The Middle Way

One principle has been so powerful that it has helped guide my thought and action in very diverse situations. This principle is truly universal; it was discovered independently by Middle Kingdom-era thinkers in Ancient Egypt, by Confucius in Ancient China, by Aristotle in Ancient Greece, and by the Buddha in Ancient India. This is the principle of the middle way, which can productively be applied to an understanding of virtue, to views, and to lifestyles.

First, virtue can be seen as a middle way between excess and deficiency. For instance,courage is the middle way between cowardliness and rashness, wisdom is the middle way between ignorance and overthinking, joy is the middle way between suffering and self-destructive highs, and love is the middle way between hatred and obsessive clinging.

Second, we can also apply the middle way principle to views. For example, instead of saying that “the universe is totally beautiful” or “the universe is totally ugly”, we can say the universe is both beautiful in the midst of its ugliness and ugly in the midst of its beauty.

Finally, we can apply the middle way to lifestyles. Instead of living a life of total indulgence or a life of total asceticism, we can live a a moderate, balanced life that allows us to be detached, but to appreciate the joys of the universe at the same time.

November 30, 2009

“the universe is totally beautiful” or “the universe is totally ugly”, we would say the universe is both beautiful in the midst of its ugliness and ugly in the midst of its beauty.
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