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Selections from The Enchiridion by Epictetus 
Edited version © SpiritSite.com (some language has been adapted and/or simplified)

 


"If anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not bothered by it, you can be sure that you have begun your inner work."

Enchiridion Selections, Part Three

Does someone bathe too quickly? Donít say that he bathes incorrectly, just quickly. 

Does someone drink a great amount of wine? Donít say that he drinks incorrectly, just that he drinks a great amount.

For unless you perfectly understand the motivations from which anyone acts, how do you know if he is wrong in his actions?

If you think this way, you won't run the risk of judging any appearances but those which you fully understand.

Never call yourself a philosopher, nor talk a great deal about theories Ė simply act according to them. When, for example, youíre at a party Ė donít talk about how people ought to eat and drink, but simply eat and drink as you should.

Silence is a fine thing. Donít toss philosophical theorems out for debate, for there is danger in throwing out what you have not digested. If anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not bothered by it, you can be sure that you have begun your inner work.

Sheep, for example, donít throw up their grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten. Rather, after inwardly digesting their food, they outwardly produce wool and milk. So should you not debate philosophy, but demonstrate the actions produced by the philosophy after it has been digested.

If you are tempted by the thought of a unhealthy pleasure, try not to be hurried away by it. 

Rather, give yourself a few moments to gather your mind. Then bring your thoughts to two points in time: the point at which you will enjoy the pleasure, and the point at which you may blame yourself for enjoying it. 

Think, further, of how glad you will be if you avoid the pleasure altogether, and how happy you will feel for your efforts.

An ignorant person expects good and bad to come from externals. A philosopher expects good and bad to come from himself.

Therefore, the philosopher blames no one, controls no one, and seeks neither praise nor power from others. If he is praised, he secretly chuckles at the person who praised him, and if he is accused of something, he makes no defense.

If he appears stupid or ignorant, he does not care Ė he knows that his own mind is the thing to watch.

Whatever spiritual and moral rules you have decided to live by, respect them as if they were laws. Donít worry about what anyone says of you, for this is no concern of yours.

Let the highest principles be your rules for living. And no matter what happens to you Ė whether it be pain or pleasure, glory or shame Ė remember that you are bound to these high laws.

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