07 February 2012

The Middle Way is Not Moderation

Moderation is a form of tempered clinging and tempered aversion.  Tempered clinging and tempered aversion are not the same as non-clinging and non-aversion.

Tempered clinging and tempered aversion are sure-fire ways of keeping up the self-other separation, always negotiating the "not too much, not too little, but just right" line.  Non-clinging and non-aversion are sure-fire ways of ego attrition, as every sūtra and every breath attest.

I don't know how many times I hear Buddhist teachers and scholars equating the Middle Path with moderation.  It's constitutionally protected speech, so no need for the Inquisition and the rack, but it seems to me that much of the elegance of Buddhism disappears when the Middle Way is cast as moderation.

Consider the precepts, for instance.  This past weekend we heard a fine teisho on the precept koans.  One could well level the charge of adhocery to the various perspectives were they not all guided by the Middle Path between clinging and aversion.  Seen like this, sometimes non-clinging and non-aversion means not touching alcohol, but sometimes non-clinging and non-aversion means having a beer.  But, again, it's not about being moderate with beer.  If it were, one couldn't get to the point of no one to drink and no beer to be drunk (or however the Buddhanature precept would run; that's above my pay grade).

Practice is never about the world or stuff or conditioned existence, or whatever one wants to call it.  If it were, moderation would be called for.  Instead, practice is about how this Mind – eternal, joyous, selfless and pure – burgeons forth and acts in the world, conditioned existence, etc.  And that's something quite different, indeed!

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