THE MIDDLE WAY
Dukkha and SukkhaOriginally the word Dukkha (suffering) described when a wheel was problematic or not running smoothly.
There is another important word in Buddhism: Sukkha. Sukkha described when the wheel is running smoothly.
A good wheelwright would not only cure Dukkha, he would make a wheel Sukkha.
Buddhas's message was about far more than how to stop "suffering". Buddha found the answer to fulfilment in life; he found not only the answer to Dukkha, but also the way to make things Sukkha.
The Middle Way and the Third Noble Truth are both about a way to get life to run smoothly, to make it Sukkha.
The Middle WayBuddha's Middle Way is a way between the two extremes of sensual indulgence and sensory withdrawal. It is usually understood as moderation in our mental and emotional approach to life. In his early life, Buddha experienced both of these two extremes.
The Third Noble TruthThe Third Truth tells us that Dukkha will cease when craving ceases, and craving may be eradicated wherever in the world there is delight and pleasure (ref).
The Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutra's Third Truth is very detailed. It lists sixty steps in the sensory process. It describes something which happens not only with the mind, but also with the tactile sense, the eye, the ear, the nose, and the mouth.
The ConnectionThe Middle Way and the Third Truth are both about a way to get life to run smoothly, to make it Sukkha.
So i wanted to know if or how the Middle Way could be applied to the Third Truth.
When applied to the mind, i could only understand the Middle Way as an attitude to life involving moderation or non-attachment. But there was nothing decisive, nothing definite, just a broad area between two extremes.
When applied to the body, it seemed to indicate taking care of it, not ignoring it or delighting in it. Again, this left a broad area of moderation.
Moderation has many advantages. Wise local rulers and teachers would have known about the value of moderation – even everyday craftsmen and householders would have known its value – long before Buddha's time.
I couldn't believe that Buddha would proclaim anything about moderation at the same time as the Four Noble Truths directly after his enlightenment, in the Sermon of Bernares. These teachings were about something new and special.
Then i asked myself, could the two extremes of sensual indulgence and sensory withdrawal be applied to the physical senses? – What else could i do with my eyes apart from focusing with them or closing them?
And immediately i thought of how some birds and horses see their entire visual field without focusing on anything special, with their so-called peripheral vision. This was a clear and specific third way.
I call it panoramic sensing, and my first experiments with this are described in the opening paragraphs of Going On The Lookout.
At first i didn't think any more about The Middle Way, i was just curious about how animals used this way of sensing. It took several months, even years, for me to realise that the idea was correct.
Panoramic sensing fulfils the criteria of the Middle Way perfectly. This is a practical expression of The Middle Way. Panoramic sensing is a way of using the senses, without any sensory indulgence or sensory withdrawal.
With panoramic sensing, there is no sensory withdrawal. And with pure panoramic sensing as vulnerable animals use it, any form of specific intention would disrupt the ability to sense in this way. When sensing in this way, it is essential and natural to be free of desire. Desire or wanting are only possible with focusing.
It is doubtful that the words to differentiate between focusing and panoramic sensing were available in Buddha's pre-literate times. The written word allowed language to diversify. In modern Western times, the term "panorama" was first used in 1796. It was first incorporated in a Spanish dictionary in 1884.Traditional ideas on what the Middle Way might be: moderation, renunciation, and The Eigtfold Path; are discussed here.