The Trap of the Middle Way

I mentioned earlier that L. LeShan warned (p. 65) that there are special traps associated with what he calls the “Middle Way” approach to meditation, also called “the way of the man with a silent mind” of the Hesychast tradition of Mount Athos or “the way of emptiness.” He points to an entire chapter in his book entitled Alluring Traps in Meditation and Mysticism (p.116). But nowhere in that chapter does he specify what the special traps associated with the Middle Way are.

He lists several categories:

1. “Vibrations,” “Energy,” and Other Cheap Explanations of Things

2. Monday is Blue, Is Subatomic, Is Regressive, and Other Silly Maps of Reality

3. The Game of Withdrawal from the World (or, “I am such a high person that I can see that your pain is illusion”)

4. My Guru is Higher Than Your Guru

Of these three, my guess is that trap #3 is the one that is most likely to pertain to the Middle Way. On p. 128, LeShan writes that practitioners of a certain type (perhaps Middle Way?) of meditation

… turned out to be calm, centered, intelligent philosophers who could watch starvation and avoid involvement with those starving, since they believed involvement would bing them more closely to the “wheel of things” and so prevent their inner development.

Maybe this is one of the traps of the Middle Way?

Another possible trap is as follows. There may be TWO states of mind that are devoid of internal verbalization/conscious thought:

1. A state which LeShan describes as “a highly alert and dynamically balanced mind without conscious thought,” in which “events are perceived and responded to as they occur with the full focus of immediate attention…” This is the ideal.

2. A “spaced out” state in which there are no particular thoughts, but in which there is also little attention or alertness. This is not ideal.

It may be possible to attain state #2 but mistakenly believe that one had attained state #1. In state #2 the mind is indeed empty, but it is not alert. Perhaps the Middle Way should be renamed “the way of the man with a silent and alert mind” or “the way of emptiness and alertness.”

I can easily see somebody falling into this trap for years.

Published in: on 15 November 2009 at 12:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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