What else could the Middle Way be?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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robins
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What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by robins » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:09 pm

What else could the Middle Way be?

So, i suggest that the middle way, as it was originally spoken and felt, is not exactly recorded in the texts.

Now - my question is could there be any deeper or other meaning to the middle way, and if there was something we had all been missing, what could it be?

So, referring to wikipedia, we see under the middle way: a dispassionate approach between the extremes of austerities and sensual indulgence; and the philosophical ideas of dependent origination as the way between eternalism and annihilationism.

The only other indication in the texts is that the middle way IS the eightfold path.

So, i turn to the Mahasatipatthana, because here i find a detailed version of the eightfold path. And we see for example that right understanding is not just a general understanding of everything and anything .. it is specifically an understanding of Dukkha.

Every step of the eightfoldpath has a detailed explanation and specific meaning ... the simple list of the eightfold path, (given, for example, in every translation of the Sermon at Bernares) gives a distorted picture - these are not just generalised ideas on life ... but lets just keep to the main point.

My question : Is there any possibility of another maybe more significant meaning in the middle way which we, i, have been missing for years, ... and if so, what could it be?

And the 6th step right effort, says simply to me : Right Effort : To generate a desire for wholesome healthy states of mind.

Now : A Note : No word in the Mahasatipatthana seems so variously translated as this passage in the 6th step, Right Effort :
"generates an intention ... to attain wholesome states of mind". (Jotika & Dhamminda)
"a monk generates desire ... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities" (Does Thanissaro Bhikkhu think "skillful qualities" are the only purpose of Right Effort?)
Old translations give "For arousing of salutory states that have not yet arisen he rouses his will,".
And the French gives : "un bhikkhu génère la volonté ... de développer les états d'esprits sains".
I give the full translations underneath for your consideration.

Naturally, if the correct translation is will, then we are talking about old fashioned discipline, ... however generating a DESIRE for wholesome states is (or could be) EXACTLY a very precise and clever MIDDLE WAY between the extremes of indulgence and abstinence.

my feeling is that present day buddhism is often connected with a passionless distance and detachment. Generating a desire for wholesome states gives it a vitality - humanity ... etc etc ...

ok so, what does anyone think?
Robin

References

"And what is right effort? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent ... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen" (Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

"And what, bhikkhus, is Right Effort? ... He generates an intention, makes effort, rouses energy, applies his mind, and strives ardently to attain wholesome states of mind that have not yet arisen. He generates an intention, makes effort, rouses energy, applies his mind, and strives ardently to maintain the wholesome states of mind that have arisen, to prevent their lapsing, to increase them, to cause them to grow, and to completely develop them. This, bhikkhus, is called Right Effort." (U Jotika & U Dhamminda)

"And what is right effort? Herein a monk ... For arousing of salutory states that have not yet arisen he rouses his will, makes effort, stirs up his energy, applies his mind to it and strives." (Nyanaponika Thera 1969)

Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Mahasatipatthana Sutta translated by U Jotika & U Dhamminda
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/mahasati.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/mahasati.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, Nyanaponika Thera, Rider Pocket Editions (1969) http://www.khamkoo.com/uploads/9/0/0/4/ ... tation.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

And where many english translations seem often to copy each other - this French translation gives independant translations, (and is the only completely full translation of the Mahasatipatthana I have found – together with the Pali - translator unknown).
http://www.buddha-vacana.org/fr/sutta/digha/dn22.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

and here we find the idea of "healthy mind states"

"Et qu'est-ce, bhikkhus, que l'effort juste? En cela, bhikkhus, un bhikkhu génère la volonté ... de développer les états d'esprits sains qui ne sont pas encore apparus en lui, et pour cela il fait un effort résolu, il stimule son énergie, y applique son esprit et s'y efforce."

for which google translator gives : "And what, monks, is right effort? In this, monks, a monk generates the will of ... develop healthy minds states that have not yet appeared in it, and for that he madea determined effort, it stimulates its energy, it applies his mind and tries it."

la volonté = willingness ... is there someone there who really understands french and the meaning of this word?

so again, Id be intersted to hear what anyone thinks.
Robin

SarathW
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by SarathW » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:20 pm

Middle way is not in the middle.
That is, not half of this and the half of that.
:shrug:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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samseva
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by samseva » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:25 pm

robins wrote:"Et qu'est-ce, bhikkhus, que l'effort juste? En cela, bhikkhus, un bhikkhu génère la volonté ... de développer les états d'esprits sains qui ne sont pas encore apparus en lui, et pour cela il fait un effort résolu, il stimule son énergie, y applique son esprit et s'y efforce."

for which google translator gives : "And what, monks, is right effort? In this, monks, a monk generates the will of ... develop healthy minds states that have not yet appeared in it, and for that he madea determined effort, it stimulates its energy, it applies his mind and tries it."

la volonté = willingness ... is there someone there who really understands french and the meaning of this word?

so again, Id be intersted to hear what anyone thinks.
Robin
Translation:
And Bhikkhus, what is right effort? A certain bhikkhu generates his will... develops wholesome states of mind not yet risen, and for that me must put forth resolute effort, he stimulates his energy, applies his mind diligently.
'Will' for 'volonté' would be more accurate than 'willingness', which has an almost completely different meaning.

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Aloka
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by Aloka » Mon Sep 14, 2015 9:30 pm

This might be helpful:
The Middle Way Within.

by Ajahn Chah

"The teaching of Buddhism is about giving up evil and practising good. Then, when evil is given up and goodness is established, we must let go of both good and evil. We have already heard enough about wholesome and unwholesome conditions to understand something about them, so I would like to talk about the Middle Way, that is, the path to transcend both of those things.

All the Dhamma talks and teachings of the Buddha have one aim - to show the way out of suffering to those who have not yet escaped. The teachings are for the purpose of giving us the right understanding. If we don't understand rightly, then we can't arrive at peace.

When all the Buddhas became enlightened and gave their first teachings, they declared these two extremes - indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain. These two ways are the ways of infatuation, they are the ways between which those who indulge in sense pleasures must fluctuate, never arriving at peace. They are the paths which spin around in samsāra.

The Enlightened One observed that all beings are stuck in these two extremes, never seeing the Middle Way of Dhamma, so he pointed them out in order to show the penalty involved in both. Because we are still stuck, because we are still wanting, we live repeatedly under their sway. The Buddha declared that these two ways are the ways of intoxication, they are not the ways of a meditator, not the ways to peace. These ways are indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain, or, to put it simply, the way of slackness and the way of tension.

If you investigate within, moment by moment, you will see that the tense way is anger, the way of sorrow. Going this way there is only difficulty and distress. Indulgence in Pleasure - if you've transcended this, it means you've transcended happiness. These ways, both happiness and unhappiness, are not peaceful states. The Buddha taught to let go of both of them. This is right practice. This is the Middle Way.

These words 'the Middle Way' do not refer to our body and speech, they refer to the mind."

CONTINUED at the link:

https://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Middle_Way_Within1.php
:anjali:

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Sekha
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by Sekha » Tue Sep 15, 2015 8:34 am

Hi Robin,
robins wrote:is there someone there who really understands french and the meaning of this word?
You can also have look at the English counterpart to that translation :
http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/digha/dn22.html#4E4" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Pali word at stake is chanda
If you hover the mouse on the word in the Pali text you will see various translations
You can also have a look there : http://www.buddha-vacana.org/gloss.html#chanda" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
And there https://palidictionary.appspot.com/browse/c/chanda" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Buddhist Dictionary by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA
chanda:intention,desire,will.

1.As an ethically neutral psychological term,in the sense of 'intention',it is one of those general mental factors (cetasika,q.v.Tab.II) taught in the Abhidhamma,the moral quality of which is determined by the character of the volition (cetanā,q.v.) associated therewith.The Com.explains it as 'a wish to do' (kattu-kamyatā-chanda).If intensified,it acts also as a 'predominance condition' (s.paccaya 3).

2.As an evil quality it has the meaning of 'desire',and is frequently coupled with terms for 'sensuality','greed',etc.,for instance:kāma-cchanda,'sensuous desire',one of the 5 hindrances (s.nīvaraṇa); chanda-rāga,'lustful desire' (s.kāma).It is one of the 4 wrong paths (s.agati).

3.As a good quality it is a righteous will or zeal (dhamma-chanda) and occurs,e.g.in the formula of the 4 right efforts (s.padhāna):The monk rouses his will (chandaṃ janeti)...." If intensified,it is one of the 4 roads to power (s.Iddhipāda ).
Indeed chanda is a dual word and it seems it can be used with a positive or a negative connotation. Like an impulse, either for skillful/healthy/blameless mental states or destructive mental states. Indeed there must be a desire, but for the ending of suffering, not for the continuation of it.


:anjali:
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

robins
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by robins » Tue Sep 15, 2015 8:30 pm

Thank you for all responses,
and Sekha - thats a really really valuable link ... http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/digha/dn22.html#4E4 ... Pali text and a hover-link to a glossary .. a sort of do-it-yourself translation :-)

CHANDA : and the word has lots of shades of meaning ... and I also found "kusala dhammas" so this explains the various translations ...

and kusala is a lovely word :-) a short version ... "all which has pleasant and happy results: advantageous, wholesome, salutary, skilful, healthy, blameless" ... and this is all as close as we get to the Buddhas actual words.

and as you say Sekha :
Indeed chanda is a dual word and it seems it can be used with a positive or a negative connotation. Like an impulse, either for skillful/healthy/blameless mental states or destructive mental states.
And I agree totally and deeply, but I wonder how many people here would disagree with you, when you say : "there must be desire"
Indeed there must be a desire, but for the ending of suffering, not for the continuation of it.
I wonder how many people here feel that we need only discipline and will power and concentration ... for ending Dukkha, ?

Yes I agree, wholeheartedly, ... and if this is so, then explain to me why this isnt acknowledged as the feeling behind the middle way, ... it seems so obvious, to me, that this is one of the magic spark plugs in buddhism,

and I agree SarathW
Middle way is not in the middle.
That is, not half of this and the half of that.
.. or any skillful philosophical compromise .. i agree the middle way is something special in itself, ...

Could "chanda -for- kusala dhammas" ... (approx: "desire for wholesome states") be the actual vital energy of the middle way?

DESIRE ... which at the time of Buddha was a taboo among all the ascetic hindus ... it was a totally new perspective ... unheard of ... an abomination ... delighting in the dharma, finding pleasure in breathing and mindfulness ... enjoying enlightenment ...

so, again what does anyone think? robin

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Sekha
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by Sekha » Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:23 pm

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Master Ananda, what is the aim of this holy life lived under Gotama the contemplative?"

"Brahman, the holy life is lived under the Blessed One with the aim of abandoning desire."

"Is there a path, is there a practice, for the abandoning of that desire?"

"Yes, there is a path, there is a practice, for the abandoning of that desire."

"What is the path, the practice, for the abandoning of that desire?"

"Brahman, there is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion. He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence... concentration founded on intent... concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion. This, Brahman, is the path, this is the practice for the abandoning of that desire."

"If that's so, Master Ananda, then it's an endless path, and not one with an end, for it's impossible that one could abandon desire by means of desire."

"In that case, brahman, let me question you on this matter. Answer as you see fit. What do you think: Didn't you first have desire, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular desire allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have persistence, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular persistence allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have the intent, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular intent allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Didn't you first have [an act of] discrimination, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular act of discrimination allayed?"

"Yes, sir."

"So it is with an arahant whose mental effluents are ended, who has reached fulfillment, done the task, laid down the burden, attained the true goal, totally destroyed the fetter of becoming, and who is released through right gnosis. Whatever desire he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular desire is allayed. Whatever persistence he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular persistence is allayed. Whatever intent he first had for the attainment of arahantship, on attaining arahantship that particular intent is allayed.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

http://www.buddha-vacana.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

robins
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by robins » Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:31 am

I have been researching all the other ideas on the middle way on this forum since 2009 ... there are a couple of ideas which I need time to think about ...

Most people use the term in a very general way ... and it seems most think it is a middle way between extremes, .... and this is all just too vague (or too philosophical and complicated as in dependant origination); for something as significant as Buddha's central new idea ...

So to Sekha's quote and thank you - Your quote seems to support what i say - and maybe the point is good ... but how its written ?!? Im afraid i have to disagree.
" ... Didn't you first have desire, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular desire allayed?"

Yes, but as soon as it was allayed, another arose ... , this sort of desire with satisfaction or frustration always leads to repeats,... leading to the next desire ... the endless repititions - like the endless rebirths - going round and round on the wheel ---

This is a desire for something in the future - there are so many variables that it really is hard to say anything simply.

To say anything simply i have to take the subject from another angle.

I feel i have such limited experience but ... what i notice is when practicing the second foundation of mindfulness (Mahasatipatthana) : (noticing if i feel pleasure or displeasure, sukha and dukkha and all the variations) ... and the thing is they are most Sukha, most purely Sukha (and i am not pure, i have so many thoughts and desires - but in the ocasional moments of peace) they are most Sukha, when it is something i can do straight away and that is happening now : breathing, mindfulness, just sitting, listening ...

... I really havent been doing it long enough consciously .. to know and define other grades of sukha, like with music, love ... but it seems to me that they are (mostly, all?) happening now ...

and it seems to me that being mindful of the pleasure in meditation, leads to me wanting to do it more often,
IT MOTIVATES ME TO REPEAT THE EXPERIENCE, ... in exactly the same way as desire for something in the future, binds us in endless repetitions ...

Its a question of how we turn the wheel

So, I'd like to suggest that a vital part of the middle way is to be mindful of the pleasure of meditation ... the pleasure of being now ... the pleasure of letting go ..

so, to you ... anyone experimenting with the 2nd foundation of mindfulness ... ?
cheers - robin ...

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dhammacoustic
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Re: What else could the Middle Way be?

Post by dhammacoustic » Tue Sep 22, 2015 5:45 am

This is a Theravāda forum, but the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā has also helped me a good deal in understanding the Middle Way.

:anjali:
Uppādā vā tathagātanaṃ anuppādā vā tathagātanaṃ, ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā idappaccayatā. Taṃ tathagāto abhisam­buj­jhati abhisameti. Abhisam­bujjhitvā abhisametvā ācikkhati deseti paññāpeti paṭṭhapeti vivarati vibhajati uttānīkaroti. ‘Passathā’ti cāha; ‘avijjāpaccayā, bhikkhave, saṅkhārā’. Iti kho, bhikkhave, yā tatra tathatā avitathatā anaññathatā idappaccayatā-ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, paṭiccasamup­pādo.
:heart: namō tassa bhagavatō, arahatō, sammā sambuddhassā

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