Buddhism and the Middle Way Audio

The first lot of talks from our August retreat is now up, enhanced by pictures. These three linked sections of talk introduce the Middle Way from the perspective of people whose background is in Buddhism, explaining some of the Buddha’s teachings about the Middle Way, the conflicts between the Middle Way and other principles in Buddhism, and the traditional interpretation of the Middle Way in Buddhism and its limitations. Go to this page.

Middle Way Philosophy, Religion

About Robert M Ellis

Robert M Ellis is the founder and chair of the Middle Way Society, and author of a number of books on Middle Way Philosophy, including the introductory 'Migglism' and the more in-depth 'Middle Way Philosophy' series. He has a Christian background, and about 20 years' past experience of practising Buddhism, but it was his Ph.D. studies in Philosophy that set him on the track of developing a systematic account of the Middle Way beyond any specific tradition. He has earned his living mainly by teaching, and more recently by online tutoring.

6 thoughts on “Buddhism and the Middle Way Audio

  1. Hi Robert,
    Today I listened again to your talks, together with the second part, which included the discussions. There was far too much to take in on the first hearing. A great deal of information was given succintly about your thought processes and the route you have taken to arrive at the Middle Way philosophy you teach – we now benefit from your studies.
    For my own benefit really, to sort out my own thoughts, and as a question, whether or not I have grasped the main gist of the talks, I thought I would write a precis, from notes I took.
    The Universal approach. Buddhism is a way, a method, into the Middle way, we should not take a nihilistic or eternalist approach, suffering is not the only experience we feel, we also have happy times, individuals may have more or less of either pain or pleasure. I personally have learnt to let go, stopped wishing things were otherwise, when close family members have died, that doesn’t mean that I should stop thinking about them, but to accept the hurt and try to deal with it. Self indulgence is to be avoided, but so is asceticism, what good does standing on one leg all your life to for anybody!
    Certain ideas can be rejected if found not to be helpful and beware of hanging on to a teaching for its own sake, when it could take you down the wrong way. It is better to appeal to experience, in order to arrive at the best answer, for the time being at least.
    The various schools of Buddhism often stick to certain aspects of the teachings, perhaps to their detriment, a balanced effort and a practice, such as meditation, can help maintain the position we choose, i.e. the Middle Way in our case. Changes and adaptations are part of the process. By claiming that we have all the answers, we are adopting a metaphysical stance, an absolutist explanation of how things are, when we cannot know about reality. Scientists don’t claim they have solved all the hypotheses they test, but they give the best account as far as is possible at that time.
    The Middle Way seems to be an avoidance of extremes, positive and negative. Karma, a traditional Buddhist teaching, is one example that has been rejected, it was thought to be necessary to hold society together but now some Buddhist philosophers reject karma.. That doesn’t rule out leading an ethical life style, the idea that doing good in order to be rewarded in an after life, doesn’t seem to me to be a good enough reason to try to do good, of course the word good is one to debate, good for whom and in what context. I’ve heard people say, ‘how can you be good if you’re not a Christian’, for example.
    Eternalism is to be avoided. Relativism also, for instance, if you don’t believe such and such you’re doomed, lost. Also self delusion, how easy is that to avoid, not very I would suggest, we think our ideas are the best, when they just may not be! The Middle Way may help us develop objectivity in our own way, with guidance of course.
    The aim is to find a balance, yet be flexible enough to move forward, not getting stuck in metaphorical quagmires.

    The discussions.
    I found these gripping and interesting.
    I would very much like to hear more one day from Julian Adkins, his view of the Middle Way in relation to evolutionary theory is intriguing. That there is something fundamental in the way living systems, simple and complex can/do make choices.
    The discussion about the word religion hit a chord with me, (I look forward to the next talk on meaning,) I think if I asked people in the street what religion means to them, they would probably answer that it involved believing in a super- natural power, such as god, I also think that is the way I understand the word.
    Christians may be high church or low church, some like relics, robes etc, some do away with all that and practice their religion in a hall without adornment. Not many of them though, in my experience, would throw out their metaphysical beliefs, do away with prayers, replace it with meditiation, a Quaker may be would. Most are very genuine people, who do a great deal of good work and lead ethical lives. I haven’t come across any Don Cupitts unfortunately. I also know non religious people who do much the same.

  2. Hi Norma,

    Thank you for this. I have not yet listened to these talks but this precis is very useful. I am interested to see if Robert (and others that attended) feels that this is a good representation of what was said. I often struggle to understand exactly what the middle way philosophy is or if I agree with it, due to my lack of philosophical background or knowledge. Happily I agree and relate to almost everything that is written above, the exception being Roberts use of the word ‘Religious’, which is actually the subject that prompted me to start posting on the SBUK forum in the first place. I seem to relate to the broad philosophy but often either don’t understand, find challenging or have difficulty accepting some of the finer points, which I guess is o.k. I would be suspicious if I agreed with everything :).


    1. So would I Rich! Norma’s summary is, as she says, mainly for her own benefit, but I don’t see anything to disagree with provided I am not too exacting! If you’re particularly interested in the issue of what ‘religion’ means, then do listen to the discussion on ‘Religion without metaphysics?’ which is on the ‘What is the Middle Way? Audio’ page. We’ve just got one more section to add on this page and then we’ll have completed the editing of the first day: but we still have 5 more days of material to go!

  3. Hi Robert, Your comment is good to hear, thank you, It is early days of course, I look forward to hearing the next batch of talks.
    I realise that my understanding of the Middle Way philosophy is shallow so far, it’s just a few weeks since I came across it, bobbing along the internet sea, I welcome positive criticism. I will then know what to think about next, take it on board, like the ship that picks up passengers or, give it a wide berth, the latter choice for me would be a regret.

  4. It is in the dialectic tension of extremes and the resolution of this tension that we find the middle way.. The Toaists discovered this aeons ago and have since endlessly tried to obfuscate with mystic nonsense.

  5. Hi Scaedugengan, I agree with you, but ‘obfuscate with mystic nonsense’ comes across as rather dismissive language. Could you unpack more of what you mean by that? Particularly, ‘mystic’ is a word I use positively myself: but it all depends on what you mean by it.

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