Meditations

Meditations

Written in Greek, without any intention of publication, by the only Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) offer a remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. Ranging from doubt and despair to conviction and ex...

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Title:Meditations
Author:Marcus Aurelius
Rating:
ISBN:0140449337
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:304 pages

Meditations Reviews

  • Walter
    Dec 03, 2007

    Another great influence in my life; this was the personal philosophical diary of the last "good emperor" of the Roman Empire. In this work Marcus Aurelius draws a picture Stoicism as a philosophy that I call "Buddhism with balls". It is a harsh self discipline that trains its practitioners to be champions (of a sort). Champions of what? Mastery of the self.

    The heart of the book is that in order to make oneself free, they must train themselves to become indifferent to externals. The externals ar

    Another great influence in my life; this was the personal philosophical diary of the last "good emperor" of the Roman Empire. In this work Marcus Aurelius draws a picture Stoicism as a philosophy that I call "Buddhism with balls". It is a harsh self discipline that trains its practitioners to be champions (of a sort). Champions of what? Mastery of the self.

    The heart of the book is that in order to make oneself free, they must train themselves to become indifferent to externals. The externals are those elements in life of which we have no or little control: our ethnicity, sex appeal, intelligence, lifespan, the opinions of others, etc. We must also become very aware of the one thing which we do have control over: our perceptions. Through harsh self analysis, training of the reason and self discipline, we can learn to take control of our perceptions, and in this way become impervious to all misfortune/suffering. Through this practice one cuts the puppet strings by which most people are jerked through life: pleasing others, seeking fame, sexual dominance, material goods, etc., and in the process also is freed of the suffering that stems from not having these false goals met.

    This is a book that is extremely empowering. Even if some of the ideals and aims might be utterly impossible (but for a handful of great sages), they are worthy and worth striving towards.

    Another aspect that I found interesting, was that here we are able to open a window into the life of a great and noble soul who was struggling to come to terms with the universe. We read the personal thoughts of the master of the civilized world, a man utterly alone and free of peers, who is grappling with the need to find meaning in life. His efforts and obvious agonies are touching. This is a deeply humane work. In many sections he has to repeatedly remind himself of the nature of death (that it is an essential and good part of nature), and often repeated are metaphors relating to the death of a child. These reminders are made very poignant when you understand that several of the Emperor's children (who he apparently loved very much) were taken by disease. This was the one understanding that he seemed to have the hardest time coming to terms with or accepting.

  • Ahsan
    May 22, 2009

    Dear Marcus, wherever you rest, I pray that you rest in peace. Thank you.

    : after I wrote the above line, I tried to find out where Aurelius was really buried and it seems that his ashes used to be kept at the Castel Sant' Angelo in Parco Adriano, Rome. But in 410, these ashes and those of other emperors were scattered during the Visigoth sack of Rome. I mention this because I think Aurelius would have found it very amusing to have been scattered into the river, confirming his view of life

    Dear Marcus, wherever you rest, I pray that you rest in peace. Thank you.

    : after I wrote the above line, I tried to find out where Aurelius was really buried and it seems that his ashes used to be kept at the Castel Sant' Angelo in Parco Adriano, Rome. But in 410, these ashes and those of other emperors were scattered during the Visigoth sack of Rome. I mention this because I think Aurelius would have found it very amusing to have been scattered into the river, confirming his view of life and death as stages of change in the cycle of the universe, or the logos, as he likes to call it.

    This is a fire I will be returning to warm myself.

    : Since I first read it, Meditations has become an extremely important book for me, and on a trip to Rome in 2013, I was driven to fanboisim and visited Marcus' antique equestrian statue at the Capitoline Museums. Also, I visited the breathtaking Castel Sant' Angelo where his ashes were originally interred.

  • Brad Lyerla
    Oct 06, 2010

    When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm. My roommate was on the football team. He would write inspiring things on poster board and hang them in our room often on the ceiling above his bed to motivate himself. He favored straightforward sentiments like "never give up."

    The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius did not hang motivational posters for inspiration. Instead, he kept a journal in which he collected his thoughts about how to live well. MEDITATIONS is that book.

    Most people have heard

    When I was a freshman in college, I lived in a dorm. My roommate was on the football team. He would write inspiring things on poster board and hang them in our room often on the ceiling above his bed to motivate himself. He favored straightforward sentiments like "never give up."

    The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius did not hang motivational posters for inspiration. Instead, he kept a journal in which he collected his thoughts about how to live well. MEDITATIONS is that book.

    Most people have heard that Aurelius counsels to expect the worst and you will never be disappointed. While that is part of what he has to say, it is not the most interesting of what he has to say. At his most thoughtful, Aurelius calls on us to ask the best of ourselves and never mind the behavior of others. His MEDITATIONS is a work of motivational advice to inspire us in the ways of stoicism. It is a manual for being a complete, mature adult. It is a guide for living a dignified, thoughtful life

    Consider: "Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow 'or the day after'. Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn't kick up a fuss about which day it was - what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small." Book IV (Greg Hays trans., Modern Library)

    Or: "Concentrate every minute like a Roman - like a man - on doing what's in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from distractions. Yes, you can - if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage this, that's all even the gods can ask of you." Book II.

    And: "If at some point in your life, you should come across anything better than justice, honesty, self-control, courage - than a mind satisfied that it succeeded in enabling you to act rationally, and satisfied to accept what is beyond its control - if you find anything better than that, embrace it without reservations - it must be an extraordinary thing indeed - and enjoy it to the full." Book III

    That these thoughts came from the most powerful man in the world, a man whose personal power so vastly exceeded the personal power of any American president that we have difficulty comprehending it, makes it all the more impressive. Aurelius continually writes that strength comes from humility, self-restraint and good humor towards others. He teaches us to accept what we cannot control and to trust what we know.

    Good advice, indeed.

  • Riku Sayuj
    Sep 22, 2011

    Marcus Aurelius must have been a prolific reader. He sure was a prolific note-taker, for these meditations are surely his study-notes(?- after all he was a 'philosopher' from age 12). I don't know of the publishing system at the time but where are the detailed footnotes and references? Marcus Aurelius is quite a wise man or at least he read enough wise men. He sure nailed it as far as boring a reader is concerned. No better way to establish your book's wisdom quotient.

    I am being needlessly caust

    Marcus Aurelius must have been a prolific reader. He sure was a prolific note-taker, for these meditations are surely his study-notes(?- after all he was a 'philosopher' from age 12). I don't know of the publishing system at the time but where are the detailed footnotes and references? Marcus Aurelius is quite a wise man or at least he read enough wise men. He sure nailed it as far as boring a reader is concerned. No better way to establish your book's wisdom quotient.

    I am being needlessly caustic of course(do note my rating above). The book is quotable in almost every page and is good to dip in to now and then, you might well find an aphorism that fits the mood just right every time. And that is why the book is a classic and so well-loved.

    Don't read it as a scholar, you will end up like this reviewer. As I said earlier - He is like the wisdom of ages. Aargh :) Not that it is all bad - it is like reading an old uncles's notes after he has been preaching to you all your life.

    Good that I am a stoic too. All ills are imaginary. Yes.

    [ Or perhaps it was easier to be a Stoic while stoned: The emperor was a notorious opium user, starting each day, even while on military campaigns, by downing a nubbin of the stuff dissolved in his morning cup of wine. ]

  • Camille Stein
    Sep 17, 2013

    (II, 14)

    (IV, 3)

    (II, 17)

  • Maru Kun
    Dec 06, 2013

    Marcus gives us wise advice about using the Internet, particularly social networking sites:

    He shares his opinions on the worst types of modern professional. He does not approve of lobbyists and is rightly worried about their influence on the legislative process. We should heed his words:

    Marcus gives us wise advice about using the Internet, particularly social networking sites:

    He shares his opinions on the worst types of modern professional. He does not approve of lobbyists and is rightly worried about their influence on the legislative process. We should heed his words:

    He has harsh things to say about public relations executives;

    He understands the modern office dynamic, reminding himself:

    Marcus has advice for politicians, which it is clear from this book he thinks are untrustworthy, illogical and prone to anger. He condemns unreservedly all their faults and the problems with the modern electoral system:

    - Marcus is spot on in identifying a lack of democratic accountability, fostered by the CIA, NSA, GCHQ and the rest of the security paraphernalia, as being at the root of many of our current political problems.

    In the UK there is a tradition for politicians, or at least for the posher type of politician, to study “PPE” or “Politics, Philosophy and Economics” at either Oxford or Cambridge University.

    But despite such an expensive education our political masters don't have half the grasp on the classics that Marcus has, which is remarkable considering he was home-schooled. I wish Marcus would consider a career in politics just to show up our current representatives for the intellectual pygmies that they really are.

    Marcus also gives us advice on a more personal level. I don’t know much about his background but I can be sure he is the father of teenage children! Can he really keep his temper?

    Unlike other self-help writers he doesn’t flinch at reminding us about our own mortality:

    We should remember:

    and also

    How refreshing if more authors of self help books would confront squarely the central issue of our own mortality and our negative emotions of anger or frustration instead of forever hiding from these topics.

    So to end with my favorite paragraph, from book 10 paragraph 5. One for physicists as well as philosophers to puzzle over:

    I don’t normally read self help books. Often they seem full of cliches left over from the Victorian era. And in this book, which may have been modeled on the writings of Alain De Botton, Marcus mixes in a lot of philosophy and this just isn’t to everyone’s taste.

    But with this short work Marcus, who is Italian, and his co-author Gregory Hays have brought the format right up to date by reflecting squarely on the types of issues that we all face today.

    A great book by an author who - and this is no exaggeration - deserves a statue to be put up for him. I can only wish I could meet Marcus one day. In fact I’ll be checking out if he has any book signings lined up. If he has a decent agent I’m sure he has.

  • Glenn Russell
    Nov 25, 2014

    In many important ways, the reflections of Marcus Aurelius (121-180) crystallize the philosophical wisdom of the Greco-Roman world. This little book was written as a diary to himself while emperor fighting a war out on the boarder of the Roman Empire and today this book is known to us as

    .

    The Roman philosophers are not as well known or as highly regarded as Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, or Zeno the Stoic - and for a simple reason: the Roman thinkers were n

    In many important ways, the reflections of Marcus Aurelius (121-180) crystallize the philosophical wisdom of the Greco-Roman world. This little book was written as a diary to himself while emperor fighting a war out on the boarder of the Roman Empire and today this book is known to us as

    .

    The Roman philosophers are not as well known or as highly regarded as Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, or Zeno the Stoic - and for a simple reason: the Roman thinkers were not primarily interested in abstract theory; rather, they were concerned with behavior, that is, understanding how to live in the everyday world and putting their understanding into practice; the goal being to live the life of an authentic philosopher, to be a person of high character and integrity, to develop inner strength and a quiet mind and value such strength and quietude above all else. Indeed, to accomplish such a lofty goal, the Romans realized the need for radical transformation, a complete overhauling of one's life through rigorous mental and physical training, like turning base metal into pure gold. And once a person takes on the role of a philosopher, their deeds must reflect their words - no hypocrisy, thank you! Thus, it isn't surprising the Romans put a premium on memorizing and internalizing simple proverbs and maxims and employed the metaphor of philosophy as the medicine to cure a sick soul.

    Turning now to Marcus Aurelius, we can appreciate how he imbibed the wisdom not only from the Stoics (along with Seneca and Epictetus, Marcus is considered one of the three major Roman Stoics), but he was also willing to learn from the schools of Epicurus, Plato and Aristotle. In the Greco-Roman world, being eclectic was perfectly acceptable; truth was valued over who said what.

    We find several recurring themes in

    : develop self-discipline to gain control over judgments and desires; overcoming a fear of death; value an ability to retreat into a rich, interior mental life (one's inner citadel); recognize the world as a manifestation of the divine; live according to reason; avoid luxury and opulence. But generalizations will not approach the richness and wisdom nuggets a reader will find in Marcus's actual words. Thus, I conclude with my personal observations coupled with quotes from Book One, wherein Marcus begins by expressing heartfelt thanks to his family and teachers for the many fine lessons he learned as a youth. Here are four of my favorites:

    "Not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home" ---------- After my own nasty experience with the mindless competition and regimentation of public schools, I wish I had Marcus's good fortune of excellent home schooling.

    "Not to meddle with other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander." ---------- I didn't need a teacher here; I recognized on my own at an early age that gossip is a colossal waste of time and energy, both listening to gossip and spreading gossip. I can't imagine a clearer indication of a base, coarse mind than someone inclined to gossip and slandering others.

    "To read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book." ---------- How true. Reading isn't a race to get to the last page; matter of fact, I agree with Jorge Luis Borges that focused, precise rereading is the key to opening oneself to the wisdom of a book.

    "To be satisfied on all occasions, and be cheerful." ---------- I'm never in a hurry. Life is too beautiful to be in a hurry. For me, there is only one way to live each day: in joy and free from anxiety and worry. In a sense, all of the meditations of Marcus Aurelius amplify this simple view of life.

    I've written this review as an encouragement to make Marcus Aurelius a part of your life. You might not agree with everything he has to say, but you have to admit, Marcus has a really cool beard and head of hair.

  • Parthiban Sekar
    Jul 10, 2015

    This little book is the most personal work existent on the surface of the Earth, floating across all continents and countries, in all language, from time to time. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and unmistakably, a Stoic philosopher, through his reflective aphorisms and repetitive admonitions, captivates us to inquire about our living, review our doings, and eliminate our misconceptions. This was not targeted for

    This little book is the most personal work existent on the surface of the Earth, floating across all continents and countries, in all language, from time to time. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and unmistakably, a Stoic philosopher, through his reflective aphorisms and repetitive admonitions, captivates us to inquire about our living, review our doings, and eliminate our misconceptions. This was not targeted for any audience; This was not intended to be published; This was unquestionably not to be made as

    ; Yet, this single book has captured more men than Marcus could ever have captured with his lofty weapons and relentless army. These 12 books of personally directed writings might seem incomprehensible, at times, but, thanks to the foot-notes, some of them could be made clear.

    So, what does Marcus say in this mighty book of "motivating and reforming" writing?

    All is as thinking makes it so. Our very souls are dyed by our thoughts. We are what our thoughts make us and our happiness rests in what we think. Throughout this book, it is constantly being reminded that one should keep himself free of alluring judgement, but he should conduct

    Pride is what, often, drives us into undesirable circumstances and unalterable consequences, and so, He, Marcus, tell us to get rid of vanity and any emotion which might instigate vanity in us. Like most of the Stoics, he also tell us not to succumb to pleasures and pains, and not to be provoked by brute facts and mere things. Divinity is our mind and reason.

    Mind,

    as addressed by Marcus, which is unreachable to any of external agents, and which can be impacted only by our thoughts, tends to join with people who bear the same thoughts and beliefs, leading to the fellowship of "Like-Minded" individuals. But, what Marcus dreams of, is something really quite unimaginable and the above quote vividly explains his desire to bring all people together under on constitution to live in all accord and harmony. It would be hard not to notice his relentless reverence for Gods and the importance of being God-fearing but not superstitious.

    Kindness, integrity and sincerity are the key virtues to live in accordance with the nature (the Whole) and fellow citizens, as Marcus empathetically tells.

    “All men are made one for another: either then teach them better or bear with them.”

    Universe is change. We are not what we, once, were. All things are in the process of change: Constant alteration and Gradual decay. Everything we undergo is part of the process of change, as the fig blossoms and ripens.

    . The more we control our emotions, closer we get to the power of precise judgement.

    How quickly time runs out and How much we have already lost. Instead of fretting over the past and dream of future, Marcus asks us to find our purpose of our existence and work for it, with accordance to nature and appreciation of blessings in what we have.

    “Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.”

    Death is inevitable, as birth is. According to him, it is not a "Non-Existence" but a "Not-Yet-Existence". He even further goes ahead and asks "Or is Death just a change of home?".

    So, lets take what we like from this unmistakable work of virtues and make no drama of our lives.

  • Phyllis Eisenstadt
    Dec 16, 2015

    THINK ABOUT IT!

    Never before have I given a five star rating to a book of which I had only read 9%. However, this book is special in many ways, and if the beginning is any indication of the author's thoughts and reflections, it merits this rating. I eagerly await my future readings of this splendid work.

    Like the Bible, it can be opened to any page, and the passage will resonate with most people at various times in their life. Each passage stands by itself and is not dependent upon what had preced

    THINK ABOUT IT!

    Never before have I given a five star rating to a book of which I had only read 9%. However, this book is special in many ways, and if the beginning is any indication of the author's thoughts and reflections, it merits this rating. I eagerly await my future readings of this splendid work.

    Like the Bible, it can be opened to any page, and the passage will resonate with most people at various times in their life. Each passage stands by itself and is not dependent upon what had preceded it. Therefore, although I am in the midst of reading two other books, I pick this one up sporadically, read a few passages, and am not confused about plot and characters. Although the book was written in a manner easy to understand, it is anything but simplistic; it is profound and replete with wisdom. Further, it should be read slowly so that the reader may absorb the words and delight in the meditations of Aurelius. I have done much highlighting in order to remember certain passages, and I know I will reread them throughout the years.

    Once again, my friend Steve Sckenda has recommended quality literature to his GR friends for which I thank him most sincerely.

    Phyllis Eisenstadt

  • Pavle
    Jul 13, 2016

    Čitao sam Aurelijeve Meditacije u onih praznih pet minuta pred neki izlazak, na bajsu u audio formatu, pa i u toaletu (toaletno štivo - najbolje štivo). Njena fragmentirana (kratki pasusi, ponekad dužine svega jedne rečenice) gradja za to je i idealna. Zato je malo i potrajalo, ali šta da se radi.

    Stoička filozofija i ovde, kao kod Seneke, nije ništa novo, ništa monumentalno, ali ono što izdiže ovu knjigu i ono što je čini posebnom, za razliku od Senekinog dela, jeste to što Aurelije ovo nije že

    Čitao sam Aurelijeve Meditacije u onih praznih pet minuta pred neki izlazak, na bajsu u audio formatu, pa i u toaletu (toaletno štivo - najbolje štivo). Njena fragmentirana (kratki pasusi, ponekad dužine svega jedne rečenice) gradja za to je i idealna. Zato je malo i potrajalo, ali šta da se radi.

    Stoička filozofija i ovde, kao kod Seneke, nije ništa novo, ništa monumentalno, ali ono što izdiže ovu knjigu i ono što je čini posebnom, za razliku od Senekinog dela, jeste to što Aurelije ovo nije želeo da objavi. Suštinski, ovo je dnevnik. Možda ne zvuči kao velika stvar, ali zbog toga svaka stranica isijava i emocijom i autentičnošću.

    Koristeći drugo lice, "ti treba.. ti ne treba..", Aurelije ne priča nama, već samom sebi, "ti" je zapravo "ja", uputstvo za upotrebu, i ovo je izuzetan uvid u ličnost jednog, bukvalno (a lično mislim i figurativno), cara. U tekstu se oseća kada je nervozan ili tužan ili srećan, kada je opijen trijumfom ili nesiguran ili razočaran u sopstveno ponašanje. Nekad se raspiše, a nekad onako u prolazu zapiše poneku mudru misao. Car, glavni čovek glavne sile starog sveta, pokušava, ponekad neuspešno, da se rukovodi stoičkim načelima i preuzme potpunu kontrolu nad svojim životom. Marko Aurelije ovde je besprekorno napisan lik i predznanje da je on stvarna istorijska ličnost tu ništa ne menja. Slučajna autobiografija, uvid u um impozantne osobe i veliko dostignuće.

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