Describe in detail what is meant by the ‘Middle Way’.

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RS1 Describe in detail what is meant by the 'Middle Way'.

Siddharta Gautama was born about 563 BCE, in a garden called Lumbini, in

the foothills of the Himalayas. Siddharta was said to have been born out of

the side of his mother, Queen Maya, who died seven days later. It is said

that once he was born he immediately took seven steps towards each quarter

of heaven, and at each step up sprung a lotus flower. He then declared that

he would have no more births, and that this was his last body and that he

would 'pluck out by the roots the sorrow caused by birth and death'.

Siddharta was brought up into the Shakya Clan and lived a very rich

lifestyle. But this did not satisfy him, so he decided to go in search of

enlightenment and at the age of 19 he started to think seriously about his

life. His father tried to protect him from the real world, but Siddharta

still saw four things that changed his life:

. An old man. This showed Siddharta that everyone will get old someday.

2. A sick man. This showed Siddharta that you cannot be protected from


3. A corpse. This showed Siddharta that everyone dies.

4. A Holy man. This showed Siddharta that one has devoted himself to the

spiritual life.

When he saw the Holy man, he decided to leave and live a life of poverty.

For six years, Siddharta followed a Sadha's way of life, he nearly starved

himself to death because he worked his body and its needs so hard. One day

he went for a bathe in the River Nairanjana. When he got there, coming out

of the river was Nandabala, who was the daughter of the overseer of the

local herds. She offered him a bowl of milk-rice, and at this point

Siddharta realised that ascetics practices could never lead him to

enlightenment. He was also too weak to meditate, so he broke his fast and

accepted the milk-rice.

Siddharta was 35yrs old when he reached enlightenment and he had

experienced both wealth and poverty, but neither had given him real

satisfaction. He sat under a pipal tree and was determined not to move from

that place until he had reached enlightenment.

While he was searching for enlightenment he had to fight of temptations.

The night was divided up into four different periods in which he learnt

something new.

. (6-10pm) He is said to have gone through various stages of meditation

and to have gained knowledge of his former lives. He gained

understanding of all the past and what had led him to this point of

seeking enlightenment.

2. (10pm-2am) He understood the way in which all creatures come into

existence and pass away again. He knew that everything in the world is

constantly changing and that nothing lasts forever, however beautiful or

precious a thing is it will eventually change and disappear.

3. (2-6am) He understood all the things that keep creatures bound to the

wheel of life, which is negative feelings and cravings that make people

grasp at life, even though this brings more suffering. He also knew that

he had overcome these cravings.

4. (at 6am) With dawn he is said to have gained full enlightenment and

experienced the peace of Nirvana or Nibbana. This is when the three

'fires' (greed, hatred and ignorance) are burnt out, leaving a sense of

happiness and calm.

For a while after his enlightenment, the Buddha stayed in the area of Bodh

Gaya, meditating. He was deciding whether to keep this knowledge to

himself or go out preaching. While he was deciding this, Brahma Sahampati

(king of the Hindu Gods) begged him to go out and preach. He suggested to

the Buddha that people were like lotus flowers in lakes, some were still

growing up from the mud and some were some were already clear of the

water, but some were about to blossom. Not all were stuck in the mud of

ignorance, many were just waiting for his teaching, he felt a strong desire

to communicate to them the means by which they too could overcome

suffering and achieve peace. He wanted to explain his enlightenment to his

old meditation teachers, but they were already dead. So he set off to find

the ascetics who had left him when he gave up his fast.

The Buddha met the five ascetics in the Deer Park at Sarnath, near

Benares. He taught them the Dharma (teaching) and one by one they to
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became enlightened themselves. From then on he travelled and taught the

Dharma and organised his followers. Many people left their homes to follow

the Buddha and others stayed at home but helped to provide for the

wandering teachers.

During the Buddha's lifetime there were two different kinds of followers:

. those who joined him in the wandering shramana life, but who gathered

from time to time. Gradually, they started to spend more of their time in

their meeting places, and became monks and nuns.

2. ...

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