The Middle Way in the Buddha’s Early Life
Robert M. Ellis [+]
Middle Way Society
This section offers a pragmatically based interpretation of the way in which the Middle Way can be found in the stories of the Buddha’s early life, and thus also ways that this story can reflect a universally available process of human development. After the Buddha’s origins in the Palace, representing absolutized conventional values, the ‘Four Sights’ introduce the necessary element of frustration that we require to break the closed feedback loops of habitual assumption. The Buddha then ‘goes forth’, initially in counter-dependent reaction to the Palace. His subsequent recognition of the limitations of his spiritual teachers and of the fruitlessness of asceticism prepares him for the discovery of the Middle Way, taking him beyond that polarised reaction into increasingly integrated balanced awareness. It is argued that the Buddha’s discovery of the Middle Way, not his Awakening, is the crucially significant moment in the Buddha’s development, because it offers a universal method whereby absolutising assumptions of all kinds can be integrated by embodied contextualisation. The Middle Way is analysed into five interdependent principles. A case is made for the interpretation of the Awakening that follows in the story in terms of its archetypal meaning, rather than as a basis for absolutising belief that would conflict with the Middle Way.