Dhamma by the Middle, Middle Path

In EBTs the Buddha is recorded to say that i) he taught the Dhamma by the middle, and ii) the path to end of suffering the fourth noble truth is all about is a middle path itself.

In dependent origination-focused suttas like SN12.15, SN12.36, SN12.47 etc the Buddha is recorded as saying that Dhamma he taught was preached by middle due to the formulation of dependent origination. By pointing a model in which experience of suffering through lifetime takes place without a self and in a dependent originated fashion, he was teaching between the extremes of nihilism and eternalism. The usual Pali for that is:

Ete te, bhikkhu, ubho ante anupagamma majjhena tathāgato dhammaṃ deseti

In suttas like MN139 and the famous SN56.11, the Buddha is recorded as saying that it the path he awakened to (abhisambuddhā) taught was a middle way in the sense of avoiding both the extremes of the pursuit of sensual pleasures and the pursuit of self-mortification. The usual Pali for that is:

Ete te, bhikkhu, ubho ante anupagamma majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā

In the AN3.156, the Buddha is recorded equating the middle way with the 37 qualities conducive or related to awakening (aka 37 bodhipakkhiyādhammā): 4 establishments of mindfulness, 4 right exertions, 4 bases of power, 5spiritual faculties, 5 spiritual powers, 7 factors or limbs of awakening and the 8 noble path factors.

Are there other uses/occurrences of both terms majjhima and majjhena associated to other elements of the Dhamma?


There was an entire sutta detailing different middle paths (as opposed to The Middle Path, which is the Noble Eightfold Path), but I don’t remember which one it was!


Isn’t it AN3.156? It equates the middle way with the 37 qualities conducive or related to awakening (aka 37 bodhipakkhiyādhammā).

No, there was another one where the Buddha asks his bhikkhus what they understand by the term middle path and different monks give different answers, which are approved by the Buddha.

with metta



I see this balancing act in throughout Buddha’s teaching.
Equanimity is the one immediately come to my mind.
Another one is the mindfulness.

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The question is, is these two terms the same;
majjhima = or =/= majjhena?
Which one is authentic?

Both are authentic. These are different variations of the adjective majjha I would say:

majjha (adjective)
often used adv. in loc.; majjhe in the middle; i.e.
Vedic madhya, cp. Lat. medius, Gr. μέσσος, Goth. midjis = Ohg. mitti, E. middle

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“ena” or “na”; what implication is this part?

It is hard to explain it in English without the technical linguistic terms, but it is just the way the noun is “conjugated” to become an adverb.

I trust our Pali expert @Sylvester could give us the proper explanation of how majjha becomes majjhima and majjhena in both cases. :slight_smile:

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You can see how majjhima is inflected with its substantive nouns that it’s an adjective (following the rule that there’s agreement of substantive and adjective in declension).

It is most likely derived by adding the -ima suffix to majjha.

Majjha is trickier. The dictionaries treat it as an adjective, but in the passage you cite, it stands alone without a substantive noun. Not sure if that’s possible in Pali.

I suspect that majjha (in your citation) is a substantive noun. Majjhena is the instrumental of majjha = through majjha = through the Middle.

I’ve not checked the PTS citations for majjha as adjective.

Your half-baked “expert” signing off. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Lets look at the translation on SN12.47 ( Jāṇussoṇi ), we have a question of two extremes, and the Buddha says:

Need your further help on this @Sylvester; what is your opinion, if the sentence reads “Ete te, brāhmaṇa, ubho ante anupagamma m ajjhena tathāgato dhammaṃ deseti:”?
which ends up as:
“The third approach brahmin, avoiding both extremes, study this dhamma that the Tathagata teaches: …”

What i find unsatisfactory is, if Dependant Origination being the supreme Dhamma; taught by the previous Buddhas, the Buddha of this sasana, and is going to be taught by the future Buddha (as i heard, yet to come across that sutta); why does the Buddha needs to use a ‘persuasive’ word by giving it a substandard term of “the middle”. Furthermore, He is speaking towards a brahman, wouldn’t “ajjhena” make more sense @Gabriel_L?

As I put above it makes perfect sense to me to see the Buddha saying that the teaching of dependent origination is a middle way approach to the challenge ( and ennobling task) of understanding suffering, right in between of he extremes of nihilism and eternalism.

I really don’t follow your suspiciousness or trouble with understanding the usage of majjhena in that quote. This is the first time I ever see anyone not buying it!

I am now curious if indeed there is such room for alternative interpretations. :slight_smile:

I google for similar discussion on the net too, before writing to you, but haven’t found one :smile:

“Not this end of the ruler, not the other end as well, use the center”
Is the center not part of a ruler?

“Not the right half of the beans in the bowl, neither the left half, use the center.”
Except there is nothing at the center!

“majjhena” “the middle” serving nothing but just beautifying the sentence.

Ante: near, inside, within, inner; but has been taken as “anta”: extreme. The text specifically say “te”, isn’t that 3rd?

When it is interpreted as extremes, then we are saying: don’t take the two extremes of wrong view, take the middle of the wrong view, is that what it means?

The Buddha says don’t take the wrong views, that’s all. And He does not says the 3rd is a view. He only pointed out doctrine of Dependent Origination! A complete different nature of content, compare to the other two!

And when you add in way, that is going to be another confusion with N8P. There is already a name for it, another beautiful name is not necessary.

But if there is a sutta that specifically says majjhima or majjhena maggo; i really hope someone can help to point that out, but not agamas please. Google seems not able to be helpful on this.

Ooh, by the way; “the middle” make sense to me too for 30+ years!

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Have you got any luck finding the sutta you referred to ?

@Mat @Gabriel_L Perhaps you’re thinking of AN 6.61.


SN56.11 does indeed say so:

Katamā ca sā, bhikkhave, majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati?
Ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo, seyyathidaṃ—sammādiṭṭhi sammāsaṅkappo sammāvācā sammākammanto sammāājīvo sammāvāyāmo sammāsati sammāsamādhi.
Ayaṃ kho sā, bhikkhave, majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.

And what, bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision … which leads to Nibbāna?
It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
This, bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

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Hi atipattoh

Sorry I can’t help you with your query, but nevertheless, what might you mean by “ajjhena” and how that is appealing to a brahmin?

That’s the one! (How did you find it?)


Well, I’ve read that sutta a few times and always liked it but I also could not remember exactly where it was. Then I remembered that Ven Ñāṇananda referenced that sutta is his Nibbāna sermons and also in his book on dependent arising and somehow I recalled the general place it was and found the reference in there.


This was mean to be a private msg to you, since you have listed this sutta again, too lazy to alter it & will just paste it below. Unfortunately we do not have majjhima maggo.

What we have is in SN 56.11 Dhammacakkappavattanasutta, there is “Ete kho, bhikkhave, ubho ante anupagamma majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṃvattati.”

paṭipadāConcise Pali-English Dictionary by A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera
paṭipadā,(f.) line of conduct; mode of progress.

paṭipadā《巴漢詞典》Mahāñāṇo Bhikkhu編著
Paṭipadā,【陰】 行道(行爲的線路),進行的方式。

Paṭipadā obviously is not path

majjhimā ajjhena paṭipadā would then make more sense as in “mode of learning and understanding progress”.

I am suspecting contamination on “m” as when the recitation of
“anupagamma ajjhena” as in “anupagammaajjhena”; confusion may have arises in the past and turn it into
“anupagamma majjhena”.

In SN56.11
If Paṭipadā going to mean maggo, is there a need to have two different words to mean the same within a same paragraph 12 words apart? Strange!
In fact i have change your “path” to “way” to avoid confusion when we discuss earlier. And “way” does look better than “path”. We are talking about Paṭipadā not maggo. Paṭipadā is only link to maggo.
Maggo list 8 items within the same layer, Paṭipadā is the mode of the progress within a layer and of layers of maggo in the process of learning and practicing, that’s how i see it.

Once breaks apart from Paṭipadā =/= exactly same as maggo, then only can look backward on majjhima. Why is that else where we have majjhena and not majjhima?

We have “sammāpaṭipadā” in SN12.3, why is there a “majjhima paṭipadā”?

Split majjhena and majjhima patipada, than easier to see. Paṭipadā is clearly a mode of progress in SN 12.3. How can it be path (maggo as in middle path) then in SN 56.11? Something is not right isn’t it?