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Thread: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

  1. #1

    Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    Namaste,

    Buddhism is frequently described by itself as "the middle way". Here is a link to a fairly typical description of this idea http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/middleway.htm

    Basically the teaching is that the Buddha established a path that avoided the extremes of materialistic over indulgence or the extreme of severe asceticism. According to the Pali scriptures the Buddha was first a prince who had every material pleasure available and left that to become a forest asthetic and studied under other Hindu aesthetics. He is occasionally depicted in this asthetic "phase" like in this icon http://ibuddhist.tumblr.com/post/576...tarving-buddha

    So during achieving enlightenment he lets go of his extreme asceticism as well and uses a middle or moderate path to enlightenment.

    To a westerner without the context of Hindu asthetics and where monasticism in general is fringe at best within the culture, it is hard to really appreciate what the early Buddhist texts are saying. Is this a reaction against the very austere yogis? Aren't there also Hindu monastics that take a reasonably "moderate" path? Is the refraining against over indulgence as a path to enlightens just saying empty pleasures can't truly satisfy you or was there a belief at the time of some sort of supra-hedonism. (Like "left handed" tantra which to be honest I know very little about). It seems to me this middle path teaching is directed at a Hindu or converts from Hindu audience.

    Intetestingly, in looking again at the idea of the middle path, I've seen it interpreted more broadly as a path of having detached observation and not adhering to specific doctrines or philosophic camps. This is very true, but isn't the sense I get when I read the scriptures myself. It seems the Buddha is reacting against two specific "paths" or methods of freedom from suffering present in his day and age.

    Any thoughts?

    -Liang

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    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    Namaste LC ji,

    Contemporary scholars have (with justification, in my opinion) identified the historical Buddha's rejection of extreme asceticism or self-torture as a rejection of a strain of monastic Jainism, although some forms of self-mortification can be found in some "Hindu" traditions as well. For example, in Indian Buddhism the late A.K. Warder wrote, "The Jainas taught moral causation, and insisted that the balance resulting from bad actions in the past had to be exhausted by severe asceticism, indeed self-torture..." This is also the view of Andrew Skilton in A Concise History of Buddhism. Rejecting self-indulgence can be seen as a rejection of the Buddha's life as a "prince," but it can also be seen as a rejection of the hedonism commonly attributed to the Cārvākas or Lokāyatas, the ancient school of materialism and atheism that is preserved only in the writings of its philosophical opponents. Seen in this way, as a rejection of two of the unorthodox schools of śramaṇas ("strivers"), the Middle Path is not a controversial position for a Hindu. (When it is seen as a rejection of the "extremes" of eternalism and annihilationism, that is a different story.)

    praṇām
    śrīmate nārāyaṇāya namaḥ

  3. #3

    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    Pranam,

    My understanding of the middle way is of two fold. Once the Buddha to be heard a man stringing a veena, when the string was to loose the sound was not right and when it was to tight the sound was also not right but when the man who tuning the Veena tuned it just right, neither to slack nor tight it made the perfect sound, this then gave Siddharta the wisdom of one aspect of the middle way.

    In Bhagavad Gita where Sri Krsna is explaining the essentials of the yoga system we find the same thing.

    http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-06-14.html

    Mādhyamika ( Middle way ) though on a more subtle Absolute level is dealing with non duality, or the truth that lies behind the extremes or opposites that is somewhere in between the flux of duality, pure consciousness itself, Brahman, the Dharmakaya, fully transcendent and unaffected by the waves of material energy. This is where the scholars will stop in the development to understand the true message of Buddhism or any other spiritual science for that matter ( same as emprical scientists), and is only and exclusively understood by Sadhakas or those who practice and gain subtle realizations and the right expanded consciousness. For this Buddha taught Jhanas or meditative absorptions and deeper levels of Samadhi. As far as I know all the shastras and teachings are encoded and only understood, or the real context of the teachings is revealed in subtle and purified states, which is always leading us onwards and inwards to more profound and less limited states, so most teachings are understood through the varying levels of Samadhi.

    Scholars will never get the real meaning of Dharma Shastra because they are not purifying their being and are not having the necessary experiences and enjoying the fruits of Sadhana, they get stuck purely on the intellectual platform because of not developing those more subtle and profound states that only and exclusively the Sadhakas and self realized experience by direct perception or revelation. Sadhakas can be and are most often the greatest scholars due the in-depth study and accompanied practice and know the exact context due to the accompanying level of consciousness.

    The hidden meanings and secrets of the Dharma Shastra and great teachings and practices are always hidden from academia, and so it should be. Academic scholars are good for only some facts and dates, in my opinion they should never be approached to interpret the more subtle vital teachings due to there limitation of purification.

    Jay Sri Ram
    Last edited by markandeya 108 dasa; 08 May 2016 at 06:08 AM.

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    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    Quote Originally Posted by markandeya 108 dasa View Post
    Pranam,

    Scholars will never get the real meaning of Dharma Shastra because they are not purifying their being and are not having the necessary experiences and enjoying the fruits of Sadhana, they get stuck purely on the intellectual platform because of not developing those more subtle and profound states that only and exclusively the Sadhakas and self realized experience by direct perception or revelation. Sadhakas can be and are most often the greatest scholars due the in-depth study and accompanied practice and know the exact context due to the accompanying level of consciousness.

    The hidden meanings and secrets of the Dharma Shastra and great teachings and practices are always hidden from academia, and so it should be. Academic scholars are good for only some facts and dates, in my opinion they should never be approached to interpret the more subtle vital teachings due to there limitation of purification.

    Jay Sri Ram
    Namaste markandeya dasa ji,

    I think that what you say is generally true. Academics who study dharmic paths tend to comment on things they have no experience in. They also tend to have Western biases and may bring inappropriate tools and methods to their studies. Some may even be hostile to the path they wish to explain to others. At the same time, I think that there are some exceptions to this in both the study of buddhadharma and of sanātana dharma, even in the West. It isn't always a situation of "either/or." Some Western scholars of Buddhism these days also happen to practice Buddhism. Andrew Skilton, for example, practices Buddhism under the guidance of a teacher and is a scholar of Buddhism. Robert A.F. Thurman was a Buddhist monk before he entered academia and labored for many years, ultimately successfully, to refute academic misconceptions about Buddhism. There are others. While there are fewer Western scholars of sanātana dharma who also practice the path (Buddhism seems to enjoy a greater popularity for now), a few do exist. Jeffery D. Long comes to mind. It is my hope that in the future we will have many Western academics who understand sanātana dharma from the inside, just as the Buddhists seem have many voices within academia today.

    praṇām
    śrīmate nārāyaṇāya namaḥ

  5. #5

    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    Namaste anuchar Ji,

    I think you said the same thing as me, a scholar can get the subtle meanings if they practice the dharma, it's very much needed especially with all the mistranslated, obscure meanings and intellectual speculations that has happened in the past, not just west but all over. The main period of escalation was probably around 18th/19th century when the ism's where added to what was generally Sadhana's of Dharma Shastra. One can be a scholar and Sadhaka, practitioner or devotee in the academic world, but to the untrained mind what they say will never really have the right context unless the mind is receptive and qualified to understand certain parts of the teaching. I think or at least hope that most people who are on the path of any spiritual discipline with the sincerity of being transformed can attest that by their own purification and revelation that the meaning and context become more clear and deeper leaving behind those stuck with the rigid system of intellectual understanding, which amounts to word play.

    Words can be manipulated and usually ends up having some agenda and can even be used as a type of propaganda. The subtle and most profound meaning is not and can never be corrupted because of that purity and clarity of the individual consciousness which has attuned to the real meaning by the process of Sadhana. As I said the real scholars are Sadhakas they may work in Academia, some facts they may be able to correct, but whatever they say if the audience themselves or Academic circles are not of the quality of the Sadhaka then it wont really have much depth in understanding and will stay purely as an objective intellectual study and the secret disguised meanings will never be revealed. I dont know to much details about all the Scholars at university level and with Academic circles, as I have only really read at a glance till they get it wrong. The main scholar and very devout practitioner that comes to mind that is a good example is Allan Wallace who seems to be a breath of fresh air especially in the field of science and the study of consciousness, but as he says the only reason he talks and has made himself available is because of the people who are interested in the path, so while he may talk initially to a wide audience the only real purpose is to make the individual take to the path for full realization through practice.
    Last edited by markandeya 108 dasa; 08 May 2016 at 09:17 AM.

  6. #6

    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    ॐ प्रकाश ॐ


    Sri Buddha Muni, Tathagatha, Shuddi Sattva ~Vishnu Tattva. Has been assinated by mundane Scholarship and religious Bigots that he taught something void and impersonal in the most condescending sense.

    Lokavidu or knower of the world is only one of the 9 qualities of Tathagatha. From here the teaching of Dukkha and the dependent arising of conditioned phenomena has its most profound discourses. All summarized by mundane Scholars and religious bias that he was a teacher only focusing on negatives and was somehow a Nihilist who had no sense of the Divine.

    Tathagatha , not only gave the complete map of conditioned psychology, its trappings ( Greed, Hatred and Ignorance) and release through beautified states of Morality, honesty ,Jhana and Metta Bavana ~Brahma Viharas ~ Divine Foundations of Brahman, he also many times pointed to the final Divinity.

    Nirvana or Nibbana has been translated as something negative, blown out, extinct , void etc blah de blah

    Tathagatha, Sri Buddha Muni used many epithets to describe Nibbana in his discourses and teachings, I found a list of over 50 taken from the Pali Suttas but will only add a few and finish with the one that links him as a true Prince of Sanatana Dharma, teacher of Humans, Brahmins and Devattas.

    The Subtle ( Nipuna )
    Very Hard to See ( Sududdasa)
    The Everlasting ( Dhuva )
    The Wonderful ( Acchariya )
    The Marvellous (Abbhuta )
    The Supreme Goal ( Panita )
    SHIVA ( BLEST )

  7. #7

    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    ॐ प्रकाश ॐ

    Excerpt from An Anthology of The Buddha's Teachings on Nibbana


    One of the ways in which The Buddha Characterized the quality of awareness was to present it as a form of consciousness ( viññāṇa ). This represents a unique usage of the term- customarily 'viññāṇa ' only refers to the conditioned activity of the six senses- however, we also find that The Buddha gives us some adjectives with which to describe it, when the term is used in this unique way: 'viññāṇa anidassanam anantam sabbato pabham' - ' consciousness that is signless, boundless, all luminious' is one translation of this expression.


    It also goes without saying that there is controversy as to the precise meaning of this enigmatic phrase ( it appears in only a couple of places in the Canon : M49.25 &D 11.85). However, the constellation of meanings of the individual words is small enough to give us a reasonable clear idea of what The Buddha was pointing at.


    Firstly, we assume that he is using 'viññāṇa ' in a broader way than it is usually meant. The Buddha avoided the nit-picking pedantry of many philosophers contemporary with him and opted for a more broad- brush, colloquial style. geared to particular listeners in a language which they could understand. Thus viññāṇa , here can be assumed to mean 'knowing' but not the partial, fragmented, discriminative (vi-) knowing (-ñāṇa ) which the word usually implies. Instead it must mean a knowing of a primordial, transcendent nature, otherwise the passage which contains it would be self contradictory.


    Secondly 'anidassanam' is a fairly straightforward word which means (a-) 'not noun, - without' (nidassanam ) ' indicative, visible, manifestative, ' i.e invisible, empty, featureless, unmanifest;


    ( note for linguistic, dogmatic,neophytes and literal minds, invisible, empty, featureless, unmanifest ', is purely in the context of the absence of conditioned mental phenomena........ )


    'anantam' is also a straightforward term, meaning 'infinite' or 'limitless'





    The final phrase 'sabbato pabham' is a little trickier. Here is Bikkhu Bodhi's comment from note 513 to the Majjhima Nikaya :


    8.1 "MA ( the ancient commentary ) offers three explanations of the phrase sabbato pabham (1) completely possessed of splendour ( pabha) (2) possesing being ( pabhutam ) everywhere; and (3) a ford ( pabham ) accessible from all sides, i.e through any of the 38-eight meditation objects.
    Last edited by markandeya 108 dasa; 24 May 2016 at 09:28 AM.

  8. #8

    Re: Context behind Buddhism as the "middle way"

    ॐ प्रकाश ॐ

    When I get round to it, I will also do some research into the word Tapasya, this has great and significant meaning and again (sigh) among literalists and intellectuals ( who are not really very intelligent ) have distorted the subtle esoteric meaning of this word.

    Tapas means heat, it can include physical austerities, as well as raising a type of heat in consciousness . Fire -Agni in Veda was the Supreme and tapas is related to Agni, I have read in brief here and there The Buddhas teaching on these subjects, and he is in no way anti Vedic.

    Side note Sri Aurobindo translates Tapas as Divine incubation .........

    Hari OM Tat Sat

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