Aubrey Portwood

Why Buddhism caused me to become a Stoic

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The title of this post could be many. Maybe “How Stoics clarified Buddhism,” or “How Buddhism failed me,” or maybe “How being a bad Buddhism lead me to Stoicisim” is a better title, but anyway you put it I have suddenly found myself “moving on” from being, or trying to be, a solid Buddhist.

Stoicism seems like Buddhism in disguise, but it’s not

When I first started reading about the Stoic way of life, a philosophy, I couldn’t help but find what I would call “Buddhism in plain sight.” Many of the complicated foundations of Buddhism are explained and practiced in Stoicism. No, not meditating. I’ll get to that later. But common ideas about habits, the mind, cause and effect, training, and relationships with people are all Buddhist ideas that, for one reason or another, didn’t stick when applied the “Buddhist way.” But when looked at through the Stoic looking-glass made so much more sense.

But, even though there are some similarities, Stoicism is not Buddhism. Buddhism focuses entirely on a couple of main subjects. Enlightenment, Morality, and Meditation. Enlightenment is the idea that you are reborn into existence, that is ultimately causes suffering, and that you can free yourself from this cycle. The “Eight Fold Path” can be summarized into Morality and Meditation, where you are called to be a moral person and practice concentration on subduing the mind. Now, for me, this all sounded great, but the more I looked at it the more it didn’t really fit into reality (at least for me). Years of meditation are not going to help me in the here and now, nor is the call to be moral going to suddenly make me moral. Buddhism, to me, always seemed to require such an intense practice and change that it always seemed to be out of reach to simply become the best person I could be…

Which is where Stoicism comes in. While Buddhism sought to find Enlightenment, something I wasn’t really concerned with, Stoicism seeks to simply make you the best person you can be in the here and now. Where Buddhism called me to Enlightenment, Stoicism called me to simply improve myself. Which, as time would tell, was the thing I was looking for.