The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason
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The Dalai Lama lays out the Buddhist approach to matters of faith and devotion that is based on the highest spirit of critical inquiry.
The Dalai Lama opens The Middle Way with an elegant argument for the power of compassion in cultivating a happy life. From there, he connects core ideas of Buddhist philosophy to the truths of our shared condition. His Holiness delivers a sparklingly clear teaching on how the Buddhist ideas of emptiness and interdependency relate to personal experience and bring a deeper understanding of the world around us.
In down-to-earth style, this book sets forth a comprehensive explanation of the foundational teachings of the Mahayana tradition based on the works of two of Buddhism's most revered figures. Using Nagarjuna's Middle Way, the Dalai Lama explores Buddhist understandings of selflessness, dependent origination, and the causal processes that lock us in cycles of suffering. He grounds these heady philosophical discussions using Tsongkhapa's Three Principal Aspects of the Path, presenting a brief explanation of how to put ethical discipline, wisdom, and compassion into practice.
Through these beautifully complementary teachings, His Holiness urges us to strive, "with an objective mind, endowed with a curious skepticism, to engage in careful analysis and seek the reasons behind our beliefs."
ignorance—up to the twelfth link—aging and death—to describe the dependently originated nature of cyclic existence. When the mechanisms of cause and effect at the heart of the four noble truths are explained in greater detail, we arrive at the Buddha’s teaching on the twelve links of dependent origination. As with his teachings of the four noble truths, the Buddha taught two causal processes with respect to these twelve links.6 And here too the first process pertains to the afflicted class of
basis for cultivating omniscience, can also be a byproduct of generating the awakening mind. In brief, the second link, volitional action, is a karmic act accumulated with fundamental ignorance as its causal motivation that produces samsaric existence. In contrast, acts accumulated on the basis of recognizing everything as devoid of true existence, or acts tempered by genuine renunciation or by an uncontrived awakening mind, constitute conditions for attaining the definite goodness. Just as I
In all cases, regardless of its subtlety, consciousness depends on a body. Thus at death, when the gross body is discarded, the extremely subtle body remains inseparable with consciousness. The I that is designated upon this extremely subtle body, too, continues to exist inseparably. To take the example of a womb-born being in the desire realm, the sensory bases begin to form when consciousness connects with the new birth. At that time, when the new gross bodily existence is first beginning, all
intellectual understanding of the importance of emptiness, we begin to sense the possibility of gaining freedom from cyclic existence. The possibility of nirvana or liberation and the methods to attain it become more real for us, more tangible. With this kind of understanding, we get a deeper understanding of what is meant by Dharma. It is the true cessation of afflictions. The path leading to it is also the Dharma. Once we have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Dharma Jewel, we will
of benefiting others. To begin, then, we remind ourselves of these two practices of going for refuge and generating the altruistic awakening mind by chanting or reflecting on the following stanza:To the Buddha, Dharma, and the excellent assembly, I go for refuge until I am enlightened. Through pursuing the practices of giving and the other perfections, may I attain buddhahood for the benefit of all beings. When I give introductions to the Buddhadharma, non-Buddhists are always welcome to