Buddhism And Stoicism On Overcoming Obstacles

You have power over your mind —
not outside events.
Realize this, and you will find strength. 

— Marcus Aurelius

A misconception that many people have of Stoicism or Buddhism is that we have to bear any misfortune we might experience without feeling any emotion whatsoever. But that is not the case. Both the Stoic and the Buddhist feel all types of emotions – they are not unperturbable. The key is that they know how to recognise and play down negative emotions and they choose how to react.

Emotions are fleeting and may alter from one second to the next. If you perceive that a negative emotion is controlling you, visualize it as though it were a traveler who has come to visit with you to have a cup of tea but will be on their way. The visit might take a while, but eventually they will leave.

After a night of torrential rain, imagine a rock has fallen on the path of the route you wanted to take to reach a summit. One option is to give up and go home. However, it is also possible to go around the rock. As Seneca said: ‘Difficulties strengthen the mind as labor strengthens the body.’

The same thing happens with life.
Rocks fall continually.
Obstacles are inevitable.

If you try to control the rockfalls,
you will feel frustrated.

If you come to a halt every time one falls,
you will feel sad.
If you return to your starting point,
without trying to face the obstacles in your path,
you will feel unhappy.

However, if each time you come across an obstacle,
you see it as an opportunity,
you will learn and become stronger
If you listen to your emotions before reacting
when something goes wrong,
your solutions will be more effective.
If you keep going, whatever happens,
you will grow as a human being.

Obstacles are a good indicator that we are on the right path. The only person who never stumbles over a stone is the one who never starts to walk. Each test you undergo and each obstacle you leave behind will make you stronger.

Ganbatte! : The Japanese Art Of Always Moving Forward
Albert Liebermann

1 Comment

  • Re: Frequently the wisdom and erudition displayed here amaze me. Somehow they seem at odds with Pure Land Buddhism, which to me is religious faith. .. seems to refute the idea that the Pure Land is actually a place we might be transported to after our demise.

    Reply: The Pure Land is an actual place, as clearly taught by the Buddha in the Pure Land sutras: http://www.amituofo.com Namo Amituofo

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