1. Do you think that Epictetus and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have enjoyed happy lives in spite of the degree to which each experienced suffering in his lifetime? Why or why not? What does your answer reveal about whether happiness is possible even in the face of immense suffering?
2. Elaborate on the ways in which equanimity differs from satisfaction and pleasure. How do both Stoics and Buddhists understand the goal of living? In answering this question, discuss the roles that inner discipline and emotionality play in the pursuit of equanimity.
3. Given that the universe is determined, according to Stoics and Buddhists, and that suffering is a natural part of the universe, what advice do they give in order to achieve equanimity? What are the kinds of desires that we ought to maintain, and what are the desires that we ought to let go? Do you agree with them that this is a wise strategy for achieving happiness? Explain why you think as you do.
4. Explain how learning what is and what is not up to us serves as the foundational lesson for happiness, according to Epictetus. In so doing, be sure to explicitly state those things that Epictetus claims are within our control and those that are not. How does having the correct view of what is under our control influence what we take to be important and to have value? Are there things in your own life that you attach value to and yet realize are not completely up to you? Do you think that has an effect on your prospects for living happily, and why or why not?
5. There is some controversy concerning whether we really can control our mind to the degree that Epictetus and the Dalai Lama suggest. Do you think we are able to completely control our reactions and attitudes, or do you think that they are somewhat determined by things beyond our control? In your discussion, you should reference some scientific evidence in support of your position.
6. What is mindfulness, and in what ways can practicing it help to train our minds for happiness? Explain. If you have tried mindfulness practices before, did you find that they helped you to achieve more happiness?
7. What is cognitive behavioral therapy, and in what ways can practicing it help to train our minds for happiness? If you have tried cognitive behavioral therapy practices before, did you find that they helped you to achieve more happiness? Explain.
8. Discuss the Stoic idea of the “premeditation of evils”: what is it, and in what way can practicing it help to train our minds for happiness? In what ways might it be superior to “positive thinking”? How does negative visualization different from rumination? Explain your answers to these questions.
9. Even if we cannot completely eliminate suffering in our lives, Viktor Frankl argues we can mitigate its effects by finding ways to give meaning to it. Explain his reasons for thinking this, being sure to illustrate his claims by using examples. What are the different ways of coming to see our suffering as personally meaningful? Explain each of these ways.
10. Explain how the Buddhist doctrine of interdependent arising implies that we cannot be happy without working toward increasing the happiness of others. Do you think that your happiness could benefit from focusing more on others? In what ways could you employ this in your daily living? Be specific.