Sunday, August 24, 2008


THE MIDDLE WAY

Buddhism has, at its core, the Four Noble Truths, which are:

1. There is Suffering - Suffering is common to all.
2. Cause of Suffering - We are the cause of our suffering.
3. End of Suffering - Stop doing what causes the suffering.
4. Path to End Suffering - Everyone can be enlightened.

The path to the end of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path, or THE MIDDLE WAY.

In Suzanne Finnamore's book, Split, she comes to the acceptance stage in her grieving process when she realizes, "Nothing is perfect and nothing is wrong." That really resonated with me, but it wasn't until I was doing something else, days later, and I realized, "She just described the end of suffering."

The Noble Eightfold Path/The Middle Way, consists of eight aspects that are intended to free people from attachments and delusions, which are the cause of suffering. The are:

1. Right View - To see and understand things as they really are.
2. Right Intention - A commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement.
3. Right Speech - Abstaining from false and slanderous speech, harsh words and idle chatter.
4. Right Action - Abstaining from harming self or others, taking what is not given, and sexual misconduct.
5. Right Livelihood - Wealth should be gained legally and peacefully.
6. Right Effort - Mental energy that occurs in a wholesome state.
7. Right Mindfulness - Seeing things as they are, with clear consciousness.
8. Right Concentration - Developed through the practice of meditation.

Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like the 10 Commandments? The way I was raised, you feared the breaking of any of the commandments, because some outside force would punish you, namely, send you straight to the fiery pits of hell. Understanding I create my own hell, and I can free myself from that hell at any time, that is both liberating and terrifying - much easier leaving the onus to someone/thing on the outside.

What occurs to me is that I don't have to swing wildly from one way of being to the other, I don't have to abandon all that is right and true about Christianity, nor do I have to embrace all things Buddhism.

There is a middle way.

(There is a great book that parallels the teachings of Buddha and Jesus, for more information click here.)

16 comments:

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Absolutely. Anyone who followed that path closely enough would be a saint in Christianity.

I found Buddhism extremely valuable because it's so pragmatic. It gives ideas on how to be good instead of just telling you to be good. Thich Nhat Hahn and Goldstein and Kornfield are authors I found especially good. Also Walpola Sri Rahula, although I found his style harder to read.

It's funny, looking at the eight items again makes me think that my book, in Buddhist terms, would be a description of "Right Motivation" along with ideas for getting oneself in that place.

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

I think my training as a middle child has primed me for the Middle Way. What I used to curse as wishy washy-ness I now understand as peace. Which is not to say that I have reached Enlightenment-- but at least I now know where it is!

Jerri said...

The middle way is much like balance--something I truly desire but have trouble finding.

Still, I agree that it's not necessary to choose one or the other. Both are real and true and helpful.

Michelle O'Neil said...

I heard an interpretation of The 10commandments recently that went like this...

If I remembered who I am, I would never kill.

If I remembered who I am, I would never covet.

If I remembered who I am I would not.....would not, would not.

If I were feeling my connection to Source,etc. (insert commandment).

I rather liked this.

Deb said...

It's so encouraging to read these words. Thank you for sharing your thinking and your heart. Love to you.

kario said...

As a child of Catholicism who has come around to embracing much of Buddist teachings, I love it when you write like this.

Thanks!

Joanne said...

I like how you say you don't have to abandon one religion, or embrace another. There is a middle way. If only more people felt this way, about religion and so much in life.

Angie Ledbetter said...

It all boils down to love as the essence, no matter the name of the path. ;)

Jess said...

I absolutely agree with your conclusion here, makes total sense. Even though I know very little about Christianity. My sense is that both paths boil down to love and truth.

She said...

If we could just keep it "right" we'd all be good! : )

I like this.

Eileen said...

I love how you put this. All of us want freedom from pain and knowing who we are, deep within ourselves. Most importantly, not hurting others on the way. Whatever spiritual path you are on, they all lead to love, peace and acceptance. A very balanced place.

Kathryn said...

Thanks for the tip on the book - I'm reading a book about Jesus and the Essenes now. Check out Edmond Bordeaux Szekelys' works. He interpreted the Essene Gospel of Peace - the material is astounding.

drama mama said...

Carrie, I love this. I just ordered Split.

Michele O'Neil and Carrie...you both keep me grounded. Thank you.

Amber said...

Amen sister.

:)

WENDEE HOLTCAMP said...

i love this post! very profound and speaks to me muchly :) (OK that is an alanis word, but i like it!)

Scott said...

like a mountain it has many paths to the top, but the view we get is all the same once we get there.

a note on mindfulness.
mindfulness is being present, paying attention to what you are doing. we get lost in the chatter of our minds, and act without really thinking about what we are doing. once you start paying attention to your acts and thoughts you see what pain you bring to yourself and others. and how distracted we are with the mind/ego.

the past is empty and the future is uncreated, past thoughts usually dwells on guilt and shame, thoughts of the future tend to anticipate fear or pain. stay in the present and enjoy the NOW.

love and blessings to all