The highest philosophy of wisdom in the Buddhist tradition is known as The Middle Way. The Middle Way refers to the nature of all phenomena: that no thing exists inherently, but that isn’t to say that things don’t exist at all. Practically stated: that in any given moment things neither exist, nor do not exist, but existence itself depends on an apprehending consciousness. The middle way is the nature of all phenomena and is how all phenomena actually are in any given moment: resting on the razor’s edge between existence and nonexistence.
This supposedly difficult to realize philosophy is actually extremely pragmatic in nature and is deeply interwoven and imbued with compassion. A realized being experiences this reality directly – which is known as seeing emptiness directly.
Let’s use a practical example in hopes of better understanding and appreciating the philosophy of the Middle Way: Your car (although this same procedure could be applied to any apparent phenomena such as the appearance of your own body, house, job, illness..any apparent phenomena really).
1.) Does your car have prior causes and conditions? Of course. That demonstrates that it doesn’t have any inherent existence – it is empty of inherently being a car. Simply: it hasn’t always existed as the appearance of a car.
2.) Although you can’t see it with your eyes, you would agree that the solid appearance of the car under analytical examination is false – it’s not solid – the appearance is undergoing constant change. The appearance of solidity is an illusion; again demonstrating the emptiness – or lack of inherent existence.
3.) Could the car be subdivided into parts, and could those parts be further subdivided into parts, and so on? Exactly just how far could you take a part apart? That demonstrates again that the car does not have any inherent car-ness. So where does the car that you experience right now come from?
4.) The car – without you or others labeling it as a car, what is it really? Beyond mere words, labels, or imputations what is that appearance in the driveway really? Take away your labels and rest your gaze, rest in the awareness that whatever that appearance is in the empty driveway that functions as a car – isn’t intrinsically a car, i.e. it’s empty or lacks any car-ness.
To believe that things exist inherently is a mistaken view, the implication or consequence is that things exist upon a perceiving or apprehending consciousness labeling or imputing its reality. Simply put: without your conditioning to call things the way that you do – what are they really? They are definitely not really what you say they are, even though they may appear to function as you say.
The car does seem to get you from A to B. The thing is – you and A to B are also empty (lacking intrinsic reality) – and so is the mind fabricating these very word structures as well as the device you’re reading from now.
You may wonder where does the compassion piece fit into all of this? That’s easy actually. Think of the last time you suffered. What did you suffer for? I suspect that you suffered for something that was conceived to have had inherent existence. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or didn’t exist – that’s too extreme. We are only describing how it is you’ve suffered and that if you wanted to stop suffering where exactly you would have to look.
I am clearly suggesting that you are creating the reality of your experience with your own thinking. It would be false to conclude that nothing matters, because the opposite is what you would want to infer: it’s very important what we think, because how we think creates the very world of our subjective experience and hence our happiness and our suffering.
The sub-atomic philosophy of quantum mechanics in many ways is very helpful in describing what we experience in or near deep states of meditative absorption: the middle way between existence and non-existence. For a quick study of quantum reality read the article below on the now famous John Wheeler experiment (supplied by my partner Davita Moodley).
May you be happy, well, safe, peaceful and at ease