's two feet or hands, eyelids, or the rows of upper and lower teeth.  To work against one another is against nature: and it is acting against nature to be angry and to turn away.'
Taking Aim
Are you distracted by the things of the world? Give yourself some quiet time to discover something new, and learn how to stop this restlessness.  And be aware that you don't fall into another kind of error: the folly of those who wear out their lives in ceaseless business, but have no aim on which their every action or thought is focused.
Seeing Wealth for What It Is
Accept prosperity without pride, and always be ready to let it go.
Meeting Challenges
Just because you find something difficult to do, don't think it's impossible.  If something is humanly possible and appropriate, believe that it can be attained.
The Fruit of Ignorance
People who do wrong, wrong themselves. People who act unjustly, act unjustly to themselves, injuring their nature and making themselves evil.
Life & Destiny
Adapt yourself to the life you have been given, and truly love the people with whom destiny has surrounded you.
If you feel annoyed, you've forgotten that everything happens in obedience to universal nature, and that another person's stupidity has nothing to do with you.
You've also forgotten that things happen, have always happened, and will happen again just like this everywhere.
You've forgotten how close is the bond between an individual and the whole human race, for it's a community, not of a little blood or seed, but of mind: and each individual mind is a god, an emanation of the divine intelligence.
You've also forgotten that nothing belongs to us, but that our children, our bodies and our souls come from that divine source.  You've forgotten that everything depends on judgement. And finally, you've forgotten that every person lives only in the present moment, and can lose only this.
The Bad Return
When you have done a good deed which another benefit from, why do you need - as fools do - praise for having done well or the need for a favour in return?
People were created for the sake of one another. Either teach them, or bear with them.
Real Time
You don't have time to read.  But you do have time to restrain your arrogance, you have time to rise above pleasure and pain: to be superior to the love of fame, and not be annoyed by foolish and ungrateful people, but even to care for them.
The Virtues of Family and Friends
When you want to cheer yourself up, think of the good qualities of those you live with.  For instance, the energy of one, the modesty of another, the generosity of a third, and so on.  For nothing gives us as much pleasure as the virtues presented by those who live among us.
Talking and Being
Stop talking about what the good person should be, and just be that person.
Needs and Rules
Since you are part of and governed by nature, observe and accept what your physical nature needs.  Act on these needs, provided your living being does not become degraded by them. Observe also what your individual nature requires of you as a compassionate being.  This you must also do provided your rational and social nature is not made worse by it.  If you use these rules, there is no need to worry about anything else.
Firmness and Gentleness
Though people may try to stop you from following the correct path, they can never divert you from correct behaviour.  Just make sure they don't force you to lose compassion towards them.
You need to be prepared for the firm decisions and action, without losing gentleness towards those who obstruct or abuse you.  It's as great a weakness to be angry with them as it is to abandon your plan of action and give up through fear.

The Eyes Are the Window of the Soul
How empty and insincere is the person who says: 'I've decided to be fair with you'.  What nonsense.  There's no need to say this.  The intention will reveal itself.
A person's character immediately shines in the eyes, just as one who is loved reads everything in the gaze of the beloved.  Good, sincere, and kind people show their character in their faces for all to see.

And finally:
The Best Revenge
Not becoming like your enemy is the best revenge.

(From The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius by Mark Forstater, pub Hodder & Stoughton, 1999)
* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius)

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