- Buddhism is one of the major 5 religions of the world and it has 520 million followers. Buddhism is older than Stoicism but you’d think with all these followers and how long Buddhism has been around, Buddhism would be a lot more coherent. But it’s not. There are two major branches, Theravada and Mahayana and there might even be a third branch separate from the two: Vajrayana, depending on who you ask. And to complicate it further these 2 or maybe 3 branches divide even further into a large multiplicity of schools with their own dogmas and precepts. But with Stoicism, there’s just one: Stoicism. Nothing complicated about that. Virtue is the only good and if you follow virtue you’ll find eudaimonia.
- Depending on who you ask (seriously there’s very little agreement on anything), Buddhism depends on a belief in reincarnation, continuous death and rebirth, until you achieve enlightenment and break the cycle. This involves also a belief in karma, that if bad things happen to you in this life it could be because you lived a bad former life. None of this stuff actually can be empirically proved so it is what it is. Stoicism believes when you die nobody really knows what happens to your soul. So you might as well bet it just ends 2 meters under the ground and you should focus on this life. Buddhism does stress living in the moment and in this life. But so does Stoicism, it just doesn’t assume all this other complicated metaphysical mess.
- Buddhism offers enlightenment. But it requires an unnecessary amount of effort to become enlightened with no real guarantee. Your whole life is devoted to an escape from an illusion created by your ego. Many people sacrifice their whole life for enlightenment and then they die never having it (but at least they have a next life to pursue it or so they hope). Stoicism doesn’t offer enlightenment. Stoicism says just try to be a good person and if you work a little at mastering some of important virtues you’ll be pretty content. No heavenly bliss or pie in the sky nirvana. You’ll just have a more rational level head. Stoicism is much much more realistic. You get out of Stoicism what you put in.
- Buddhism requires an unnecessary amount of meditation that involves clearing one’s mind of distractions. Often times coupled with a focus on breathing. On point #4 some Buddhist is going to argue that this is not the case but like I said no two Buddhists ever really agree on anything. Stoicism doesn’t require this impractical attempt at emptying one’s mind. Stoicism just says focus on your own virtue, focus on what is truly in your power: your own judgment and that no event external to you is truly bad or good. It doesn’t involves hours of sitting in front of a candle in the dark investing in the impossible mental task of clearing your mind of all your thoughts.
- Finally, if you follow Buddhism to the letter you’ll have to eliminate all intoxicants from your life. No more drinking alcohol, no mind altering drugs, no nicotine, no unnecessary luxuries, no caffeine. All you get are some herbal teas with no caffeine benefits. Stoicism says if it’s in moderation and your liver can easily detoxify it from your blood, then have at it.