Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night—there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else the God and Fortune.
Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.39
For me, serenity is found through Buddhism and parallels the Epictetus quote above.
Buddhism has four noble truths:
- Life means suffering.
- The origin of suffering is attachment.
- The cessation of suffering is attainable.
- The path to the cessation of suffering.
Life means suffering
- To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in
- Life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence
- We are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too
The origin of suffering is attachment
- The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof
- Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception
- Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things
- The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging
- Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow.
The cessation of suffering is attainable
- The cessation of suffering can be attained through the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment
- The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion
- Suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering
The path to the cessation of suffering
There is a path to the end of suffering – a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold path.
The Eightfold path:
- Right view is to see and and understand things as they really are
- Right intention: commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement:
- the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire
- the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion
- the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion
- Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct on the Eightfold path, which is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline:
- to abstain from slanderous speech
- to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others
- to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth
- Right action involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions
- to abstain from harming sentient beings
- to abstain from taking what is not given
- to abstain from sexual misconduct
- Right livelihood dictates one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully, while avoiding:
- dealing in weapons
- dealing in living beings
- selling intoxicants and poisons
- Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavors that rank in ascending order of perfection:
- to prevent the arising of unwholesome states
- to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen
- to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen
- to maintain and perfect wholesome states that have already arisen
- Right mindfulness is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness, and the four foundations are:
- contemplation of the body
- contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral)
- contemplation of the state of mind
- contemplation of the phenomena
- Right concentration refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness and the method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation
If you have read up on Stoicism, or my prior posts, you will see similarities to Buddhism above, which is why I was able to identify with it so quickly.
An excellent post comparing Buddhism to Stoicism can be read at dailystoic.com.