What is the best way to live?


 Until recently, I had never given much thought into ways of improving my life.  An Eastern Philosophy class has introduced me to the concept that living well derives from clear thinking.  My professor has suggested a type of Zen meditation (zazen) to help us improve focus and concentration.  I have been experimenting with it and I find that I do, in fact, have trouble maintaining my focus.  I am intrigued by the idea that improving my thinking can vastly improve other areas of my life.  However, I remain skeptical.
  Do any of you Dopers have some insight into eastern philosophy?  Particularly, does "thinking well" necessarly lead to "living well?"  I am curious to hear from anyone who has explored this idea.  So, the Big Questions:

How do you live? Why would you recommend it? If you are not satisfied, why do you continue to live the way you do?

I am interested in anyone’s personal philosphies, as long as you explain WHY you live the way you do. Hopefully, this debate will help to clue me in on why people choose their various paths. Even though I am an atheist, I also gladly welcome the case for a
religious life.
So bring it on. What’s the best way to live?

*be warned…I will have questions.

I don’t know, but the best way to sleep at night is with many beautiful women on top of piles of money. :smiley:

(Or so I’m told, anyway)


He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.


Rhum Runner- Interesting quote, but it still ties happiness up with possessions. If it’s just the desire that causes the suffering, there seems to be a loophole here.
Say, hypothetically, that I desire women and money. Actually obtaining those would eliminate the desire. So which is it? Do I become successful and fulfill the desire, or do I have to work to erase it from my mind?
Come on people, let’s find me a shortcut to inner peace.

Come on people, let’s find me a shortcut to inner peace.

Patience friend, patience.

The stoic wouldn’t want women or money, and wouldn’t have to work to overcome the desire. There is no desire. Not an easy row to hoe, I’ll grant you, but a true detachment from the outside world is one way to find peace.

I have become an advocate for voluntary simplicity. From the site linked here:

A big part of that is to examine my life and decide what the things that I need and want are, and why do I need and want them. For example, I want to buy a house. Part of my reason for wanting a house is so that I will have a good place to live when I get old and can’t work any longer. Another reason is because the money I pay for rent is lost to me forever, whereas money paid for a mortgage is returned to me when I sell a house. So, I feel like my reasons for wanting to buy a house are sound and practical. I think an examined, thoughtful life is also fulfilling; I have thought about my goals, thought about how to get there, and am working towards them, not some vague idea about “some day, when I’m {fill in blank}, I’ll be happy.”

I’m also trying to incorporate the idea of “enough” into my life. North American society is almost completely based on the idea of “more” (seen any advertising lately?). If I can achieve the goals I have decided on by working 30 hours a week instead of 40, why shouldn’t I do that? It’s not a crime to be satisfied. It’s not a crime to drive an old, serviceable car. It’s not a crime to live in a small, comfortable house. It’s not a crime to not buy a new wardrobe every season. It’s not a crime to have enough money and things, and not want more.

See, this is what I don’t understand. I don’t get how it is possible to live without any desire at all. What about hunger? Isn’t that the desire to eat? I suppose you could deny this, but you could never eliiminate it. It seems like desire is the basic force that motivates us. So what motivates the stoic?

Perhaps I went to far in saying there is no desire. Maybe a better way to look at it is to think in terms of rational desire. So, of course the stoic eats, but the stoic doesn’t need a five course meal when soup will suffice. Not that there is virtue in turning down the five course meal per se, it depends on what you have to do to get the meal. It is an interesting branch of philosophy, and one that is best served by reading a text that can give it a better treatment than I.

I would say ** featherlou** is working along a sort of stoic idea there.

Ok, I can see how controlling your thoughts/desires can lead to a more balanced life. However, I still think of desire as an important motivating force. As long as the object of desire isn’t something inherently destructive, I don’t see how pursuing it can be a bad thing. featherlou’s voluntary simplicity seems a good comprimise. It seems to be more about limiting desire than supressing it. I’ll have to look into it a little more.
To be honest, I’m still waiting for someone to make a compelling case for hedonism. That sounds like the most fun. How can I get the money and women without coming across as a complete :wally

my little bit of zen is to just say “fuck it”. So what if you get cut off,get fired, get tattooed,your wife leaves or you end up in the poor house. All of it is pretty temporary and pretty stupid to get worked up over. While some things shouldnt be taken lightly, like say getting arrested, it isnt the end of the world. Sweating small details will ruin you life, just look around at all of the nit picking unhappy people around you.

You are skeptical because you are using your mind to figure it out. The mind can have several ideas at once, and therefore struggles with contradiction.

What do you mean when you say you want to improve your life? It sounds like you want more fun. You think hedonism is the way to achieve that. Furthermore, you want money, women, and not to be a :wally. So your mind bounces between all these considerations. It is an insoluble problem.

The point of meditation is not to solve your problems right now. It is to maintain a focus of concentration (at least, that is one method) and to see what happens. The point is to experience what happens. Then, maybe, you can be a clear-minded hedonist.

Living like a stoic does not guarantee a clearer mind. The point is to be aware. If you’re lustful, be aware that you are. If you are self-critical, then know that. Living a simpler life can help, unless you get all crazy about doing it. I found that I had to practice vipassana daily (10 minutes) for about three months before I could see that there was something other than thinking in my habitual way.


You are right, I am beset by conflicting desires. For instance, I do think that it would be fun to have a Porche Carrera GT and a helicopter. If there was some way to attach the helicopter blades to the car itself, that would be even better. However, I also realise that the fufillment of that desire would not necessarily grant me happiness. It probably would, but there are no guarantees.

I am at a point where I need to decide about the nature of desire. Is it the root of all suffering? Is it a natural, beneficial urge? Your advice, to be aware of it, is only the first step. I’m not-too-subtly looking for ideas on where I could go from there.

Out of curiosity, I looked up some information on vipassana meditation. From here: http://www.dhamma.org/vipassan.htm

Sounds like quite a commitment. I’d have to give up the killing…

I don’t see any difference between hedonism and a more “balanced life” or whatever you want to call it, in terms of the Buddhist concept of enlightenment. As Buddhism is fond of saying, there are many paths to enlightenment, like paths up a hill from different directions, and either way can work as well as the other. The key with the path of hedonism is discovering that women and money aren’t what you really wanted - they were more material manifestations of other desires, such as the desire for social status, say. Once you discover what your more basic needs are, you will also discover that, at the heart, these needs are actually insecurities - such as, in this example, maybe the fear of failure. It’s really fear that is driving your love for money and women, not love. With that in mind, you can then pursue a more pleasurable life, free of fear and its manifestation, desire.

Notice that the entire process involves figuring out exactly what it is you want and how better to get it - all perfectly hedonistic principles - but by the end you end up at the same place that featherlou got to by apparently completely different means. Really, though, the differences are only superficial, since both involve that process of discovering what your goals really are and then deciding how to most efficiently accomplish those goals. That is the process which is the basis for Buddhism and other Eastern philosiphies of living; eveything else is pretty much just icing on the cake.

So is that a good enough case for hedonism?

Ever hear of the Voluntary Simplicity Movement?

Basically, it’s a movement that tries to teach people how to simplify their lives by ridding themselves of the “affluenza” mentality. Stressing over money to pay for things that you really don’t need is an illness. Unfortunately, people get caught up in having a bigger car, a bigger house, nicer furniture to go with the bigger house, a manicured lawn on which no one ever plays, but is needed because the neighbor’s lawn looks nicer, and a host of other things whose real purpose is to impress people with the size of their disposable income.

My husband and I have done it in our own lives. Instead of the outward show of things, we spend our disposable income on things which will really make us happy, such as books and travel, and still have enough left over for savings. In the past, when the credit card bills came, it was a nauseating moment. Finally, we said “enough is enough,” and it has made a world of difference.

Yeah, actually, they may have heard about it from my post earlier in this thread when I linked to and quoted from the voluntary simplicity site.

Aw, Jeeze! Sorry, man . . . I don’t know why I didn’t see that.

hangs head and slinks away

align your soul with your ego.


your soul is none of those things.

your ego is focused in the physical world. it’s concerned with status, fame, wealth, attention, recognician etc etc.

release those wants. see the world with compassionate eyes. have reverence for all living things.

know inside that your life IS NOT A TEST…there is no winning or losing. It’s simply a journey.