The Middle Way: A Buddhist philosophy
The Philosophy of the Middle Way
"Beginnings and Endings are easy. The middle is always the hardest part to write." Charles Dickens.
Finding balance is a difficult thing to do, both as individuals and as a culture. We're all struggling to find balance in a world out of balance. Moderation is very difficult in a world that insists on pushing us to the extremes.
The original Buddha, Shakyamuni, was a spoiled Prince who's early life was one of indulgence. Despite being shielded from the dark chaos of the outside world, Shakyamuni finally became aware that so many people were suffering, he gave up his privileged existence to go on a spiritual quest that led him to live an ascetic lifestyle, starving and punishing himself. When he became so weak that he was near to death, but still hadn't found the spiritual enlightenment he sought, he came to realize his error. Neither the extreme of self mortification nor the excessive indulgence of his youth was the correct path. There had to be a better way. A middle way.
Buddha told his followers, "Avoiding these two extremes is where you find the enlightenment of the middle path, which brings insight and knowledge and leads to higher consciousness and Nirvana."
So how do we find the middle ground in our lives today? We're living at a time where the country is polarized politically either to the far right or the far left. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. Some religions speak in the extremes of purity or sin. Our leaders tell us we have to choose between conquering or being conquered. If we don't work enough hours we can't make a living but we're working so many hours many of us don't have a life.
So wheres the middle ground in all this? Wheres the midway view that the Buddha spoke of between poverty and wealth. Between up and down. Where?
Terrorism is a word we've all become very familiar with over the last eight years. Terrorists are an example of an extreme viewpoint. Its good to fight for a cause but 9-11 shows that even a cause can be taken way too far. It takes a wise man to find a middle path between passive acceptance and and violent overkill. People like Gandhi or Dr. King were smart enough to find the middle path between bloodshed and surrender. Avoiding both extremes is the path of the middle way.
Too many of us have the same trouble finding that center balance. We're too high or too low. Too slow or too fast. Far left or far right. Workaholic or indolent. Too aggressive or too wimpy. Too clingy or unfaithful. You think of all the things we go through in our lives and you wish that you could live in-between. If only we can find the peace of a balanced universe. The center will hold, if we can just find it.