Buddhist teachings are neither affirmative nor denialist. It reveals the paradoxes of the universe, both within and beyond the opposites. It teaches us how to be both in and outside the world. This realization is known as the middle way. Every day, Ajahn Chah spoke of the middle way. We contemplated the middle way in the monastery. One hundred monks were seen sitting in an open-air meditation pavilion at twilight. They were surrounded by tall trees and dense green forests, and reciting these original verses. This is how you can find peace and freedom in your very own life.
We are not free if we only seek happiness through indulgence. We are not free if we struggle against ourselves and the rest of the world. Freedom is found in the middle. All who awaken will discover this universal truth. It is like you are walking through a forest and come across an ancient path. This ancient road was used by people in the past. I have seen this ancient path myself, which was used by rightly enlightened people of the past.” said Buddha.
The Middle Way has been transmitted by the Buddhist tradition. Also, the middle way is the place in between attachment and aversion. It’s also where you can find the middle ground between non-being and being. As we explore the middle way, we find ourselves at rest between the play and opposites. Ajahn Chah sometimes described it as a koan. “There is neither going forward nor going backward nor standing still.” He continued, “Try being mindful, and let everything take its natural course.” Your mind will then become still in all environments, such as a forest pool. You will see all kinds of rare and wonderful animals drinking at the pool. While you’ll see many amazing and bizarre things, your focus will remain the same. This is the happiness that Buddha teaches.
To learn to trust life and find the middle way, you must have faith in yourself. It’s like learning how to swim. When I was seven years old, I took my first swimming lesson. I was a thin, cold-blooded boy who struggled to keep my balance in the freezing pool. One morning, I had a moment of magic when the teacher held me and then released me. I was able to float because the water held me. I started to trust. A middle way is a place of trust, where there is a sense of ease and grace, cellular knowledge that we can also float in the ever-changing oceans of life that have always held us.
Buddhist teachings encourage us to find this ease wherever we are: in meditation, on the streets, or in our daily lives. We find peace in the present and all its opposites when we are in the middle. T.S. T.S.
What does this mysterious phrase mean? These words are an attempt to describe the joy of moving beyond time, gain, and duality. These are descriptions of living in the present. One teacher said, “The middle way doesn’t go from here to there.” It takes you from here to there.” The middle way is the presence of eternity. The reality of the present is clear, vivid, and awake. It’s full of possibilities.
We can neither escape the world nor get lost when we find the middle way. With all of our experiences in their complexity, we can be present with them all with our thoughts, feelings, and drama. We learn to embrace tension, paradox, change. Instead of looking for resolution or waiting for the song’s last chord, we learn to let go and be open to the middle. The world can be found in the middle. Ajahn Sumedo helps us be open to how things are. “Of course, we can imagine better conditions, how it should be idealized, and how everyone should behave. It’s not our job to create ideal conditions. It is our job to observe the world as it is and to learn from it. Conditions are necessary for awakening the heart.
Ginger, a 51-year-old social worker, had been working for years at a clinic in California’s Central Valley. She was a committed meditator and took a month off work to attend our spring retreat. It was difficult for her at first to stop her thoughts. Her younger brother, who was schizophrenic, and her beloved, had returned to the psychiatric ward. She said she felt overwhelmed with emotions, fear, confusion, anger, shakiness, anger, and grief. I advised her to relax, to simply walk on the earth and allow things to settle naturally. As she sat, her feelings and stories grew stronger. I read to her Ajahnchah’s advice of sitting like a forest pool. I encouraged her one at a time to acknowledge all of the wild animals who come and drink in the pool.
She started to list them: fear of losing control, fear of death, fear living fully, grief, longing for a partner, fear for her brother, and anxiety about money.
I invited her to join me in the middle, among the chaos, the hopes, and fears, and the paradoxes. “Sit down like a queen on a throne and let the life play out, the joys and sorrows as well as the fear and confusions, the births and deaths around you.” Do not think that you must fix it.
Ginger practiced sitting and walking, allowing all of it to happen. She began to relax as the intense feelings kept coming and going. Slowly, she became more present and still. The strong feelings and sensations that she experienced during meditation made her feel more open, while the impersonal energy waves felt more like energy. Joy began to rise and her body felt lighter. The situation got worse two days later. She was ill with the flu and felt very weak and unwell. This made her depressed. Ginger was also suffering from Hepatitis C and worried her body wouldn’t be strong enough for meditation or living with ease.
I reminded her of sitting in the middle. She returned the next day, happy and still. She replied, “I’ve returned back to the center.” “I’m not going let my past karma or these obstacles rob me of my presence.” She laughed, and continued, “Like Buddha, I realized that this is only Mara. Just say “I see you, Mara.” Mara could be my grief, my hopes, or my body pain. All of this is life, and the middle way between them is so deep that it’s all and nothing, and it’s always there.
Ginger has been with me for many years since she left the retreat. Her outside circumstances have not changed. She still faces difficulties with her work, her brother, and her health. Her heart is happier. In all the chaos of her daily life, she sits still almost every day. Ginger says that meditation helped her find the middle way and inner freedom she desired.
Follow Buddha’s “middle path”
This month’s full moon (May 26, Vaishaka Purnima), has a special place in Indian history and Buddhism in particular. 2.561.1 years ago, Gautama Siddharta, who would become Buddha the Enlightened One was born. This was also when he reached enlightenment. It was also the day that he left this world. It was a remarkable coincidence of stars and events that led to the death of this man who gave up the luxuries and power of the palace in order to educate the world about suffering and the path towards liberation.
The world is in the grip of a virus epidemic and many people are feeling the effects of it. They are being moved from hospital ICUs to isolation rooms at home and seeking help with drugs, vaccines, ventilators and other medications. Buddha’s message can be a soothing balm for their nerves and minds. These teachings are more relevant than ever for today’s troubled times. They offer an answer for the individual suffering from anxiety, fear, disease, and colour, as well as the society split by caste, religion, and the ruling class torn apart by polarised ideologies, mad struggles for power.
Buddha said that everything in the universe is temporary, and nothing lasts forever. Birth, death, growth, and decay are all part of nature. There is no meaning to panicking or fleeing from pain or death. Desire is the root cause of suffering. Not the desire to live a happy, good life, but selfishness, which leads to hatred, slander, and violence. You can overcome suffering by following the “middle way” (madhyamaka), which avoids the extremes in asceticism or sensual indulgence. You can achieve this by following the eight-fold path, which consists of right view, right aspiration and right speech. It also includes right conduct, right livelihood, right mindfulness, right concentration, right effort, right mindfulness, and right effort.
The core teachings of Buddha are found in the middle path. It can be followed by all walks of life. It is about avoiding extremes such as the one we see today: narrow nationalism and unbridled liberty, religious bigotry, decrying religion and obsession with a glorious history and justifying everything considered modern; it also means blind faith in what one believes to be right, without considering the views of others. The need to walk the middle path of reasonableness and avoid extreme practices was the call of Buddha. Buddhism inculcates a high system of ethics. The eight-fold path, which is simple but powerful, is for all people, including business and political leaders, religious seers, and bureaucrats.
Buddha was a social reformer who sent out a strong message about social equality. He believed that all people, regardless of their caste, creed or status, had the potential for enlightenment. His precepts were then put into practice. He came across Nadhi carrying excrement and he was untouchable. The poor man was aware of his humble status and tried to avoid the Master, but the Master intercepted him. Nadhi fell and excrement poured over. The Buddha helped the poor man rise and encouraged him to be his disciple. He also forbade discrimination against women. Although initially reluctant, his step-mother and Ananda, his close disciple, persuaded him to admit females to the Buddhist monastic order. He even celebrated their achievements. To those who ruled the kingdoms in his time, the Buddha said this: Lead others not by violence but by righteousness, equity, and justice.
Although Buddhism is not well-known in the land where it was born, its influence has been profound on the cultural and artistic heritage of the country. It has made a significant contribution to the country’s rich cultural and artistic heritage through beautiful architecture, paintings, and scholarly literature. All sections revere the Buddha as an avatar and as a messenger for peace, love, and non-violence. Babasaheb Ambedkar was so impressed by his doctrine of equality that he converted to Buddhism along with 36,000,000.
He also wrote a book called Buddha and the Dhamma. In India, there is a renewed interest in Buddhist teachings. Large numbers of people are now practicing Vipassana, a Buddhistic method of meditation. Dhamma Wings is a Mumbai-based rock band that promotes Buddha’s teachings on equality and campaigns against injustices of the caste system.
Buddhism’s influence has grown beyond India’s borders. It has spread to neighboring countries like Thailand, Japan, Sri Lankan, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, Japan, Tibet and Myanmar. As world religious leaders, Thic Nat Hahn and Dalai Lama (Tibet), are recognized.
The only way to save humanity from the evils that are hatred, vituperation, and violence in today’s world is through the middle pathway set out by Buddha. In his poetical masterpiece of the name, Edwin Arnold called Buddha the Light of Asia. He is also the Light of the World, holding the torch of hope and peace. The United Nations has set Peace and Justice as one of its Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. To remind world leaders of their responsibility to move towards this lofty goal, it would be appropriate that the UN declares the Buddha’s birth anniversary the Day of the Middle Path.
Let me end by recalling the words of Buddha to his disciples: “Teach this three truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life that is service-oriented and compassionate are the things that renew humanity.”
Some History About Middle Way
In the Early Buddhist Texts, the term “Middle Way” (Majjhimapatipada) was used in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11, and its numerous parallel texts), which the Buddhist tradition regards to be the first teaching that the Buddha delivered after his awakening. In this sutta, the Buddha describes the Noble Eightfold Path as the middle way which steers clear of the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification:
These extremes should not be practiced by Monks. There is an addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is an addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.Avoiding both these extremes, the Perfect One has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana. What is the Tathagata Middle Path? It is the Noble Eightfold Path and nothing else.
A similar passage occurs in other suttas such as Aranavibhangasutta (MN 139) with a Chinese parallel at MA 169 as well as in MN 3 (Chinese parallels at MA 88 and EA 18.3).
Johannes Bronkhorst, an Indologist, concludes that “indulgence with desirable sense objects” is not a religious practice or movement but a common human action. The other extreme, however, does not presuppose that ascetics used “devotion toward self-mortification” in order to achieve a religious goal.
Bronkhorst quotes MN 14. Buddhist texts criticize Jain ascetics for their extreme self-mortification. Early Buddhist sources (such as MN 36) also depict the Buddha practicing those ascetic practices before his awakening and how the Buddha abandoned them because they are not efficacious. Some of these extreme practices include a “meditation without breathing”, and extreme fasting which leads to emaciation as well as the total suppression of bodily movement while standing and refusing to lie down According to the scriptural account, when the Buddha delivered the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, he was addressing five ascetics with whom he had previously practiced severe ascetic practices.
Y. Karunadasa noted that this middle way does not refer to moderation or a compromise of the extremes, rather it means, as the sutta says, “without entering either one of the extremes” ( ubho ante).
A sutta from the Anguttara Nikaya (AN 3.156-162) also discusses the middle wayas well as two other “paths”, the addicted practice and the scorching path, referring to the two extremes. Addictive path refers to someone who believes there is nothing wrong with sensual pleasures and “so they dive into them.” The scorching path involves many “ways of mortifying the body”, including wearing rough clothes, going naked, restricting food intake, wearing various clothing styles, “they tear their hair out and beard”, “they refuse to sit down,” and “they lie on the ground of thorns.” The middle path meanwhile is described by listing the thirty seven aids to awakening.
What is the eightfold path way?
Teachings of the Buddha career began and ended with a discussion about the eightfold path. It provides guidelines for ethical living, training the mind, and cultivating wisdom to end suffering. The path was mentioned in his first sermon shortly after awakening, and his last teaching on his deathbed 45-years later. The eightfold pathway is the fourth noble truth, the way to awakening.
The Buddha is often referred to as a great healer or physician. The middle way, also called the noble eightfold, “noble,” because it can help us become better people, just like the Buddha, can be seen as his prescription for relief. Suffering is a disease. The eight steps can help us get well and stay healthy. We avoid extremes like self-indulgence and total self-denial. For this reason, the Buddha called the path “the middle way.” The eight steps of the Buddha are:
- Right view
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Concentration is key
The path starts with the right view also known as right understanding. Before we can begin, we must have a clear understanding of where we are going. Right intent is the determination to continue on this path. Right speech, right actions are what we say and do. We must not cause harm to others or ourselves by our words and conduct. Right livelihood is how we live our day, making sure that our actions and habits don’t harm others.
Right effort means to focus our energy on the task at hand. Right mindfulness is awareness of the mind, body, and discernment. Mindfulness allows us to pause and evaluate whether our actions are harmful or beneficial for others. Right concentration is a dedicated practice. It can be meditation or chanting. We can move forward once our minds and bodies have been directed toward awakening. Although the eightfold path is listed in this order, it does not necessarily need to be followed in that order.
These eight steps can be broken down into three areas of training: ethical conduct, concentration, and wisdom. Ethical conduct is defined by right speech, right actions, and right livelihood. The practice of concentration requires the right effort, right mindfulness, as well as right concentration. The development of wisdom is dependent on the right view and the right intention.
Although the eightfold path of the Buddha is not always easy to follow, we persevere because we believe it will help us get out of pain.
The Buddha first explicitly taught the Middle Way. This is the first teaching that Buddha gave in his first address. It forms the basis for his practical meditation, ethics, wisdom. Although it is frequently mentioned in relation to Buddhist teachings, the whole case for its importance has yet to be made. This book will make this clear.
Both the Buddha’s teachings and his life can help us understand the Middle Way. The story of his early life is a symbolic journey through the extremes in the Palace and Forest that leads to the discovery of the Middle Way. His similes (e.g., the lute strings, the arrow, and blind people with an elephant) are not only symbolic representations of Buddhist teachings but also relate to the universal human experience of balanced judgment.
The book also contains a critical case. The Middle Way has been transmitted by the Buddhist tradition, but it has often ignored or distorted the truth. The Middle Way is experiential, authentic, and creative. It threatens a tradition that instead emphasizes the Buddha’s authority and abstract, absolute revelation. The Buddha’s Middle Way seeks to distinguish the universal Middle Way from the Buddhist tradition.
What is the middle way of Buddhism?
Middle Way, Sanskrit Madhyama-pratipada, Pali Majjhima-patipada, in Buddhism, complement of general and specific ethical practices and philosophical views that are said to facilitate enlightenment by avoiding the extremes of self-gratification on one hand and self-mortification on the other.
What is the middle way in simple terms?
The Middle Way, or Middle Path, is a Buddhist teaching that teaches a different way to look at things. This teaching advises moderation, a middle path between extremes. The Buddha warns against choosing either a difficult or easy path. This problem can be solved by finding a middle way.
Why Buddhism is called the middle way?
Because it does not require extreme austerity or penance like Jainism, but also negates the ritualistic extremes of Hinduism, the philosophy of Buddhism has been called the “middle way”.
What is the middle way in life?
The term “middle way” refers to the Buddhist understanding of life. It avoids extremes such as self-denial or self-indulgence and also avoids the extreme positions of eternalism and exterminationionism.