Buddhist Teachings about the Middle - A Critical study of the Majjhe-sutta of the Aṅguttara-nikāya

Sanjeewa Vijitha Kumara



The Majjhe sutta, which comes in The Book of the Sixes (chakka nipāta) of the Aṅguttara-nikāya, incorporates six interpretations (by six different elder monks) of the Buddha’s phrase ‘the middle’. Later, they await the verdict of the Buddha to make it clear whose understanding was the most reliable. After hearing a report of their discussion, the Buddha consented to all six definitions and further drove away their doubts by explicitly confirming the first monk’s version. The term ‘majjhena’, which means ‘the middle’ or ‘Central Philosophy’, occasionally appears in the Nikāya texts[1] and is similar to the term ‘majjhe’ ([in] the middle). Furthermore, while the term ‘majjhimā’ symbolizes ‘the middle path’, the ‘majjhe’ of the Majjhe sutta stands for neither of these two meanings. However, by using the term ‘majjhe’, the sutta does present expositions akin to ‘majjhena’ as ‘Central Philosophy’. Thus, this paper proposes to compare the similarities and dissimilarities between ‘the middle’ (majjhe) and ‘Central Philosophy’ (majjhena). In addition, it aims to question the likelihood of the setting up of a different middle teaching in the Majjhe sutta, one which differs from the Kaccāyanagotta sutta. The scope of this paper merely covers the “philosophical” aspect of ‘the middle’ in Buddhism.

[1] This teaching is encountered in five places only in the four Nikāyas; Dhammadāyda-sutta., M I /Araṇavibhaṅga-sutta., M III/ Rāsiya-sutta., S IV/ Nidāna-saṃyutta/ Acelakavagga., A I


majjhe; Central Philosophy; the middle

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