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Meditations on balance and the middle way

KeromeKerome Lovingness is the wayThe Continent Veteran

It seemed to me it would be good to spend a little time discussing balance and the middle way. For me this was one of the core lessons of Buddhism, with many applications. Almost everything with two extremes can be viewed from the point of view of balance or the middle way. It’s not just about asceticism versus hedonism, but about all the things where two opposites are not clearly beneficial or unbeneficial. It is not always equally easy to see, but for example ill-will and the effort to eliminate it is not part of the middle way, even though it can be said to have an opposite in good will.

For many other dualities, the middle way is a good method, and should be deployed judiciously. It is often in finding a good balance that both sides of an argument are learnt, and wisdom arises. It is life experience, real lived circumstance, that often shows us where the extremes of things are, and allows the middle way to flourish. These things are part of the examined life, if life is lived in unawareness, then the lessons are not learnt and we do not become wise.

Sometimes it is a good idea to spend time at the extremes. I have spent a lot of time resting over the last few years. That is an extreme, but it can be a beneficial extreme. I have also done some fairly extreme diets in order to lose weight, and that had a beneficial effect, for a while. So as with all things, knowing when to make exceptions is also a good thing.

lobsterFosdickBunksShoshin1JohnCobbDavid

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    There are a number of things that are not good bedfellows with the middle way, including impulsiveness, excessive doubt, and lack of concentration. These things make one approach life in a wishy-washy way which means one is inconstant and has a hard time learning. I notice it in myself when I’m either too tired or buzzing with energy, I make poorer decisions.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    I always thought the story of Buddha’s discovery of the middle way was beautiful. In a way his whole life led up to that moment. In his youth he spent time pampered in palaces with beautiful girls and musicians, taking in the heights of hedonism. But it was only after he endured extremes of asceticism and came near death from starvation, that he allowed a girl with a bowl of rice porridge to feed him, and that he realised the middle way.

    Balance is a slightly different but related concept, also having to do with the middle and counterpoints. But things can be asymmetrical and still be in balance, which is an aspect of truth that is missing from the middle way. So it’s useful to keep in one’s considerations.

    One thing that deserves special mention relating to Buddhism’s teaching is the middle way and sexuality. Certainly the monks’ approach of celibacy is not very conducive to the middle way, and often lay Buddhists are very gentle people who do not always express their sexuality. In the west sexuality is often expressed with a measure of boldness, although we do not usually go to the extremes of sex workers. So if you look at those extremes, the monk and the prostitute, a healthy, zesty sexuality must lie in between somewhere.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    In general I think that the monastic approach is one of a number of extremes. It is extreme with regard to food, extreme with regard to discipline, extreme with regard to possessions, extreme with regard to family, extreme with regard to sex, extreme with regard to renouncing the world.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Meditations on balance and the middle way

    Good monks and nuns are extremely balanced. They are extreme in their capacity to moderate themselves and wear away others extremities. Us ex-cultists, muggles, half hearted dabblers and muddled beings, not so much so …

    and now back to thinking as meditation

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited June 15

    By and large, this world is supported by a polarity, that of right and wrong, black and white, good and evil, democracy and totalitarianism.

    Here is something to meditate or contemplate on -

    "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"

    "By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

    "By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.

    "'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: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling. From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    How I balance out the extremes and find the middle is often to look at dual forces as complimentary rather than opposed.

    If in the absolute sense there is no seperation, there can be no true opposition. Just as the two truths are aspects of the same truth and not opposed.

    lobsterRen_in_black
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    In general I think that the monastic approach is one of a number of extremes. It is extreme with regard to food, extreme with regard to discipline, extreme with regard to possessions, extreme with regard to family, extreme with regard to sex, extreme with regard to renouncing the world.

    I have pondered this very thing @Kerome and I'm not sure I agree with you.

    The Buddha lived two extremes - one where he had every thing he wanted at his fingertips (as many of us Westerners do these days) and another where he denied himself the very basics to the point of death.

    So, compared to these two extremes, the Buddha may have considered living the life of a monk the Middle Way.

    Just my thoughts...

    KeromehowRen_in_black
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    It’s an interesting question @bunks, but consider that an ordinary man may have very few physical possessions yet there are no restrictions or vows on him, he has his freedom. A monk does not, a monk has specifically vowed to live a life with a minimum of all physical things, and has vowed to restrict his actions too.

    It seems to me the life of a monk is a lot closer to the Buddha denying himself things to the point of death, than to the ordinary, natural state in which we are born into the world, which is itself not an extreme.

    Bunks
  • Ren_in_blackRen_in_black Georgia Explorer

    @Kerome said:
    for example ill-will and the effort to eliminate it is not part of the middle way, even though it can be said to have an opposite in good will.

    Perhaps the middle way for ill-will/goodwill is the acceptance that no matter how earnest and tireless our effort to act in goodwill, as humans we will always come up short.

    Bunkslobster
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