Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
The Middle Path-- A Buddhist approach to UL?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
The Middle Path-- A Buddhist approach to UL? on 05/16/2006 16:04:23 MDT Print View

Although I appreciate the innovation and experimentation of many individuals on this site, sometimes it does seem that the means becomes the end, and sometimes it may not even be the best way, just the lightest. Where does comfort on the trail come at the expense of comfort in the camp? Although this site is admittedly for the "fanatic fringe", sometimes an old Buddhist story comes to mind when some of the more staunch bloggers post. I have cut and pasted from an internet site, simply because it explains it concisely. I post it, only as food for thought, and not as an attack on any philosophy of UL, SUL, XUL, XXXUL :) backpacking techniques:

The Middle Way
From Anthony Flanagan,
Your Guide to Buddhism.

During the six years between the Buddha leaving his home at the age of 29 and attaining enlightenment, at the age of 35, he tried a range of quasi-spiritual practices which he thought might be successful. Some of these included starving the body to such an extent that he became terribly emaciated.
After a while, however, he realized that this was not helping him to achieve his goal - he simply felt tired, anxious and in pain. He considered that there must be another way. And so, he started to eat again - much to the disgust of his fellow mendicants who thought he'd just 'gone soft' - and remembered a time in his youth when he had experienced a pleasurable meditative experience whilst watching the annual ploughing festival.

Avoiding Extremes

The Buddha taught what he referred to as 'the Middle Way, a path that led to enlightenment by avoiding the extremes of sensory self-indulgence and self-mortification. Quite a humorous sutta tells of how two ascetics approach the Buddha and ask what their destiny will be in their next life. One of the ascetics spends his time acting like a dog, the other like an ox. Thus the ascetic who acts like a dog 'eats his food when it is thrown on the ground', whereas the ascetic who acts like an ox does ox-like things (the sutta doesn't explain what these might be!). By acting in this way, the two ascetics expect that they will be reborn in a higher realm, as gods perhaps, but the Buddha quickly disillusions them. The ascetic who acts like a dog will be reborn in the company of dogs or else hell; the ascetic who acts like an ox will be reborn in the company of oxen or else hell too!

Just as the Buddha argued against self-mortification as a practice that is beneficial to spiritual advancement, he also warned against indulgence in sensual pleasures.

A key passage from the scriptures is this one: 'One should not pursue sensual pleasure, which is low, vulgar, coarse, ignoble, and unbeneficial; and one should not pursue self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, and unbeneficial. The Middle Way...avoids both extremes; giving vision, giving knowledge, it leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana'.

Chris Nott
(ChrisN) - F

Locale: Canada west coast
Re: The Middle Path-- A Buddhist approach to UL? on 05/17/2006 11:50:31 MDT Print View

See http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00032.html for an article with some info on what ULers can learn from Buddhist monks.

Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re:Re: The Middle Path-- A Buddhist approach to UL? on 05/17/2006 13:24:21 MDT Print View

Good link. Thanks for posting it; I am very aware of the Indian Sadhus (among others mentioned in the article) and admire them all. I think the reason I wanted to post was to keep their "simplicity" alive. It seems so easy, once bitten by the UL bug (and I am guilty as charged :)), to drive yourself a little crazy with the aquisitive mania to get the lightest and lightest and lightest stuff, to get packweight down at almost all cost, and that sometimes it seems like more emphasis is placed on the gear than on the reason for the gear-- the time spent in nature, and enjoying it. Of course, we all "hike our own hike" but I was hoping to post it as a reminder for some folks that we don't all have to be sub-5 pounders, and in fact, perhaps some people shouldn't be-- and shouldn't feel guilty about it. I think that whenever we subscribe to any dogma, be it super-heavyweight backpacking vs. super-duper UL backpacking, we should each take the time to mindfully examine the belief and whether or not it is appropriate for us. Hopefully this makes sense, and not just a ramble. And, like I said previously, I am not attacking you if you are super-duper light-- I admire you, so please don't misinterpret what I am trying to get at...

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: The Middle Path-- A Buddhist approach to UL? on 05/17/2006 14:29:14 MDT Print View

Thanks Dane & Chris for the En-lightened Postings!