Doctrine and Practice

Great Middle Way

boat2The Three Wheels of the Dharma are the three cycles of the Buddha’s teaching, in which He emphasized various aspects. The First Wheel (in which He presented the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path) are focused on cause and effect, action and reaction —karma. The Second Wheel focuses on emptiness —that is, that our perceptions are conceptual elaborations, and have no independent existence. The Third Wheel focuses on Buddha Nature, the natural perfection of all sentient beings, which is ultimate reality.

One can go very deeply into all Three Wheels, but this is their essence: (1) as long as we live in duality, we must observe the law of cause and effect, avoiding harm and doing good; (2) we must understand that our perceptions are more indicative of our own perspective than of any substantial ‘facts’, and thus we must cultivate peace and clarity, purifying the mind of…

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Heart Advice

Great Middle Way

TNorbuRelinquishing ‘me’ is ceasing to want to be this and that.

Relinquishing ‘mine’ is ceasing to want to have this and that.

In samsara, nothing is worth being; nothing is worth having.

When meeting with sensory objects, stop at contact:

when hearing, just hear; when touching, just touch;

when seeing, just see; when tasting, just taste;

when smelling, just smell.

If stopping at contact is not possible, and feelings arise:

when a pleasant feeling arises, do not cling to it;

when an unpleasant feeling arises, do not avoid it.

If attachment and aversion do arise, do not proceed to craving;

emotions appear, endure but for a moment, and subside.

If you must act, apply the four efforts:

stop harmful acts already started;

don’t start harmful acts not yet begun;

start beneficial acts not yet begun;

don’t stop beneficial acts already started.

If you do act on afflicted emotions,

minimize harm…

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Everything is possible

Great Middle Way

For whom emptiness is possible,

everything is possible.

For whom emptiness is not possible,

nothing is possible.

 —Arya Nagarjuna

Emptiness is not nothingness. On the contrary, it is the infinite potential for everything to appear. For example, because a cup is empty (meaning, it is not a solid block of matter), it is possible to pour liquids into it. If it were not empty, there would be no space in which liquids could be poured or contained. Therefore, emptiness is the necessary condition for all phenomena to manifest.

Furthermore, whether a cup temporarily contains liquids or not, its own nature is to be empty: its characteristic emptiness does not change —it is precisely its emptiness that makes it a suitable container. In the same way, the nature of the phenomenal world is emptiness. Because it is empty, everything can appear.

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Phenomenal life is overwhelming

Great Middle Way

Phenomenal life is overwhelming —that is its nature: the suffering of pain, change, and conditioning. The experience of phenomenal life is fundamentally contrary to true purity, self, bliss and permanence, our ultimate reality, of which we are intuitively aware. If we did not have this intrinsic awareness of Natural Perfection, we would not be surprised or displeased with experience.

Unfortunately, wrong views and afflicted emotions lead us to want to superimpose Natural Perfection on phenomenal reality, when they are two truths, in two different spheres. Ultimate truth is transcendent. It has nothing to do with conventional truth, except as the sun is related to the shadow.

The two truths are not identical, since conventional truth is fabricated (imputed by the dualistic mind, mere appearance) and dependent (produced by causes and conditions), while ultimate truth is truly established (not an object of consciousness, uncompounded, independent, and substantial). They are also not…

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Aloneness and loneliness

Great Middle Way

LonelinessBeing alone can be wonderful, but not if we feel lonely. Especially during the holidays, we can feel isolated and unloved, ignored and unimportant. It can feel as if the flow of social intercourse has passed us by —or worse, as if we were drowning in a river of purposeless time. 

Being alone may be a situational fact, but feeling lonely is always an afflicted emotion. Loneliness is an interpretation, a conceptual proliferation based on a given experience. It is the elaboration of the meaning we impose on our present circumstance.  

Habituated to the idea of ourselves as central and the creatures of our universe as bound to that centrality, it is difficult to accept that the worlds (the persons and objects) of our solar system can pull away from our gravity —to see their orbits expand, distort, and ultimately migrate to other solar systems.  

We interpret…

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Thank You

Great Middle Way

1143Gratitude is the realization that we are neither independent nor self-sufficient, but part of an extraordinary continuum of events and beings, and the celebration of our mutually supportive connections.

The understanding of dependent origination explains that everything in this world arises from and is supported by its environment. Everything and everyone is connected. There is no one, therefore, who does not owe a debt of gratitude to others. In this sense, gratitude may be described as our awareness that our lives are supported by our environment, which includes all sentient beings, and our desire to respond in kind to such support.

Those who are ungrateful or feel burdened by others’ kindness fail to see the interconnectedness of all lives. They build walls of ignorance and selfishness around them to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. The causes of ungratefulness are four: (1) failure to recognize a benefit, (2)…

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We Are Not Powerless!

Great Middle Way

6a00e552200433883401b8d156a6fd970cConfronted with excessive and overwhelming cruelty in our contemporary world, many persons ask: Is it possible to contribute to peace effectively, when nation states, multinational companies, and numerous ignorant groups and individuals are dedicated to multiplying suffering everywhere? What can one person do?

Even if we do not have the capacity to help all those who suffer, we do have the power to reduce suffering considerably in our own sphere of action. We can be kind to our neighbors; we can refrain from increasing pain and suffering. And because the universe is an interdependent network of cause and effect, our compassionate acts —however small and seemingly insignificant— do have a positive effect on a global scale.

Specifically, without waiting for anything or anyone else, we can:

  1. cultivate mental peace, tolerance, good will, and generosity in our lives
  2. combat fear, rejecting the alarmist media
  3. withdraw our support from political, social, and…

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The value of small steps…

Alex on Hookipa beach“The true value of small steps is often ignored.They involve motion. We go from not doing something to doing it – even in a minimal way. According to the law of physics we go from being a body at rest to a body in motion…This is what we refer to as momentum. This is why small steps can be so valuable. It takes very little effort to create momentum. One pushup, one dish washed, one photo organized, one paragraph written in your novel-to-be. Have you gone very far? No. Do you now have momentum. Yes!”

— From an article in “Ten Thousand Days” by Gregg Krech, ToDo Institute

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Neither Scapegoats Nor Sacrificial Lambs

Great Middle Way

12191864_694613043971507_3596832224193851047_nKarma purification takes two main forms: applying the 4 Rs (Regret, Reliance, Resolve, and Reparation) to those previous acts that have not yet ripened, and enduring with patience the consequences of previous acts that are already ripening. We have paid much attention to the former (, but the latter is equally necessary.

“Enduring with patience” is not passive resignation. We utilize our suffering to reduce the suffering of others. How? We also apply the 4 Rs, but with a different focus.

  • We regret the cause of our present suffering, rather than the suffering itself, which is only an effect.
  • We rely on the instructions of the Buddha, contemplating the Five Remembrances:
    • I am sure to age. I cannot avoid aging.
    • I am sure to become ill. I cannot avoid illness.
    • I am sure to die. I cannot avoid death.
    • I am sure to be separated from all that…

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Sparks and Drops

Great Middle Way

Drop Falling into WaterDo not disregard small negative acts,

thinking they are harmless,

because even a small spark

can set fire to a mountain of hay.

Do not disregard small positive acts,

thinking they are without benefit,

because even tiny drops of water

will eventually fill a large container.

—Buddha Shakyamuni, Sutra of the Wise and Foolish

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