What Is The Middle Way?

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Western thought relies on dualism. Dualism is the framework of thinking regimented by opposites. It defines thesis and antithesis as the pre-requisites for some sort of synthesis. There is A or B, X or Y. Pick one, we’re told.

The Middle Way is a transcending of dualism. It is the essential process of recognizing that the two sides of a coin are mutually reliant. + and -, good and evil, happy and sad— these polarities all have the same foundation. Any concept needs its opposite.

Instead of choosing to embrace one side or another, we can learn to embrace the Middle Way. This is only really achieved through implementing the immaterial fruits (or lack thereof) of meditative practice into daily life. There is a saying, “The reverse side also has a reverse side.” To understand the Middle Way is to recognize the inherent unity of even the most mundane concepts and everyday things.

Instead of deciding that subject and object are opposites, the Middle Way asks us to embrace everything. Suffering is not an isolated quality to eliminate but rather the prerequisite for its opposite. No night without day. The axis that unites two poles is what allows the Earth to spin. We don’t choose to believe that North exists instead of South.

In the same way, enlightenment is not a static achievement that one suddenly wakes up having achieved. There’s no right or wrong. These concepts are all reliant on an unachievable process, the recognition of which is the achievement in itself. It makes sense in making no sense, since there is no sense without nonsense!

We’re tricked into thinking that man and nature, spirituality and materialism, left and right— all of these dualistic concepts— are the axis on which the world turns. We are taught to pick sides and say Yes or No instead of probing the space in-between. The middle-ground is where the most interesting stuff is.

The Middle Way can simply be described as the way “beyond”. It’s not a concession or a white flag. You’re not giving up on dualism, but instead moving past it to something more all-encompassing. The Middle Way requires you keep negating the negation until a certain void is achieved and you are suspended in-between two polarities rather than floating or sinking. When you look at a sculpture, you don’t pick an observational stance and refuse to move from that viewpoint. Why should we be so rigid with ideas?