Friday, July 01, 2011

The Middle Way

Looking at the life of a monk now, most layperson (including Buddhist) would immediately comment that the lifestyle is too extreme.

Waking up at 4a.m. in the morning, 227 precepts to keep (311 for nuns), wearing only robes all the time, meditating most of the time, keeping mindfulness at all waking times, learning the Dharma everyday, even having 3 months long of rain retreat each year. Not only that, a monk does not eating after noon time, does not indulge in entertainment, no money, no marriage, and certainly no sexual activities.

Try a small taste of that for a day (in our 8 precepts day) and see if you want to continue it for a week (in our meditation retreat). More than half of the participants dropped out.

Yet are not the monks supposed to live life according to the Middle Way?

Of course it would be deviant from the Middle Way to judge everyone via the standards of the monks. There are standards for laypeople too at Digha Nikaya 31, Sigalovada Sutta, but we are not talking about that here.

It would be easy too to say that most of the middle class citizens are very indulgent in entertainment thus consider a community of monks to be extreme without the other end of the spectrum like war-torn people (who are elsewhere) to compare. This realisation is meaningless to this article too.

When I started learning Buddhism on my own, reading the books without joining in a Buddhist Society or having Kalyana-mitta or a teacher to guide me, I had gone so deep and so fast into the theoretical ultimate reality and accepted what I see as obvious truths, that I decided to have "monk" in my email. And thus thinking this is how an enlighten being should view the world (impermanence, suffering, non-self) , this is what an enlighten being would not have think of (greed, hatred, delusion), thus deluded myself into a serious state of depression every moment I discovered myself to deviate from perfection.

That put me out of touch with Buddhism for a while in order to regain my sanity.

It took me years later on to realise “All things in Moderation. Including Moderation.” The way to Enlightenment is not the extreme way that gets you there faster. It is not a intermediate goal to achieve and get rid off so that I can get on with life. It is rather to realise that life itself is impermanent (still don't realise it, just putting it here to say I don't realise it). Now, from my involvement in Tertiary level Buddhist Societies, I am going back into Buddhism, gently, calmly, (sorry I still won't use slowly), practising it step by step with my Kalyana-mitta here and teachers to guide me.

So what is the Middle Way?

The Middle Way is also to be learned first, before practising, realising and sharing. And to learn is to have right understanding and right thought.

The Middle Way on the line between two extremes end of love and hate is not the indifference in the middle, but rather to rise above the line and to have Universal love, loving-kindness, thus naturally right speech, right action, right livelihood comes into play.

Knowing causes, knowing effects, knowing oneself, knowing how much is enough, knowing the proper time, knowing individuals, knowing groups of people: these Seven Noble Virtues constitute walking the Middle Way. (Refer to Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Sevens, no. 64, Dhammaññu Sutta: One With a Sense of Dhamma) Using discernment, wisdom and compassion in living one’s life, thus explaining the constant right mindfulness, right effort, right concentration to keep on walking on the razor edge of the Middle Way.

Not taking ourselves too serious nor too flippancy, when one can laugh at oneself, then one is taking moderation in moderation.

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