The Buddha often spoke of and taught upon the values of the middle way – not to either extreme in life.

The Middle Way basically means that we shouldn’t live in any extremes of life. Instead, we strive to keep a balance. It’s an important principle that affects many parts of our lives. According to the scriptural account, when the Buddha delivered the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, he was addressing five ascetics with whom he had previously practiced severe austerities. Thus, it is this personal context as well as the broader context of Indian Samaṇa practices that give particular relevancy to the caveat against the extreme (Pali: antā) of self-mortification (Pali attakilamatha). Later Pali literature has also used the phrase Middle Way to refer to the Buddha’s teaching of dependent origination as a view between the extremes of eternalism and annihilationism.

Pratītyasamutpāda, or “dependent origination”, describes the existence of objects and phenomena as the result of causes. When one of these causes changes or disappears, the resulting object or phenomena will also change or disappear, as will the objects or phenomena depending on the changing object or phenomena (hang with me). Thus, there is nothing with an eternal self or atman, only mutually dependent origination and existence. However, the absence of an eternal atman does not mean there is nothing at all. Early Buddhism adheres to a realistic approach which denies the existence of independent cause. It is taught that we bring into our lives everything that affects us, pain, sorrow, happiness, excitement – all of which would not exist without us.

This view is the Middle Way between eternalism and annihilationism: WE are in fact both the good and the bad in our life, we are the light and the dark. We also have been the gift of perception and understanding and can thus find our “middle ground” between the extremes. Think about two important factors of life: for example work and family. By following the principles of the middle way, you dedicate equal amounts of time to each, rather than focusing too heavily on either. We can do the same in this life by focusing first on what we must do each day then giving equal priority to each. The over worked mind is the same mind that says I must get this done or else. It is no easy feat to walk the middle path and give time equally to all, but through understanding and small steps we can find our way.

If we refer back to the Noble Eightfold Path, and nothing else, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. We can plot our course and our steps through the seemingly complicated balancing act we face each day.

Peace and Love, Jim

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