Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fitness and the narrow path

The narrow path to God is the same as the the Buddha's middle way. Like some Christina monks, the Buddha practiced extreme asceticism but found it did not work because it made him too weak. In my view there are two aspects to this. The first is the case of creating extreme weakness. In this case your brain cannot function properly and you will not have the mental strength to focus. The second case has to do with compassion. If you are too weak you cannot help effectively in a difficult situation. A weak person cannot carry a sick child or go for days without sleep in an emergency. The middle way can likened to the path of a body builder - they must eat enough of the right foods to be strong, but not so much that they gain fat. The middle way, in my opinion, involves not acting out of hedonism but tending what your body and mind need to be healthy. This is an act of compassion toward others (so you can help and not be a burden) and to yourself (so you have the mental and physical energy to focus your practice). Of course, helping others benefits your practice just as your practice makes you more effective at benefiting others. In my opinion, modern asceticism should outwardly be similar to an athlete in training; that is, discipline in diet, sleep, and exercise, but the goal must be different- not to win or to look good. Therefore, one should not engage in any sort of competition or boast and one should dress down. The Buddha said, take food as medicine. By this he meant to be healthy. Taking food as an example, the narrow path exits between indulging in desire and showing off, whether that involves being proud of looking good physically or (as the monks caution) being proud of your ability to starve yourself. The middle way strives to be empty of these things. The goal is to be truly empty

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