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?

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 - 

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less