What Is The Middle Way?

Dharma Wheel 8 Fold Path

And what, monks, is the Middle Way realized by the Thus-Come-One, which gives vision and understanding, which leads to calm, penetration, enlightenment, to Nirvana?
It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, namely: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. – The Buddha, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Since starting this site I’ve always felt too close to write about The Middle Way. I asked a friend, Gary over at Buddha Space, if he’d share what The Middle Way meant to him. This is his fantastic reply. 108 bows to you Gary.
The Middle Way lies at the very heart of Buddhism, as indicated in the words above, taken from the Buddha’s first sermon, given by the Thus-Come-One over two-and-a-half thousand years ago in North India. Since then, Buddhism has transformed itself many times as it has spread all over the Orient from Sri Lanka to Japan, and has now taken root in the Occident, from England to Australia. Yet, despite the global nature of the Buddhadharma these days, and its diverse forms such as the orthodox Theravada, the devotional Pure Land, the esoteric Vajrayana, and the prosaic Zen, the Middle Way remains a central theme that all Buddhists take heed of, one way or another.
According to the Buddha, the Middle Way is a life lived between the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence. Neither hedonist nor ascetic are to be imitated, for the Noble Eightfold Path weaves its way through life avoiding both these unenlightened lifestyles. To see the world in the light of the Buddhadharma is to have Right View, not only recognizing the suffering that is caused by desire, but also the Path that leads to the ending of all such suffering, based in the Right Intention to let go of lust, ill-will, and cruelty. In other words, to lead a harmless life. Right Speech, Action, and Livelihood grow out of such an intention, directing one’s lifestyle in a more selfless, rather than selfish, direction. Right Effort is the avoidance of unwholesome states and the cultivation of wholesome ones. Right Mindfulness and Concentration take this well-directed mind and hone it to the point where it is on the precipice of the great void that is known as Nirvana. The perfection of the Path (that is, the Middle Way), is the ripening of the spiritual life; it becomes a fruit ready to drop into the infinity of enlightenment…forever.
Living the Middle Way can take many different forms – not surprising when the many strands of the Buddhadharma are taken into account, along with the many types of people there are – but all are ultimately intent on its original and continuous objective: Nirvana. To cultivate a moral lifestyle hand in hand with a mindful meditative practice is to walk the Middle Way, which gives vision and understanding, as the Buddha put it. This vision is to see things as they are, rather than as we think or want them to be, and this understanding is the knowledge that in the things of the world there is no salvation or enlightenment; awakening to the silent wisdom within is to experience the calm mind that penetrates to the core of our being: the Buddha.
The Middle Way is not only the recommended manner of living given us by the Buddha; it is also the realization that beyond these limited erroneous egos and puffed-up personalities we are the Buddha. To truly walk the Middle Way is to traverse this world in the knowledge that we are already enlightened – we just have to enlighten ourselves to the fact! Openly reflecting on the Way is to share with all sentient beings this wondrous hidden truth, helping us to let go a little of our greed, hatred, and delusion, the three poisons that tie us to a life of suffering. For, as the Buddha so wisely taught all those centuries ago, it is in the walking of this Middle Way that one discovers Nirvana, releasing the pain and anguish of the ego into the serenity of our Buddha-nature.


10 Responses to “What Is The Middle Way?”

  1. 1 Amos

    Moral perfection is the total relinquishment of your survival instincts. It is the relinquishment of self. People who sacrifice their lives for others have therefore engaged in moral perfection. In other words, a conscious decision to totally relinquish self or your survival instincts which resulted in your death would be an “absolute” of this principle. This is exemplified by Jesus’ willingness to die for others. Or the story I read recently about a Marine who threw himself on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers.

    In any action you engage in there is an opposite reaction. Your survival behavior will always have direct negative consequences on the ability of other people to survive. Even eating an apple can negatively impact the survival of other humans. Of course, no one can actually achieve this “absolute” of moral perfection and survive. Leaving us with a dilemma regarding what is expected of us as moral beings. To address this enigma. Buddha put forth the “middle way”.


  2. 2 Liara Covert

    To go through life truly believing you already have all you need and know all you need to know, is an exercise in raising self-awareness. Human beings benefit from breaking free from the suffering they notice inside the self. If you believe humans are meant to evolve into more conscious beings, then you also believe those people who do not grow in awareness will face the consequences of unconsciousness. The idea of the ‘middle way’ is a guide to help you stay on track on route to deeper consciousness.

  3. 3 'insert name here'

    well done gary

  4. 4 Wade

    Thank you all _ /\ _

  5. 5 marja hardenbol

    Is it possible to have this information in Dutchs?

  6. 6 Susmita

    I like to see the correct translation of the word ’samma’ which is hard to translate. I have seen it translated as ‘wise’ view, intention, speech etc. I like to use the word ‘wholesome’. Since our mind like to cling to, run away from or stay indifferent on some views, beliefs and attitudes. Buddha advocates views that are wholesome and benevolent and life affirming. peace

  7. 7 Ronald K. Olson

    I am non-religious, but I do adore Siddhartha. “Trust nothing. Examine everything.” These words of his are always with me. After sixty years of “trusting nothing” and aggressively “examining everything,” I have concluded that mankind is so obsessed with “symptoms,” it is unable to recognize the “disease.” “Paradigm shift” is a developing buzz phrase that simply covers “symptoms” that have been with us from the “get go” with the latest technologically improved “whitewash.”

    Finish this paragraph before you write me off. Mankind has been “shifting” within the same “paradigm” for all of its history and all “this shifting” has to show for all of its effort is “what we have today.” “What we have today” is no worse than “what they had yesterday” except now, there is no place left to run. Mankind’s societies’ have vigorously defied Nature throughout its history and finally the principle of diminishing returns is about to turn mankind on its ear. Throughout mankind’s history there have been those who were somehow caused to have a sensitivity to Nature, Natural Law, Knowledge, Truth. These have valiantly attempted to respond to mankind’s “dysfunctional ’symptomatic’ behaviors.” Having “trusted nothing” and aggressively “examined everything, I have come to the conclusion that mankind’s “symptoms” point to mankind’s “intuitive free-will social mindset” as the “disease.” This “free-will cancer” has been at the heart of mankind’s activities ever since mankind had activities. “Free-will” has been “assumed.” Mankind has shifted within “free-will” parameters throughout its history and consequently, mankind is now at the brink of extinction. What is demanded for mankind’s survival is a complete “paradigm change;” a change from free-will principles to universal deterministic principles. Free-will defies Nature while universal determinism is Nature. “Paradigm change” will demand much from mankind. Eastern religions are significantly more compatible with universal determinism than western religions are, but all religions will need to adjust.

    I just noticed the saying below: “Happiness is for All Time, Not Just the Future.” My bent on this is, “happiness” is free-will’s substitution for universal determinism’s concept of “joy.” Strictly speaking, “happiness” is vaporous emotion and very little, if any, Knowledge, while “joy” is founded in Knowledge and then enhanced with emotion. “Happiness” is a thin superficial veneer that does not last. “Joy” is an impenetrable mass garnished with life. “Happiness” is a rusted bumper left in a junk yard. “Joy” is a mountain resplendent with plants, animals and elegant rock formations. “Happiness” isn’t worth the breath it takes to say it. “Joy” makes one breathless. I am not Buddhist, but I sense within my Self an affinity to most of what Buddhism represents. I guess I am “Ron,” and Buddhism is a lot like me! That sounds kind of funny, sort of, like, you know? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

  8. 8 Jae

    This is interesting. I feel that I made possibly poor decisions in the past out of choosing the ‘Middle Way’ … one of them was choosing to go to an average, middle-of-the-road university instead of a more prestigious one. My fiancee - whom I met at that university - actually stated that she is upset I didnt attend the more prestigious university. When I told her that I wouldnt have met her, she stated that she would have been happy for me even if she didnt know me/no matter what. She’s not a religious/spiritual person, and I feel a bit foolish for choosing an average university …

  9. 9 rahul

    Life is about a lot of decisions. It doesn’t matter where you goto school but what you do with the knowledge. My wife went to state schools and I went to what’s considered top tier school. We both work together and she is just as good if not better. So keep head up, believe in the right and hardwork, do good for the world and stop worrying about past or future.

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