Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who lived around 500 BC. He founded the religious movement called Pythagoreanism and is most famously known today for the Pythagorean theorem in geometry. However, Pythagoras also left a legacy of ethical teachings and spiritual wisdom that is still highly relevant today.
Although Pythagoras left no writings, many of his teachings were recorded by later followers and writers. His advice for living a moral, purposeful, and contemplative life can serve as a guide for anyone seeking meaning and inner peace. Pythagoras’ insights on friendship, self-reflection, virtue, beauty, and controlling emotions remain applicable thousands of years later.
Cultivating Loyal Friendships
One of Pythagoras’ essential pieces of advice was on the importance of friendship: “Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere on the road to a happier life.” He surrounded himself with students and followers who supported each other’s intellectual and spiritual growth.
Pythagoras emphasized loyalty in close relationships and commitment to helping one another through the trials of life. For example, the mathematician Eurytus of Tarentum was part of Pythagoras’ inner circle. When exiled from his city, he found refuge in Pythagoras’ community in Metapontum, where they had a close teacher-student bond.
Today, we can benefit from selecting friends who uplift us morally and staying committed to each other through life’s highs and lows. A loyal friend can make any road easier to travel.
Seeking Inner Peace through Contemplation
Another core tenet of Pythagoras’ wisdom was the power of contemplation to achieve inner peace. As he taught, “No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself.” He advocated living simply, introspecting, and looking within to purify the soul.
Quiet, thoughtful contemplation allows us to reflect critically on our lives, identify areas for self-improvement, and focus intensely on our personal growth. For instance, Pythagoras often meditated alone in a cave on the island of Samos, detached from worldly affairs.
Similarly, we can set aside time each day for silent reflection, meditation, or journaling. By turning our gaze inward, we gain clarity, perspective, and more excellent command of ourselves amid the turbulence of life.
On Leading an Ethical Life
Pythagoras placed great emphasis on ethics, purity, and living virtuously. “Do not even think of doing what ought not to be done,” he taught his followers. He called for self-restraint, wisdom in all things, moderation in appetites, and abstinence from falsehoods.
Living ethically requires upholding solid moral principles even in trying circumstances. For example, when soldiers of Polycrates the Tyrant captured Pythagoras, he refused to swear an oath, as he considered it a compromise of ethics.
In our conduct today, we can strive to always adhere to our values – being honest, generous, and compassionate. This builds inner harmony between our actions and beliefs. As Pythagoras knew, living ethically is its reward.
Valuing Beauty and Wisdom
The philosopher considered beauty and wisdom essential nourishment for the soul. As he said, “The highest goal of music is to connect one’s soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment.”
Pythagoras valued music, nature, geometry, and intellectual discussion to uplift the mind. For instance, he observed that musical notes produced harmonious intervals when vibrating in specific ratios. This reflected the beautiful, rational order of the cosmos to him.
Seeking beauty around us and stimulating the mind with knowledge helps illuminate our path in life. We can uplift our spirits by appreciating art, music, and nature. Continued learning also expands our consciousness.
Moderating Anger and Desires
To maintain inner tranquility, Pythagoras cautioned against destructive emotions and appetites: “No man should allow his mind to be a vehicle for anger or sorrow.” He argued reason and logic should temper such passions.
Moderating our desires and subduing anger brings more extraordinary clarity and spiritual growth. For example, legend has it that Pythagoras once declined an opportunity to attack a man who had grievously wronged him, for he had attained inner peace.
As wise practice today, we can pause during turbulent emotions and examine our thinking. We can also set healthy boundaries around desires through mindful enjoyment rather than excess. Such moderation grants freedom over the self.
While Pythagoras lived millennia ago, his teachings remain profoundly applicable in living an enlightened life. He advocated loyalty in friendship, peace through contemplation, ethical behavior, intellectual and aesthetic pursuits, and moderating destructive emotions and appetites. These tenets served his students well and can serve us equally today in pursuing meaningful, tranquil lives.
In a fragmented and distracted modern age, Pythagoras’ wisdom reminds us of the qualities constituting a well-lived life – devotion to loved ones, reflection, virtue, beauty, continued learning, and self-mastery. By taking his ageless advice to heart, we can discover inner harmony and purpose.
Pythagoras’ Teachings in Action
Sarah was feeling stressed, morally adrift, and depressed after years of chasing promotions and pay raises at a high-powered job. She had plenty of acquaintances but no real friends and mindlessly scrolled social media and watched TV in her downtime.
Looking for change, she began reading philosophers’ writings on living a good life. She was drawn to Pythagoras’ advice on contemplation, ethics, friendship, and controlling emotions. Inspired, Sarah began practicing daily meditation and journaling, which brought her calm and self-awareness.
She reached out to sustain friendships she had neglected, surrounding herself with positive people again. She also adopted a simple, ethical lifestyle – vegetarianism, giving generously to charity, and speaking honestly. Lastly, Sarah moderated anger and other toxic emotions through introspection whenever they arose.
Within months, Sarah had left her unfulfilling job and founded a nonprofit promoting classical philosophy and self-reflection practices to help teens. She felt immensely grateful for stumbling upon Pythagoras’ wisdom, which remained relevant and transformative centuries later.
Pythagoras is a towering figure in ancient philosophy whose insights on living virtuously and purposefully endure today. By taking wisdom from his teachings on friendship, contemplation, ethics, intellectual pursuits, and self-mastery, we can lead lives of greater meaning and tranquility even now in the 21st century. Pythagoras’ universal advice is a moral compass pointing the way to enlightenment.