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The Middle Path
Suppose My Hand Were Always Like That?Mokusen Hiki was living in a temple in the province of Tamba. One of his adherents complained of the stinginess of his wife. Mokusen visited the adherent's wife and held his clenched fist before her face.
'What do you mean by that?' asked the surprised woman. 'Suppose my hand were always like that, what would you call it?' 'Deformed,' replied the woman.
Then he opened his hand flat in her face and asked: suppose it were always like that -- what then? 'Another kind of deformity,' said the wife.
'If you understand that much,' finished Mokusen, 'you are a good wife.' Then he left. After his visit this wife helped her husband to distribute as well as to save.
"The greatest art is to attain a balance, a balance between all opposites, a balance between all polarities. Imbalance is the disease and balance is health. Imbalance is neurosis, and balance is well-being."
Describe your personality. Are you introverted or extroverted? Are you cautious or brave? Are you steadfast or flexible? What other labels have you used to describe your self-your character?
If you identify with one opposite and deny it's partner then it is a deformity. Truely both qualities are within you so why identify with one over the other? To have an irrational tendency towards or away from a particular quality is merely a temporary lobsidedness caused by limited past experience. Why do I say the experience is limited? This is because you must have had one or more distressing or favorable experiences with one opposite relative to it's partner. When you have had many, many good and bad experiences with both opposites you begin to view them equally.
This is how it goes. You start off in ignorance of the concepts. Being ignorant you are neither attracted or repulsed by either of them. You are in a state of unconscious neutrality.
As you begin to experience good and bad situations connected with the concepts then you become semiconscious of them. Semiconsciousness is the level of attractions and repulsions, greed and hatred.
After many more experiences you become more and more aware of the concepts. This is the level of conscious neutrality. Now because you see the concepts clearly you are free. If a situation comes up then you simply act in the right way.
But must we experience all those different experiences to gain the freedom? No this is not necessary. Simply by contemplating and loving both opposites equally we remain free in the middle. Unbound by irrational tendencies and temporary identifications we are neither this nor that. How then can our nature be described?
Here are some quotes regarding the Middle Way"For both excessive and insufficient exercise destroy one's strength, and both eating and drinking too much or too little destroy health, whereas the right quantity produces, increases or preserves it. So it is the same with temperance, courage and the other virtues... This much then, is clear: in all our conduct it is the mean that is to be commended."
"All of you have believed in Buddhism for many years now through hearing about the Buddhist Teachings from many sources -- especially from various monks and teachers. In some cases Dhamma is taught in very broad and vague terms to the point where it is difficult to know how to put it into practice in daily life. In other instances Dhamma is taught in high language or special jargon to the point where most people find it difficult to understand, especially if the teaching is done too literally from scripture. Lastly there is Dhamma taught in a balanced way, neither too vague nor too profound, neither too broad nor too esoteric -- just right for the listener to understand and practice to personally benefit from the Teachings. Today I would like share with you Teachings of the sort I have often used to instruct my disciples in the past; Teachings which I hope may possibly be of personal benefit to those of you here listening today."
"The middle path is the way to wisdom."
"As a youth, Prince Siddhartha enjoyed the indulgent life of pleasure in his father's palace. Later, when he renounced the worldly life and become an ascetic, he experienced the hardship of torturing his mind and body. Finally, not long before attaining Enlightenment, he realized the fruitlessness of these two extreme ways of life. He realized that the way to happiness and Enlightenment was to lead a life that avoids these extremes. He described this life as the Middle Path. These three ways of life may be compared to the the strings of different tensions on a lute. The loose string, which is like a life of indulgence, produces a poor sound when struck. The overly tight string, which is like a life of extreme asceticism, similarly produces a poor sound when struck and is moreover, likely to break at any moment. Only the middle string which is neither too loose nor too tight, and is like the Middle Path, produces a pleasant and harmonious sound when stuck. So these who follow the Middle Path which avoid the extreme of indulging one's desires and opposite extreme of torturing one's mind and body unreasonably, will find happiness, peace of mind and Enlightenment. This is the Fourth Noble Truth of the path leading to the end of suffering."
"However great an evil immorality may be, we must not forget that it is not without its beneficial consequences. It is only through extremes that men can arrive at the middle path of wisdom and virtue."
Wilhelm von Humboldt
The middle path is the safe path.
"The Path of Grace is neither to the right nor to the left. It is neither liberal nor conservative. It favors neither the warmongers or the appeasers. Rather, it is a middle path. It is the Path of Healing, for grace is the balm that heals the wounded heart. The Path of Grace is the Path of Bringing-together. The Path of Win-Win. The Path of Mutual Respect. The Path of Understanding, Tolerance, and Love. It is the Way of Peace, and it is, therefore, a path we should embrace."
"Awareness without love is too cold. Love without awareness is too hot. The middle way is slowly showing itself as we wear out all our extremes from having had the nerve to experiment."
"The Eightfold Path which the Buddha preached in his first sermon is known as the Middle Path because it is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Optimism tends to over-estimate the conditions of life, whereas pessimism tends to under-estimate them. To plunge on the one hand into the sensual excesses and pleasures of the ordinary worldly life is mean, degrading and useless. On the other hand. extravagant asceticism is also evil and useless. Self-indulgence tends to retard one's spiritual progress and self-mortification to weaken one's intellect. The Path is a Middle Way between the pairs of opposites. and the doctrine of the 'Way' may only be grasped by an understanding of the correlation and interdependence of the two. Progress is an alternating change of weight or emphasis between the two. Yet, just as a fencer's weight seems ever poised between his feet resting upon either foot only for so long as is needed to swing back the emphasis, so on the path the traveler rests at neither extreme but strives for balance on a line between, from which all opposites are equally in view. All extremes beget their opposites, and both are alike unprofitable."
Venerable Ashin Thittila
"There are two kinds of error: blind credulity and piecemeal criticism. Never believe a word without putting its truth to the test; discernment does not grow in laziness; and this faculty of discernment is indispensable to the Seeker. Sound skepticism is the necessary condition for good discernment; but piecemeal criticism is an error."