Maybe because I am a Westerner, I find flaws in both Buddha and Lao-Tze in that both, in their way, encourage a kind of disengagement. To me, the Stoic way of thinking is better. The Stoics insist that a person should be an active and useful member of society, not a contemplative hermit.
The core of Stoicism is to recognise the things we have control over, and the things we do not. We may not have control over events, but we do have control of how we react to those events. We have no control over the lion, but we can decide whether to run and save ourselves, or stand and defend others less able.
Epictetus insisted that the role of Man was to use his reasoning power to observe the world, understand it, and ‘make the proper use of appearances’. ‘Appearances’ being the phenomena and events life presents us with. Appearances are neutral -good or bad lies in how we react to them. By recognising this, and by limiting our desires and fears to what we can control, we achieve happiness. The things we can control are our fears and desires, By not worrying about unpleasant things we can’t control -illness, accidental injury, other peoples’ attitude — but simply accepting them when they happen we avoid unhappiness. By not desiring or pursuing things that are not in our control — the so-called ‘dream job’, the ideal lover admired from afar, etc. — we become free of the stress and anxiety of chasing them. If we are content with what we have, grateful for what may be given us, or what we earn by doing what we’re given to do, associate with congenial people, then we are happy.
In a world of ever more complex and intrusive appearances, it is more important than ever that we do not burden ourselves with unnecessary fears and desires.