Saturday, May 26, 2007


Will, as usual, asks a very good question:
How about if we start with a question: How do you think the middle way applies to what you do with your money?

To put it in very simple terms, Buddhism says that you should look for your own actions reflected in the world. So if you see a world full of poverty, and you want to change that, you need to be generous, and you need to avoid stealing.

The middle way aspect of this comes from the actual definition of the middle way, which is the path between not any two extremes, but two specific extremes: the extreme of thinking that things exist truly, and the extreme of thinking that things don't exist at all.

To illustrate what this means, consider what a person would do who believes in the extreme of existence - that things exist truly. Someone with this belief thinks that wealth comes from getting things. So a person like this will, when they see a poor person and want to help them, give them things. And if they pick the right poor person, they may actually see some benefit from what they do. And if they pick the wrong poor person, they will see no benefit.

A person who falls to the extreme of nonexistence will point out that because giving things to the poor person has no cause-and-effect relationship to seeing the poor person do better (if the relationship was cause-and-effect, it would work _every_ time), there is no point at all in being generous - even if you want to help the poor person, you can't, so you might as well go surfing.

The middle way here is realizing that while there is no direct cause-and-effect relationship between helping a specific poor person and that person doing better, nevertheless if you make a habit of helping people in need, then that habit might function to create a world in which there is more generosity, and that in turn might produce a world in which there is less poverty.

The point is that if you follow the middle way, you just live the reality that you want to see in the world. You don't tell other people how to act, because it doesn't work. How do we know it doesn't work? Because if it did work, we'd see it working. And what we see instead is a pitched battle, with no obvious hope of a good outcome. So the solution to the problem isn't to join the battle. It's to stop the battle.


Post a Comment

<< Home