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The Middle Way or Middle Path (Pali: majjhimā paṭipadā; Sanskrit: madhyamā-pratipad is the term that Siddhartha Gautama used to describe the character of the path he discovered that leads to liberation.
In the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, the expression Middle Way is used by the Buddha in his first discourse (the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) to describe the Noble Eightfold Path as a path between the extremes of austerities and sensual indulgence.
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.
Noble Eightfold Path The term Middle Way was used in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the first teaching that the Buddha delivered after his awakening.[c] In this sutta the Buddha describes the middle way as a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This, according to him, was the path of wisdom.
Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana. And what is that Middle Path realized by the Tathagata…? It is 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.
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.[d] Thus, it is this personal context as well as the broader context of Indian shramanic practices that gives particular relevancy to the caveat against the extreme (Pali: antā) of self-mortification (Pali: atta-kilamatha).
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Dependent Origination Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) 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. Thus, there is nothing with an eternal self or atman, only mutually dependent origination and existence.
But the absence of an eternal atman does not mean there is no-thing at all. Early Buddhism adheres to a realistic approach which does not deny existence as such, but denies the existence of eternal and independent substances. This view is the Middle Way between eternalism and annihilationism:
The understanding that sees a ‘person’ as subsisting in the causal connectedness of dependent arising is often presented in Buddhist thought as ‘the middle’ (madhyama/majjhima) between the views of ‘eternalism’ (śaśvata-/sassata-vāda) and ‘annihilationism’ (uccheda-vāda).
Anatman Dependent origination views human persons too as devoid of a personal essence or atman. In Theravadan literature, this usage of the term “Middle Way” can be found in 5th century CE Pali commentaries:
The Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma by the middle without veering to either of these extremes – eternalism or annihilationism – having abandoned them without reservation. He teaches while being established in the middle way. What is that Dhamma? By the formula of dependent origination, the effect is shown to occur through the cause and to cease with the cessation of the cause, but no agent or experiencer […] is described.
In the Visuddhimagga the following is found : ‘Dependent origination’ (paticca-samuppada) represents the middle way, which rejects the doctrines, ‘He who acts is he who reaps’ and ‘One acts while another reaps’ (S.ii.20) …”
In the Pali Canon itself, this view is not explicitly called the “Middle Way” but is literally referred to as “teaching by the middle” (majjhena dhamma).
Rebirth Conditioned arising also gives a rationale for rebirth:
Conditioned Arising is […] a ‘Middle Way’ which avoids the extremes of ‘eternalism’ and ‘annihilationism’: the survival of an eternal self, or the total annihilation of a person at death.
In Theravada Buddhist soteriology, there is neither a permanent self nor complete annihilation of the ‘person’ at death; there is only the arising and ceasing of causally related phenomena.
A Dhamma Talk on Vipassana and mindfulness meditation by Vipassana Gossalaya Jotannano Hong Keo, Vipassana Buddhist Master during a 10-Day Meditation & Vipassana Retreats at the Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam on the 11th Waxing Moon – 7th Waning Moon of Jeṭṭha B.E.2560 equivalent to June 15 – 26, A.D.2016 in Leverett, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in 2016.
ក្រុងសាវត្ថី Sāvatthī or Śrāvastī
Vipassana chanting by Meditation Master Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun. Footages from 2016 Vipassana classes at the Buddhist Meditation Center – Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA.
SAMDECH CHUON NATH
Khmer literature and Dhamma talk by His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. His Holiness was born on March 11, 1883; passed away on September 25, 1969
MAHA GHOSANANDA SERVICES
Extraordinary Funeral and Memorial Services for His Holiness Samdech Dr. Maha Ghosananda