Skip to content

Tony Robbins and the Buddha Compare Notes

An imaginary round table discussion with Anthony Robbins and Gautama the Buddha on being the best we can be.

I was musing upon an interesting idea: What would it be like if the historical master of enlightenment, Gautama the Buddha and the legendary personal development coach Tony Robbins had a conversation about higher human development? What might their differing answers be to the following questions: how can we be the best we can be, how can we cultivate pure motivation, and what does it mean to live on our edge? This is what I came up with. 

Moderator: Thank you both for agreeing to participate in this dialogue. You both are renowned for representing the very leading edge not only of your own fields but of human development itself. You are also both very gifted teachers with large followings all over the world. Your capacities to guide others through the arduous and challenging path of self-mastery and spiritual enlightenment are second to none. That’s why we thought it would be such a gift to have you both together at the same table sharing your thoughts and ideas about human transformation in the 21st Century.

Anthony Robbins: Thank you very much. It’s nice to be with all of you.

Gautama the Buddha: I am deeply honored. May all sentient beings experience peace and freedom from suffering!

Moderator:So let me start with you Tony. I have three questions. The first one is about how we can better ourselves. Everybody wants to know how they can be the best they can be. What advice can you give us?

Robbins: The best advice I can give is exactly what I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for the last thirty years. First and foremost, take massive action! What that means is this: figure out the different ways you want to change your life, and then get down to business. That requires you to set clear and coherent goals, and most importantly, to create strategies for meeting those goals. Start NOW, today, this minute. Don’t wait a second longer. Don’t let old habit patterns continue to get in your way and bog you down. Come up with a clear plan for how you want to change your life—physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Think about your career, your relationships, your hobbies—what would you like to be different? The most important thing is taking massive action to change your life into the life of your dreams . . . today.

Moderator: Thank you Tony. That’s very inspiring! So Gautama, how would you answer the question of how we can be the best we can be in this rapidly changing and fast-paced world we’re living in?

Buddha: Dear ones, that is a very important question! Ever since I attained my Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree all those years ago, I have been preaching to the multitudes a powerful teaching of self-liberation that can awaken us at the deepest level of our being. In my philosophy, the “best” we can be is to become fully liberated, fully enlightened—to become nothing less than a living Buddha. And in order to succeed in becoming liberated in this way, we must put the Dharma (spiritual teachings) into practice with all of our hearts. That means making the noble effort to develop a strong moral foundation in the very core of who we are.  Upon that strong foundation we must strive to overcome lifetimes of ignorance by learning how to transcend our conditioned minds through the deep practice of meditation.

Deep meditation will give rise to Samadhi—a powerful glimpse of the ultimate truth of our own nature. That truth is emptiness or voidness or nothingness. That is the direct experience of freedom itself. This kind of breakthrough will liberate us from what I have discovered to be the number one obstacle to happiness: desire. Desire for the things of this world. If we cling only to this freedom from wanting, we will be greater than the greatest. 

Moderator: Wow! Thank you for that, Master Gautama. My head is spinning and I feel dizzy listening to your words of timeless and perennial wisdom.

Tony, my second question is about goodness. How can we become better people? Caring people? Less selfish and more giving to others?

Robbins: Thank you. Now that’s a great question! You know what? I feel passionately that good people tend to be happy people. And in order to be happy, I believe it’s essential that we are progressing in the most important areas of our lives. Whether it is our intimate relationships, our work, our finances, our physical health and wellbeing, and also our spirituality. To be happy we need to know without any doubt that we are developing, we’re moving, we’re growing. Once again, that’s what gives us the deepest and most satisfying connection with life—much more than getting what we think we want, whether it’s a new relationship, a new car, or a promotion.

Also, people who know that they’re developing in the most important ways almost always experience a deep sense of gratitude. They know what it takes to grow and don’t take it for granted. And finally, gratitude inspires us to help others, to serve others, in the same way that others have helped us. So I believe that “good” people are happy people and happy people are grateful people. 

Moderator: Thank you so much for that Tony. You have helped me to see how I need to get more serious about and focused on my own development. Instead of merely experiencing life, I need to get into the driver’s seat and put my foot on the gas!

Master Gautama, how would you respond to the question of how we can become better, more caring, loving, “good” people?

Buddha: Friends, what you call “goodness” is already your true nature! Loving-kindness, compassion, and generosity flow naturally and spontaneously from the heart and mind of one that has been liberated from ignorance, egotism, and selfishness. What is ignorance? Ignorance is the belief that you are separate! In order to become a “good” person, a kind person, a loving person, you need to see through the illusion of a separate existence. And in order to do that, you need to meditate deeply on two fundamental truths about reality. The first is the profound recognition of the ultimately empty nature of all phenomena in existence

The second is the interconnected nature of all things seen and unseen, known and unknown.  When you meditate with such intensity that your mind becomes translucent, you will see directly for yourself what I’m pointing to: the ultimate nature of reality is an empty luminosity—an ungraspable mystery that silences the mind and opens the heart. “Goodness” flows from the one who has realized this truth.

Moderator:Master Gautama, thank you so much for that—I feel like my mind is going quiet. But before it shuts down altogether, I need to ask my final question to both of you.

Tony, now that you’ve clarified what it means to better ourselves and also how we can become a good person, I have one more query. What does it mean for each and every one of us to be on our edge—to live on the very edge of our potential?

Smarter faster: the Big Think newsletter
Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday

Robbins: Well, I think in many ways I’ve already answered this question. First of all, to be on our edge means that we are evolving in the most important areas of our lives.  And second, to live on our edge, to me, has to mean that we’ve stopped living selfishly.  To put it simply, if we’re really on our edge, we’re helping to change the world.

Moderator:Thanks Tony. Gautama?

Buddha: I agree wholeheartedly with the great one Robbins! I would say that to be on our edge and to live on our edge means that we are either aspiring Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or fully realized Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Remember, such individuals incarnate for the sake of others. They are no longer in this world merely for their own benefit. Such illumined ones are here solely to bring the light of higher awareness into this world so that more and more of us can awaken . . .

Moderator: Thank you Tony! Thank you Gautama so very much! You’ve given myself and all of us so much to think about and so much to live for.

If you enjoyed this thought experiment, join Andrew Cohen on Feb. 23/24 in a dynamic exploration of evolutionary enlightenment at EnlightenNext’s Being & Becoming Virtual Seminar: Learn More Here.

Image: © rivansyam –


Up Next
One of our country’s most able and prolific bloggers, Walter Russell Mead, reports that the idea of being able to sit for the bar after just two years of law […]