Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

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Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby samtheman » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:04 pm

Hello everyone,

I'm bit confused about middle pathway.

1. Does middle pathway mean been happy, but not too happy, or does it mean been neutral (I mean like a robot, not feeling pleasures and not feeling sad either). If you are living a middle pathway life, does that mean you are a cheerful happy person.

2. The reason I ask this is as I understand, buddhism says life is suffering by default. What we feel as happiness is just a temporary cessation of this suffering. I'm basically bit confused about what happiness means in buddhism. If it simply means temporary cessation of suffering. I don't understand why we should try to be happy at all times, because we are going to be dissapointed because suffering is inevitable. Does this mean we have to live sad, but not too sad lives?

3. How important is it to try to be happy at all times in buddhism. I think it is very important, because you can not mediate if you are depressed,it doesn't work. But how can you be happy all times, if suffering is inevitable?

4. Are there 2 forms of happiness in buddhism. One is what I just described , temporary cessation of suffering. Is other form of happiness is simply understanding life is suffering hence not be disappointed or sad about it. Do we call this state peace of mind or happiness.

Sorry I'm finding it difficult to exactly cluster my thoughts into questions. Hope you understand what I mean.

Thanks :smile:
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby cooran » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:38 pm

Hello samtheman,

This definition may be a start:
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_ ... ipadaa.htm

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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:11 pm

Hi samtheman,
samtheman wrote:1. Does middle pathway mean been happy, but not too happy, or does it mean been neutral (I mean like a robot, not feeling pleasures and not feeling sad either). If you are living a middle pathway life, does that mean you are a cheerful happy person.

I think that it is a serious misinterpretation to view the "middle way" in terms of "balance". Here is some previous discussion: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 53#p271051

As I said there:
mikenz66 wrote:Balance really has nothing to do with the "middle way" described in the suttas.
Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
http://suttacentral.net/sn56.11/en/

In the rest of the sutta he's clearly not talking about a "middle way" that consists of balancing a pinch of "pursuit of sensual happiness" with a dash of "pursuit of self-mortification".

:anjali:
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:33 pm

The middle way has nothing to do with happiness or the lack thereof.

Dukkha (or suffering) has nothing to do with happiness or the lack thereof.

The middle way is about balance of effort, and balance between extremes, for example not striving too hard and getting uptight and not taking it easy and therefore getting nowhere.

Facing up to Dukkha (suffering) rather fighting against it or reacting in aversion to it leads to release from it's hold on you, leads to happiness. So the key to happiness is working with and understanding Dukkha rather than fighting it or denying it as we are normally programmed to do.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby culaavuso » Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:48 pm

samtheman wrote:1. Does middle pathway mean been happy, but not too happy, or does it mean been neutral (I mean like a robot, not feeling pleasures and not feeling sad either). If you are living a middle pathway life, does that mean you are a cheerful happy person.

The middle path means, among other things, not buying into the notion that life is a matter of choosing between extremes or that it's a matter of mixing the two extremes into some combination. SN 56.11 quoted above makes this point quite clearly.

samtheman wrote:2. The reason I ask this is as I understand, buddhism says life is suffering by default. What we feel as happiness is just a temporary cessation of this suffering. I'm basically bit confused about what happiness means in buddhism. If it simply means temporary cessation of suffering. I don't understand why we should try to be happy at all times, because we are going to be dissapointed because suffering is inevitable. Does this mean we have to live sad, but not too sad lives?


SN 36.31: Niramisa Sutta wrote:And what is the still greater unworldly joy? When a taint-free monk looks upon his mind that is freed of greed, freed of hatred, freed of delusion, then there arises joy. This called a 'still greater unworldly joy.'


Life Isn't Just Suffering by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You've probably heard the rumor that "Life is suffering" is Buddhism's first principle, the Buddha's first noble truth. It's a rumor with good credentials, spread by well-respected academics and Dharma teachers alike, but a rumor nonetheless. The truth about the noble truths is far more interesting. The Buddha taught four truths — not one — about life: There is suffering, there is a cause for suffering, there is an end of suffering, and there is a path of practice that puts an end to suffering. These truths, taken as a whole, are far from pessimistic. They're a practical, problem-solving approach — the way a doctor approaches an illness, or a mechanic a faulty engine. You identify a problem and look for its cause. You then put an end to the problem by eliminating the cause.


samtheman wrote:3. How important is it to try to be happy at all times in buddhism. I think it is very important, because you can not mediate if you are depressed,it doesn't work. But how can you be happy all times, if suffering is inevitable?

Focusing on results in terms of feelings that arise is not as fruitful as focusing on causes and the development of skill. See the answer/links to question 2.

samtheman wrote:4. Are there 2 forms of happiness in buddhism. One is what I just described , temporary cessation of suffering. Is other form of happiness is simply understanding life is suffering hence not be disappointed or sad about it. Do we call this state peace of mind or happiness.


There are more than two forms of happiness.
SN 36.31: Niramisa Sutta wrote:There is, O monks, worldly joy, there is unworldly joy, and there is a still greater unworldly joy. There is worldly happiness, there is unworldly happiness, and there is a still greater unworldly happiness.


MN 137: Salayatana-vibhanga Sutta wrote:And what are the six kinds of household joy? The joy that arises when one regards as an acquisition the acquisition of forms cognizable by the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, connected with worldly baits — or when one recalls the previous acquisition of such forms after they have passed, ceased, & changed: That is called household joy.

And what are the six kinds of renunciation joy? The joy that arises when — experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation — one sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: That is called renunciation joy. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.)


AN 9.34: Nibbana Sutta wrote:I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Sariputta was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Feeding Sanctuary. There he said to the monks, "This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant."
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby waterchan » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:07 pm

The "middle way" is the avoidance of extreme views and practices.

Ud 6.8 wrote:Any precept & practice life whose essence is training, and the holy life whose essence is service: This is one extreme.
Any who say, "There's no harm in sensual desires": This, the second extreme.


SN 12.46 wrote:[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

[The brahman:] "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle


SN 12.15 wrote:"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme.
Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle...
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby samtheman » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:33 pm

Thanks for all the replies :) They have all been very helpful.

@culaavuso - I would like to know more about the forms of happiness in buddhism. Is it possible to describe them in your own words (I sometimes fail to grasp the suttas- not saying they are bad).
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby culaavuso » Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:13 am

samtheman wrote:@culaavuso - I would like to know more about the forms of happiness in buddhism. Is it possible to describe them in your own words (I sometimes fail to grasp the suttas- not saying they are bad).


I'm not qualified to describe all the forms of happiness in my own words, but there is at least one important distinction to offer:

There is pleasure dependent on what arises as the six senses, and that pleasure depends on an agreement between desires or passions and that which is arising and ceasing. When the desires and passions agree with what is arising and ceasing, there is a form of pleasure that encourages the increase of desire and passion in the sense that increasing the desire and passion for the present sensual experience intensifies the sense of pleasure. However, everything that is experienced through the senses has the nature of change and so whatever desire and passion is built up will then eventually meet with a different sensory experience that is no longer in harmony with that desire and pleasure, which leads to displeasure with an intensity dependent upon the intensity of the passion. In this way, indulging in the pleasures of passion and the senses is a setup for later displeasure when that sensory experience is unavailable or negated. The passion creates a feeling of compulsion, a feeling of burden in needing to conform experiences to desire.

There is also a pleasure that arises dependent on the six senses that is associated with the relief of abandoning that passion. Changing experiences arise and cease but the amusement is in seeing clearly that it's just experiences arising and ceasing. There is no passion or desire for a particular state of experience arising or ceasing, but just a pleasure in the experience of change itself and in the capacity to observe change without being burdened by any passionate compulsion to interfere with the natural progression of that change. This pleasure is more like a feeling of freedom and relief than the feeling of passion and compulsion described above. This comes from abandoning desires towards the end of not creating displeasure from the variety of changing experiences.

It's useful to look to the suttas for guidance in these areas because it is ultimately a matter of personal experience, and the suttas and various teachers can help develop practices to encounter the variety of experiences available, both what's described above and beyond. Words can only go so far, and the suttas tend to leave what is beyond their range as being beyond their range.
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Re: Does middle pathway mean been happy or been neutral?

Postby Bakmoon » Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:48 am

samtheman wrote:Hello everyone,

I'm bit confused about middle pathway.

1. Does middle pathway mean been happy, but not too happy, or does it mean been neutral (I mean like a robot, not feeling pleasures and not feeling sad either). If you are living a middle pathway life, does that mean you are a cheerful happy person.

2. The reason I ask this is as I understand, buddhism says life is suffering by default. What we feel as happiness is just a temporary cessation of this suffering. I'm basically bit confused about what happiness means in buddhism. If it simply means temporary cessation of suffering. I don't understand why we should try to be happy at all times, because we are going to be dissapointed because suffering is inevitable. Does this mean we have to live sad, but not too sad lives?

3. How important is it to try to be happy at all times in buddhism. I think it is very important, because you can not mediate if you are depressed,it doesn't work. But how can you be happy all times, if suffering is inevitable?

4. Are there 2 forms of happiness in buddhism. One is what I just described , temporary cessation of suffering. Is other form of happiness is simply understanding life is suffering hence not be disappointed or sad about it. Do we call this state peace of mind or happiness.

Sorry I'm finding it difficult to exactly cluster my thoughts into questions. Hope you understand what I mean.

Thanks :smile:


1) It seems everyone else has commented on this so I'll make my answer for this quick. The middle way isn't about being not too sad or too happy, but about avoiding the extremes of indulging in sense pleasures and the extreme of self mortification (e.g. things like torturing yourself by starvation, burning yourself, etc...)

2) I think I should clarify something here. When the First Noble Truth states "Life is suffering", we need to remember that the word for suffering in the original language (the word Dukkha) actually has a much wider range of meaning than the English word suffering. The word Dukkha can describe suffering and pain, but it can also mean that something is defective or imperfect, or that something is unsatisfying and unable to give true happiness. When we say life is suffering, what we mean is several different things. It means that life is imperfect because of the painful things in it, and it also means that we are unsatisfied with things. It doesn't necessarily mean that the default mode of life is pain and misery.

3) Happiness isn't something people have total control over to the point where they can flip a switch and be happy just like that, so Buddhism doesn't tell us that we have to be happy all the time because most people can't do that. What we can do however, is create the causes for happiness. The cause for happiness is good karma, for example the three bases of merit which are giving, morality, and meditation. Instead of worrying about whether or not we are happy enough according to Buddhism, we should ask ourselves if we are are kind and generous to others, keep the precepts well, and meditate enough. This is much more concrete and within our control than asking ourselves if we are happy enough.

4) There are many different ways of classifying happiness. One that comes to mind is a three fold classification that the Buddha gave, although I can't remember which Sutta it is in. Under it happiness can be classified as sensual happiness, the happiness that comes from concentration, and the happiness of Nibbana itself.

There are other classification systems as well, and in the Abhidhamma you could classify many different kinds of happy mindstates, but that's the only one I can remember now.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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