Monday, January 4, 2010

How to Find Inner Peace with the Meditation inspired by a Roman Emperor


"For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature."
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Recently, I came across the classical meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emporer who lived from April 26, 121 ~ March 17, 180 AD. He ruled with Lucius Versus as a co-emporer from 161-180 AD. He is considered the last of the five good emporers, who was educated in the stoic (God determines everything for the best and that virtue is sufficient for happiness) philosophies of the Greeks.

I was very impressed by this deep thinker who is in the Christian, culture sphere considered a Pagan. He shows commitment to a life of meaning and virtue, and his writing has become part of the Western classic. Obviously, he was part of the better-educated citizens of Rome. This education allowed him to be self-disciplined, virtuous and seek out inner tranquility. Aurelius was also a social reformer who worked for the improvement of the poor, the slaves, and convicted criminals. It is no wonder that in the non-Christian world he became somewhat a role model. Aurelius felt threatened by the Christians and persecuted them viciously.
We can see the stoic philosophy resembles Buddhism with its emotional detachment and focus on morality.
Let us find the good in these meditations which were originally written in Greek and are still revered as a literary monument of service and duty.

Here is an excerpt from the 4. Book:

"Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much.
But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself.
For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee back free from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest. For with what art thou discontented?
With the badness of men? Recall to thy mind this conclusion, that rational animals exist for one another, and that to endure is a part of justice, and that men do wrong involuntarily; and consider how many already, after mutual enmity, suspicion, hatred, and fighting, have been stretched dead, reduced to ashes; and be quiet at last.-


But perhaps thou art dissatisfied with that which is assigned to thee out of the universe.-
Recall to thy recollection this alternative; either there is providence or atoms, fortuitous concurrence of things; or remember the arguments by which it has been proved that the world
is a kind of political community, and be quiet at last.-

But perhaps corporeal things will still fasten upon thee.-

Consider then further that the mind mingles not with the breath, whether moving gently or
violently, when it has once drawn itself apart and discovered its own power, and think also of all that thou hast heard and assented to about pain and pleasure, and be quiet at last.-

But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee.-

See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgement in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee."
For the 12 books on the meditations of Roman Emporer Marcus Aurelius, please visit:
http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.mb.txt