The Triple Gem Is the Middle Way

Ajahn Yatiko • August 2013

It’s interesting how things change when Luang Por Pasanno leaves. Suddenly the energy in the community shifts. When a senior monk is the head of a community, one of his roles is to figuratively place himself into the center of that community. From that central point, he provides a focus for the community that is both encouraging and inspiring for those members. His role is part of the external world we live in here. But we each occupy an internal world as well, and each of us is at the center of that world. And from that center, when push comes to shove, we’re each responsible for our own inspiration, encouragement, and well-being.

So we have to find a way of centering ourselves that doesn’t depend on some person of authority or other external form of support—to find a center that can serve as a point of focus and a stable refuge. If we take our own desires and selfish cravings as a refuge, that’s a recipe for suffering. When we do that, we’re headed toward an empty, dead-ended, self-centered solitude that’s very painful to experience. On the other extreme, we could place the external world at our center, seeking refuge in trying to serve and help, focusing all of our energies on those in need. But one of the cold, hard facts of this world is that there are many more beings in need than we could possibly help in a meaningful way. Trying to center ourselves in unreserved, unremitting service often leads to suffering, frustration, and burnout.

The Middle Way for all of this—for finding a center—is based on the Triple Gem—the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. We can rely on the Triple Gem for our center. We already know how much time we waste focused on our own little thoughts, ideas, perceptions, aspirations, hopes, and anxieties. We can get out of that mode by calling to mind the Triple Gem—something extra-mundane and transcendent. We can let our internal worlds revolve around and focus on that. When we focus on the Triple Gem as our center, the focus is neither on ourselves nor on other people, yet it is something that radiates everywhere, toward all beings, including ourselves. Although maintaining this center requires effort, we need not depend on external people or conditions to make it happen.