Under the rose-apple tree

Under the rose-apple tree

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Middle Path in Sanskrit (1): Dharma-cakra-pravartana-sūtra

The same discourse in preserved in Sanskrit in the Lalita-vistara, as the Dharma-cakra-pravartana-sūtra. 

“There are these two extremes, monks, that one who has gone forth ought not to descend to; namely:
being joined, through a life of sensual luxury, to sense desires, which is low, vulgar, worldly, not very noble, meaningless, not conducive to spiritual growth in the long term, leading neither to world-weariness, nor to dispassion, nor to cessation, nor to deep knowledge, nor to the complete awakening of saṁbodhi, nor to the release from suffering of nirvāṇa;
and this, which also is not the middle path (amadhyamā pratipad):
devotion to privation of one's own body, which is painful, meaningless, painful in the present and having a painful consequence in the long run.
Not having approached either of these two extremes, monks, the tathāgata teaches the dharma solely by way of the middle path (madhyamayaiva pratipadā), which is this:
seeing straight, thinking straight, talking straight, true action, making a clean living, true endeavour , true mindfulness, balanced stillness.

dvāv imau bhikṣavaḥ pravrajitasyāntāvakramau,
yaś ca: kāmeṣu kāma-sukhallikā-yogo hīno grāmyaḥ pārthagjaniko,
nālam-āryo 'narthopasaṁhito nāyatyāṁ brahmacaryāya,
na nirvide na virāgāya na nirodhāya nābhijñāya,
na saṁbodhaye na nirvāṇāya saṁvartate;
yā ceyam amadhyamā pratipad ātma-kāya-klamathānuyogo duḥkho 'narthopasaṁhito,
dṛṣṭa-dharma-duḥkhaś cāyatyāṁ ca duḥkha-vipākaḥ.
etau ca bhikṣavo dvāv antāv anupagamya
madhyamayaiva pratipadā tathāgato dharmaṁ deśayati, yad uta:
samyak-samādhir iti.

In these records of the Buddha's first teaching, the middle is a practice ( Pali paṭipad means of reaching a goal or destination, path, way, means, method, mode of progress, course, practice), or a path (Sanskrit pratipad the path to be walked, the right path). And the two extremes which the middle way does not approach are sensuality and extreme self-denial, or hedonism and asceticism. 

This first teaching of the middle way is tailored to the Buddha's first audience, his former companions in the kind of severe ascetic practices which (as described in Buddhacarita Canto 12), the bodhisattva found to fail the pragmatic test of truth -- they didn't work. 

In the fourth discourse, delivered to the self-made men of Māgadha, the Buddha will again speak of teaching the Dharma by way of the middle. But in this case he will describe the two extremes that are not approached as the eternity-view and the annihilation-view. 

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