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Selections from Meditations by Marcus Aurelius 
Adaptation © SpiritSite.com (language has been adapted and/or simplified)

 


"Man was created to be good, and whenever he contributes to the common good, he has done what he was created for."

Meditations: Books Nine and Ten

We have been made to help each other. Whoever does wrong against another is acting against the Divine Purpose, and is confused.

It would be wonderful if we could live our lives without experiencing lies and cruelty and pride. But because this is impossible, the best thing is to look clearly at them and choose their opposite.

The corruption of the mind is far worse than any external corruption.

We should not be violent or defensive in the face of difficult situations. Rather, we should look calmly at them and try to uncover their higher purpose.

If you are worried about death, turn your mind upon the people and things you will leave – and now, love them dearer than you ever have.

Whoever wrongs another, wrongs himself. Whoever acts unjustly, acts unjustly toward himself.

Sometimes it is not he who acts that is wrong, but he who fails to act.

Wipe out your stray thoughts. Keep your mind’s impulses in check. Let the spirit remain in control.

All creatures share one intelligent spirit.

All who share in a common purpose move toward the same goal.

Help your brother if you can. And if you can’t, be kind. The gods are kind to men – what should stop you from being like this yourself?

Work, not wishing to be pitied or admired – but simply work with peace and calm.

Today I freed myself of all troublesome events – for I learned that trouble is not outside my mind, but inside, in my interpretations.

To a stone thrown in the air, it is not good to be tossed up and not bad to fall down.

Look within the minds of your critics, and you will see what bad critics they are of themselves. Then forgive them for their words, and take no stock in them.

Leave another’s wrong act where it is.

Think of the parts of your life – your life as a child, as a youth, as an adult, and old age. In these, every change was a death. Is this anything to be afraid of? Even the end of your life is but another of these changes.

Remember the Whole of which you are a part.

Look at this man’s actions – does he act out of ignorance or out of purpose? Either way, remember that his soul and yours are one and the same.

As you are a part of the Whole, let each act of yours be in line with the Whole.

You are troubled because you do not allow your soul to do the things it was made to do. Let it, and those things will be enough to content you.

When another person judges or hates you, go into their soul and see what is there. You will see that it is a waste of time to try to make them respect you. And yet – you must be kind to them, for they are friends and brothers in the Universal Order.

Soon the earth will cover us all, then this earth too will change, and then that will change – and on and on to eternity. A man who realizes this will not value what will change.

Don’t expect Utopia, but strive to move toward it. Even the smallest step is worth taking.

Rise up and look down from above at the herds of animals, the many journeys of men, the births and lives and deaths. Think too of the lives led by those who are past, and the lives of those to come. See that those who now praise you may soon blame you, and those who blame you will forget you. And then realize that neither fame nor anything else is worth a stray thought.

You have the power to release all the judgments which trouble you by embracing the whole Universe, and everything in it.

Learn to look at men’s souls in nakedness. When they believe that their blame hurts the world and their praise helps it, they are as ignorant as children.

Enough of this depressing way of life. Why are you troubled? What keeps you in misery? The material events in your life? They are nothing. Nothing matters, except to grow close to the gods. To spend three years on this is as worthy as a hundred.

If a man does wrong, then the pain is with him. But perhaps he did not do wrong. It is not our business to judge.

Either everything springs from a central Order, or everything is merely dust and atoms.

The gods are either powerful or powerless. If they are powerless, it is not worth praying. But if they are powerful, you should pray for the highest gifts. Don’t ask, "How can I control this person," but, "How can I lose my desire to control?" Don’t ask, "How can I get rid of this enemy," but, "How can I get rid of my thoughts of hate?" Don’t ask, "How can I keep my child safe," but, "How can I learn to trust?" Turn your prayers in this direction, and you will be surprised at what comes.

Do not desert these principles during the difficult parts of your life. Simply focus on what is happening at the moment, and ask how you should approach it.

When someone’s rudeness shocks you, immediately ask yourself, "Is it is possible for rudeness to vanish from the world?" It is not – so meet such rudeness with forgiveness and patience. Have the same thing ready for every troublemaker, every liar, and every wrongdoer. Remember too what virtue God gave to balance this mistake, and make this virtue part of you.

Every man who does wrong is suffering from a wrongly-set goal. How can you be injured by this? You will see that no wrong-doer has changed your purpose, and so you have not fallen into danger.

Why is it surprising that ignorant men do what they do? They do not know any better.

Whenever you find yourself blaming another, turn within. For you can choose whether to blame or not to blame. When you have chosen to be tolerant, what more could you want? And what more would you need anyone else to do? It will be enough to see that you live in harmony with your principles, and dwell in the peace that comes from this.

Man was created to be good, and whenever he contributes to the common good, he has done what he was created for.

When, my soul, will you be filled with peace and free of wanting? When will you be satisfied in the present moment, and understand that everything is for your good? When will you learn to see like the gods – peacefully, without a trace of worry or blame?

Every event that happens to you is either tolerable or not. If it is tolerable, then try tolerate it with patience and trust. If it is not tolerable, then you cannot. But remember that your own mind has the power to make things tolerable or intolerable through the force of its own judgments.

If your brother does wrong, support him and show him a better way. If he does not listen, do not blame him nor yourself.

Whether the world was created in chaos or in Divine order, we must still say -- "I am part of the Whole." And we must remember -- "I am joined with the other parts that make up the Whole." If we remember this, we will not be troubled by anything that arises.

Nothing that blesses the Whole hurts the part. By remembering that I am part of the Whole, I will remain aware of my safety. My thoughts and actions will fall into harmony with the Whole, and I will naturally strive to serve the common good.

When we think this way, our lives will flow happily along -- just as the life of a citizen flows happily along when he sees himself as part of the community, and works to help the greater good.

Each part of the Whole must someday change. But let us not judge this as evil. If any part of the Whole were evil, then every part would be evil. And how could this be? Could Nature intentionally attack her own parts? Such a thing makes no sense.

After earning these titles: "good," "modest," "honest," "generous," be careful not to trade them for others. If you should lose them for a while, quickly return to them. For if you cherish these titles in your heart -- not seeking to be called them by others -- you will be a changed man and will enter into a new life.

If you wish to remain charitable and good, it may help to remember the gods -- and that they wish for all beings to be like themselves.

The activity of the world will erase these principles, if you let them. Be committed to keep these principles alive.

A spider is proud when it captures a fly. A man is proud when he captures a rabbit; another man when he captures a fish; another man when he captures a prisoner. Aren't all of these robbers, if you look at them closely? Let us seek something higher.

Contact the spirit in all things, and you will find great joy. For a man who does this has put aside his personal identity, and has given himself to the Universe. This man no longer worries what other men say or think of him. He is satisfied with what he does, and what has been given him. He is no longer distracted by side paths, but is content to take the straight road to God.

Why do we need worry, when we can simply ask what should be done? And if we are not able to ascertain what should be done, we can ask for help from those who can advise us.

As soon as you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, "does it matter if another man does something just and right?" It does not. Recognize that those who care about praise or blame have traded away their peace for nothing.

The peaceful man says to Nature, "Give me what you would like, and take from me what you would like." And he says this not in pride, but with a sense of common purpose.

Never talk about what it means to be a good man – instead, simply be good.

Always remember that one place is like any other; that life here is the same as it would be on the top of a mountain or by the sea. The true retreat is within you.

How important is my soul to me? What am I using it for? Am I allowing it to serve its purpose?

He who runs from his master is a runaway slave. And because the law is a master, one who breaks the law is a runaway slave. Also – one who gives in to feelings of attack is a runaway slave, for he has run from his highest purpose.

Think of the dramas that have passed, and those that are to come – the lives, the wars, the births and deaths. They are all the same; only the actors are different.

When someone does wrong, think to yourself, "how do I do wrong like this, too?" For if you ask yourself this, you will quickly forget your anger. And remember this: that this wrong-doer is compelled by his level of understanding. If you are able, help him to change.

Ask yourself, "what is the best thing that can be said or done in this situation?" Then say or do it, and do not waste time judging the event.

Remember that anything that harms the person harms the community, and anything that harms the community harms the greater good.

Homer said, "Leaves – the wind scatters them across the ground. So are the lives of men." All our problems are leaves. All the voices that blame us are leaves. Nothing that passes is anything but a scattering of leaves.

We should be ready for anything that happens, as the mill is ready for anything to grind.

Ask yourself, "why is this man doing this?" But begin with yourself, and ask yourself this first.

That which controls your life is within you. The soul is action; the soul is life; the soul, if we may say, is man. The soul is the director of everything in your life, and it uses your life as the writer uses a pen, or the weaver a loom.

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