Discourses, Books 1-2 - Epictetus, W.A. Oldfather A follower of Zeno and Chrysippus (as evidence by the numerous references), Epictetus expounds the lessons of Stoicism. On a superficial level, it’s kind of like Western Buddhism. Detachment from worldly desire being a core concept in both. Whereas Buddhism seeks to train the mind in the ways of sila (ethical behavior) to cut the chain of endless rebirth, Epictetus teaches how virtue helps you pass through the purpose of this existence.
Men act like a traveller on the way to his own country who stops at an excellent inn, and, since the inn pleases him, stays there. Man, you have forgotten your purpose; you were not traveling to this but through it. Pg. 407, Book II.23.
For Epictetus, the base for all action is cultivation of the mind and soul before God (the God referred to being Zeus and not the Judeo-Christian God gaining notoriety in Rome at this time). “Make it your wish to appear beautiful in the sight of God. Set your desire upon becoming pure in the presence of your pure self and of God.” Pg. 345, Book II.18. The external world must be evaluated with care to understand why there is desire for anything else. The trappings of possessions and prestige prevent true growth.

Yes, Epictetus was a toga-hippy.

The principles behind most of Book I and II will seem fairly familiar to the modern reader. Our modern usage of the term “stoicism” covers the main premise. Calm can be maintained in the face of adversity because most adversity really shouldn’t matter. It’s the advantage of detachment. Anything can become endured because overcoming it is not the purpose.

Regardless, this is a highly quotable text and two passages that struck me as particularly interesting:
Whenever you mix in society, whenever you take physical exercise, whenever you converse, do you not know that you are nourishing God, exercising God? You are bearing God about with you, you poor wretch, and know it not! Do you suppose I am speaking of some external God, made of silver or gold? It is within yourself that you bear Him, and do not perceive that you are defiling Him with impure thoughts and filthy actions. pg. 257, Book II.8.
That is why the philosophers admonish us not to be satisfied with merely learning, but to add thereto practice also, and then training. For in the course of years we have acquired the habit of doing the opposite of what we learn and have in use opinions which are the opposite of the correct ones. If, therefore, we do not also put in use the correct opinions, we shall be nothing but interpreters of other men’s judgments. For who is there among us here and now that cannot give a philosophical discourse on good and evil? {…} So, although we are unable even to fulfill the profession of man, we take on the additional profession of the philosopher- so huge a burden! pgs. 265, 267, Book II.9.