It’s always interesting to me to see how often psychologists and psychotherapists talk about the problem of reconciling opposites. Anybody who knows anything at all about the elementary principles of say of psychoanalysis, knows that according to the ideas of both Freud and Jung, own who are in a way the great patriarchs of what we call depth psychology that according to their ideas. There is a kind of compensatory relationship between what is conscious and what his unconscious in our mental life. And that to the degree that one is as it were light above one is dark below or to the degree that one is dark about one is light below. And it’s often pointed out. That very many people who wrote the most scurrilous books such as Abile lead the most exemplary lives whereas on the other hand a lot of people who wrote very pious and holy books actually lead disreputable lives. And I think there is a great deal of truth in the way Freud so often points out. That what is expressed in the world of dreams is the opposite side of life to that which one is living consciously, and that therefore, the problem of integrating a person of making him whole. And it’s interesting isn’t it that the word is etymologically related to the word holy. But the problem of making a person whole is to get together has to apparently opposed sides. And underneath all this there is the recognition. That so many things which seem at one level to be opposed to each other are at another level mutually necessary.
And this is something that’s terribly difficult for us to admit. We don’t like the basic harmony which very often underlies things that we would rather prefer to see in opposition to each other. Take for example, the fundamental opposition of life and death. Isn’t it perfectly extraordinary the way we manage to conceal or most people manage to conceal, the fact that they keep alive, by death. Day in and day out, after all we are constantly transforming dead animals and plants into the shape of our own organisms. But on this kind of thing you know is conveniently put away the slaughterhouses somewhere in the back district or Chicago and we don’t get to see what goes on. And of course we conceal deaths in so many ways the whole art of the mortician as he likes to starve themselves, is to conceal death. And therefore, because of the Death is constantly repressed. We begin to forget. How much life and death go together. And so, to the degree that we fail to recognize. The inseparability of things that we call opposites to that degree we keep running into problems that baffle us and that we don’t understand. We don’t understand, for example. How our unnecessary. Our enemies are to us. How the things that we fight against. Ass things which stimulate us to call out our images. And while in other words it seems to be necessary to muster or our strength to oppose the thing. If we should overdo it. And muster too much strength, and succeed in getting rid of our enemies, we might very well collapse. And I think that an insight into that fact. Underlies the celebrated sayings of Jesus Love your enemies. Interesting it doesn’t necessarily say does it make friends of your enemy it says, Love your enemies. And fair something of this kind underlies. The very very usual idea in Eastern philosophy of the truth lying in the middle. In other words, in Confucianism, one of the cardinal principles of Confucianism is the so-called doctrine of the mean. And interpreted one level, this is rather just the platitudinous doctrine of moderation, that one should be moderate in all things. And in the same way, Buddhism is called the middle way. And that too, at a certain level level of interpretation means nothing more than that this is a doctrine of moderation used. In the Buddha’s time, roughly six hundred years before Christ. Run of the main forms of. Indian spirituality whereas the search for liberation through extreme. Self-mortification. When Guatama Buddha himself was a young man. He was the son as you probably know of a north Indian tribal King in the clan of the suckers. And his father, had at the child’s birth, consulted the soothsayers. And they had foretold. That he would either be a great monarch. Or else he would be. A brother. And the father didn’t want his son you know to get mixed up in this religious business and did. Everything to encourage him. To follow in his father’s way he surrounded him with luxury and Intel is to him. In a palace where he should never see any sight or hear any sound that would make him think about the so-called problem of life.
But the story goes that by chance. He caught glimpses of suffering, of Death, of disease, of poverty. And this so plague his mind he just had to find out. Rise such things should happen to human beings. And the story goes on to say that he finally arranged to escape from the palace. But he cut off his hair, shed all of his luxurious garments and downed rags. And became a mendicant. In other words he followed for seven years. Those teachers who said. That wisdom and peace altimetry lie only through its true mortification of the desires of the flesh. But after seven years, he found out it didn’t work it hadn’t brought him any peace at all. And so, after some time, during which he thought that he really had discovered the secret of the problem. He proclaimed what he called the middle way and as I said at a kind of low level. This signified simply, that on one level, the one it stream there was this. Mortification of desire and of the flesh of the other extreme there was hedonism the attempt to solve the prob. Him of life by getting as much since he was pleasure as possible. And so he took the middle way between these extremes. But that as I said is only part of the point. Because rap is the middle way. Really comes to is not moderation, it isn’t compromise. But really, a profound understanding of the unity that underlies all oppositions. You know so often we think logically. That life consists fundamentally in oppositions that as it were conflict is the most fundamental reality that is we look upon life in other words as an encounter this happens in all sorts of different ways the encounter of spirit and matter, the encounter of mind and body. And also the encounter, of oneself and the world as if these things came from. Unimaginable distances apart and suddenly met each other and by reason of being as it were logically opposed to each other there is there upon conflict.
But obviously, there can’t be a battle unless there’s a battlefield. It’s often said very difficult to arrange a battle between a tiger and the shark because they have no common field. Wherever there is a battle, preceding the conflict, prior to it underlying it is something income. As the very fact that two people having a fight have something in common that there’s something they both want to get and so fighting over what they want to get, they have in common. And because they have the same desire, they’re the same kind of creature, they have that life in common. And so underlying every contest. There is a fundamental agreement. As in Alice, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee agreed to have a battle. So, the real meaning of the middle way, and Buddhism is often simply called the middle way, is to go down underneath conflict to discover harmony. And I would like to talk a little bit about two kinds of following of the Middle Way which have occurred in the history of Buddhist philosophy. And these might also be called dialectic. Now, the word dialectic has as it were, a sort of double sense. It’s related to dialogue to a conversation. As say between a teacher and his pupil. The Socratic Method, the teacher as it were eliciting understanding from his pupils by a dialogue in which the teacher asks the right questions. That other side of the meaning of dialectic is that there are opposed positions. Thesis on the one hand, antithesis on the other and as a result of the dialectic between these two opposites we arrive. Live at a synthesis. And in both the senses of the word the middle way is a dialectic. As you know, Eastern teachers don’t advertise for students. Because their basic attitude is really [that] they haven’t anything to teach. That may seem surprising but it is based on the insight. That at the deepest level beneath conflict prior to conflict. Because it’s prior to conflict. Life isn’t a problem. This is a very obviously difficult thing to understand, but most people feel it is a problem. And therefore, constantly go around looking for someone who will tell them how to solve it. And so it is in this way that the Inquirer comes across the sage we’ll say the Inquirer comes across going back now into the history of ancient India comes across such a man as the Buddha. And says to him, my problem is that I suffer, and I want to know how to stop suffering this was the whole problem with which the Buddha dealt and if we start from this raising of the question by the student we can then follow out the steps of a dialectic so that the student is brought to the middle way that is to say to the point where the conflict expressed in his suffering is reduced to the harmony that underlies it.
So the first thing that happens then is the student comes to question A comes and poses the problem. I want not to suffer. And the teacher answers with a counter proposition. And says You suffer because you desire. A lot of people think that’s all the Buddha really said. That if suffering is the result of desire, all you gotta do is stop desiring and you won’t suffer. Simple, yeah. But this wasn’t the project all this was simply the first step in a dialogue. And so, the next step is that if the student takes that to be the answer he comes back with the question well, how am I to stop desiring? And so the next question from the teacher might well be do you really want to. And this would make the student scratches head a little look as he realizes that [if] it’s true, as the Buddha seems to say, that in order not to suffer one must cease desiring surely I want not to desire this is also desire. So to escape that trap the student must answer. Well yes and no. I want to make an end of the kind of desires that lead to suffering but I don’t want to make an end of the desire to do that.
So the next step in the dialogue is the teacher says well suffering comes from desiring more than you’re going to get. So don’t desire more than you’re going to get desiring more than you’re going to get is or more than you have or can get that is anguish. And the student thinks that one over for a while. And then comes back with this question yes but supposing I fai in not desiring more than I have or can get Won’t that lead to anguish too. And the teacher comes back with the proposition. Don’t desire to succeed in this enterprise, more than you can succeed or will succeed. Now I wonder if you have been able to notice what’s happening here? On the one hand, there is first of all we start from the student trying to control his desire, as a student and there is his desire, his hunger. And at each step in this question and answer, the Buddha as the master of the dialogue is taking the student to a higher level. At the lowest level the conflict is simply between his own inner appetites. And the state of affairs the facts of life as we call them the hard facts. But at the next step, he has made the student see that his own feeling is part of the facts. To put it in another way, if you learn not to desire more than you have or can get you are learning to accept things as they are. But among the things as they are your own feelings. And these may be as it were unacceptable or unpleasant feelings. So he turns the attention of the students’ attention to the fact that all right. You’ve got to accept your own feelings as well so the student says Well supposing I can’t accept my own feelings, he says well, don’t desire to accept them any more than you can. And that goes up to another level.
And you see what happens ultimately as the conversation goes on. The student comes to regard his whole inner life his feelings he’s become completely objective about them those become part of the world that was his problem. And he suddenly wakes up one morning to find himself in a very strange situation. He’s thought that he stood opposed to the world he identified himself with his desires. And there outside him is a world that negated him. Suddenly, all this is gone but a bit changed. His inside his desires his emotions is feeling and the outside world are all the same. And so well is left to the person who had the problem. He is reduced Of course for a moment to nothing but a witness. A kind of passive observer of an outside world and is only in a life and his feelings that they all go together. And at the last minute flip. Even the one who seems to watch it turns out to be all one, with what is being watched. It’s another way of saying. To be aware of something you don’t have to have on the one hand and never under known. The whole process can be described much more simply as a knowing.
The other form of dialectic is perhaps simpler to explain. And it’s based on a form of Buddhist philosophy which originated about two hundred years B. a D.. Now in Indian logic. There are other called for propositions. The first one is yes. The second one is no. The third one is yes and no. And the fourth proposition is neither yes nor no. And these as a kind of fundamental classification of statements. That, we may say for example that the world exists. Or that it doesn’t exist or that it both exists and doesn’t exists or that it neither exists nor doesn’t exist this sums up the whole possibilities of philosophy and other words this would be the person. Who is a realist, like say Aristotle or Sir Thomas Aquinas, who equates the ultimate reality of God with being. But this On the other hand would be a sort of Hume-ian standpoint where you would say there is no such thing as being that is an abstraction it’s just a concept here is number three you would get a sort of Hegellian standpoint, of synthesis between being and nonbeing and in the fourth you would get the extreme nihilist agnostic skeptic or whatever.
Now then the point of this particular dialectic is that it is fumes that deep down every human being really clings to some such opinions, some metaphysical opinion which can actually be put under one of those categories. One might not think this. One thinks that most people are sort of an intellectual and don’t think about these things and have no philosophy but scratch a human being carefully enough, and you will find out that there is some promise which he clings to further. And so what the dialectician does he waits for someone with a problem to turn up he scratches him to find out what is the opinion to which he most deeply clings. And then, because the nature of this dialectic is a philosophy for refuting any opinion that anybody can hold the flaws of himself has nothing to say he says if you propose Yes I can show you that yes has no meaning without no. Any affirmation you make has no meaning without the denial. And by such means as this. He gets the person to become insecure. He doesn’t know what to cling to. And as he looks for a new opinion to cling to to give himself a sense of psychological security, the philosopher destroys that one too, so that in the end he has absolutely nothing left to hang onto.
And this is actually, the bringing of a person to liberation and to health because it is clinging to life. That is at the root of anxiety and anxiety which in turn is at the root of all manner of discordant activities and problems. Once lets go and doesn’t try to clinging to life with his mind, he is then released, and talked out of his own self-strangulation.