2022 Epicurus vs Buddhism Compare and Contrast Thread

  • We have recently had a number of good new participants in the forum who have a lot of experience in Buddhism. We have one thread on this already, but rather than restart that one I'd prefer a brand new one which will probably make it easier to get input from the new participants, which I would greatly appreciate.

    As before, we don't need a Buddhism-Bashing tone here - though I myself probably have tendency to be the most guilty of that. Part of my frustration comes from finding it relatively easy to pin down core positions of Stoicism, and therefore contrasting it to Epicurean viewpoints on the same issues, but regularly being told that Buddhism is so amorphous that it's really impossible to pin it down. The discussion usually then devolves into "such and such a figure said this" and "such and such a figure said that" with the result that there are so many rabbit trails that only those who are deep into Buddhism end up really caring about the results.

    So if possible I'd like us to work on a thread for "the rest of us" - Epicureans in particular, of course, who want to get an initial grasp of what is fairly referrable to as generic Buddhism from a Western perspective. That way we can hopefully get a grasp on at least a couple of core concepts.

    To kick this off, I will post something that documents what I myself understand to be sort of a generic Buddhist position that I think Epicurus would find most unacceptable. Since we don't have direct Epicurean commentary, my best suggestion is to cite this in the form of two clips I came across this afternoon:

    Those clips came from here.

    Of course I said that this shouldn't be a "Bash Buddhism" thread and then I turn around and cite someone who never read "How To Win Friends and Influence People." But I cite this as an attempt to ground the discussion in the views of someone who was a far smarter person than I, who actually had some sympathies for Buddhism, and who apparently ended up finding a strong strain of Nihilism and Passivity in Buddhism which does in fact seem to me to be the standard criticism which I see repeated often in mainstream "Western" writing that ultimately seems to derive from the Greco-Roman-Epicurean perspective.

    Hopefully these cites will help us focus on the really large questions including:

    "Is Buddhism essentially nihilistic?"

    Is the goal of Buddhism ultimately to cease to exist?"

    Does Buddhism cultivate passivity?

    And of course from our Epicurean perspective, "Is it fair to say that Buddhism has very little or any concern with pleasure as the goal of life?"

    This is a start and I hope this time we can construct some commentary that would be useful in the future to our many visitors who have explored Buddhism prior to coming to this forum.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “2022 Epicurus vs Buddhism Comparison Thread.” to “2022 Epicurus vs Buddhism Compare and Contrast Thread”.
  • I could never get behind Buddhism. The Dhammapada is nice, but the Buddha’s insistence on there being reincarnation and actual practical examples of karma, such as a man’s house burning down or collapsing because he was not a good person, pretty much invalidated the majority philosophy for me.

    I also just didn’t understand the concept of “anatta”…the supposed denial of the atman or soul in contrast to the atman in Hinduism and the jiva of Jainism. It seemed to me that the basis of some sort of continuity for reincarnation and karma to work, there would need to be some sort of element that carries the karmic deeds from life to the next…yet if anatta is true it seemed unlikely…if there is no atman or soul to carry the “scent” of the karma of a previous life to a a new one, then what mechanism does? This was the main metaphysical issue I had…also the ambiguity of what the “blowing out” of nirvana actually entails, without it being a very ambiguous sort of non-differentiated passionless nothing.

  • I’m also probably very biased in my view of Buddhism contrasted with my experience with Vedanta and Neoplatonism.

    Plotinus for example was extremely vigorous in his exposition on metaphysical topics, that I felt the Buddha was exceedingly vague on (to sell me on the philosophy). Not to say “later” Buddhists who wrote in the various Theravada and Mahayana traditions didn’t attempt to expound upon these ideas…but just going off of the “Gospel” of the Buddha, the Dhammapada, it wasn’t as detailed.

  • In reading summaries like Matt has posted, the jargon almost seems nonsensical to someone who doesn't dive in to the details. What is the world is so attractive about it that people would spend the time to dive into those details when they hardly take the time anymore to read a book or a newspaper on current events. I presume that the superficial attraction is something about the "mystical" look or the simplicity appearance of the leaders, but I am probably descending again in to Buddhism-Bashing. Don't people who are attracted to it have "some" idea of the basic teachings before they dive into the details? What are those basic attractions that get people started down that path in the first place?

    (And here I am referring to Westerners who are raised largely in a "Western" tradition - I am not referring to people in Eastern cultures who are raised around it and absorb it from the majority of those around them.)

  • Here is another clip that might advance this conversation:

    That's from here: https://philosophy.stackexchan…ches-critique-of-buddhism

  • Personally I was attracted to Eastern thought because of the emptiness of the Platonic and Aristotlean traditions. I had thought that this was the basis of all Western thinking and so was looking elsewhere for a sensible philosophy. In stumbling across Epicurus I discovered that there actually is a sensible Western tradition and that it was no longer necessary to try to 'splain away the parts of Eastern thought that made no sense to me.

    I'm mainly familiar with Zen, but I generally disagree with the characterizations of nihilistic and passive. Particularly passivity: Buddhism as I understand it is extremely socially engaged.

    Some scholars have documented an historic connection between Buddhism and the Greeks but I believe that their work is not without controversy. This connection is in the person of Pyrrho, who apparently spent several years in India and absorbed many of the Buddhist teachings. Another theory is that Pyrrho and the Buddhists influenced each other.

    Epicurus was reputed to admire Pyrrho, however he didn't accept his philosophy. So as I understand it currently, Buddhism and/or Pyrrhonism was just one more line of thinking that Epicurus supplanted in developing his system.

    I'll leave to those more well versed than me to give a synopsis of Buddhism.

  • I had far more ease conceptualizing the ideas in the Hindu Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita…and it’s Greek counterpart Neoplatonism.

    The Hindu Brahman, Nirguna Brahman, Ishvara, Para-atman and the atman in contrast to the Greek emanation of “to hen” the One, the Nous and the world soul and the phenomenal world. All that mystical jargon made far more sense to me than the equally mystical Buddhist concepts.


  • Of the ancient Indian philosophies of Ājīvika, Ajñana, Buddhism, Chārvāka, Jainism, Mīmāṁsā, Nyāya, Samkhya, Vaisheshika, Vedanta, and Yoga, we'll find the closest companion to Epicureanism in Chārvāka. Early Buddhism is most closely related to the Indian school of Ajñana, from which Pyrrhonism developed, so, in general, I don't think that comparisons between early Buddhism and Epicurean philosophy are helpful. They are dissimilar and historically unrelated.

    In terms of physics, Epicureanism shares the atomism of Ājīvika and Vaisheshika (though, both traditions propose a deterministic physics) as well as the materialism of Chārvāka.

    It uniquely shares the ethics of Chārvāka, whereas every other tradition devalues hedonism.

    We find the most similarity between Epicurean epistemology and Chārvāka, which justifies the criterion of direct physical and mental perceptions, without inference, comparison, or speculation. It is most dissimilar from Ajñana, which rejects all criteria of knowledge, followed closely thereafter by early Buddhism, which avoids making any certain claims.

    Epicurean theology is comparatively unique. Epicurus would have been opposed to the atheism of Ājīvika, Chārvāka, Nyāya, and Vaisheshika, as well as the agnosticism of Ajñana and Buddhism, as well as the immanent dualism and mysticism of Samkhya and Yoga, and also the divine idealism of Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta. The Jain universe of multiple, physical deities (the Tirthankaras), is the closest ancient Indian theology that in any way resembles Epicureanism. There is not, to my knowledge, any significant historical link between the two at any point in time.

    As far as ancient Indian philosophies go, early Buddhism overwhelmingly contradicts Epicurean philosophy. They are at the opposite ends of the epistemological spectrum, propose completely different goals in life, and are only barely physically compatible if, for no other reason than early Buddhism's refusal to provide any hard answers on physics.

    Whereas Epicureanism is most similar to Chārvāka and, to an extent Ājīvika and Vaisheshika, early Buddhism shares intellectual similarities with Ajñana and Prryhonian Skepticism, and the meditative practices with Vedanta and Yoga. Buddhism's propositions are much closer to Epicurus' opponents than to Epicurus in any meaningful way.

  • Here is my understanding of Buddhism, based on my study and practice:

    I think that for many people who go into the study and practice of Buddhism, they are unhappy and they hope to find an answer as to what to do to have a better life. So Buddhism looks at what is causing the suffering, the "dukkha", in life.

    From the Pali Sutta, ancient text:


    "Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha."

    SN 56.11


    And they say that the suffering is due to clinging to unrealistic expectations...and then they say why do people cling? ...because they crave, and why do they crave? ...because they have greed.

    The unrealistic expectations are that they want to hold onto things, or that they wish to permenently possess the things that they want, but actually the nature of everything is impermenence, and there is nothing that can be held onto. And then when unpleasant things happen, the urge to resist them and the feeling of aversion or anger arises, but things like being subjected to unpleasant things, and old age, sickness, and death are all inevitable.

    So through the disciplined practice of meditation, within Zen Buddhism, they practice "letting go"...and "choiceless awareness"..."not picking or choosing" and also come to "realize" the "true nature of everything" which is "emptiness". And they practice by simplifying one's life and cultivating and practicing Buddhist virtues...the Buddhist precepts and the paramitas (perfections)...

    Zen paramitas:


    The six are (1) generosity (dāna), (2) morality (śīla), (3) patience (kṣānti), (4) vigor (vīrya), (5) concentration (dhyāna), and (6) wisdom (prajñā).

    Zen Buddhist Precepts:


    The Three Refuges

    • I take refuge in the Buddha (the source of the teaching)
    • I take refuge in the Dharma (the Buddha’s teaching)
    • I take refuge in the Sangha (those who practise the teaching)

    The Three Pure Precepts

    • Cease from evil. By refraining from that which causes confusion and suffering, the truth will shine of itself
    • Do only good. Doing good arises naturally when we cease from evil
    • Do good for others. To train in Zen is to devote one’s life to the good of all living things

    The Ten Precepts

    • Do not take life
    • Do not steal
    • Do not indulge in abusive or inappropriate sexuality
    • Do not lie
    • Do not abuse intoxicants
    • Do not criticize others
    • Do not boast of your attainments and belittle others
    • Do not be mean [stingy] in giving Dharma (teaching) or wealth
    • Do not harbour anger
    • Do not defame the three treasures (do not deny the Buddha within yourself or in others)

    And for Buddhist "emptiness" there are different ways of explaining this...there is no inner and no outer, there is no center and no edge. All things are empty of intrinsic existence and nature. As for nhilism...this can come from the teaching of "no self" which is the understanding that there is no fixed innate "inner self" because the self arises dependent on many causes and conditions which are in flux.

    I think that this understanding of the "no self" can lead to problems. It can lead to a quiet acquiescence in which a person engages with the world in a very passive way. This may work in the communal life of a Zen monastery, but doesn't translate well for the modern Western lifestyle. And then this could lead to a sense of "giving up" on life, for people who are introverted and lack social skills and lack adequate social connections.

    So to answer a question that Cassius asked in the very first post...Yes, I think Buddhism leads people to cultivate passivity.

    The understanding of pleasure in Buddhism is that it should not be "relied upon", because it is impermenent and ephemeral and therefore it will always lead to more suffering, because try as you might you just can't "hold onto" pleasure.

    So.....now to contrast Buddhism with Epicureanism....

    The antidote to all the unhealthy passivity of Buddhism....is Epicureanism!

    For me....first it is important to understand what the natural and necessary pleasures of life are...and getting clear on what those are...then diligently (and patiently) working toward getting those pleasures. This is my list:

    1) eating healthy food

    2) an adequate place to live

    3) good sleep

    4) some form of regular exercise

    5) making and maintaining good friendships (could include a life partner)

    6) study of Epicurean wisdom philosophy

    7) right type of career/job/craft

    And...also there is the experience of pleasureable sensations and pleasureable memories, and yet the basics of one's life is a priority and is also the place where the all the sensory enjoyments arise.

    Also...there is the anticipation that the basic pleasures will always be there to enjoy. For example, there is ample food to eat and so the pleasure of eating will continually occur every day. There is no need to over-eat, because in a few hours I will be hungry again and can enjoy eating all over again...which also means that there is a way to interact with food so as to bring the most pleasure...eat in a beautiful way...slowly/enjoyably and with pleasureable respect for the food.

  • Thank you too for the excellent post Kalosyni! There is a lot of information there, which from my perspective speaks for itself. To read about Buddhism is in my mind to recoil at its opposition to everything I see in Epicurus. When I read about Buddhism I "sense" pain itself; when I read about Epicurus' views I see a path that is the opposite of pain and to which I am naturally drawn.

    Here's the one part I would comment on now:

    Yes, I think that is all correct, especially when you say "For me..." but if someone where to tell me this I would want to ask them immediately: Yes, what you are describing is a good course toward pleasure and the Epicurean life.

    But do you FIRST understand WHY this path makes sense?

    Someone who skips right to the "application" without understanding may be apt to give up when the going gets tough, or when, as Lucretius says, that person is confronted by the scary or intimidating tales of the religionists or idealists, who suggest that you are following the path of evil by not heeding their definition of "the good."

    In short it's important to understand why and how Epicurus embraced pleasure as the good so that you won't be shaken from the course in the inevitable storms of life.

  • And in fact my comment as to needing to know the "why" and the "how" is pretty much exactly the point made by Torquatus which is at the top of the home page now:


    Moreover, unless the constitution of the world is thoroughly understood, we shall by no means be able to justify the verdicts of our senses. Further, our mental perceptions all arise from our sensations; and if these are all to be true, as the system of Epicurus proves to us, then only will cognition and perception become possible. ... [W]hen cognition and knowledge have been invalidated, every principle concerning the conduct of life and the performance of its business becomes invalidated. So from natural science we borrow courage to withstand the fear of death, and firmness to face superstitious dread, and tranquillity of mind, through the removal of ignorance concerning the mysteries of the world, and self-control, arising from the elucidation of the nature of the passions and their different classes....

    If we can't "justify the verdict of our senses" then we can't be sure of anything - that's the "skepticism" problem that Buddhism jumps off the deep in by accepting as having no solution.

    And without confidence in the verdicts of our senses only then is "cognition and perception" about anything possible.
    And without cognition and knowledge, "every principle concerning the conduct of life and the performance of its business" is invalidated.

    As Diogoenes of Oinoanda stated it, we accept that the flux exists, but not that it is so fast that we can't come to grips with it!


    Fr. 5

    [Others do not] explicitly [stigmatise] natural science as unnecessary, being ashamed to acknowledge [this], but use another means of discarding it. For, when they assert that things are inapprehensible, what else are they saying than that there is no need for us to pursue natural science? After all, who will choose to seek what he can never find?

    Now Aristotle and those who hold the same Peripatetic views as Aristotle say that nothing is scientifically knowable, because things are continually in flux and, on account of the rapidity of the flux, evade our apprehension. We on the other hand acknowledge their flux, but not its being so rapid that the nature of each thing [is] at no time apprehensible by sense-perception. And indeed [in no way would the upholders of] the view under discussion have been able to say (and this is just what they do [maintain] that [at one time] this is [white] and this black, while [at another time] neither this is [white nor] that black, [if] they had not had [previous] knowledge of the nature of both white and black.

  • This is a fascinating thread. Thanks for initiating a "fresh" one, Cassius !

    I'll admit I'm a little intimidated by the depth of knowledge displayed by Nate. His grasp of early Indian philosophies is far deeper than I even realized was available! Thanks for sharing that! I find it fascinating that there was such a wide divergent spectrum of beliefs and philosophies.

    I also appreciate Kalosyni 's post. One of the things that had attracted me to Buddhism in the first place was its lists and outlines and the sense that all that gave of "We have this all figured out. Here's the charts and diagrams and outlines to prove it!" Maybe that's what attracted me initially to Epicurus, too? The Principal Doctrines, the Three Legs of the Canon, the 3-part Physics/Canon/Ethics have that flavor of "Here's the basics" when first encountered. Yes, I realize there's SO much more to wrap one's head around but being able to say "Here's an outline" is somehow gratifying and inviting and sparks curiosity to dig deeper.

    Kalosyni gave the Four Noble Truths in her post. From another source, these are:

    (1) dukkha exists (i.e., There is dukkha)

    (2) dukkha arises from causes

    (3) we can end dukkha

    (4) by following the Buddha’s path to awakening (The 8-fold Path).

    (See https://tricycle.org/magazine/dukkha-meaning/ )

    My penchant for going back to the original texts was strong even back when exploring Buddhism, so I found many translations of dukkha somewhat misleading and pale reflections of the connotations of the original. That Tricycle article I linked to had an interesting point:


    This central term [dukkha] is best understood alongside the related word sukha. The prefix su- generally means “good, easy, and conducive to well-being,” and the prefix du- correspondingly means “bad, difficult, and inclining toward illness or harm.” On the most basic level, then, sukha means pleasant while dukkha means unpleasant. The noble truth of suffering, however, does not simply refer to bodily pain; its meaning is far more subtle and rich.

    One can also feel mental pleasure and pain. Here, the twin prefixes are employed again. A “good mind” (su-manas) is contrasted with a “bad mind” (du-manas) to yield the Pali words most often used to describe happiness (somanassa) and sorrow (domanassa), also known as mental pleasure and mental pain.

    The traditional way of translating the First Noble Truth is: Life is suffering. But that's not exactly the meaning of that "Truth" (yes, I'm going to start putting it in quotes). Kalosyni 's link does a great job of displaying the original texts (Thanks!) and it seems to me that even Epicurus would agree that the things that Sariputta lists can be described as "terrible things" (as the 4th line of the Tetrapharmakos calls "pain").

    I also find it interesting in the Tricycle article's discussion of the prefixes su- "good" and du- "bad" which, it seems to me have parallels in Epicurus's focus on pleasure and pain. So, it also seems to me that, ultimately, Buddhism and Epicureanism are both concerned with "pain" and "pleasure" and maximizing "pleasure" in one's life...

    ***BUT! *** (before anyone's head explodes! ;) )

    It seems to me they both started from different locations on *how* pain exists and what "pleasure/good things" means. From the start, Epicurus posited 2 feelings - pleasure and pain - which Epicureans use as the "yardstick" by which to measure which actions would be most advantageous to move us to a more pleasurable life.

    Buddha, on the other hand, said that our very existence - the very components of our physical and mental makeup, "the five clinging-aggregates" - are themselves dukkha/pain/unsatisfactory. The only release from this dukkha is found in dousing the fires of our desires, our clinging, that which connects us round after round on the wheel of rebirth. I think Buddha said that nirvana/moksha could be experienced while alive (or was this expanded on in later sutras and traditions like the bodhisattva foregoing his/her own "release" until all sentient beings are freed) but the ultimate "prize" is NOT being reborn, not having to go through all the dukkha all over again and again and again.

    Epicurus had something to say about that attitude:

    We are born once. We cannot be born twice: for eternity we must be non-existent. But you people, who are not master of the future, put things off for "the right time". Procrastination ruins the life of all. And so, each of us is hurried and unprepared at death.

    So, everything we experience, we experience in this life. There is no rebirth. There is no karma determining our future existence although understood more broadly, we DO experience the consequences of our actions and decisions - which is one understanding of "karma" - and that does determine our life in the future in this life. Which, to me, is a reason for defining terms. I could see a Buddhist saying that Buddhism is designed to allow a person to lead "the most pleasurable life" or better "the most blissful life." But right there, how do you define "pleasure" or "bliss" and even "life."

    There is a modern strain of Western Buddhism - secular Buddhism (that even has its own podcast!) but to me (and one of the things that finally led me away from Buddhism as a path) that attempts - from my perspective - to do something similar to some modern Stoics and try to separate a "modern version" of the philosophy from its underpinnings and its historical context. Which is why I think Cassius 's focus, for example, on the underlying Epicurean physics on this forum is important. We have to look at the totality of the philosophy and where it grew from if we're to understand the rest of it. A cafeteria-style Buddhism or Stoicism is just a watered down version of the original. And if you want watered-down philosophy, I suppose that's one way to go.

  • The main issue I see with certain philosophies like Buddhism is that though they may trend toward being atheistic or agnostic, like Buddhism and Jainism, they are still rife with unsubstantiated metaphysical premises.

    I think many western people see that the Buddha is a non-theistic path and especially if they are running from western Judeo-Christian traditions, they see the Buddha as an eastern sage offering an alternative path. But the reality is though that a monotheistic “God” is not material to Buddhism, there are plenty of unsubstantiated metaphysical premises that the philosophy is built upon…as Nate said in his post, that Buddhism was one of many philosophical schools that all had very different ideas about life. From theistic Hindu schools like Sankhya yoga and Vedanta to the non-theistic Carvaka. But Buddhism’s middle way is still built upon the entirely unsubstantiated doctrine that karma is in fact an observable and measurable mechanism in the universe and that samsara continual reincarnation is also an observable process….again these are merely articles of faith as opposed to observable truths and frankly as articles of faith, they are as valid as the Christian idea of the resurrection and original sin. Because if samsara and the fear of perpetual reincarnation tied to bad karma WASN’T the main focus of the faith and philosophy, then the Buddha has nothing really unique to offer as a solution to get off the wheel of suffering and reincarnation…his entire system is dependent on an unfounded premise….that because of previous actions from time immemorial, you will be reborn again and again and again…until you extinguish your karmic flame.

    It’s like going from one thing with metaphysical articles of faith to another one…just without God being a primary issue.

  • As Diogoenes of Oinoanda stated it, we accept that the flux exists, but not that it is so fast that we can't come to grips with it!

    I find this an interesting parallel to the concept of the Buddhist Two Truths, "conventional" truth and "ultimate" truth.

    The Buddhist version goes "Provisional or conventional truth describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and Ultimate truth describes the ultimate reality as sunyata, empty of concrete and inherent characteristics."

    From my perspective, the Epicurean version goes something like "Provisional or conventional truth describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and Ultimate truth describes the ultimate reality as consisting of only atoms and void." There are only *really* atoms and void but that doesn't negate or make it any less important that we are alive, we make decisions, our decisions have consequences, and we can live a pleasurable life. But, in the *ultimate* analysis, we are simply momentary aggregates of atoms moving in the void.

  • I think many western people see that the Buddha is a non-theistic path and especially if they are running from western Judeo-Christian traditions, they see the Buddha as an eastern sage offering an alternative path. But the reality is though that a monotheistic “God” is not material to Buddhism, there are plenty of unsubstantiated metaphysical premises that the philosophy is built upon

    Yes! Looking back, I believe that was my mindset when I discovered Buddhism. I also found the concept of "rebirth" more palatable than the Christian "you're being tested in this life for the real prize in the afterlife." My go-to thought was "Rebirth just makes more sense" with the seasonal cycles of nature, for example. When compared to the Christian "One strike and you're out", the idea of rebirth was an intriguing alternative. But then I tried to wrap my brain around the convoluted explanations of: there is no atman/soul in Buddhism so nothing "transmigrates" from one life to the next; it's like stamping a ring in clay with the ring being one life and the clay being next and the stamp being the karmic imprints from one to the next and.... etc. Humans are clever little primates and can really come up with some wild ideas!

  • Yeah the Buddhist anatta doctrine throws me pretty hard and it makes it even less believable as purely an article of faith situation where you need to conceptualize this very unobservable principle without having “something” for continuity. No atman… there is no karmic scent to pass onto another being. If I have no memory of my past lives and will have no memory of my future lives, then how can I be worried or even be remotely sure this is correct or even remotely true? Just faith.

    Karma and original or inherited sin might as well be synonymous with each other, because though previous iterations of myself may have done bad things, I may not have done them “now” in this life, therefore what would be the difference between inherited sin that I’m guilty for that would send me to hell without atonement and karmic sins of a previous life that effect my “eternal” place in the universe of suffering? Nothing, I see nothing different. Two sides of the same coin.

    And further there is no universal arbiter to make a petition to get full warranty on this…just the word of someone who says “this will happen…trust me”, much like the word of a person who says the resurrection will happen.

    When placed side by side with even monotheistic traditions, Buddhism is every bit as metaphysical and irrational. Even though we know many leave one tradition for the other believing it’s an escape.

    I can imagine the horror of a western atheist fleeing to a Tibetan monastery to learn that the Buddhist’s have hells, heavens, ghosts and deities all wrapped up in a soteriological package that requires faith in the word of a man.

  • It is important here, that we all see that there are various views begin presented on this thread that are coming from individual opinions, some of which are not based on the deep study of Buddhism.

    When it came to my Buddhist understanding, I began to feel that either something was lost in time or lost in translation, or the Hindu religious understanding crept back into Buddhism (and which stamped out Buddhism in India after a certain number of years).

    In Buddhism there is the understanding of the present moment experience...of understanding the components of present moment experience...there are objects, and there are sensory organs, and there are the sensory experiences. And consciousness arises from these sensory experiences.

    Because if you follow the logic, then actually Buddha was ending the idea of endless reincarnation. In fact, his idea may have been so far out there that very few people actually got it. Basically this: that conciousness depends on the body. This is what I got from studying the Pali Suttas, and reading between the lines so to speak...but basically taking the ideas of Buddha to their logical conclusions.

    As for the emphasis on suffering, maybe that too got taken out of it's original teaching. Buddha says in the Pali Suttas..."I teach dukkha (suffering) and the end of dukkkha". And so it originally was a kind of "self-help" teaching. And Buddha tells the story of the raft...you use the raft to cross the river, but once you reach the other side you don't start carrying the raft around, you leave it behind.

    So as I think about it, an entire religion formed around Buddha, but evolved way beyond what Buddha intended. (hmm...that happened in Christianity also).

    But the main take away here is that Buddhism has as it's goal the removal of suffering.

    And Epicureanism has as it's goal the experience of pleasure. So it is a very different orientation. And I am still learning.

    But do you FIRST understand WHY this path makes sense?

    Someone who skips right to the "application" without understanding may be apt to give up when the going gets tough, or when, as Lucretius says, that person is confronted by the scary or intimidating tales of the religionists or idealists, who suggest that you are following the path of evil by not heeding their definition of "the good."

    In short it's important to understand why and how Epicurus embraced pleasure as the good so that you won't be shaken from the course in the inevitable storms of life.

    Yes, thank you Cassius! I will carry on with my Epicurean studies :)

  • But the main take away here is that Buddhism has as it's goal the removal of suffering.

    Well summarized! And, interestingly enough, there are some/many who would unfortunately describe Epicurean philosophy the same way: the removal of pain is the goal.

    I think your next statement, Kalosyni , is exactly on point:

    Epicureanism has as it's goal the experience of pleasure

    I wanted to say too that my understanding is that Buddha didn't seem to question the underlying cultural concept of rebirth. He taught that his path led to the cessation of rebirth. I suppose that could be understood as being reborn every moment. I found your saying this very interesting:

    Basically this: that conciousness depends on the body

    That sounds nearly identical to what Epicurus would say in the Principal Doctrines. :/

    So it sounds like what you're saying is that Buddha used the terminology of "rebirth" but recontextualized it to mean moment by moment "rebirth" of my consciousness in this life? Color me intrigued :)

    I also found the raft reference intriguing in light of Epicurus's use of harbors and little boats as metaphors.

    Excellent posts, Kalosyni . Thanks!