Nagarjuna in the second century founded the Madhyamika school of Buddhist philosophy as the centrism, or middle way between the phenomenon and the emptiness. Though whatever human beings experience in their lives may be existentially empty, this does not mean that they are not experienced and, therefore, non-existent. Nagarjuna called “Everything exists” as one extreme; “Nothing exists” as the second extreme and explained Dharma as living in the middle.
Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his book Philebus mentioned about the maxim “nothing in excess” carved on the front of the temple at Delphi, believed to be the centre of the world. His successor, Aristotle described every virtue as having two opposite vices. The opposite of courage is both cowardice and rashness in its excess and deficiency. This is a very interesting idea. Look at the following virtues and how their excess and absence change them into vices.
|Virtue||Excess Vice||Deficiency Vice|
The usefulness of the middle way can be seen every day.
If we seek happiness purely through indulgence, without minding others’ sensitivities or we fight against ourselves and live with servitude as a victim of circumstances, either way, we are treading the wrong path and new problems will keep arriving.
Living by the middle way requires trust in life itself. It is like learning to swim. You must overcome the fear of drowning. Or learning to ride a bicycle, keep peddling overcoming fear of falling. Middle Way is a cellular knowing that we can float in the ever-changing ocean of events, ride over the problems by trying and that life will always hold us from sinking or falling.
How can I find the middle way?
Try to be mindful of what is going on around you. There are things you can change and there are things you can hardly do anything about. The climate, share prices, prices of petrol, what comes on TV, printed in newspaper, the party in power, and so on… you can change nothing. So, why bother about them? Let things take their natural course and learn to live as much as you can in “here and now” with whatever you have and with whomever you live and work.
Living by the middle way is not to remove ourselves from the world or get lost in it. Do whatever you can do but leave the rest to the way things are happening. Gain and use your experience in whatever you do and have your own thoughts and feelings as if you are watching a drama or a movie. The middle way is not to stop thinking or feeling but to learn to embrace contradictions and change without being overwhelmed. Instead of seeking resolution by changing and controlling others, learn to change your role in the conflict by letting yourself open and relax in the middle and discover that the world is indeed workable.