Life is tough sometimes. Whether it’s your job, relationships, your mental health, or your physical health, life has a way of presenting obstacles that seem completely unfair.
But in times like these, it can be helpful to look to words of wisdom from eastern philosophy, who have a slightly different way of thinking than we do in the west.
They tend to focus on present moment living, letting go and making the most out of life.
Below I’ve presented 15 quotes from some of the greatest Buddhist philosophers that will offer an enlightening perspective to give you strength during hard times.
On Letting Go
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“Many people think excitement is happiness…. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. We all wish for world peace, but world peace will never be acheived unless we first establish peace within our own minds. We can send so-called ‘peacekeeping forces’ into areas of conflict, but peace cannot be oppossed from the outside with guns. Only by creating peace within our own mind and helping others to do the same can we hope to achieve peace in this world.” – Kelsang Gyatso
On walking the path
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha
“Greater in battle than the man who would conquer a thousand-thousand men, is he who would conquer just one — himself. Better to conquer yourself than others. When you’ve trained yourself, living in constant self-control, neither a deva nor gandhabba, nor a Mara banded with Brahmas, could turn that triumph back into defeat.” – Gautama Buddha
Trust your own common sense
“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.” – Buddha
“People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That’s not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.” – Pema Chödrön
“You only lose what you cling to.” – Gautama Buddha
“Attachment leads to suffering.” – Gautama Buddha
It takes work to be happy
“These… things, householder, are welcome, agreeable, pleasant, & hard to obtain in the world:
Long life is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, & hard to obtain in the world.
Beauty is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, & hard to obtain in the world.
Happiness is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, & hard to obtain in the world.
Status is welcome, agreeable, pleasant, & hard to obtain in the world.
…Now, I tell you, these… things are not to be obtained by reason of prayers or wishes. If they were to be obtained by reason of prayers or wishes, who here would lack them? It’s not fitting for the disciple of the noble ones who desires long life to pray for it or to delight in doing so. Instead, the disciple of the noble ones who desires long life should follow the path of practice leading to long life. In so doing, he will attain long life…” – Gautama Buddha
On a disciplined mind
“Whether our action is wholesome or unwholesome depends on whether that action or deed arises from a disciplined or undisciplined state of mind. It is felt that a disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering, and in fact it is said that bringing about discipline within one’s mind is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.” – Dalai Lama
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” – Alan W. Watts
“Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.” – Bodhidharma
“The institutions of human society treat us as parts of a machine. They assign us ranks and place considerable pressure upon us to fulfill defined roles. We need something to help us restore our lost and distorted humanity. Each of us has feelings that have been suppressed and have built up inside. There is a voiceless cry resting in the depths of our souls, waiting for expression. Art gives the soul’s feelings voice and form.” – Daisaku Ikeda