The Middle Way – Majjhimā Patipadā (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

What is the Buddha’s middle way? If the way or path is true or right, and it is necessary to be sacrificed. It has to be beneficial. Some Buddhists misinterpret it as should not practice very hard to tire oneself. The middle way is not a lazy path. How can we get rid of our super thick glue or ignorance & craving in an easy going way? These enemies are within us inconceivable round of existence as a latent tendency (anusaya).

Before the Buddha, the man had two doctrines (vada); supreme happiness in this life or direct seeing happiness (dittha dhamma-nibbāna, indulgence in sensual pleasure with all possible ways; & torturing the physical body. The Buddha’s middle way is not sitting in the middle of the fence & doing nothing. If it is necessary for happiness, it should be enjoyed. If necessary, for difficulty & hardship also has to encounter it.

There is some happiness necessary for enjoyment. This higher happiness develops knowledge, as, all the jhānic happiness or jhāna practices or samatha practice. If it is beneficial, we should go into hardship. If knowledge can be developed also has to go through it.

This is not one sided-view. The Buddha gave the results of the middle way. These are; which gives rise to vision & knowledge (cakkhu karani & ñāna karani), which leads to peace, direct knowledge, enlightenment & Nibbāna.

The Buddha continued to talk about the Noble Eightfold Path, which was the middle way. These are; combined with the natural eight phenomena, & noble practice.

[1] Right view – sammā-ditthia: This is insight practice & process. Seeing the nature of the mind & body process & its universal characteristics. It is not seeing them as man, woman, living being, etc.

[2] Right intention or thought – sammā-sankappo: it supports the right view. These two factors are the leading phenomena of the eight path factors. The extreme ways are leading by wrong views (miccha-ditthi). In doing things, the views should be right is very important. Without the right view will make mistakes & go wrong. The arrangement of the eight path factors is very meaningful & systematic. The natural phenomena are doing their tasks collectively. After the right thought comes right speech.

[3] Right speech – sammā-vācā: after right speech comes right action.

[4] Right actions – sammā-kammanto: with thoughts, speech & action we do our jobs in daily life or livelihoods.

[5] Right livelihood – sammā-ājīvo: without the foundation of virtue (sīla) cannot attain knowledge. Two feet can be stood on the ground; the foundation should be stable & solid. In many discourses, the Buddha emphasized the importance of sīla & its results. Right speech, right action & right livelihood are training in virtue (sīla sikkha).

In discourse, the Buddha taught Mahānāma, his cousin, the benefits of keeping the precepts (sīla) pure. One recollects one’s virtues; untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplatter, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished, conducive to concentration (samādhi). At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting virtue, his mind is not overcoming with passion, aversion & delusion.

His mind heads straight & gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous & the body grows calm. One whose body is calm & he senses pleasure (sukha). In one sensing pleasure & the mind becomes concentrated. One’s mind with these sīla qualities can endeavor on the meditation practice (both samatha & vipassanā). Doing the practice must have the right effort

[6] Right effort – sammā-vāyāmo: has four factors;

<1> For the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities, that have not arisen….
<2> For the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities, that have arisen….
<3> For the sake of the arising of skillful qualities, that have arisen….
<4> For the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development & culmination of skilful qualities that have arisen.

These four aspects of right effort are also termed

<1> guarding
<2> abandoning
<3> developing &
<4> maintaining.

With the right effort, doing everything must have right mindfulness

[7] Right mindfulness-sammā-sati: It is the most important factor in the practice. There are two mindfulness discourses; Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta in the Digha Nikāya & Satipatthāna Sutta in the Majjima Nikāya. It seems these two are nearly the same except the first one explained the 4 Noble Truths in more detailed. With the right effort & right mindfulness; the mind becomes calm & concentrated, which is,

[8] right concentration – sammā-samādhi. With the middle way or the Noble Eightfold Path, which give rise to vision, knowledge, which lead to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. In this discourse, the Buddha taught the five monks on samatha & vipassanā in a gist. In other discourses, the Buddha taught in details. Why did the Buddha not teach the monks in details? Because they were spiritually very matured & no need for detailed explanations.

And then the Buddha continued the 4 Noble Truths one by one.

[1] This is the noble truth of dukkha: (suffering, unsatisfactoriness, stress, etc.)

Birth, aging, illness & death are dukkha. Union with what is displeasing & separation from what is pleasing are dukkha. Not to get what one wants is dukkha. The Buddha started with the coarser one to the refined ones. In brief, the five khandas (mind & body) subject to clinging are dukkha. This last dukkha can be known only with insight knowledge or practice. The other dukkha can be appreciated by contemplation & easy to understand.

[2] The noble truth of the origin of dukkha:

The cause of dukkha is craving (tanhā). It leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight & lust, seeking delight here & there. These cravings are for sensual pleasure (kāma-tanhā), for existence (bhava-tanhā) & for extermination (vibhava-tanhā). In this sutta mentioned only tanhā. Other suttas are the whole process of Dependent Arising.

[3] The noble truth of the cessation of dukkha:

It is the remainderless fading away or cessation of craving (tanhā). The giving up & relinquishing of tanhā & freedom from tanhā. Dukkha is the cause of tanhā. Therefore, without tanhā is without dukkha. Khandhas are dukkha. So, without tanhā, dukkha & khandas are Nibbāna.

[4] The noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha:

This is the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Buddha continued to talk about the realization of the 4 Noble Truths with the middle way, i.e., the Noble Eightfold Path. Here we need the objects of meditation. Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta comes in here. Samathā & vipassanā practices are mentioned in there. People have interest should study this very important discourse. For vipassanā practice, the objects for contemplation are the five khandas; body, feeling, perception, mental formations & consciousness, in gist mind & body. Satipatthāna discourse mentioned four objects.

(1) Contemplation of the body
(2) Contemplation of the feeling
(3) Contemplation of the mind &
(4) Contemplation of the mind objects.

What do we see & penetrate? The Buddha taught about his realization of the 4 Noble Truths.

(1) Dukkhe ñānam – knowledge of dukkha
(2) Dukkha-samadaye-ñānam – knowledge about the cause of dukkha
(3) Dukkha-nirodhe-ñānam – knowledge of the cessation of dukkha.
(4) Dukkha-nirodhe-patipada- ñānam – knowledge to the way of cessation of dukkha.

All of these are the right views. The first knowledge is seeing the mind & body natural process as dukkha. The meaning of dukkha is; duk – disgusting, dissatisfaction; kha – nothing exists as one thinks, useless, empty. The five khandhas have these nature.

The second knowledge is knowing why dukkha arises? The 3rd knowledge is knowing the place of ending dukkha. The 4th knowledge is knowing the way to the ending of dukkha. These are the very high levels of right views.

The 4 Noble Truths demonstrate the process of vipassanā practice. With the eight factors working with dukkha & discerning it. The result is abandoning the cause of dukkha & realizing the ending of dukkha. With the path, consciousness arises & at the same time penetrate the 4 Noble Truths. Is it possible? For example, if we lit candle light, with the light appears & at the same time, darkness disappears, the wick & the oil also burn out.

The Buddha continued to talk dukkha. He penetrated dukkha by himself, & not heard from others. The Buddha proclaimed himself as an Awakened. One only when thoroughly penetrated the 4 Noble Truths in its 3 phases & 12 aspects. The 3 phases are;

(1) the knowledge of each truth – (saccañāna). E.g., This is the noble truth of dukkha;
(2) the knowledge of the task to be accomplished with each truth – (kiccañāna). E.g., the noble truth of dukkha is to be fully understood;
(3) the knowledge of accomplishment with each truth – (katañāna). E.g., the noble truth of dukkha has been fully understood.

In simple words, the 3 phases are; study, practice & realization. Three phases apply to the four truths become 12 aspects or modes. The Buddha ended this discourse with the following words; “Unshakable is the liberation of my mind. This is my last birth.

There is no more renewed existence (i.e., has to be taken rebirth again)” Later Buddhists formulated the new idea of the liberated beings as they could come back again & again for others (Worldlings have very strong bhava-tanhā). During the discourse, among the five monks, the oldest monk Kondañña became a sotāpanna – stream-winner.

cited from (posted on 2019-11-22)

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