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Lions Roar : March 2018
this: that there is more peace, more affection, more happiness, more clarity in your life. You probably still experience confusion and afflictive emo- tion, but after a while it doesn’t bother you so much. You are not tempted to be caught by it because you know that just leads to suffering and you have gotten over your long-term love affair with suffering. So in this way, little by little, you develop an understanding of and a grounding in emptiness. You don’t need to call it emptiness. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. But you know how things are and you are happy to live in accord with them. ZOKETSU NORMAN FISCHER is a Zen teacher, poet, and founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation. His most recent books include What Is Zen?: Plain Talk for a Beginner’s Mind (co-authored with Susan Moon) and the poetry collection Magnolias All At Once. of two bundles of reeds leaning up against each other. If some- one were to knock over one bundle, the other would naturally fall to the ground. Everything stands by virtue of support. In the sutras the Buddha said, “This being, that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises; this not being, that becomes not; from the ceasing of this, that ceases.” The teachings of dependent arising have deep implications. Since everything arises in dependence upon other factors, we can’t identify where one thing ends and another begins. We can’t find the edges of anything, and we begin to see that the world resists definition. This doesn’t mean our perceptions or thoughts are muddled. It’s just that, as much as we attempt to reach definitive conclu- sions about our selves, others, and our world, life continuously bursts from the seams of our beliefs and ideas. Because all things rely upon the ever-shifting nature of other elements, they will always remain uncapturable, beyond our ability to fathom them. That life resists objectification is called emptiness in the middle way tradition. In other words, because life is open to interpretation and always a work in progress—because every- thing leans—we will never find anything that possesses its own independent identity. The middle way helps us understand who we are in relation- ship to our world. Because everything leans, we can never be right or in total command. This protects us from fundamentalism and eternalism. Yet because we are a part of the great nature of interdependence, everything we do influences life—everything matters. This protects us from meaninglessness and nihilism. The middle way describes the open mind that is free of clinging to views, a mind that can bear the fathomless and unknowable nature of things yet responds clearly and compassionately to life. ♦ ELIZABETH MATTIS NAMGYELis a Buddhist teacher and author of The Power of an Open Question and the forthcoming The Logic of Faith. The Middle Way by Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel THE MIDDLE WAY (madhyamika) teachings lie at the heart of all the Buddha’s teachings. The middle way describes the path of insight through which we question the many unexamined assumptions that bind us to false certitudes and spiritual vague- ness. It is not a dogma to adhere to but a process of direct inves- tigation that moves us toward sanity as we navigate life. At the core of the middle way, we find something called pratityasamutpada, a Sanskrit term often translated as “depend- ent arising.” These teachings challenge us to find anything that stands on its own, independent of other elements. Can you find anything—either in the realm of consciousness or of matter— that does not come into existence, express itself, and fall away contingent upon other elements? To illustrate dependent arising, the Buddha used the example LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 69