Walk the Middle Way in the middle

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Walk the Middle Way in the middle

Postby starter » Sat Jul 07, 2012 4:28 pm

To my understanding, N8P is the Buddha's middle way to liberation, which is a path without going to the extremes (e.g. of self torture or self indulgence). We are so fortunate to have the Buddha's middle way for our practice; however, "middle way" is easy to understand intellectually but difficult to put into actual practice. Thanks to Retro's very helpful advice on establishing "Right View" as the first step of the path and Bhante Piyadhammo's guidance on reading MN suttas without being distracted by other teachings, the first year of my practice was mainly focused on reading and pondering about the Dhamma. At the middle and end of this year, I got virtually the same advice from several highly respected teachers to close the books and meditate/practice/study my body and mind instead. At the moment that I had decided to follow this advice and put the books away, I "accidentally" met another monk at the Buddhist reception room in Bangkok airport due to an unexpected mistake about the flight time, who emphasized the importance of studying the suttas and taught me to reflect on the teachings that are difficult to understand during Samadhi. All these finally made me realize that I need to find/apply the middle way to the Dhamma study and practice. So from then on I spent the second year of my practice on both, trying to walk in the middle.

Another example is concerning how to avoid too much investigation. Again almost all masters I've consulted advised me to restrain or stop thinking/questioning but to meditate. While appreciating their advice and realizing the habitual thinking/questioning are indeed hindrances (restlessness/agitation/doubt) and a mind with hindrance can't see the truth, I also wondered if we should use thinking/questioning for wise reflection and investigation while mind is calm. This morning I happened to listen to a talk (http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/?s ... nunciation by Joseph Goldstein), in which Joseph mentioned the need to balance investigation without going to an extreme. Again there it is -- balance ("balance" here means not going to the two extremes).

While it's so easy to get lost in the extremes on our path, we really need to remind ourselves and each other again and again of the Buddha's middle way, in order to practice rightly. I'd highly appreciate the fellow companions' reminding if you see me lost in extremes.

Thanks and metta,

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Last edited by starter on Sun Jul 08, 2012 3:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Middle way = balance?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 9:18 pm

Hi Starter,

I think that it would be a mistake to portray the "middle way" simply in terms of "balance". It risks missing the point that the Buddha's teaching simply dispenses with all extremes.

See the quotes about the "Middle Way" that I provided here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11269 with reference to SN 12.15 Kaccaayanagotto Sutta.

Ajahn Pasanno wrote:Although these passages portray the Middle Way as balancing two ends of a
continuum, there are other instances where the Buddha defines the Middle Way as a
precise approach that cuts through the continuum entirely. This is especially apparent
in passages where he discusses the Middle Way in terms, not of behavior or
motivation, but of Right View.


Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:Several suttas hold up dependent origination as a "teaching by the middle" (majjhena tahagato dhammam deseti). It is a "teaching by the middle" because it transcends two extremes that polarize philosophical reflection on the human condition. One extreme, the metaphysical thesis of eternalism (sassatavada), asserts that the core of human identity is an indestructible and eternal self, whether individual or universal. It also asserts that the world is created and maintained by a permanent entity, a God or some other metaphysical reality. The other extreme, annihilationism (ucchedavada), holds that at death the person is utterly annihilated. There is no spiritual dimension to human existence and thus no personal survival of any sort. For the Buddha, both extremes pose insuperable problems. Eternalism encourages an obstinate clinging to the five aggregates, which are really impermanent and devoid of substantial self; annihilationism threatens to undermine ethics and to make suffering the product of chance.

:anjali:
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Re: Walk the middle way in a balanced approach

Postby starter » Sat Jul 07, 2012 11:52 pm

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the comments. I meant the practical approach (the middle way) of our Dhamma practice in stead of the Middle Way -- the N8P. We walk the Middle Way in a balanced approach (the middle way).

Metta,

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Re: Walk the middle way in a balanced approach

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 08, 2012 1:29 am

Hi Starter,
starter wrote:Thanks for the comments. I meant the practical approach (the middle way) of our Dhamma practice in stead of the Middle Way -- the N8P. We walk the Middle Way in a balanced approach (the middle way).

Yes, but I think it's a mistake to interpret the middle way as simply "a balanced approach".
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

This doesn't mean:
Balance your indulgence in sensual pleasures with just the right amount of self-affliction.

There is much more detail in the thread I linked to.

:anjali:
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Re: Walk the Middle Way in the middle

Postby starter » Sun Jul 08, 2012 5:08 pm

Hello Mike,

Indeed the middle way shouldn't be interpreted as balancing with two extremes, but avoiding two extremes. Your very helpful correction has been very much appreciated. I've changed the title and content of my first post accordingly. Please continue to let me know my mistakes whenever you spot them. Thanks and metta,

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