The Buddha’s Middle Way - Experiential Judgement in his Life and Teaching - Robert M. Ellis

The Buddha’s Middle Way - Experiential Judgement in his Life and Teaching - Robert M. Ellis

The Buddha's Metaphors

The Buddha’s Middle Way - Experiential Judgement in his Life and Teaching - Robert M. Ellis

Robert M. Ellis [+-]
Middle Way Society
Robert M Ellis has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Cambridge BA in Oriental Studies and Theology. Originally from a Christian background, he spent about 20 years practising Buddhism, including as a member of the Triratna Order. However, he now describes himself as a Middle Way practitioner without exclusive loyalty to any one religious tradition. Over the last 20 years he has developed Middle Way Philosophy, initially in his Ph.D. thesis. This is best described as a practical and integrative philosophical approach, incorporating many elements not only from Buddhism but also from psychology, neuroscience, and other aspects of Western thought. In 2013 he founded the Middle Way Society (www.middlewaysociety.org) to develop and apply Middle Way Philosophy beyond the limitations of the Buddhist tradition, both in theory and practice. Robert has earned a living for more than 20 years as a teacher and tutor of philosophy and related subjects. He has previously published both academic and introductory books about Middle Way Philosophy, and recently a parallel book on Christianity, ‘The Christian Middle Way’.

Description

This section interprets some key analogies of the Buddha in terms of embodied meaning theory, showing their relationship to different aspects of the universal Middle Way, and in the process illustrating the analysis of the Middle Way into the five principles of scepticism, provisionality, incrementality, agnosticism and integration. Metaphor is omnipresent rather than allegorically reducible to ‘literal’ teachings, and the effect of the Buddha’s metaphors needs to be recognised in embodied terms rather than allegorically. The Middle Way itself is a metaphor combining basic schemas of source-path-goal and equilibrium. The Buddha’s raft metaphor evokes a universal experience of provisionality, and the lute-strings a basic expression of provisionality in the embodied experience of moderated tension. The man pierced by an arrow evokes the distracted irrelevance of absolutisation, and the ‘second arrow’ metaphor the accentuation of suffering by absolutisation. The gradual shelving of the ocean evokes the organic experience of incrementality, in contrast to the abstraction required for discontinuity. The blind people and the elephant evoke the universal power of confirmation bias through the metaphor of sensual limitation, whilst the snake simile evokes the dangers of absolute interpretations of the teachings. The saturation of a piece of wood with the more flexible medium of water evokes the way in which integration can guard against the fire of absolutisation.

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Citation

Ellis, Robert. The Buddha's Metaphors. The Buddha’s Middle Way - Experiential Judgement in his Life and Teaching. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 94-134 May 2019. ISBN 9781781798201. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=36784. Date accessed: 24 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.36784. May 2019

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