Stoicism vs (Zen) Buddhism — preliminary conclusions

I am currently looking into both in more detail to derive fortitude in the face of the permeating growth/consumerism mentality.

Stoicism and Zen Buddhism are very similar. They both try to deal with the problems of the ego. Conversely, consumerism is all about gratifying the ego.

I don’t think I’m qualified to comment in detail–however…

Zen Buddhism and Bud? eliminate the ego through “practice.” This practice can take the form of meditation or detailed repetition of, say, martial arts techniques or brush strokes. The goal is to reach the state of no-mind, also called enlightenment.

I find it interesting that one can replace “upgrading” and “acquisition” as the meaning of life with the act of “practice.” Of course, in some sense one can think of going to work as practice. What’s important, however, is the intention behind the practice. Just going to work or even practicing by going through the motions is not going to do anything. In practicing, one must strive for that one perfect move—I think “filing a form perfectly” does count in some sense.

Applying this concept, which in business is called Kaizen, is probably also why the Japanese car industry creamed the competition. It is also a good way to live–or at least it gives you an excuse to indulge your inner perfectionist.

Stoicism eliminates the ego through active rationality. It is not as time-consuming. I don’t think this can lead to the no-mind state, but I do think it can more easily render ego gratification less relevant. Stoicism seems to be quite appealing to the INTJ mindset. This may be because emotional appeal and external accumulation or status-by-title/status-by-stuff hold little natural value to the INTJ, so they are easy to replace with another framework. In fact, it only requires a hint–such as this blog–to do so.

The key difference between Zen Buddhism and Stoicism seems to be whether rationalization or the intellect is embraced or rejected. A student of Zen will study koans with the objective of eventually realizing that trying to rationalize an intellectual answer is futile. Conversely, a student of Stoicism will study logic to fine-tune his intellect.

I think that usually when two different “schools” of opinion or thought seem to achieve the same results or success but differ on a key issue, then that issue is actually not very “key” at all.

I’ve been pondering this for some weeks now. I wish I could expound on it in more detail, but this is what I have for now.

If you want to “study along,” A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe is a story in which two characters become stoic. You need to get to page 300 before anything relevant to this happens, then a long break, and finally some more development around page 650. I read that book after reading A Guide to The Good Life as referred to in the forums. Next I’m going to read The Stoics.

I don’t have any good references for Zen Buddhism. I have focused more on Bud?, not having the patience/time for extended meditationbeing more of an active person. My favorite Bud? book is Budo Mind and Body. It is a very quick read and I try to read it every so often to reinforce my training and stay serious. This book also contains a very good bibliography of related titles complete with detailed descriptions.

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Originally posted 2010-08-31 20:45:24.