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The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page |1 

Buddha's teachings have been labelled a lot 

of things over the course of the last 200 
years. Prior to the 1800s, the teachings of 
the Buddha were not considered a religion, 
but a way of life; an enlightenment 
philosophy. “Buddhism,” as a modern word, 
was invented around the late 1800s. 
Comparatively speaking, all of the World’s 
religions could not exist without their gods, 
saviors or deities. However, Buddhism does 
not need Buddha to exist. According to the 

Buddha’s teachings, anyone can become a 


Writers of the Dhamma, intentionally isolate certain teachings of the Buddha for the benefit of readers. In 

order to illuminate the practicality of the teachings, Dhamma writers such as myself, seek to find ways to 

present the Buddha’s teachings in as clear a manner as possible. However, expressing those teachings in a 

manner that are both meaningful and useful to the reader, 1s not entirely dependent on the writer’s education 

or intelligence. 

The Middle Way to Happiness 

Discovering the Middle 

Way, taught by the Buddha, 

requires first a willingness to ne 
want a better life right now. This | A 
Middle Way is a working model 
outlining a specific method for 

how life ought to be lived in 

otder to achieve actual happiness. © 

The "Middle Way," is not 
about improvement. It is about 
changing how we think, but also understanding 

why we think what we do think. The Middle Way 

requires an examination of our cyclical and 
habitual ways of thinking, which is the source of 

Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, 
provides the following explanation of the Middle 

“As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, 
but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, 
not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from 
resolution. We don’t deserve resolution, we deserve 
something better than that. We deserve our birthright, 
which ts the Middle Way, an open state of mind that 
can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree 
that we've been avoiding uncertainty, we're naturally 
going to have withdrawal symptoms; withdrawal from 
always thinking that there’s a problem and that 
someone, somewhere, needs to x it. 

The Middle Way ts wide open, but it’s tough 
going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient 
neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, 
when we feel hopeless, what we want to do 1s move to 
the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what 
we feel. We don’t want to go through the detox. Yet 
the Middle Way encourages us to do just that. It 
encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in 
everyone without exception, including you and me.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page |2 

The Middle Way is about change, and Pema “The Middle Way is wide open, but it’s 

does not sugarcoat the fact that you will encounter 
resistance from your ingrained habitual thinking 
and behavior, because we are attached to the 
concept of a “my-self.” 

tough going, because it goes against the grain of 
an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share.” 

Before delving into the Middle Way and being 

So, put on your seat belts, this is going to be a able to have confidence that the Dhamma? 

bumpy ride. But, wait. Oh, you thought that promises permanent solutions, you must be aware 
Buddhism was all about lovely music, warm fuzzy of some of the external obstacles and hindrances 
relaxing meditation, pithy’ sayings, and food-for- that will stand in your way. Some of these 

obstacles are none other than the things we 
believe to be true and common to life. Being 
ignorant, in many respects, to the truth about the 
nature of reality, we accept the alternatives, 
without giving it a second thought. However, 
much of what we believe to be common to life, 
are the very things that cause our own suffering, 
frustration, anger, sadness, and apathy. Life does 
not generate these do. 

thought aphorisms. Why do I say, “It’s going to 
be a bumpy ride?” Why are you here, this 
moment? In fact, what time is it? You may be 
thinking, “What an odd question?” Actually, the 
time is not on your clock, it’s never been on your 
clock, because the time is now, this moment. 

Consider what may have attracted you to this 
essay? Perhaps, like everyone else, you too are 

wanting some respit from this hasty, harried : 
; NOTE: To appreciate the importance of 
existence we call life? I think, that at one time or PP P 

, understanding these obstacles, this essay will 
another, everyone hopes there is something better 
5 traverse many subjects addressing the various 
than what we have been doing for years on end: 

“common” hindrances that are commonly 
encountered. These obstacles will also touch on 
the very essence of how actual happiness is 
achieved. For it is within these very hindrances 
where the knowledge of achieving happiness are 
to be found. Therefore, the information that 
follows, highlights many of the issues that make it 
difficult to clearly see what the Middle Way is, and 

is not. 

Isn’t that what most people aim for; a time in life 
when we are not so up against the wall with 
everything? In order to fulfill this desire, some 
people merely engage in an endless stream of New 
Age entertainment, temporarily distracting one’s 
worries, frustration and responsibility of life. All 
such ideaologies are merely distractions from the 
real causes of suffering. And, there doesn’t seem 
to be any New Age methodology that is 
permanent or that teaches how life ought to be . 
lived in order to find actual happiness. The Art of Seeing 

One of the cornerstone 

teachings of the Buddha is 

Buddha’s teachings, however, are not a 

temporary fix, like New Age blather or a shot of 

whiskey, a good joint or binge watching TV known as the Middle Way. In 
programs. So, if you ate looking for a temporary, the original Pali language this 
New Age fix, this is not the essay for you. Buddha is called Majjhima Patipada’ 

spent 45 years explaining to others that a 
permanent fix is real and available. But, as Pema 
Chodron mentions: 

(mah-jee-mah pati-pah-dah). 

' Pithy: def “Brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigor, substance, or meaning; terse; forcible.” 

2 Dhamma: Pali U4 “The order of law of the universe, immanent, eternal, uncreated, not as interpreted by Buddha only, much less 
invented or decreed by him, but intelligible to a mind of his range, and by him made so to mankind as knowledge: awakening; the 
constitutive element of cognition & of its substratum, the world of phenomena; that which forms a foundation and upholds.” 

3 Majjhima (Middle) Patipada (Way) Pali middle Assy way Ufedal : Majjhima def: “middle ; medium ; moderate.” Patipada def: 

“means of reaching a goal or destination, path, way, means, method, mode of progress.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 3 

All sorts of labels are invented to try and isolate 
or define the Buddha’s teachings, attempting to 
describe the concept of “Buddhism.” However, 
none seem to hit the mark. How could a single 
word or phrase possibly describe the scope and 
depth of his words and their meanings. I would 
like to propose just such a phrase. 

Regardless of the subject matter of any one of 
the 84,000 teachings the Buddha spoke, there is 
one element present in all of them that is quite 
evident. For forty-five years the Buddha’s efforts 
were centered on one thing...teaching the art of 
seeing. This is precisely what the Buddha’s 
teachings are about: The Art of Seeing. 

Given the hundreds of thousands of written 
and recorded testimonies throughout the centuries 
since the Buddha, one thing is clear: Practice of 
the Buddha’s teachings transcends rational 
thought. Even with commentaries and essays such 
as this one, all that a writer is able to transmit to 
the reader is a re-stating of the teachings and 
techniques of the Buddha, albeit in modern 
format, but includes the writer’s own experiences; 
as far as such experiences may have progressed 

through right and proper practice. 

With right and proper practice there is a 
dependency not only on the practitioner’s intent, 
but on the absorption of correct information. 
Correct information, according to the Buddha, is 
determined by evidence exhibited by a “wise” 
teacher’s own knowledge and behavior. As the 
Buddha stated, if the knowledge disseminated by a 
teacher is found to be beneficial, skillful, and 
correct, then this is not only the teacher to follow, 

but one can have confidence in that teacher. 

Misrepresentation of the Dhamma 

Now, there is an 

Misintorma ion opposite condition to 

the art of seeing, and 

this is ignorance (avijja‘), 
which appears in many 
forms. Ignorance 
precedes this 


Misinformation seems to be a kind of social 
cancer, rapidly metastasizing® in this present age. 
There appears to be no subject that is immune, 
including the teachings of the Buddha. From false 
quotations that the Buddha never uttered, to the 
intellectual paparazzi who seek to weaken or 
discredit the Buddha’s teachings for their own 


There exists another Pali word closely 
addressing the characteristics of many so-called 
Dhamma writers, which is andha-bhita® (ahn- 
dha-boo-tah). This Pali word zeroes in on the state 
of mind of one who is mentally blind, whose 
intellectual understanding is in darkness, despite 
having the appearance of intellectual prowess and 


Whether the teachings of the Buddha 
constitute a religion or not, I will leave to the 
reader such distinction. Now, some writers, who 
claim to practice and defend the concept of 
“Buddhism” as a religion, often times get one 
critical factor very wrong. The claim is that the 
teachings of the Buddha constitute a religion, but, 
conversely, they claim that to label the teachings 
of the Buddha a philosophy or a way of life, is 

strictly a Western concept. 

* Avijja: Pali HIG def “Ignorance” i-bin/app/ ?qs=avijja&matchtype=default 
)) g P & 8g Y-PY )) y 

> Metastasize: def “To be changed or transformed, especially dangerously. To spread, especially destructively.” 
6 Andhabhuta: Pali S-UYd def “mentally blind; ignorant” andha (AU) def “Blind, foolish.” 
bin/app/ ?qs=andha&matchtype=default — Pali Ud bhuta def “recognized the nature of, i. e. from the fact of 

being, to be, the nature of being.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page |4 

However, even the word “Buddhism” was not 
coined until 1802 CE. Between the Buddha’s time 
(roughly about 2,600 years ago) until 1802 CE, in 
our era, the word “Buddhism,” particularly in 
reference to his teachings being a religion simply 
did not exist. The writer(s) who claim that the 
teachings are not a philosophy, but rather a 
religion, have actually gotten it backwards. Certain 
writer(s) discrediting “Buddhism” as a philosophy, 
stating that it is strictly a Western invention, are 
incorrect. Rather, it is the claim that the teachings 
constitute a religion that is actually a Western 
invention. Labeling the Buddha’s teachings as a 
“religion” did not exist until the nineteenth 

When the Buddha was alive, he didn’t teach 
nor condone the worship of any gods or god-like 
beings. He did not teach prayer as an act of 
enlightenment. He strictly forbade the worship of 
himself. In fact, he rebuked questions regarding 
religion altogether. He did not teach that rites and 
ceremonies or that acts of contrition were a way of 
practice, culminating in awakening or 


The historical facts are, elements of what 
constituted “religion” in the Buddha’s time, 
existed in other, very clearly religious traditions; 
these being Jainism, Brahmanism, and 
Shramanism, Adjavikism, Chavakaism, and 

Ajnanism. 7 

Some one hundred plus years after the death of 
the Buddha, several groups broke away from the 
original school, citing certain differences of 
interpretation of the teachings, and began 
adopting and integrating elements of religious-like 

Since that time, many features not taught or 
condoned by the Buddha were adopted. Such 
adoptions or adaptations are; prayer to saints, 
existence of celestial beings that have direct access 
with humans, elaborate rites and ceremonies, 
offerings, magic, elaborate clothing, marriage, and 
more. These features, spuriously attached to what 
is now called “Buddhism,” have remained popular 
to this day. However, due to the popularity of 
these things, the use of the word “Buddhism” 
invokes preconceived ideas and concepts that are 

not true of the Buddha’s teachings. 

Some writers cite, that 
because the Buddha clearly was a 
central figure, then conceptually 
this qualifies him as a saint or a 
god. Such a claim has no basis in 
fact or theory. Such a claim is 
tantamount to saying that 
because the Presidents of the 
United States are central figures they too should 
be considered “religious figures,” implying 
godship. It is as absurd to equate that the central 
figure of any major personality in history 
automatically places them on equal standing with 
saints and gods. Application of such a maxim 

basically places Elvis on the same footing as the 


Regardless of any additions made to the 
Buddha’s teachings over the last 25 centuries, the 
fact remains that none of the references with 
regard to such interpolations’, were ever the focal 

point of what the Buddha taught. 

7 Religions during Buddha’s time: 


° Interpolation: def “With regard to ancient manuscripts, is an entry or passage in a text that was not written by the 

original author. As there are often several generations of copies between an extant copy of an ancient text and the 
original, each handwritten by different writers, there is a natural tendency for extraneous material to be inserted into 

such documents over time.”’ 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page |5 

But still, intellectual writers i.e. interpolators, 
continue to use elements of the Dhamma in the 
attempt to fit the teachings of the Buddha into the 
“religion” mold. Such writers try and accomplish 
this by employing features that were adopted by 
later schools and traditions. The first major 
breakaway school did not happen until some 100 
years after the Buddha had died. So, rather than 
focusing on the earliest Pali texts that recorded the 
actual teachings of the Buddha, these original 
teachings are ignored, taking out of context certain 
elements, which only serves to support a narrow 
intellectual perspective for the purpose of creating 

their own pseudo-authority. 

On the one hand, as mentioned earlier, those 
writers supporting the concept that the Dhamma 
constitutes a religion, say that anyone claiming the 
Dhamma to be a philosophy do so because of 
Western traditions, influences and beliefs rooted 
in Judeo-Christianity. However, this claim 
presents a dichotomy or paradox. For example, a 
clear demarcation that the various branches of 
Judeo-Christianity are “religions” rather than 
being strictly “philosophies,” has been the 
excepted standard since the Council of Nicaea in 
325 CE, when Christianity was made the state 

religion of Rome by Constantine the Great.’ 

Therefore, equating and evaluating the 
teachings of the Buddha as religion, is a forced 

conceptualization of Buddhism, discounting the 

Buddha, and followers of the Dhamma. 
No Word for Religion 

Neither the Buddha nor those who followed 
his teachings, had a word that meant “religion.” 
Neither was there a word that conveyed a 

conceptual idea of religion. 

From the original Pali texts, the word most 
commonly translated as “religion,” is 
brahmacariya", the transliteration of which is “the 
ideal life,” and is only ever used in relation to 

achieving enlightenment. 

Now, if the Buddha or his followers, had a 
word or a term that specifically meant or defined 
the concept of 'religion,’ then such a word or 
phrase would certainly settle the question of 
whether or not the teachings of the Buddha 
constitutes a religion. Rather, the 
conceptualization of the Dhamma as a religion, is 
left to the pragmatism of misinformed Westerners 

to frame. 

Within the long-long historical development of 
Western concepts pertaining to the meaning of 
religion in-and-of-itself, therein persists a problem 
of whether or not the teachings of the Buddha 
constitute evidence of being a religion, because the 
modern West has proven incapable of answering 
this question, but which the followers of the 

Dhamma are incapable of asking. 

It is clear from the earliest texts that the 
Buddha’s intent was never to frame the Dhamma 
into the concepts of what constitutes “religion.” In 
fact, Buddha was emphatically against this, 
rebuking those who were concerned with such 
matters; primarily for giving attention to the 

wrong issues. 

An adherent of any one of the World-accepted 
“religions” would find that practicing the 
Dhamma does not amount to “conversion” to the 
“religion” of Buddhism, because there is nothing 

to convert to. 

° Council of Nicaea: 

10 Brahmacariya: Pali TeARAT def “good & moral living; sense the moral life as way to end suffering; renouncing the world, study of the 

Dhamma.” ?qs=brahmacariya&searchhws=yes 

he Middle Way tor Modern. Times = Pape:'|6 

Buddha’s teachings about the nature and 
causes of human suffering along with the 
liberation from this suffering, do not change 
regardless of whether one practices as a Jew, 
Christian, Muslim, pagan, atheist or Zoroastrian. 
Consider however, that if a Jew should abandon 
Judaism for Christianity, this would require 
converting to the representation of the Christian 
God from the Jewish God YHWH (Yahweh), thus 
constituting a clear conversion (change) from one 

religion to another. 

Since the Buddha opposed and rejected the 
priestly class (Brahmins), and did not teach any 
creator deity whatsoever, can there be a religion 
without a god? Can there be a religion in the 
absence of theology? Therefore, can there be a 

conversion in the religious sense? 

The truth, according to the teachings of the 
Buddha, is not a revelation. It is a personal 
discovery or a personal realization. A discovery 
that is humanly possible, but that needs no 
external sanctification or justification. This, by no 
means, implies that followers of the Buddha are 
intolerant of those who follow specific religions. 
Buddha suggests that such religious adherents 
examine what they believe, and to discover for 
themselves what is true, and beneficial to the 

attainment of wisdom through self-awakening. 

In the Tevijja Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, the 
Buddha rejected elements of the Brahmin religion, 
in essence stating that what is said by the main 
religions of his day, particularly the Brahamins, is 
unfounded (appati-hira-katam). Buddha goes on 
to say that the Brahmans are comparable to a file 
of blind men, each holding on to the one before 

him, being led by a man who is also blind. 

Buddha made a clear statement regarding 
teachers, saying that simply repeating what the 
king says would not make the servant himself a 
king; similarly, a wise man might repeat what wise 
men say, but just repeating it does not make them 


But, many teachers do just that: repeat what 
genuinely wise people have taught. People who 
simply recite the words of genuinely wise people, 
failing to live a life in imitation of them, are not in 
any sense wise or good, the same as the originators 
of the wisdom were. Buddha underlined the point 
that memorizing the words of the wise is not 

sufficient to make one wise 

Then there is the Pali text, known as the 
Abhidhamma, which contains elements of intense 
psychological methodologies. Stanford University 
places the Abhidhamma Pitaka into the 
Encyclopedia of Philosophy rather than the 

Encyclopedia of Religion; a curious fact indeed’. 

1 'Tevijja Sutta: 


12 Appa-ti-hira-katam Pali concatenation Appa: AY def “Small ; little ; insignificant.” Ti: Pak fa def “see” Hira: Pah er def 

“a splinter” Katam: Pali sqaritd def “imitate” 

13 Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Abhidhamma Pitaka : Content specific: “Within this context, dhamma are seen as the 

objects of a specific mental capacity called mental cognitive awareness that is considered the central cognitive operation in the process of 

sensory perception. Mental cognitive awareness is a particular type of consciousness that discerns between the stimuli impinging upon the 

sense faculties and that emerges when the requisite conditions come together. Dhammas are not merely mental objects like ideas, concepts, 

or memories. Rather, as the objects of mental cognitive awareness, dharmas may be rendered apperceptions: rapid consciousness-types 

(citta) that arise and cease in sequential streams, each having its own object, and that interact with the five externally directed sensory 

modalities (visual, auditory, etc.) of cognitive awareness. The canonical Abhidhamma texts portray dhammas, then, as psycho-physical 

events with diverse capacities by means of which the mind unites and assimilates a particular perception, especially one newly presented, to 

a larger set or mass of ideas already possessed, thus comprehending and conceptualizing it.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page |7 

Included in the main entry of the Stanford 
Encyclopedia section regarding the teachings of 
the Buddha, known as the Abhidhamma, there is 
no mention, reference or slightest inference to 

anything “religious.” 

In recent years the popular pairing of human 
psychology with the methods outlined in the 
Abhidhamma, have been combined in the West. 
No theology there. While many people benefit 
from the psychological healing of the Buddha’s 
teachings centering on such things as mindfulness, 
which advances one’s emotional intelligence, the 

absence of any “religious” element is absolute. 

So-called “Buddhist” organizations promote 
self-help and self-improvement, but this is an 
incorrect representation of the teachings because 

the Dhamma pulls apart the very concepts of 

If one is fastidious about examining the entire 
corpus of Pali texts, one discovers that the baseline 
concepts focus on the sufferer, but this sufferer is 
not going to find liberation from their suffering by 

finding or creating the concept of a better self. 

One must deal with the causes of suffering 
directly as it relates to their individual life, without 
the conceptual ideas of a non-existent “self” 
getting in the way. Therefore, the Dhamma 
directs one to the conscious realization that the 
entire concept of a “self” or “my-self,” is utter 

Buddha disclosed not a religion, but a 
transcendent, pre-existent moral law, which he 
called Dhamma. The conceptualization of the 
Dhamma as religion is the response of decades of 
humankind’s inability to understand what religion 
actually is, and this is true since the ancient 

Roman times. 



The most vivid treatment of the Buddha’s 
attitude toward questions regarding religion, is 
found in his teaching of the story about the 

poisoned arrow. 

In the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta", the story is 
told of a man that is wounded from a poisoned 
arrow. Rather than simply pulling the arrow out 
before the poison kills him, the man considers a 
multitude of questions of; who shot the arrow, 
what the arrow is made of, and so on, in endless 
details, raising the obvious question of: “What 

really matters?” 

In the emergent necessity to teach the method 
of awakening, Buddha considered that there were 
some things that were of no importance, and this 
included theoretical arguments regarding the 
meaning and application of words. Buddha was 
not concerned with religion, but with the suffering 

condition of human beings. 

“So, Malunkyaputta, remember what is 
undeclared by me as undeclared, and what is 
declared by me as declared. And why are they 
undeclared by me? Because they are not connected 
with the goal, are not fundamental to the holy life. 
They do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, 
cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, 

Unbinding. That's why they are undeclared by me. 

And what is declared by me? 'This is stress,’ is 
declared by me. 'This is the origination of stress, ' is 
declared by me. 'This is the cessation of stress, ' is 
declared by me. 'This is the path of practice leading 
to the cessation of stress,' is declared by me. And why 
are they declared by me? Because they are connected 
with the goal, are fundamental to the holy life. 

4 Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta: 

ihe Middle Way tor Modern. Times = Pape. |S 

They lead to disenchantment, dispassion, 
cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, 


Unbinding. That's why they are declared by me.’ 

Thus, in light of the Buddha’s clear 
philosophy, cherry-picking through certain 
elements of the Dhamma, in order to prove it to 
be a religion, in the end, is of little use in the 

grand scope and purpose of the teachings. 

The definitive proof that the Dhamma is not a 
religion resides within the scope and meaning of 
the Four Noble Truths. For it is within these 
teachings that the entire foundation and 
philosophy of the Buddha’s Dhamma is evident. 
Unlike certain doctrinal pronouncements, such as 
the Christian Nicaean Creed'5, nothing within the 
Four Noble Truths, even to the smallest degree, 

infers the concept or idea of religion. 

However, it is through the art of seeing clearly, 
and understanding of the purpose of the 
Dhamma, that a writer expresses the correct 
knowledge and understanding. 

Whether or not a Dhamma writer’s “seeing” is 
in line with the purpose of the Buddha’s teaching, 
becomes evident because the writer has attained 
direct experience, having an intimate knowledge 
through practice. 

Furthermore, it is this very art of seeing that 
prevents a writer from isolating any part of the 
Dhamma for the purpose of invoking 
unanswerable questions, and intellectual debate, 
which only serve to confuse, weaken and devalue 
the purpose of the Dhamma. 

+ st ot aah. Leos TS 

15 Nicaean Creed: 

For one with Dhamma eyes to see, it is within 
the writing itself that reveals the writer’s true 
intent. If not to support the purpose of the Four 
Noble Truths, then what, to tear it down? Unlike 
such religions as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and 
so forth, the purpose of the Dhamma is not 
religion. Evidence of this squarely resides within 

the purpose of the Four Noble Truths. 

Writers who misrepresent the teachings of the 
Buddha (Dhamma), ultimately provides evidence 
of the nature of their intent within the very 
context of their writing. The difference and intent 
of a writer, is identifiable by the one who actually 
sees the purpose of the Dhamma, and actually has 
an intimate knowledge through direct 
experience’’. A knower of the Dhamma is capable 
of uncovering the writer who perpetuates pride 
and ego; whose modus operandi’ is to display their 
intellectual prowess, puffing up their pride by 
creating debate; the end result of which serves only 

to reveal their ignorance. 

Thus, in the case of the writer who is true to 
the purpose of the teachings of the Buddha, there 
is evidence of direct knowing, and direct 
understanding of the purpose of the Four Noble 

Inward vision, insight, intuition, and 
introspection are the foundations of vipassana 
(insight), which is only attained through direct- 
experience of practice. To the Dhamma awakened 
person, subject matters of the kind that seeks to 
make the Dhamma a religion, are utterly 
superfluous, unimportant and inconsequential. It 
is from such experience that a writer who is true to 
the Dhamma, supports and defends its true 


16 Direct experience: Pali paccakkha UtIQR def “Evident ; realized ; perceptible to the senses; having seen or found out for himself, 

knowing personally.” °qs=paccakkha&searchhws=yes 

17 Modus Operandi: Latin def “A method of procedure.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page |9 

A writer, who is true to the purpose of the 
Dhamma, will always maintain a Right View, 
Right Intention, Right Effort, and Right 
Mindfulness of the Middle Way and the Four 
Noble Truths. 

Such a Dhamma writer never tears down nor 
casts aspersions on any aspect of the Buddha’s 
teachings, nor do they cleverly attempt to 
intellectualize the foundations of the Dhamma 
into something that it is not or was ever intended 

to be. 

Modern Middle Way Obstacles: 
Be Mindful of What you Read 

Of late, I have read many articles that critique 
a subject of “Buddhism,” objectifying Buddha’s 

concepts in an attempt to fit his teachings into the 
general World-view of religion. 

The subjective manner of approach that many 
so-called Dhamma writers use, issues from a 
strong intellectual position, but is however devoid 
of the “true seeing,” which becomes evident when 
the intent of the writer is merely an effort to 
advance their own personal pet theories; proposing 
and advancing either their own ideas or someone 
else’s, which is replete with ego-centric concepts. 

A glaring clue to the intellectual approach is a 
nearly palatable presence of ego, in that the 
writing didactically highlights a position of 
“standing their intellectual ground.” This is not 
“true seeing” in the sense that the Buddha 
taught’. Another clue is the use of “snarky,” rude, 
clipped, and sarcastic language that does not show 
respect for the Four Noble Truths or the intended 
purpose of the Dhamma. 

Contained in the Alagadduupama Sutta", is 
clear evidence that the Buddha was aware of such 
persons during his own time. Buddha was not 
reticent about referring to such persons as 
“worthless men.” 

"Monks, there is the case where some worthless 
men study the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of 
mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, 
spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, 
amazing events, question ee answer sessions. Having 
studied the Dhamma, they don't ascertain the 
meaning (or: the purpose) of those Dhammas with 
their discernment. Not having ascertained the 
meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, 
they don't come to an agreement through pondering. 
They study the Dhamma both for attacking others 
and for defending themselves in debate. They don't 
reach the goal for which [people] study the Dhamma. 
Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to 
their long-term harm & suffering. Why is that? 
Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.” 


Being able to see the Dhamma, clearly serves as 
a protection from those who use the concept of 
“Buddhism” as a springboard or soapbox for the 
purpose of intellectual sparring, which is loaded 
heavily with the desire for ego-satisfaction. 

18 Seeing Pali: WAHT passamana def “seeing ; finding ; understanding” passata: (To recognize in all details.) 

19 Alagadduupama Sutta: 

20 “Seeing with The Eye of Dhamma: The Comprehensive Teaching of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu” : 


The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 10 

This situation is more prevalent today than at 
any other time because of the ability to “become” 
a voice of a type of pseudo-authority through the 
convenience of the Internet. Albeit merely an 
intellectual voice; obvious particularly due to the 
noticeable lack of clear evidence of knowledge and 
understanding, which is gained by direct 
experience resulting from practicing the qualities 

outlined in the Eightfold Noble Path. 

Writers lacking the experience of practice, 
cause doubt, damaging the teachings of the 
Buddha, and this for the sake of intellectual 
debate. The teachings are taken out of context in 
slyly presented arguments, cleverly wrangling the 
concept of “Buddhism” into their personal 


Thera2!, a most wise and 
learned Theravada 
monk, addressed the 
importance of 
recognizing such 
argumentative efforts to 

discredit the Buddha’s 

teachings in an essay he 

wrote about the Alagaddupama Sutta: 

“The harm done is to the individual's character 
and his progress on the Path; and the danger is the 
likelihood of his falling into lower forms of existence, 
or at the least a rebirth unfavorable to the 
understanding and practicing of the Dhamma. 

That such results may follow, can be easily 
understood in the case of Arittha’s views? which are 
an outright reversal and corruption of the Teaching. 
It may, however, at first sight be surprising to the 
reader that the misuse of the Teaching for the verbal 
wrangles of disputation is likewise regarded as a 
dangerously wrong grasp of the Dhamma. 

Here the danger and harm have more subtle, but 
no less real roots. The danger in contentiousness is 
chiefly twofold. It provides one of the many 
evasions by which the mind shirks from devoting 
itself earnestly to the actual practice of the 
Dhamma. Secondly, under the respectable guise of 
the advocacy of the Dhamma, the attachment to "I" 
and "Mine" finds an easy outlet. In disputations the 
ego gets the chance to indulge in self-assertion, 
superiority feeling, self-righteousness and 


Furthermore, the ego may attach itself to the 
Dhamma in an attitude of possessiveness which 
sometimes may even resemble the behavior of a dog, 
jealously and angrily defending a morsel of food 
without having himself the inclination to eat it. We 
see here the danger that an excessive concern with an 
argumentative advocacy of the Dhamma may 
strengthen subconsciously the deeply engrained 
egotistic impulses. It may even become one of the 

rounds (rSrtng point) fr fuse ius” a 
describe by the Buddha.” 

In his teaching to the Kalama peoples, Buddha 
himself addressed the circumstances by which 

something should be believed or not believed. 

21 Nyanoponika Thera: Bio | Articles & Essays 

2 Arittha's wrong views: 

23 Nyanoponika Thera: Commentary 

4 Kalama Sutta: 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 11 

However, detractors and intellectual Dhamma 
writers who have little or no practical experience, 
often use the following teaching as carte blanche 
for following one's own opinions, concepts and 
ideas. But, this platform actually says something 
much more rigorous than this. Rather, as 
Nyanoponika Thera said: “Under the respectable 
guise of the advocacy of the Dhamma, the attachment 
to "I" and "Mine" finds an easy outlet. In 
disputations the ego gets the chance to indulge in self- 
assertion, superiority feeling, self-righteousness and 


Traditions are not to be followed simply 
because they are traditions. Reports (such as 
historical accounts or news) are not to be followed 
simply because the source seems reliable. One's 
own preferences are not to be followed simply 
because they seem logical or resonate with one's 
feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested 
by the results it yields when put into practice. 
And, to guard against the possibility of any bias or 
limitations in one's understanding of those results, 
they must further be checked against the 

experience of people who are wise. 

How one determines what things to consider is 
called appropriate attention’s. Also, choosing wise 
people as mentors is called having admirable 
friends’. These are, respectively, the most 
important internal and external factors when 

initially approaching practice of the Dhamma.” 

In the Kalama Sutta, Buddha summed up the 
guidelines for determining which things should or 
should not be trusted. 

“Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by 
scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by 
analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by 
probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is 
our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, 

"These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are 
blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the 
wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, 
lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should 
abandon them.' Thus, was it said. And in reference 
to this was tt said. 

Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by 

traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by 
inference, by analogies, by agreement through 
pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 
'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know 
for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these 
qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by 
the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, 
lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should 

enter and remain in them.” 

So, the note of caution is: Be mindful. Make 
certain that the information you ingest is the 
genuine teaching of the Buddha. Practice of 
genuine teachings results in the attainment of 
wisdom and living skills, which become personally 

25 Appropriate attention: kappiyo nisanti: Pali (appropriate) paar (attention) Td : « Right , proper , suitable , 

appropriate, careful attention or observation.” 

26 Admirable friends: pasamsiya (admirable) Pali Tafa: samacca or kalyana (friends) Pali WH & cUlU “Should be 

praised; should be commended; friendship with the good and virtuous, association with the virtuous; such friendship is of 

immense help for the attainment of the Path; together with the teachers or friends.” 

27 'Thanissaro Bhikkhu 1994 Translator’s Note html 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 12 

The Middle Way: A 
Connectedness to Reality 

Os course, Buddha’s teachings are not just 
about being able to see a subject or object clearly. 
All of his teachings focused on clear seeing, and 
clear comprehension, in the sense of obtaining a 

connection to reality. 

Happiness, according to the Buddha, can be, 
and is, learned. But, this is not merely a matter of 
recognizing and removing the things that cause 
unhappiness. Happiness is also conditioned, and 

so has dependent elements. 

Through the body’s direct encounters with the 
World, our senses register various experiences. 
Our perceptions of the World, experienced 
through our senses, is also subject to many 
dependencies. Perceptions are dependent on such 
things as our culture, environment, beliefs, 
opinions, and preferences. An ability to ‘see’ 
ourselves as we really are, is part of the “Middle 

Way practice. 

Buddha teaches that we need not be attached 
or enslaved to our perceptions, our experiences or 
to the World. We can learn to live freely; free 
from fear and suffering. We can learn how to 
reject forms of subjugation and submission and 
feel at home in our body, becoming free from the 
influences of external authority that causes 

unhappiness. This does not mean that the 

Dhamma (teachings of the Buddha) is like a magic 

wand we simply wave and all unwanted 

experiences disappear. 

However, it does teach us that we can learn to 
see reality as it is, and have complete control over 

our own wellbeing, while tolerating those around 



us with the clear knowledge that happiness is 
something we can only achieve for ourselves. Of 
course, the caution is that the Dhamma is only a 
means, like a device, that points us in the right 
direction. Practical application of the Dhamma in 
our lives broadens our perspective and reveals our 

own personal potential. 

But, this is only true for the individual who 
really wants to succeed—really wants happiness. 
Human life is complex. In many respects, the 
Buddha taught that happiness was simple, but 
only when one possesses the keys to clearly seeing 

these complexities, and how we relate to them. 

Sila and Saddha 

At the root of being able to learn and 

understand happiness, is the necessity of creating 
autonomous self-regulation. The two elements 
supporting self-regulation, as the Buddha taught, 
are sila?® and saddha”. 

28 Sila: Pali UI def “1. nature, character, habit, behaviour; usually as -° in adj. function "being of such a nature," like, having 

the character of e. g. adana*” ?¢qs=sila&matchtype=default 

29 Saddha: Pali Uc& def “felt to be; believing faithful, as opposed to as(s)addha unbelieving.” 

bin/app/ ?¢qs=saddha&searchhws=yes 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 13 

Bhikkhu Bodhi, an 
American Theravada 
monk, provides the 
following meaning of the 
“| Pali word sila. 


“The Pah word sila 
originally meant simply conduct. 
But in the context of the Buddhist spiritual training the 
term is used to signify only a specific Rind of conduct, 2.¢., 
good conduct, and by an extension of meaning, the type of 
character for which such conduct stands, 1.e., good character. 
Hence, sila means both moral conduct; a body of habits 
governed by moral principles, and moral virtue, the interior 
guality the regular observance of these principles 1s intended 
to produce.” 3° 

Sila is maintaining a particular behavior; ethical 
habits; specifically, a code of principles that 
promote well-being, kindness, compassion and a 
balanced sense of one’s thinking. This is a learned 
state of being that is centered on one’s virtue. 
Virtue refers to behavior that shows high moral 
standards: doing what is right and avoiding what is 

Sila or moral conduct, is one of the 
cornerstones upon which the Fourth Noble Truth 
is built. As defined in certain tenets of the Fourth 
Noble Truth, known as the Eightfold Path, virtue 
and morality are based on one’s Right Speech, 
Right Action, and Right Views. 

No one who begins the journey of the Middle 
Way is able to simply switch off behaviors that 
have been a part of one’s life for many years. 
Having a good idea of what the Middle Way 
entails begins with learning to recognize our 
behavior and habits that we don’t realize are 

Now, along the way you will begin to build 
confidence in the teachings of the Middle Way. 
This type of confidence is known as saddha, 
which simply means that you are able to develop a 
confidence in the Buddha’s teachings. Confidence 
builds because you are able to see the positive 
results from practice. Many translators use the 

English word “faith” to translate the Pali word 
saddha. However, within the extended contextual 
usage of the Pali texts, saddha is best translated as 

Through one’s own autonomous self- 
reoulation of practicing the Dhamma, one gains 
confidence in the teachings. Therefore, the results 
of successful practice support a belief that the 
teachings of the Buddha are true. But, saddha 1s 
having serene trust that the practice of the 
Buddha's teaching will have beneficial results. 

Therefore, this is more analogous to having 
confidence rather than a blind faith. Blind faith is 
merely an acceptance based on some imagined or 
compelling necessity in order for the Dhamma to 
be beneficial. Saddha (confidence) is not adopted 
but, is developed through practice. 

The Search for Happiness: The Root of 
All Human Endeavor 



THE REST OF we ff 


Nothing that human beings seek is as 
pervasive and prevalent as the striving for 
happiness. Buddha clearly realized this to be true 
for all human beings. But, he also knew that in 
otder to learn happiness, that a shift, a transition 
of understanding, needs to take place. Therefore, 
one’s basic understanding of the sources of 
happiness needs to be altered for any change to 

-. —# c.e 7F —,_ £34 TS 

30 Bhikkhu Bodhi: sila & saddha: “Nourishing the Roots” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 14 

Buddha’s compassion dictated that his 
teachings could not be forced upon people. For 
even good things, which when imposed through 
pressure, causes a kind of violence to human 
senses, the result being nonproductive. 

Therefore, the Buddha’s teachings reveal that 
for any transformation to take place, there could 
be no sense of sacrifice or imposition to the 
individual. Rather, one that is drawn to the 
Dhamma does so through their own decision and 
abilities to “‘see”’ what is true and what is not. 

The Human Breath 

Buddha’s teachings are designed to cause a 
positive effect to arise in mature persons who 
willingly take competent action. Where better to 
initiate such action but through the rhythm of a 
person’s own breathing? The Buddha knew that 
when one is attuned to this rhythm, an experience 
of being centered allows a person to become 
conscious of the subtlest variations in mood. A 
fertile field for clear seeing if ever there was one. 

To understand happiness requires this co- 
mingling of the silence of our brain-thinking with 
the rhythm of the breath. With this, space is 
created; a very real space, where the journey of 
awakening begins. 

At the start, our thinking is replete with all of 
our negative thoughts. We are no less prisoners of 
our own habitual thought-worlds. But, seeing this 
means that we are creating an internal space to 
work. So, in essence, the Dhamma is rather like a 
psychology of experience. At present, before 
learning how to be happy, we must wrestle with 
our habitual emotional reactions, our thought 
constructs, our mental visions e.g. fantasies, which 
are very real in effect and actuality. 

Dhamma Counteracts 

Ih many respects, as was just mentioned, one 

could say that the Dhamma 1s actually no less than 
a psychology of experience...your own direct 
experience. Seeing the negativity that we have 
become accustomed to living with, is revealed 
through one’s practice of the Dhamma. How does 
this work? Dhamma creates self-knowledge, 
connecting us, like a bridge, between our reactions 
to the World around us, and why our own 
reactions are the cause of our own suffering. 

At this very moment, the things that you 
actually know, you know directly from your 
experiences and relationships to things and events, 
which you participate ‘with,’ through a kind of 
agreement you have with your senses. 

Participation ‘with’ the world around you ts 
determined by a very basic formula; an adoption 
of ideas of the things you like and don’t like. We 
rely on our learned perception, which 1s narrow, 
because what we perceive is filtered through our 
preferences of like and dislike. Thus, we create our 
illusory-centered realities through our dependent- 

laden perceptions. 

However, since 
perception is rarely a 
measure of reality, the 
Dhamma acts both as a 
filter and a magnifier, 
sifting through what 
we perceive to be real, 
thus leaving in its wake a clear seeing of actual 
reality. But, this process is more than mere 
intellectual thinking. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 15 

Through the teachings of the Buddha and 
practice of the Dhamma, we begin to understand; 
to see, how we create our own negativity and 

stress through a kind of alienation from the 

Because we are constantly trying to manipulate 
the World, this alienation 1s real, and persistent, 
which in turn creates suffering, stress, frustration 
and aversion. What if you simply stopped 
wrestling with the things that create distress, 
dissatisfaction and anguish? What if you stopped 
trying to manipulate the World in your attempts to 
find comfort? 

Impartiality toward the World is gained 
through practice of the Middle Way, which 
bridges the gap between seeing and not seeing, 
allowing for more space in order to understand 
how it is that happiness is learned. 

This impartiality does not mean one adopts an 
attitude of apathy. Rather, this Dhamma-rooted 
impartiality provides a sense of curiosity that 
desires to see the World as it is. Rather, this 
impartiality anchors you in reality, and is a 
counterbalance against things that cause 
overattachment to emotionally charged events in 
an unbiased manner. 

We attain, and maintain, this Dhamma-rooted 
impartiality through a sense of equanimity?! that 
does not hold an opinion one way or another. 
There is no effort to deny anything or repress 
anything, but that we impartially see things for 
what they are, whether or not something is of a 
personal concern. In other words, we learn to 
maintain an impartial relationship with external 
realities, whether those realities are things or 


We are less inclined to identify with things the 
way we used to. Rather, we strive to stay 
connected, “with,” what is happening, and not 
connected, “to,” what is happening. The goal is to 
stay connected without allowing yourself to 
identify with things, concepts, traditions, culture 

ot social consensus, but not allowing yourself to 
become alienated from these things either. 

In simpler terms, this state of awareness is the 
same as an observer who watches something 
taking place, but is not directly involved. Try this 
little exercise: The next time you find yourself 
sitting in a public place, for example, a park, a 
restaurant or a shopping mall, take some time to 
simply observe the things happening around you. 

Whatever activities you notice, you ate not 
directly involved. And, because you are not 
directly involved, you are not attached “to” 
anything that is happening. You merely observe. 
As soon as you become directly involved, you 
experience a moment of “becoming.” You are 
becoming “TI,” “me” or “mine.” Therefore, you 
are no longer an observer who has no 

Conversely, through the Middle Way, you 

become the ultimate observer of your experiences. 
So, an obvious question might be: “Who then, is 
doing the observing?”” The Buddha never said 
that there is no “self.” Rather, he taught the 
wisdom behind understanding that questions 
about whether a “‘self’ existed or not, were 
unimportant. A mere consideration that a “self” 
does exist, is the root cause of all of the suffering 
humankind experiences. 

It is from attachment to the concepts of a 
“my-self’ that arises clinging, and involves an 
element of self-identification, thus creating 
clinging, suffering and stress. To hold either that 
there is a self or that there is no self, is to fall into 
extreme forms of wrong views, making the path 
of practice impossible. 

31 Equanimity: SUT ; upekha ; neutrality ; composure; calmness ; indifference. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 16 


“Within every moment of becoming is the 
infant of being, and with every moment of 
being is the seed of becoming.” 

The Pali word bhava (HId), has a double 

meaning, first as a state of body or mind, and a 
disposition or character, but it equally means 
becoming, being, existing, and occurring; 
indicating one’s identification with these things. 
Becoming therefore, is the habitual or emotional 
tendencies which leads to the arising of the sense 
of self, as a mental phenomenon. 

Becoming (bhava), with regard to the Buddha’s 
teachings, means “...having a sense of identity in 
a particular world of experience: your sense of 
what you are, focused on a particular desire, in 
your personal sense of the world as related to that 
desire. In other words, it is both a psychological 
and a cosmological concept.” 33 

Let’s step back a moment. You are sitting and 
merely observing. Right? But, are your? You may 
think you are merely observing, but through eye 
and ear consciousness, your brain is busy making 
evaluations, judgements or opinions of the things 
going on around you. You never left the state of 
mind-being, “I,” “me” or “mine” or “my-self.” 

32 Depabhasadhamma 

33 Becoming (bhava) Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Bhava Sutta: Becoming” Note 1. 

Indifferent-Impartial-Neutral: Majjhatta 
(majjhattha) » 

Negativity is created because one is not 

indifferent, impartial or neutral. Being flexible 
means that you take the stance of being merely an 
observer without “becoming” attached to your 
own beliefs, concepts, ideas, opinions or popular 
consensus. Doing so means that you are attaching 
yout idea of “me,” “mine” or “I.” You are 
attaching your concept of what you believe you 
are. This is ego, and your habitual mental 
references to what “me” or “my-self’ is, does not 
support the non-negative space of indifference, 
impartiality or neutrality. 

In order to “see” one’s own habitual 
attachment to negativity, it is important to 
understand the difference between being 
indifferent, impartial and neutral. 

Indifference is about a quality or state of not 
making a difference. Meaning that the mental state 
is one lacking sufficient importance to constitute a 
difference; an absence of significance. Impartiality 
means a state of mind that is free from bias or 
favoritism and a sense of being disinterested. 



Maintaining the space of neutrality means that 
there is no engagement one way or another. This 
is a mental space that does not evaluate whether 
anything is good nor bad; undecided or 

34 Majjhatta/majjhattha: Pali Hog] / Hoa : def “Neutral ; impartial ; indifferent.” In the Pali text, the words the Buddha employed in 

reference to one’s state of mind that is impartial, neutral and indifferent are majjhatta (mah-jah-tah) and majjhattha (mah-jah-tha). ?qs=majjhatta&searchhws=yes 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 17 

Equanimity (upekkha) 

il ©) NUNES 

jak aais 
pce! aeSseay 

The mental space that is created through 
maintaining an indifferent, impartial and neutral 
state of mind, leads directly to a conscious 
realization; a way of experience, known as 
equanimity (upekkha>). The roots of equanimity 
are impartiality, neutrality and indifference. Thus, 
equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of 
mind, rooted in insight. 

In his essay titled, “Toward a Threshold of 
Understanding,” Bhikkhu Bodhi writes: 

“The Pah word “...interpreted as "indifference" is 
presumably upekkha. The real meaning of this word 
is equanimity, not indifference in the sense of unconcern 
for others. As a spiritual virtue, upekkha means 
equanimity in the face of the fluctuations of worldly 
fortune. It ts evenness of mind, unshakeable freedom of 
mind, a state of inner equipoise” that cannot be upset 
by gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and 
blame, pleasure and pain. 

Upekkha is freedom from all points of self- 
reference, it 1s indifference only to the demands of the 
ego-self with its craving for pleasure and position, not 
to the well-being of one's fellow human beings. True 
equanimity 1s the pinnacle of the four social attitudes 
that the Pali texts call the "divine abodes" (sublime 
states of attitude): boundless loving-kindness, 
compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. The last 
does not override and negate the preceding three, but 
perfects, and consummates them.” 37 

Dispelling negativity means that equanimity is 
required, and needs to be based on an attentive 
presence of mind, not on indifferent dullness. 
Indifference does not mean dullness, apathy or an 
uncaring attitude. 

Equanimity must be the result of determined, 
deliberate habits, not the chance outcome of a 
passing mood. The balance of equanimity would 
not be real or actual if it had to be produced by 
exertion over and over again. 

If one needs to forcefully employ the idea of 
equanimity, this is evidence that the actuality of it 
is merely conceptual, and not real. Practice of 
actual equanimity is not defeated by the 
fluctuations of life. True equanimity meets all 
tests, no matter how severe, and regenerates its 
strength from habitual practice. However, 
equanimity derives its power of resistance and 
regeneration only if it is rooted in insight. 

Mastering an attitude that is rooted in 
equanimity, indifference, impartiality and 
neutrality, dispels all negativity. The effects of 
equanimity create a guard against over-indulging 
and being attached to the ideas and concepts of 
what you believe is “my-self.’ 

35 Upekkha: Pali SURAT def “neutrality or indifference, zero point between joy & sorrow; disinterestedness, neutral feeling, equanimity. 

Sometimes equivalent to adukkham -- asukha -- vedana "feeling which is neither pain nor pleasure. Indifference to pain and pleasure, 

equanimity, resignation, neutrality.” 

bin/app/ ¢qs=upekkh%C4%81%20&%20upekh%C4%8 1 &searchhws=yes 
3° Equipoise: def “Equality in distribution, relationship, or emotional forces; mental equilibrium. 
37 “Toward a Threshold of Understanding” Bhikkhu Bodhi - 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 18 

Your entire insight becomes based on 
equanimity. This supports the Buddha’s teaching 

of “‘no-self’ or anatta3’, which shows that actions 

are not performed by any self nor do the results of 
actions affect any self. If there is no self, we 
cannot speak of "my own" or “my-self.” It is the 
delusion that such an entity as a self exists that 
creates suffering and ultimately hinders and 
weakens equanimity. 

American Theravada 
monk, Thanissaro 
Bhikkhu, who belongs 
to the Thai Forest 
Tradition, relates that 
““...the anatta teaching 
+) is not a doctrine of no- 
= self, but a not-self 
al strategy for shedding 
suffering by letting go 
of its cause, leading to the highest, undying 
happiness. At that point, questions of self, no-self, 
and not-self fall aside. Once there's the experience 
of such total freedom, where would there be any 
concern about what's experiencing it, or whether 
or not it's a self?” 4° 

If we blame our “‘self’ one “becomes” the “TI,” 
which states that "I am to blame," weakening 
equanimity. If you do not succeed at something, 
then one “becomes” “me” or “my; "My efforts 
have failed," weakening equanimity. If one loses 
something; wealth or loved ones, then one 
“becomes” “mine;” "What was mine is gone," 

Even when a beginner attempts to learn 
meditation, all they hear is “I,” “me,” and “mine.” 
My thoughts, my itch, my bum, my back, my legs 
hurt. Consider, those thoughts; they aren’t your 
thoughts, they are the thoughts of the brain that 
happens to be in your body. Your brain and its 
thoughts are not you. You are only consciousness. 

Self-Investigation via The 
Middle Way 

tied above the temple entrance of the 

ancient Greek Oracle of Delphi, are the words 
‘know thyself (yv@0t oeavtov, transliterated from: 
onothi seauton*! (know-thee soe-tawn). 

This pithy aphorism has become the darling of 
spiritual teachers for millennia. ‘To know oneself, 
apart from all of the things that our characters and 
personalities are dependent on, is exactly what the 
‘Middle Way’ addresses. Standing in the way of 
recognizing ourselves, are the habitual behaviors, 
beliefs, and opinions that we cling to and protect. 

A serious and responsible examination of the 
elements of our character and personality is 
necessary in order to clear the field, making way 
for a particular kind of understanding. With the 
Middle Way, we are given the path to the methods 
that teach us how to become happy. This is 
exactly the same journey that Siddhartha Gautama 

After six years of contemplating the various 
life philosophies being taught during his time, the 
then Siddhartha Gautama, was not satisfied that 
any of them provided a clear understanding of 
why human beings suffer, get old, and die. 

dh I RSS OO —_ 

38 Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: (Nyanoponika Thera) 

39 Theravada Thai Forest Tradition: 
40 Thanissaro Bhikkhu: “No Self or Not Self” 

41 Know Thyself: 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 19 

Formulating the Middle Way 

With the same behavior that older boys have 
done for centuries, in his sixteenth year Siddhartha 

began exploring his environment. However, at this 
time, he experienced four separate events that 
would change the World forever. 

According to the events recorded in the Pali 
texts, neither the Buddha’s awakening nor his 
formulation of the Four Noble Truths, were 
instant, but were a result of a long process 
beginning at sixteen years of age. 

For the first time, while traveling, he saw a 
very old man, hunched over, supporting himself 
with a stick. Through this event he learned the 
inevitability of aging. Next, he encountered 
disease and death, disturbing his otherwise 
complacent attitude toward his own life; realizing 
that these conditions also awaited him. His forth 
experience was meeting a wanderer, known as a 

All of these experiences sewed seeds of 
contemplation, causing him to question whether 
or not there existed an alternative truth, rather 
than the mere passivity of acceptance. His 
eventual response was to cut his hair and his 
beard, put on the robes of a beggar, for the 
purpose of discovering the truth about, and 
liberation from, the things he had experienced. 

Siddhartha’s first teacher, Alara Kalama, taught 
him a particular form of meditation called 
Akificafifi-ayatana (ah-keen-ye-cahnyee-ay-aht-ah- 
nah).‘3 One could say that this form of meditation 
results in an understanding of emptiness, but 
more correctly it is a state of mind or a sphere of 
perception of no-thingness; the absence of having 

Since every human being holds the same 
concerns, experiencing suffering, sickness and 
death, the Buddha contemplated the idea that an 
alternative explanation must exist. How could he 
ask the questions of why human beings suffer and 
die, if some part of him did not already know the 
answer? Therefore, abandoning all other 
teachings, he set out alone, intending to discover 
the answers to these seemingly relentless, and 
common problems of human life. 

In the same way as the Buddha, once we set 
out to discover the truth for ourselves, we must 
take possession of, and own the practice. Just like 
the Buddha, persons who take on learning the 
Dhamma, are alone in their endeavor. 

Initially, Siddhartha Gautama, not yet a 
Buddha, contemplated the futility of rebirth; the 
constant cycle of birth, aging and death, that he 
called samsara. Despite one’s best efforts to 
obtain happiness, and live a fulfilling life, he 
realized that attainment of these things are all only 
temporary. He comprehended that none of this 
mattered, unless one was able to see how one’s 
own thinking might be directly involved. 

This contemplation led him to understand that 
one’s thinking is attached to, and influenced by, 
the idea of a self; that this conceptual illusion of a 
self is directly related to the human senses. 

* Paribbajayitar: Pali Ulead defi “One who indulges in the practice of a wanderer; a mendicant, fig. one who leads a virtuous ascetic 

life.” ¢qs=paribb%C4%8 1jayitar&searchhws=yes 

43 Akificafifi-ayatana: A Pali compound consisting of the words akificafifia and ayatana. 1. (akificafifia) Pali Sl [ch Wo] def “State of 

having nothing, absence of (any) possessions; nothingness. 

bin/app/ ?qs=%C4%81ki%C3%B1ca%C3%B1%C3%Bla&searchhws=yes 2. Ayatana Pali HIUda def “Sphere of perception 

or sense in general, object of thought, sense organ & object." 

bin/app/ ?¢qs=%C4%8 lyatana&searchhws=yes 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 20 

He understood that the solution to suffering 
was rooted in the problem of suffering itself, but 
because of our own senses, human thinking is 
conditioned by perception. This realization led 
him to discover that the cause of human suffering 
was rooted in ignorance of the truth about the 
nature of reality. This further led him to 
understand that if a human were able to detach or 
unbind themselves from the conditioned causes of 
suffering, then, logically, there was a way to 
understand experiences without being conditioned 
and influenced by the senses. 

By necessity, he then had to uncover his own 
conditional thinking, thus understanding how this 
was at the root of all sufferings, and that this was 
true for all human beings. Therefore, if he could 
see and understand the things that caused his own 
conditioned thinking, there necessarily had to be a 
way of thinking that was not dependent on the 
senses or perceptions influenced by outside 
beliefs, traditions, customs or opinions. 

Most importantly, Siddhartha discovered the 
weighty role that ignorance played in the 
conditioning of human thinking. Through a strong 
determined effort, thinking and re-thinking, he 
experienced a falling away of ignorance, which 
was replaced by clear understanding and 
knowledge. Of course, the ignorance did not 
disappear, rather he was able to see and 
understand the middle ground between 
understanding and ignorance. In other words, he 
challenged his own set of values. 

The only way in which the Buddha differs 
from most other human beings, is that from the 
beginning, when he first set out, six years earlier, 
his primary focus was on learning the answers 
to why it was that humans suffer sttess and 

His activities, during the preliminary six years 
of his life, reveals that he did not have any other 
hopes and aspirations, but to discover the answers 
to his questions. His quest, if you will, was single 
minded in this regard. 

It is not a stretch to say that what Siddhartha 
was doing was forcing an alteration of his 
thinking, thus shifting his consciousness from 
reliance on conditioned ignorant perception, to 
identification of singular subjects. His methods 
revealed unwavering determination and a firm 
focus on the origination and dependency of all 
things. This is exactly the same process every 
person seeking answers through the Dhamma 
experiences. However, he realized the scope of 
effort that would be necessary for the average 
person to eradicate ignorance. 

Ignorance, in most 
cases, does not mean 
stupidity. In order for 
ignorance to stem from 
stupidity a person 
would have to reject 

If ISNOFance 

WhY af6n’T 

happyo what is true, becoming 

selectively ignorant for 

whatever the reason. 

Dhamma teachers today are very well aware 
that people cannot understand what they do not 
know. This is ignorance. A true Dhamma teacher 
understands the meaning of the Buddha’s sense of 
compassion. It is because of their own direct 
experience of practice, that monks, nuns, and 
experienced lay persons, are able to teach from 
natural compassion. 


Here's Why You Need To Think 

About Deconditioning 

Deconditioning is a term used to describe a 

method for lessening and eradicating the 
conditioned responses and behavior patterns that 
we assume over time. While this term is used to 
describe a particular element of Neuro Linguistic 
Programing, the Middle Way is exactly the same 
thing, without all of the psychological jargon. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 21 

Human understanding of truth is limited by 
out experiences, which in turn causes ignorance. 
We can never fully understand reality because we 
can only know about the things we have 
experienced. Deconditioning our thinking means 
we must first develop habitual thinking pattern 

Everyone develops behaviors and strategies 
that are based on our upbringing, past 
experiences, and what society deems appropriate. 
For the untrained, these patterns are unconscious, 
meaning, we do many of them without even 
thinking about it. When we know nothing else, we 
don’t realize we are stuck in a behavior pattern, a 
reaction loop, which is unhealthy. 

We keep doing, saying, and believing, the same 
things over and over, but can’t seem to figure out 
why it is that we are unhappy or dissatisfied with 
out lives. This is particularly true because we 
know that our intentions are not bad or wrong. 

Using more modern language to describe the 
Buddha’s process of awakening, he basically 
interrupted his pre-existing way of thinking. So, 
this means, by a natural process, he set aside the 
ignorance of his own beliefs, which were actually 
the beliefs of others, but that he believed were his 
own. When he realized that many of the things he 
thought he knew, were a mere dependency on the 
adoption of things other people believed, he 
deconditioned his own thinking. He understood 
that this dependency was as a result of wrong 

This resulted in his determining the difference 
between knowledge gained through direct 
experience, which its an organic knowledge, from 
knowledge that was not gained through direct 
experience. He understood the difference between 
direct personal knowledge and erroneous 
knowledge adopted from others. Thus, the 
Buddha used deconditioning to discover the 
answers he sought. 

Running the Dhamma Program 

$("#1im50") -bind 

° 3 — 
)(T=80,$ ("Slimat_ ee 

When learning the Dhamma, in order for 
such things as the Middle Way to be of any use, 

we need to be cognizant of the perception of what 
we believe to be “my-self.”’. Siddhartha integrated 
his thought-consciousness with the way in which 
the human senses influence our thinking. ‘This 
creates a space and allows one to determine 
complex, condition-ridden, problem-prone, 
mental programming that senselessly binds us to a 
preoccupation with the illusion of a self as a single 

In order to ensure that his thinking was based 
in reality, Buddha realized that there had to be a 
truth that answered all of the questions about 
birth, aging, sickness and death, which did not 
depend on the consensus of others’ beliefs. In 
essence he gained access to an organic knowledge 
that was not tainted by erroneous, unproven 

The answers had to be directly related to the 
questions. But, his program had to examine the 
nature of rejected data, comparing rejected data to 
the questions. If the data he considered could not 
answer the question, then it must be rejected. In 
other words, the data that correctly answered the 
questions, must increase the potential for 
happiness. For, is it not the purpose of human life 
to process the highest potentials for happiness? 

Therefore, we examine the programs that we 
are running, comparing them to the Dhamma 
program in order to learn the difference. The 
difference is discovered as a result of running the 
Dhamma program. In between the extremes of 
complete ignorance and wrong thinking is the 
Middle Way. There, among our own ignorance, is 
the ability to see the truth. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 22 

In terms of the process of running the 
Dhamma program, ignorance should not be 
ignored. Switching one thing off and another 
thing on, is not the process of Dhamma practice. 
Rather, the well-executed Dhamma program 
compates existing data with newly obtained data. 

If the Dhamma program is followed correctly, 
old existing data that may be rife with 
inconsistencies and ignorance, are automatically 
replaced with data that increases the potential for 
happiness, a happiness that is based in reality. In 
essence, new data is inserted into an old program 
to determine which data is correct. 

We test what we think we know to be true 
with ideas and concepts, which may not initially 
make sense, but we allow the program to play out 
to see the results. And, based on those results a 
determination of which data has the best potential 
of happiness is separated from data that has the 
least potential of happiness, and thus can be 


What it was that the Buddha achieved was an 
ability to clearly understand the things that are 
responsible for messing up an otherwise perfect 
program for happiness. His Middle Way program 
is like a sub-program of the Dhamma, which 
creates a fluidity; a great open expanse where any 
human being who determines to run the program, 
will gradually develop one’s own path toward 

Running the Dhamma program establishes a 
clear “seeing” of the differences between thought- 
consciousness, body-consciousness, and emotion- 
consciousness, and the shifts from one to the 
other. This Dhamma program causes a fluidity 
with one’s internal life, integrating clear insight 
and understanding as to the reasons why we 

Just like a long book, a long movie or a 
particularly intricate MMORPG game (video 
game), it takes time to learn the plot and 
understand the purpose. 

Dhamma is not Cheap Optimism 

O_o aaNG ls 


Despite the testimony of millions of people 

for some 2,500 years, every person who makes the 
decision to learn the Buddha’s teachings, must 
affirm the effectiveness, the value, and the truth 
about the Dhamma for themselves. Once the 
Dhamma is practiced, one realizes that it is 
experiential, and it is because of this that the 
experiences are free from all theory or theorizing, 
due to the fact that the results are based on one’s 
own clear, and direct experience. 

Proper application of the Dhamma program 
insures the development of right views that are 
devoid of doubt. This experiential process 
transforms one’s subjective responses and 
reactions to external objects and the situations 
encountered in daily life. 




Unlike the many peddlers of the so-called New 
Age philosophy, such as the “Now Movement,” 
the Dhamma does not dabble in dangerous one- 
sided ideologies that distorts perception. While 
having some benefit, the New Age philosophies 
often times peddle a kind of cheap optimism 
insofar as the philosophy tends to support 
ignoring the bad things in favor of good things. 
Covering the ugly with rainbows might work for a 
while, but the ugly still exists. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 23 

Optimism that is not rooted in reality 
increasingly alienates one from the reality, causing 
an incapacity to not only perceive problems, but 
an inability to deal with them.“ 

It is true that the optimistic, self- 
encouragement New Age gurus, have provided 
some useful suggestions. However, can true 
optimism exist if it is not rooted to a foundation 
of problems or difficulties? How then could true 
optimism be experienced or acquired? Optimism 
can only be realized from a comparison of what ts 
not optimism. Thus, the infant lotus bud makes its 
pathway; ascending through the thick muck and 
mud, bursting into a sublime flower of immense 

beauty above the water. 

Dhamma is the beautiful lotus bud that pushes 
itself through the muck and mud of suffering. If 
the conditions are correct, the lotus bud bursts 
forth with a trueness of beauty, a beauty that 
cannot be denied, theorized away nor can it be 
defined. Only the one with a direct-experience of 
the blossom knows from where the root has 

Whether one adopts the New Age philosophy 
ot learns the Dhamma, the difference between the 
two soon becomes apparent. Completely opposite 
of the Dhamma, New Age philosophy, in many 
respects, merely offers food for thought. 

New Age philosophy offers adoption and 
adaptation of concepts and words, without any 
real-life foundation or fertilizer, if you will, to 
inculcate a desire to develop greater competence 
in the way that life is ltved; increasing the potential 
of one’s happiness. It is from the knowledge and 
insight of our own muck (suffering) where the 
Dhamma reveals the truth of oneself and the 
world. Unlike the Dhamma, New Age philosophy 
and doctrine tends to be a mere hodgepodge of 
borrowed ideas that have conceptual similarities. 

And, it is unfortunate that many of the 
peddlers of New Age dogma have borrowed 
much from the teachings of the Buddha and other 
Eastern philosophies. This borrowing disconnects 
the actual contextual meaning of certain of the 
Buddha’s teachings, which has the effect of 
confusing the real Dhamma with made-up 
concepts for the purpose of advancing unrelated 
New Age concepts. 

There exists a plethora of so-called Dhamma 
ot Dharma organizations that purport to follow 
and disseminate the teachings of the Buddha, but 
many of these, particularly in the West, borrow 
from the Buddha’s teachings and present them as 
the basis for a self-proclaimed form of a sangha. 

Some truth is nowhere near all of the truth. In 
many instances’ interaction with such so-called 
sanghas soon reveal an intention for gathering 
money. The purpose of many so-called Buddhist 
oroups, some of which are quite large, seems to be 
for mere spiritual entertainment. The Dhamma 
should never be used for mere entertainment nor 
for a reason to obtain money. 

It is with this understanding that the serious 
person, who is committed to learning happiness, 
realizes, through the practice of the actual 
Dhamma, that the Dhamma is, as described in the 
Pali texts, a true jewel among jewels. 

44 Note: Although this may seem like a detraction from the topic but, I am strongly inclined to wonder whether or not 

the whole New Age movement isn’t linked to the seemingly unbridled use of mind/emotion altering substances, such as 
marijuana. I probably touched a raw nerve among those whose undying belief it is that such substances are actually 
psychologically beneficial. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe there is a reason these substances are called “Dope.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 24 

An authentic true jewel has great value and is 
by no means mistaken for a mere look-alike gem. 
To obtain this true gem, one must work; must DO 
something, in order for awakening to take place. 
But, for those who fritter away their mental 
capacity on spiritual entertainment, mere word- 
games ot look-alike Dhamma (Dharma) are not 
likely to find true awakening. 

Buddha’s teachings are the real jewel. One 
must realize that the teachings do not require 
elaborate ceremonies, cultural or traditional music, 
spiritual rituals or an intermediary in order to 
benefit from the Dhamma. 


“Atteee KRE TWO WAKYS 10 BE 
E00LED. ONE Is TO BeElvlleve WttreT 
ISN'T TevEe: 7tteE O7ttEe Is 70 

Reéuse 70 Belleve WHAT Is 

Learning and practicing the Dhamma, in 

many respects, challenges modern-day 
materialistic pragmatism. This materialistic 
pragmatism is revealed not only by the amount of 
time that is reserved for the acquisition and 
maintenance of material “things,” but the levels of 
intense emotions that this pragmatism ushers into 
out lives. 

Many people think that being pragmatic is 
essential when it comes to the material world. 
Being pragmatic describes a philosophy of "doing 
what works best." The word has historically 
described persons who are more concerned with 
real-world application of ideas than with abstract 
notions. A pragmatic person is thought to be 
sensible, grounded, and practical. However, there 
is another aspect of what I call “hardheaded 

The beneficial aspects of pragmatism have 
become tainted and corrupted with a hardheaded, 
narrow minded focus on the illusion that, with 
enough effort, one can control the World around 
them. This, despite the truth that such a viewpoint 
causes a lot of suffering, is exactly what most 
people believe. 




Yet, despite the frustration, worry and effort 
put into maintaining a materialistic pragmatic, 
hardheaded view of life, human beings march on 
to the tune of consensus. This tune sings the song 
that one must accept this way of life in order to 
stay on trac with progress and maintain 
acceptance with the rest of the people in their 
socio-economic group. Where does this behavior 
come from? Where does adoption and adaptation 
of this materialistic pragmatism originate? 

This contaminated pragmatism, bordering on 
stubbornness, starts very early in life. Consider 
this simile: Imagine, if you will, a child whose daily 
life is relegated to a kind of aloneness because 
both parents are chasing the tenets of material 
pragmatism. He sits alone either with video games 
or television as his companion. 

He receives little direction from his parents 
because they do not have the time necessary to 
attend to the content or quality of the child’s 
information. His education about the world comes 
from these two aforementioned sources, which is 
merely a random consumption of bits and pieces 
of human interaction. Switching between TV 
programs or games that are of interest, are where 
the child obtains some enjoyment. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times 

Out of these tidbits moving on a screen, he 
ekes out some semblance of a view of the world. 
No matter how well programmed or safe a 
television show or video game may be, whatever 
the child views is a conditioned perspective and 1s 
not conducive for developing a first-hand 
experience of the world, even if it is only the 
world of his parents. 

Children constantly seek to entertain their 
brains by hastily switching channels or video 
games: Is it any wonder why so many children 
seem to behave on the borderline of psychosis? 
Perhaps this state of affairs is also responsible for 
children’s development of a deterministic 
worldview. Thus, what ideas and concepts do you 
suppose this child brings with it into their adult 

It is this kind of early training that generations 
of children are raised with. Coming from parents, 
television, video games, and the Internet, a child ts 
indoctrinated with a fragmented world-view. The 
messages children are presented with, particularly 
in Western countries, is that money is the 
lifeblood of human existence. Suspect is the fact 
that children are no longer brought up with a 
concept of self-sufficiency and self-reliance 
without money. For generations of children, 
materialistic pragmatism “is” the only way of life. 

People are aware of the effects of this 
attachment to material pragmatism, but aren’t able 
to name it or understand how it effects their lives. 
So, in an attempt to buffer and soften this reality, 
people are drawn to pretty much anything that 
sounds or appears to bring comfort and solace, 
even though the source of such is based on 
nothing mote than pithy aphorisms, e.g. food for 

Page. |25 

This state of life is an enormous detriment to 
not only realizing happiness, but even if one 
embarks on the path involving the Middle Way, 
people experience frustration, and risk developing 
a sense of melancholy, sadness or failure. The 
reason for this is that, although wanting to achieve 
a sense of well-being and happiness, and being 
drawn to the message of the Buddha, is usually a 
last resort. 

In our modern age, frustration is caused by a 
narrow threshold of anticipation, 1.e. wanting 
results now. The Middle Way, no matter how it ts 
approached, is not magic, and will not fulfill the 
desire for happiness immediately. Rather than 
accepting the state of their lives at any given 
moment, people are relegated to living in a 
perceptual vision of their future. 

Buddha intended to understand the difference 
between living in some vision of the future, and 
living with “what is.” Throughout the Pali texts is 
evidence that Buddha rejected pragmatic views 
that ignored and distorted the truth and 
subjugated reality. 

Our modern-day pragmatism (hardheadedness) 
is not isolated to merely the material. Our 
concepts and ideas, our opinions and beliefs are 
also subject to a rigid pragmatism, and the 
Dhamma challenges rigid pragmatism. 

It is this rigid pragmatism that serves as a 
platform by which inexperienced Dhamma writers 
build their cases for such things as wrenching the 
Buddha’s teachings into the same mold as the 
world-view of religion. 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 26 

Each person who consents to learning and 
practicing the Dhamma will encounter their own 
form of corrupted pragmatism. Depending on 
how tightly attached one clings to their beliefs and 
opinions, is the determining factor of how 
difficult it will be to obtain a clear understanding, 
meaning and purpose of the Buddha’s teachings. 
Suffice-it-to-say, hardheaded pragmatism has no 
place in the Dhamma. 

Pragmatic thinking, and living pragmatically, 
were the very things that the ascetics clung to 
during the Buddha’s lifetime. Asceticism, as the 
Buddha discovered, represents an extreme side of 
seeking awakening. But, you may think, “No one 
practices ascetism, that I know of, particularly in 
the West.” But, is this entirely truer 

In some respects, most people, unknowingly, 
live a sort of ascetic idealism. Asceticism, aside 
from the religious connotations, is a lifestyle 
characterized by extreme behaviors. Let’s review 
some modern behaviors that are extreme. For 
one, there is work. Particularly in the West, people 
work, and work, and work, and when they get 
home from their jobs they go to the gym or run 
and work some more. 

Due to the frenzy of modern life, which 
creates an insatiable sense of haste, many adapt 
their daily behavior to coincide with the extremes 
of desire and “becoming.” We want to “become” 
in control; we want to “become” relaxed and 
calm, and we want to “become” happy, but we 
don’t know how. We believe that all of these 
things are attainable by successfully controlling the 
world around us. In the end, all the things we 
desire to “become,” fail. Oh, we may have success 
here and there, but eventually we hear ourselves 
complaining that “it just never ends;” “when do I 
get a break;” “there has to be mote to life than 

Alas, we heartbreakinely accept that our 
successes are only temporary. But, whether you 
know it or not; believe it or not; application of the 
Middle Way is a permanent solution. Problem 1s, 
once you begin learning about the Middle Way, as 
Pema Chodron says: 

“We don't want to 20 through the detox. Y et the 
Middle Way encourages us to do just that.” 

-Pema Chodron 

But, boy oh boy, when we get to the point of 
understanding what the Middle Way means for 
our lives, we want guarantees before we let go of 
our dearly held beliefs and opinions. We may get 
that the Middle Way encourages us to “go through 
detox,” but we feel such a pulling and tugging that 
we begin to have doubts that following the Middle 
Way is even worth it. 

But, it’s not about the Middle Way, it’s all 
about the happiness you so desire, but cannot 
seem to grab hold of, and detoxifying yourself 
from all of the aforementioned obstacles will meet 
with resistance. For a moment, let’s drop the word 
happiness and replace it with simple satisfaction. 

Bittersweet Satisfation 

You might be releatively satisfied with your 
life. To some degree, you have enough money to 
maintain the necessities with perhaps a bit left 
over for the occassional splurge, but not very 
often. You have relegated yourself to the fact that, 
at least for now, any prospects of improving your 
life isn’t in the near future. 

You live with the underlying thought that if 
any demands were made on your income, you 
know that your life will be effected dramatically. 
So, you move on, day-after-day, accepting a kind 
of pseudo-satisfaction whilst keeping at bay the 
money demon that lurks in the shadows. 

So, rather than living in what is happening 
right now, you have placed your hopes in some 
vision of the future. A part of your may even 
know that this is a dangerous thing to do, but 
what else is there? And, is having the money to 
maintain this quasi-satisfaction, enough to cause 

you to be truly happyr 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 27 

Middle Way Strategies — The 
Real Matrix (Majjhimapatipada) 

Be ieee the 1980s movie the Matrix. If 

not, the premise of the story is that everyone lives 
in a matrix of illusion. If you swallow a blue pill 
you will stay in the matrix of illusion and believe 
whatever you are fed. However, if you swallow the 
red pill, watch out, the realization that you have 
been living in an illusion is revealed to you. All of 
yout illusions rush in on you when you ate not 
ready to deal with them. 

The Middle Way IS the Red Pill 

Many people live in a kind of comfortable 
illusory state of mind. They know that something 
is not right, but they can’t figure out what it is or 
quite put their finger on it. Exactly what the 
Buddha taught was that there is a way of taking 
the red pill that didn’t involve shock, terror or fear 
of losing something. 

Do you think that there are a lot of people, just 
like you, who acquiesce to a form of happiness 
that is, in reality, just accepting a position of the 
lesser of two evils. In other words, it’s not real 
happiness. True happiness does not come and go, 
like moments of joy do. Differences between joy 
and happiness have become blurred in the last 
hundred years or so. Joy is a momentary reaction, 
whereas happiness is a state of being. 

At the same time, illusions gently fall away, 
gaining you invaluable information about the 
reality of the things that cause suffering, like 
frustration, fear, emotional upset, unrelenting 
desire, sadness, depression, and a whole host of 
other things. 

Specifically, the Middle Way is a map, a guide, 
and a framework of instruction that employs the 
elements of the Four Noble Truths and the 
Eightfold Noble Path. 

Two Matrixes (matrices) 

When beginning to uncover out illusions, we 
encounter two opposing matrices. One is the 
matrix of illusion. The other is the matrix of the 
Middle Way, which opens a gateway to reality. The 
vehicle by which we go through that gateway is 
meditation. Each matrix is a condition. 

The matrix of illusion is a particular condition 
where most people today, live and feel 
comfortable. This matrix is made of all the beliefs 
and opinions that keep the illusions alive, but not 
necessarily useful. The matrix of the Middle Way 
consists of all the things that are guaranteed to 
counteract the matrix of illusion. 

The Main [fusion 

All human beings experience pain and 
pleasure. No matter where you are born, who your 
parents are; no matter your race; male or female, 
and so on, everyone experiences physical and 
mental pain, which is the opposite state of 
pleasure. The most common experiences resulting 
from pain is dissatisfaction, unpleasantness, 
suffering, and discontent. 

The Dhamma explains a manner, a way, a 
method, a course (patipada), that reverses these 
things. Awakening oneself to the truth about the 
nature of reality is the purpose of the Dhamma. 

The obvious effects of a person who lives 
without Dhamma ts merely following basic 
instincts; moving without awareness of 
consequence from one situation and set of 
circumstances to another. There is no 
understanding of what it is that is causing them to 
suffer. Why is this? What is the primary reason for 
this? Persons living without Dhamma live 
according to a belief in an illusionary entity called 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 28 

From the conceptual beliefs of what “myself” 
means, arises ipnorance about the truth of one’s 
actual internal state of affairs. Arising from this 
belief in “‘my-self comes selfishness. From this 
selfishness arises all the protection mechanisms of 
anger, jealousy, greed, hate, and so forth. 
Therefore, the actual cause of suffering is really 
this concept of “my-self,” which in the Pali 
lancuage is known as appana-mana, meaning one’s 
thoughts are fixed on the object of self and the 
inability to see reality. 


Being that a conceptual “my-self’” is a 
commonly held belief by most people, is it any 
wonder why there is so much stress in the world? 
Without knowing it nor admitting it, most people 
automatically focus on this concept of a “my-self,” 
which is what orients their behavior to the 
protection and well-being of “I.” I do, I want, I 
see, I feel, I hear, and I think. All of these 
components cannot constitute, by any stretch of 
the imagination, a “my-self.” Why? Because each 
of our senses has its own consciousness. There is 
eye-consciousness, eat consciousness, brain 
consciousness, and so on. Each sense operates on 
its own and ts registered by the brain. 

So, can this “my-self,” ever be completely 
satisfied, without worry, frustration, sadness, fear, 
anger, and so on? This focusing on one’s own 
well-being, of course, is the root of selfishness 
(labhamacchartya), which motivates us to take for 
outselves that which cannot be taken by others. 

“Now, you hold on just one minute there. I happen to 
like the ‘my-self I have created.’ In fact, | am rather 
attached to this ‘my-self.’ I've worked hard to be a good 
my-self,’ a Rind ‘my-self,’ and a caring ‘my-self.’” 

Well, of course, to do otherwise would be a 
perversion of natural law. The Middle Way does 
not require one to be morose, gloomy or 
miserable. However, it is this very attachment to 
the concept of “my-self,” that triggers emotions 
whenever we do something that, so-to-speak, 
‘ooes against our grain.’ It is our attachment to 
this concept of a “my-self” that causes emotions 
such as regret, guilt, sadness, shame and so on. 
And, these emotions are the cause for the 
development (the arising) of the desire to protect 
one’s concept of a “my-self.” 

Selfishness, e.g. concerns for a “my-self,” is the 
seat of what ts called, in the Pali text, kilesa‘s (kee- 
lay-sah) (Sanskrit klesha: klay-shah), which refers 
to mental contamination of the ego-instinct. It is 
our attachment to everything associated with this 
concept of a “my-self,” that is the root cause of all 
of our dukkha (suffering, dissatisfaction, stress 
and unhappiness.) Kilesa arises with ego. When 
we take steps to tame our ego-centered beliefs in a 
“my-self,” then the kilesa begins to fall away; the 
kilesas no longer arise. 

This ego-perceitved sense of a “my-self,” 
becomes most active with the survival instinct, 
thus fighting happens when the “my-self’’ is 
threatened. If the “my-self’ cannot fight, then we 
experience fear; and in that case, we try to get 
away from the thing that is threatening our sense 
of “my-self,” often times creating more kilesas. 

45 Kilesa: Pali fee def “Defilement - lobha (passion), dosa (aversion), and moha (delusion) in their various forms, 

including such things as greed, malevolence, anger, rancor, hypocrisy, arrogance, envy, miserliness, dishonesty, 
boastfulness, obstinacy, violence, pride, conceit, intoxication, and complacency. Mental impurity. Poverty of spirit. 
Mental pollution, troubles. There are ten kilesas: 1) False views (sakayaditthi) 2. Doubt (vicikiccha) 3. Belief in the 
effectiveness of rituals 4. Sensuous pleasure (raga) 5. Aversion (dosa) 6. Passion towards rupa jhanas (pertaining to the 
sphere of forms) 7. Passion towards arupa jhanas (pertaining to the formless sphere) 8. Self-pride (mana) 9. Restlessness 
and worries (uddhacca) 10. Ignorance (avijja). | 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 29 

All human beings are born with a basic instinct 
for survival, and that is pretty much all. A tiny 
infant possesses only this single instinct. It is only 
when the infant begins to age that its exposure to 
the world; a coming into contact with the world, 
begins to widen. Gradually, over time, the young 
child begins to form other instincts, which are 
directly related to the formation of the idea of a 


Once the young 
child begins to 
develop the 
formation of its 
own concept of a 
“my-self,” things 

such as selfishness 
and selfish behavior begin to arise. This then 
supports the arising of the concepts of “like” and 
“dislike.” It is quite evident when a child wants to 
protect something they want or don’t want. 

There is now a propensity of the young child 
to desire what is liked, while also developing an 
aversion to what it dislikes. However, the young 
child begins experiencing suffering, because it gets 
what it does not want, and does not get what it 

Eventually, as this child grows older, it learns 
to avoid certain people and things it dislikes, 
perhaps because the child now understands that it 
cannot get what it wants from certain people. 

These instincts can get out of control, and this 
is the root cause of wars, killing, hate, distrust, 
racism, conflicts, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, 
and religious divisions that are at the foundation 
for all of the suffering and unhappiness or 
humankind throughout history. 

Eventually, children become adults, and their 
distorted, out of control instincts, cause these 
adults to hoard wealth, create competition and 
rivalries. This is ground-zero, where divisions of 
rich and poor are born, which lead to violence in 
one form or another. In our modern age, these 
things are visible on a global, national, community, 
and personal level. These things not only disturb 
society, but the minds of individuals. And, all of 
these things mark our inability to control our 

Although the focus here is on instinct, there is 
an underlying reason why our instincts get out of 
cntrol. Human instincts are natural and normal. 
Instincts help us to determine when it is time to 
eat and warn us when there is a potential for 
harm. Human instincts are however, affected also 
by our preferences that are determined by our 
likes and dislikes, which of course, ate largely 
dependent on the concepts of a “my-self.” 

Our ations are predicated on the framework of 
our perception of “my-self.”” How is it then that 
our instincts, which are a natural part of the 
human psyche, become corrupted or distorted? 

Throughout our lifetime, all human beings 
make determinations of what is good or bad, liked 
and disliked. These determinations influence the 
natural senses by adding variables to our basic 
instincts. For example, as it has been for 
thousands of years, we instincutally know that 
clothing is essential. However, it is doubtful that 
an Iron Age female would reject an animal pelt 
because it was not in fashion. 

It is through application of the Middle Way 
format where we begin to repair the instinct, 
returning it to normal functioning. It could 
cottectly be said that the Middle Way transcends 
the instinctual through insight. 

In essences, our natural instincts become 
corrupted or colored, by the various elements of 
the “my-self” that we hold so dear. And becaue of 
this, whenever someone embarks on practice of 
the Middle Way, there is an overtone of threat that 
the ego encounters. Why? Because we are 
beginning to question our concpts of a “my-self.” 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 30 

Setting the Wheel of Dhamma 
in Motion — Putting it All 


, re (ir 
; y : _ > 
1) 3 
r + 

’ PY ni 



or | 

Setting the Wheel of Dhamma 
Tami ifeliteys 

If the prospects of lessening worry, anxiety 

and stress in your life is important, and you decide 
to put your toe into the water to test the claims of 
what the Buddha taught, then you will begin to set 
into motion the Wheel of Dhamma for yourself. 

Whose Dhamma Is 1t? 

The answer to this question is particularly 
important because, anyone desiring to integrate 
the Buddha’s teachings into their lives will be 
concerned with the Dhamma they are learning. 
Not all Dhamma’s are equal, meaning that not all 
presentations of the Buddha’s teachings are 
authentic. There is only one authentic source of 
the Dhamma and this is in the Pali texts known as 
the Tipitaka 4°. 

For one embarking on the path recommended 
by the Middle Way, attention to what the Buddha 
actually taught and why, are critically related to 
one’s success. Fully engaged practice does not 
mean just meditation or just mindfulness or mere 
observance of simple vows. Engaged practice 

means understanding that all of these elements are 
interwoven for a purpose. 

It’s important to understand that the 
“Dhamma” is not merely a label describing the 
teachings of the Buddha nor does it merely 
encapsulate all the doctrine of “Buddhism.” 

Dhamma is the foundational truth of 
existence, whereby it is the Dhamma that supports 
the practice of those who are in harmony with 
truth. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote that "Dhamma, 
on the external level, refers to the path of practice 
the Buddha taught to his followers. This Dhamma 
has three levels of meaning: the words of the 
Buddha, the practice of his teaching, and the 
attainment of enlightenment. So, Dhamma is not 
just doctrines--it is teaching plus practice plus 
enlightenment.” 4 

According to the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu* 
the word dhamma has a fourfold meaning. It 
incorporates the phenomenal world as it 1s; the 
laws of nature; the duties to be performed in 
accordance with the laws of nature; and the results 

of fulfilling such duties. 

Buddhadasa also taught that dhamma has six 
attributes. First, it was taught comprehensively by 
the Buddha. Second, all of us can realize Dhamma 
through our own efforts. Third, it is timeless and 
present in every immediate moment. Fourth, it is 
open to verification and does not have to be 
accepted on faith. Fifth, it allows us to enter an 
awakened state. And sixth, the results of following 
the Dhamma can be known only through 
personal, intuitive insight. 

Confidence in the Buddha’s teachings may 
progress to the point whereby a person may wish 
to make a formal commitment to practice. So, a 
person who has a better than cursory 
understanding of the purpose of the Buddha’s 
teachings, may decide to formalize their 
commitment to the path. 

46 'Tipitaka: A complete listing of all of the Suttas of the Tipitaka. / 
47 'Thanissaro Bhikkhu: Dhamma 
48 Life of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu: 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 31 

All that is necessary to gain a basic 
understanding of what the Buddha taught is to 
familiarize yourself with the 
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which is located 
in the Samyutta Nikaya 56.11 (dha-mah-kah-kah- 
pah-vaht-tahn-nah). 4° 

It is within this sutta, where the Buddha’s first 
teaching of the Middle Way is found. It is also 
within this sutta that one discovers the results of 
the Buddha’s efforts to become awakened. Here 
he testifies to the fact that in order to accomplish 
any level of awakening, including complete 
awakening (nibbana), one must avoid extremes. 

He specifically outlined two extremes that 
should be avoided. The first was to avoid 
extremes in sensual pleasure, meaning the over 
indulgence in pleasures derived from the senses, 
some of which stem from habitual behaviors that 
are vulgar, base, common and ignoble (shameful), 
and that prove to be of no benefit to the 
achievement of awakening. 

The second was to avoid the unprofitable 
behavior causing self-affliction. This would 
include things as self-deprecation by anything that 
causes physical harm to oneself, alcoholism, drug 
addiction, overeating, to name only a few. 

Avoiding such extremes is practicing the 
Middle Way, and the person who does so realizes 
clear vision that produces direct knowledge, which 
leads to a calmness (equanimity), self-awakening 
and an unbinding from suffering and the things 
that cause suffering. 

Buddha encapsulated, within the Middle Way, 
a formula of practice that causes realization of the 
path, which is known as the Eightfold Noble 
Path. It is within this formula that one begins to 
set the Wheel of Dhamma in motion. 

————— —, - a oe, yy s = = 
1S OA OOO — 

Precisely this noble eightfold path: right view, right 
resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right 
effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. 

This is the middle way reahzed by the Tathagata 
that, producing vision, producing knowledge, leads to 
stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to 

You may notice in the aforementioned 
quotation that the Buddha refers to himself as a 
tathagata rather than saying me, I or myself. His 
use of this Pali word emphasizes that his teachings 
come from one who has surpassed or transcended 
the human condition. In other words, an 
individual who is beyond the otherwise endless 
cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond suffering 

Then Buddha went on to name the core 
experiences that cause stress (dukkha). First on the 
list is that the very nature of birth itself is stressful, 
which is followed by the stresses of aging, death, 
sorrow, weeping, pain, despair, association with 
those who don’t like you, separation from those 
whom you love, not getting what you want, and 
finally getting what one does not want. In essence, 
the senses cause us to experience stress. 

But then, he went on to further break down 
the origination of human stress. First, he cites how 
craving to become ‘something,’ which is 
accompanied by passions, and enjoyment, 
savoring moments and desired things right now, 
today, and in the future. He taught that this 
craving to satisfy the senses includes the craving 
for becoming, and the craving for non-becoming. 

With regard to the meaning of ‘becoming,’ 
which comes from the Pali word bhava, basically 
means any sense of identity in line with a 
particular world of experience. It is becoming in 
the sense of becoming what you want to be; a 
sense of who you hope to be, distinct from the 
sense of what you are. This means being focused 
on a particular desire, in your personal sense of 
the world as it is related to that desire. 

49 Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - 

The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 32 

What the Buddha teaches is that first, with an 
understanding of dukkha (suffering/stress), then 
through the application of the Eightfold Noble 
Path, one no longer as strongly subjected to the 
desire to ‘be” something or ‘become’ something. 
A full discussion of the meaning of ‘becoming’ 

(bhava) would add many mote pages to this essay. 

However, Thanissaro Bhikkhu authored a 
wonderful book, titled: “Ise Paradox of Becoming,” 
which is freely available to read or download on 
the Internet. *° 

Balancing Your Effort 

I know, because it happened to me: When I 
first discovered the teachings of the Buddha, I 
could hardly contain my excitement. I felt joy at 
the fact that I appeared to have found a way to 
understand the meaning and purpose of life. I 
gorged on all things Dhamma-related. 

It is not a stretch to say that, in the beginning, 
I was very unbalanced. I allowed my excitement 
and joy to get the better of me. Every day, all day 
some days, all I could do was read about the 
Buddha and his teachings. However, I am happy 
to say that after many years now, through 
understanding based on practice and my own 
direct-experience with the Dhamma, there ts 
definitely more balance and equanimity. 

When initially beginning to meditate and learn 
the Dhamma, there is a propensity to become 
unbalanced, particularly with regard to one’s 
determination to study and practice. It is fine to 
experience enthusiasm, joy or excitement, but 
when these feelings are maintained for the long- 
haul, they are much more useful and productive. 

If you know that the teachings of the Buddha 
are what you want, and you have a modicum of 
confidence in those teachings, you may want to 

50 “The Paradox of Becoming: Thanissaro Bhikkhu: 

look into taking the vows of a lay follower, which 
are known as the Five Precepts*'. 

For the lay person (non-monastic), the Five 
Precepts are basic vows. To make it perfectly 
clear, taking the Five Precepts is not some sort of 
promise to the church, to the Buddha or to 
anyone or anything else other than you. Taking 
the Five Precepts, means making a promise to 
practice the path for the purposes of your own 
awakening. Therefore, it is a commitment to 
yourself and nothing or no one else. 

In order to become fully prepared to stick to 
the set of Five Precepts that a lay person takes, 
there must be, at the very least, an understanding 
of the basic concept of the Middle Way, which 
includes the Four Noble Truths. 

These precepts should be taken only by 
someone who has the desire to begin a path 
toward awakening. And, in order to develop such 
a desire, one must have a clear understanding of 
the reasons one seeks to take the Five Precepts. 
The reasons to take the Five Precepts is to solidify 
yout intentions for awakening. 

This “awakening,” doesn’t specifically refer to 
the whole “enlightenment,” nibbana, thing. No 
matter how smart, intellectual or educated you 
may be, the fact is that awakening comes 
oradually, step-by-step. However, you take enough 
steps and you willexperience full nibbana 

Having a clear intention to seek awakening, 
means that you understand that change is 
necessary. The Five Precepts help you to be 
mindful of why you are studying the Dhamma; 
why you are meditating, and why you are making 
changes to yout life. 
51 Five Precepts: Panca sila: 1) Panca: Pah UST def “five” Sila: Pah def “nature ; habit ; moral practice ; code of morality” 

Pancasila: Pa/i VaR def “the ftve moral precepts” “The pafica-sila or 5 items of good behavior are Nos. 1-4 of dasa- 

sila, and (5) abstaining from any state of indolence arising from intoxicants, viz. sura-meraya-majjapamada-tthana 

veramani. sources | 


The Middle Way for Modern Times - Page | 33 

A complete and full explanation of the 
meaning and purpose of the Five Precepts is given 
in a wonderful description by Bhikkhu Bodhi, 
which can be viewed at the following Web 
https:/ / /bodhi/w 


The Five Precepts: 

1. I undertake the precept to refrain from 
destroying living creatures. 

2. I undertake the precept to refrain from 
taking that which is not given. 

3. Iundertake the precept to refrain from 
sexual misconduct. 

4. I undertake the precept to refrain from 
incorrect and false speech. 

5. I undertake the precept to refrain from 
intoxicating drinks and drugs which 
lead to carelessness. 

The Middle Way is a path, a way of acting, and 
way of thinking, that directly causes a release from 
the ignorance about the workings of one’s own 
life. From learning the Four Noble Truths, which 
is at the heart of the Middle Way, one gains insight 
into the causes of stress, dissatisfaction, worry, 
and a whole host of other things that cause you to 
suffer. This insight allows one to understand the 
ways in which we cling to ideas, beliefs, opinions, 
manner of behavior, and the concepts that bind us 
to ignorance. 

Following the path of the Middle Way 
broadens one’s understanding of the world in 
general. But, not only this, it opens a window of 
understanding into the reasons why suffering is 
related to death. But, probably the most 
advantageous of all the positive things that living 
the Middle Way delivers, is a sense of wholeness, 
and a sense of peace of mind that you gain. 

Gone will be the state of confusion about life; 
what it means, and what the purpose of it is. Gone 
will be the sense of dread of the future. Gone will 
be the cloud of anxiety that rests in your bones 
because of a lack of understanding. 

Now, this does not mean that we won’t create 
a new form of anxiety for ourselves. If we allow 
our exuberance for learning these things to 

ovetwhelm us, we can create a different sense of 
anxiety. This experience is a sure-fire way to tell 
that you are overdoing it. You want to try and 
maintain a sense of overall calmness, which is 
called equanimity. 

This is a constant state of enduring the effects 
of this new-found knowledge in a balanced and 
calm manner. Maintaining a sense of balance and 
calm is quite empowering, providing you with a 
sense of control. This does not mean that you are 
now in a position to be able to control everything. 
Control here means that you have a firm 
knowledge of what it is that you are doing; 
knowledge and understanding of the goal that you 
have set for yourself. 

The world around us, that we have been 
wrangling to control our entire lives, is 
impermanent. There is nothing that is permanent. 
Coming to terms with this reality is directly 
connected to your ability to maintain a calm 
demeanor...equanimity. Truly, the only thing that 
any of us can ever completely control is our own 
behavior; our own reaction to the events that take 
place each and every day. 

This is not a rah-rah pep-talk. This is the truth 
of the Dhamma; the truth of the Middle Way. 
And, now that you have slogged through all 34 
pages of this essay, you have gained a better 
understanding of the teachings of the Buddha, and 
what he intended those teachings to be, which 1s 
nothing more and nothing less than a way to find 
and directly experience your own awakening. You 
have also learned about the outside hindrances 
that cause confusion about the Buddha’s 

Considering the great number of people who 
are caught in the ever-present cycle of haste, 
blindly following the dictates of income and 
finance, cultural and political traditions, social 
consensus, and misinformation, is it any wonder 
why we feel as though we are trying to brush back 
the ocean with a toothbrush? We wonder whether 
there is any relief in sight. Therefore, if for no 
other reason than understanding why things are 
the way they are, considering the teachings of the 
Buddha might just be worth a shot.