Middle Way/Emptiness

Middle Way/Emptiness

Middle Way

The Middle Way means being balanced without skewing towards a one side, but it does not necessarily mean splitting the difference on every issue. The “Middle Way” taught by Shakyamuni Buddha does not imply the rigid approach of always taking the precise midpoint between two extremes.

The principle of the Middle Way which the Buddha realized teaches us that the philosophies of both extreme hedonism and extreme asceticism are perspectives akin to seeing the world through red or green-tinted glasses, and thus not appropriate ways of looking at the world. Such biases are, metaphorically speaking, visions of the world obscured by the clouds of delusion, and by no means the path to nirvana. Human beings have to view things and conduct themselves in accord with truth, without adopting any such biased and fixed perspectives on the world.


Emptiness means the fact that all things exist in accord with cause and effect—there is no absolute existence nor any primordial substance from which all things derive. Consequently, this means that all things are essentially equal from the standpoint of their true nature. The understanding of emptiness as equality is of the utmost significance in Buddhism.

There are two ways of understanding the teaching of emptiness. The first is the view that all things (dharmas) are empty, that no beings are real in an absolute sense, and that all phenomena come into being as merely temporary manifestations. This interpretation is of course correct, but this alone has nothing to say about human liberation.
We should, rather, regard the teaching of emptiness in a more positive way. All things exist through the interaction of causes and conditions, but to say that no substance is fixed and permanent does not imply that nothing exists or that everything is “nothingness.” What comes into being through causes and conditions most definitely exists, but nothing is fixed and eternally unchanging. If we hope for good circumstances in our lives, we ourselves have to create good causes and conditions.