What is the Middle Way? – Dialectic Two Step
Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)
What is the Middle Way?
Lama Surya Das recently tweeted:
For me, the Middle Way is Buddha’s greatest teaching.
I’m inclined to agree. It informs us in every part of life. It is a tool to discipline the mind, a key to right view, and a balm to sooth suffering.
Nagarjuna is recognized as the Buddhist scholar saint who articulated the Madhyamaka – the school of the middle way. At its core is the subtle teaching of sunyata or emptiness.
For the mind, the middle way is a map. It helps us avoid the pitfalls of extreme views. Politics is the perfect example. Election rhetoric is all about candidates differentiating themselves from their opponents. If one candidate talks about pacifism, the other will speak about increasing military spending. If another candidate promotes austerity, their opponent will cry out for spending.
Adopting the radical stance on one side or the other is foolhardy. There is always a balance between the hawk and the dove, the conservative and the liberal. Cementing yourself into a particular position is out of line with the impermanent nature of the world. This is called attachment.
Attachment contradicts right view. So the middle way is right view in this regard. If we see right view as transcendent, unattached to any particular position, then this becomes clear. Being capable of applying conservative and liberal principles when needed is the wise way. A strong defense is a great deterrent to war.
So the middle way offers us a remedy for our everyday mix ups with attachment and suffering. If we can view our situations with the fluidity and openness of transcendence, we will not get sucked into the hostility and quarreling that comes about when you choose an extreme view.
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Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two. - Octavio
Dialectic Two Step, Modern Koans, Verse Us, Say What?, and Minute Meditations all copyright Andrew Furst