Dhamma by the Middle, Middle Path

Hi @Sylvester

Ajjhena as in study of the Vedas; that would be easier for a Brahmin to understand. What the Buddha needs to do is use something the Brahmin can be familiar with, take the bait and real practice comes later.

After all, “study” make the whole sentence alive; rather than being a statement, it is an instructive command.

But can this sentence work grammatically?

I can’t follow you, sorry. Anyway, everything is possible! :slight_smile:

Thanks. Could you point me to a sutta that uses ajjhena as such?

Majjhena does make an appearance in at least one Chinese parallel containing that pericope. It is rendered also as “middle”.

I think the syntax of the pericope makes it difficult to translate as you propose. Instrumentals typically function as adverbs of manner. As such, it qualifies deseti (teaches).

The problem is that the explanation of the stanza given by Buddha, is expressed in AN 6.61 in terms of contact, arising of contact, cessation of contact and craving - But in SĀ 1164, it is expressed in terms of contact, its origin, and feeling.

Which does not make these two suttas reliable parallels. And should I add further, that these two sutta/sutra should be simply cast aside from a serious vade mecum.

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Thanks @Sylvester!

You have to add in ‘through’ for majjhena to work. Since i couldn’t find a sutta that uses it this way, i’m hoping you or anyone else can come up with something for ajjhena. :smile:

After look up dictionary, found in this book as well Post-Vedic Brahmanical Dharma pg 187 (top of the page) describing overlapping of Buddhism and Brahmanical specifically mention Vedic study as ajjhena.

So, instead of Vedic study, here it refer to Dhamma (Dependant Origination) study. Shifting away it’s relation from ente, towards dhamma.

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:smile: i was at work, so a bit lazy to reorganized it. I know it is messy.

I would then just revised one part.
N8P list 8 items within the same layer, Paṭipadā is the mode of the progress within a layer of N8P itself and between layers of N8P. Else we would not have four levels of attainment. “way” is a pretty good choice but does not describe that very well. The choice of “way” is due to the word majjhima.

Middle mode of progress really sound very strange as well.

I don’t take patipada only refer to path, it also refer to dependant origination. So i would not mix patipada and maggo. When you take patipada as path, then we have difficulty in SN12.3.

“Way” also not applicable for SN 12.3. DO is too complicated to be covered by “way”.
Therefore, my problem is only on the word “majjhima”.

Anyway, looks like i have to leave it for now and move on, come back in future.

For the time being, i’m building this ‘save zone’, with 2 approaches:

A) To interpret ajjhena as a kind of ‘education’; “the teaching”

“There is the third (approach) brahmin; avoid getting into both, this teaching is the dhamma that the Tathagata teaches: …”

Instead of ente as: near or within, interpret it as get into

B) Split the sentence by taking majjhena not to mean anything significant but just an advice of being neutral:

“Ete te, brāhmaṇa, ubho ante anupagamma majjhena | tathāgato dhammaṃ deseti:”

“Brahmin, avoid getting into both, remain at the middle; the third (approach) is this dhamma that the Tathagata teaches: …”

After all, the middle of the bowl that contain the beans is “void” of any bean.

Cool. It is all possible. But why then it would have taken 2,500 for the mistake to be fixed? I just think this may not be probable. :expressionless:

Luckily not that long, perhaps some where in between or more recent.
These are the kind of records that we have at least upto around 600CE:

I cannot make sense of this. Is it related to your suggested alternative reading of majjhima / majjhe?

Indeed, thus my earlier suggestion -

If you’re interested, there is SA 300 which contains a formulation of the pericope as such -

I avoid these two extremes. Keeping to the Middle Way…

The Chinese translators probably felt uncomfortable with a hanging adjective, and furnished a substantive noun “way” to be predicated by “middle”.

Ah, now I see where you’re coming from. Fn 13 helpfully notes that ajjhena is an alternative name for ajjhayana (study). BUT, it is impossible to read the pericope’s majjhena as a textual corruption of ajjhena.

Ajjhena as a word is a lemma, ie a stem form used only in dictionaries. In texts, ajjhena would invariably be inflected into a relevant adnominal case. Eg -

Ajjhenaṃ kho, bho gotama, brāhmaṇā catutthaṃ dhammaṃ paññapenti puññassa kiriyāya, kusalassa ārādhanāya.
Study is the fourth thing that the brahmins prescribe for the performance of merit, for accomplishing the wholseome.
MN 99

“Through study” would thus be ajjhenena.

Hope this helps.


Not related, other link of similar image without high light does not work. Just to show you what kind of record there was back then even in 600CE.

Thanks @Sylvester for the reference and the comment, very helpful indeed.

Taking it as Study is an attempt, i am more keen on taking it as ‘a teaching’. The first is the Malay word of “ajar”, but the closer one that i like is “ajaran”; seems that ajjhenam may not be just on “study”, but the Malay is taking it as “a teaching”

Anyway, now that i manage to find time to go thru the sutta that @suci1 points to, looks interesting!

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Thanks @suci1

Just gone thru both, looks to me these 2 are ‘opposite’ parallels.

Looking through the sutta, this should be the ground that i’m taking regarding the middle; @Gabriel_L

“身者是一邊,身集是二邊, ( . .? . . ) 愛為縫紩…… “

One part missing, but found the explanation filling up the gap here: SA1164 by agama.buddhason.org

Chewing on the missing part.

Would you find it suspicious in AN1164 “身者是一邊,身集是二邊, ( . .? . . ) 愛為縫紩…… “

By the nature of the rest of the text, it would be something like this:
“身者是一邊,身集是二邊, (有身/身见/心)(是/在)其中, 愛為縫紩…… “

Why would the agamas removed this part? Due to complication with Boddhicitta and no self (无我)?
And the teacher that teaches this in buddhason.org, takes the Theravada version in filling up the gap in above quote!

“復有說言:「有者是一邊,集是二邊,[s]受是其中[/s],愛為縫紩 … “

Which is this in AN6.61 emphasizing cessation:

“Friends, self is one end, the arising of self is the second end, the cessation of self is the middle . Craving is the seamstress…”

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Not meant to revived this thread, just to short summary of what i was trying to say a yr ago and add in additional remarks; that majjhima, may not just meant the middle but covering a more specific meaning of today’s term that we say “moderation”; or in fact it does not means “middle” at all in majjhima patipada?

“by the middle”, a simplified “2 dimensional” handling; the ruler kills it.
“thru the middle” the beans in the bowl kills it, one can not goes thru the middle of a 3 dimensional space, hyperspace wormhole travelling… may be.

"anupagamma" is already meant "not completely hold on" to specific view;

PED "gamma" : what should be understood or attained.

an - not (不) + upa - fully, totally, completely (全部) If i were to interpret gamma as 'holding on to (understanding)' , then "anupagamma" would be "not completely holding on to" : thus the pointer points to those ("extreme") teachings.

intepreting majjhima as middle would be redundant. "Middle way" can be very misleading as the emphasis can be on the word "way". I presume it is from the word 道. "Way" gives one a picture that as though there is a mysterious passageway thru 2 extremes; or indeed this mysterious passageway is where 道 (as in daoism) leads to? No way! I doubt Buddha or ancient bhikkhu would introduce such a word to mean 'middle' as "anupagamma - not completely holding on to (specific view) " already very well taking care in that respect, having a duplicate word of the middle is unnecessary.
The pali english dictionary for majjhima: [adj.] middle; medium; moderate; central. I should have fully consider an important word previously. If not that i read SarathW1 post in DW on the question related to sudden and gradual, the word moderation would not have strike my mind.

😕 how could i have missed that word a yr ago! One can imagine how this word middle can cause the mind being block or my brain was too exhausted! btw, many Thanks @SarathW1

The chinese term 中道, does 中 & 道carries the meaning on its own? Looking at both sides, the P-E dict and these 2 words being considered together; the word 中 refers中等, 適中, 適度 (moderation) and 道 is 道(爲的線路),進行的方式.

When these words being link to DO, and we know pretty well that in seeing DO, it has to be progressed at a very cautious pace; and the training itself is a gradual process. Thus mapping on both PED and my understanding on中道, “moderate” is much more appealing, afaisi; as in moderate(/ion) (mode of) progress for majjhima patipada; be realistic and do away from a term that is of a phantom nature.

Apology @Gabriel_L, my post may have turn your discussion off course

Sometime, i just can’t help but to wander; would this word majjhima be the sparking term that ignite the diversity of Buddhist schools?

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Sujato defines it pretty well here:

Several suttas hold up dependent origination as a “teaching by the middle” (majjhena tathāgato dhammaṃ deseti). It is a “teaching by the middle” because it transcends two extreme views that polarize philosophical reflection on the human condition.
One extreme, the metaphysical thesis of eternalism (sassatavāda), asserts that the core of human identity is an indestructible and eternal self, whether individual or universal…

The other extreme, annihilationism (ucchedavāda), holds that at death the person is utterly annihilated. There is no spiritual dimension to human existence and thus no personal survival of any sort. For the Buddha, both extremes pose insuperable problems.

Majhima is just the reflection of a view that holds that things do exist through the actualisation of the dhr-man (dhamma) that is paticcasamuppada, and yet is based on nothingness and impermanence.
Therefore a dhamma that holds that there is no such thing as an eternal self in paticcasamuppada (not continuous - not śaśvat - not sassava) as imagined by the Vedists.

Yet a Dhamma that does not hold either that there is such a thing as being totally annihilated.

What would that probably mean, sounds obvious to me. But is that the case for everyone ?
In other words, that thing will end - but won’t be annihiliated.

Fire needs wood to burn (and be named and exist) _ but fire does not end as an idea for the matter, when wood comes to an end.

This middle view is quite moderate, it seems.


Any idea why the word middle is more favourable than moderate(ion)?

I wouldn’t put the word into Buddha’s mouth, that he has a 3rd view.
A ruler simile already covers that, SN1164 as well.
Beans in the bowl simile also covers that, your reference AN6.61 as well.

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Contact, bhikkhus, is one end; the arising of contact is the second end; the cessation of contact is in the middle; and craving is the seamstress. For craving sews one to the production of this or that state of existence.
AN 6.61

It seems that the parallel to this sutta (SA 1164) does not give “the cessation of contact” as the middle. It sounds like it gives “life” instead, as the middle. Which would make these Buddha’s words quite controversial.
Maybe some Chinese pundit can settle that.

May I take the liberty to make a remark on “contact”.

The proper etymology of Phassa (usually translated as contact,) has the underlying meaning of a “transfer of property”. It is not appropriation per se (upadana), but just a mere transfer of property. Transfer of properties from the external, to the internal.
This is what the Vedist considered normal, as a continuous process.

But for Buddha, this was a wrong view.

One transfers the property (phassa) of the (external) object’s khandhas & dhatus to oneself. Does crave for more of them (taṇhā); does appropriate them (upādāna) [this is mine]; does become like them (bhāva) [I am - I become this - I exist because of this]; and does long for more of it (jāti).


Sorry @Gabriel_L, going to be more side track. Can’t help it, out of curiosity, @suci1; how doest this

works in arupa being? You may PM to avoid side track further, many Thanks!

This use of “middle” comports with (agrees, corresponds to) with one western view of dialectical thinking.

I say one western view because the conceptions & definitions of dialectical are many, diverse and varied. But the general idea is one of

  1. a thesis (view, understanding, theory)
  2. another contrasting thesis – the antithesis
  3. A resolution of the thesis/antithesis in a synthesis


The Buddha said this: “Contact, mendicants, is one end. [thesis]
The origin of contact is the second end. [antithesis]
The cessation of contact is the middle. [synthesis]
And craving is the seamstress, for craving [see below] weaves one to rebirth in this or that state of existence.
– AN 6.61

Negation. In some dialectical schools of thought, negation asks: what is not said, not taken into account, not described in the thesis. What is missing in the thesis?
I am reminded of not-self.

It seems to me that in some westerns notions of dialectical thought the dialectical process (or a “dialectical move”) itself is understood to roughly correspond to the breaking free of craving. Which helps to explain why the idea of “dialectical thinking” has been often associated with particular philosophical or political movements. That association is understandable but regrettable – a ‘throwing of the baby out with the bathwater’.

I call myself a dialectical thinker but one that sees the dialectical process as a way that might point to the path of liberation, at most a “finger pointing in the direction”.

Thus if contact is the thesis, the origin of contact the antithesis, then the path to the cessation of contact is the dialectical synthesis. Liberation comes from “directly knowing” this.

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I see the ‘middle path’ as specifically being the pleasant path of jhāna. Beyond the extremes of the painful ascetic path, and the sense-pleasure path. If you can call those two ‘paths’.

He seemed to explain that when remembering his rose-apple tree jhāna experience.

And then he made the Noble Eightfold Path as the Middle Path. And the Noble Eightfold Path is the path of jhāna. It all leads up to the 8th step, jhāna. (Yes there are 2 fruits that proceed from that, but they are the fruits, not the path.)



If nāma is the thesis, rūpa is the antithesis, then direct knowing seeing nāmana is the dialectical synthesis.
Seamstress on contact is shattered thru directly knowing and seeing this.

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