Fr Joseph Pallattil
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded a highly influential school of philosophy now called Epicureanism. For Epicurus, philosophy as an art of living, it is all about giving assurance of happiness and helping to find out the means of it. Epicurus taught that “freedom from pain in the body and from trouble in the mind” is the ultimate aim of a happy life.
How to attain this state of trouble less life? For Epicurus, ‘Tetrapharmakos’ is the answer. Tetrapharmakos means four part cure. They are the four principle doctrines of Epicureanism. First one is, ‘God is nothing to fear.’ Epicureanism does not deny the existence of the gods; rather it denies their involvement in the world. According to Epicureanism, the gods do not interfere with human lives or the rest of the universe in any way. Second doctrine is that, ‘death is nothing to worry about.’ They have no fear of death, which is based on the materialism of Epicurus. Indeed, the soul is material, which is destroyed by death.
Third principle is that, ‘it is easy to acquire the good things in life.’ There are enough and more things in the universe for satisfying the human necessary needs. Human being does not need the things which he cannot obtain. Desire is the cause of unhappiness in human being. Epicureanism distinguishes three fold desires in man. They are ‘natural and necessary needs’ (air, water, food, and shelter), ‘natural and not necessary needs’ (expensive things), ‘not natural and not necessary needs’ (desires for fame, riches, glory, power, immortality). Pursuit of not natural and not necessary desires causes more unhappiness than happiness. Therefore, they proposed the famous maxim, ‘eat, drink and make merry, but use the minimum.’ And the last principle is that, ‘it is easy to endure the terrible things.’
Epicurus says, ‘meditate upon these ideas day and night, and the ones related to them, both alone and with someone like yourself, and you will never be badly disturbed whether awake or dreaming.’ Once one removes the fear of death and longing for more life almost all other fears disappear.