The Middle Way
By LP John Paramai Dhanissaro
The middle way is a simple, yet profound saying that holds many deep meanings. The word phrase “middle way”; or Majjhimāpaṭipadā in Pali refers to refers to a way of life, a way of meditation, and a way to inner peace.
As a way of life, the middle way represents a lifestyle that avoids two extremes: 1. Indulgent in sensual pleasures (Kamasukhallika) and 2) Self-Torment (A_ttakilamatha)_. The extreme path of indulging in sensual pleasure, offers only temporary happiness that is obtained through material and sensual gain. It is a lifestyle of ordinary people who seek to fulfill their happiness by obtaining more and more, feeling pleasure more and more, and to desire more and more. Opposite, is the extreme of self-torment, which some believe will lead to the detachment from the body and material desire. This includes starving themselves, abandoning clothes, and extremely painful exercises.
The Buddha himself experienced these two extremes and found that neither holds the key to the inner peace he was searching for. As the young prince, Siddhartha Gautama, he was given the most refined sensual experiences one could not even imagine, and yet he left it all behind to ordain. When he ordained, he spent 6 years of self-mortification that didn’t yield any worthwhile results in the fruit of enlightenment. Instead, he found peace through the middle way of the two extremes by living healthy, happy, and pure.
The middle way in meditation is the balance of awareness and relaxation. When we close our eyes, the real meditation begins when we are completely relaxed both in body and mind, yet able to observe with a soft awareness. Once that happens, we experience the feeling of having no thoughts, spaciousness, contentment, and equanimity. Therefore, the path to deeper meditation experience will rely on this balance; thus the middle way.
The true middle way, the gateway to inner peace; has been proven by many to be the center of the body. It’s the center of gravity; precisely in the middle of the stomach 2-finger width above the belly button. In life, everything has a center and the object will become the most stable when the center is focused and balanced. A magnifying glass can also focus light and energy at the center. A spider web also has its strongest point at the center where the spider will normally remain once the web has been woven. Therefore, this center point, the middle way gives the highest balance, stability, intensity, clarity and security that will lead to higher attainment in meditation practice.
The essence of the middle way lives in all aspects of life from daily living to higher spirituality. It is a truly simple teaching of the Lord Buddha that has a profound effect for anyone willing to take the first step.