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Does Hinduism advocate middle path ? Is it advisable to avoid extremes and take middle path in deciding what is dharma, what is not ?

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3 Answers 3

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There are 2 questions.

Does Hinduism advocate the middle path?

Middle path has Buddhist connotation. In Buddhism middle path means not accepting either eternalism or non-eternalism. I don't think Hinduism advocates the middle path.

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor these rulers of men. Nor shall all of us cease to be hereafter.

Gita 2.12

Jivas, God and the universe are all eternal. Jiva and the universe only manifest and demanifest.

Is it advisable to avoid extremes and take middle path in deciding what is dharma, what is not ?

Gita talks about the difference in behavior due to difference in dominant Gunas. Gita 17.5-6 seems to dislike intensely extreme behavior.

Dependence of behavior on the three gunas

Those endowed with the quality of Sattva worship the Devas; those with Rajas, the Yaksas and the Raksasas; and those with Tamas, the spirits of the dead and the elementals.

Gita 17.4

Vain, conceited and moved by powerful passions and attachments, they perform various terrible mortifications contrary to scriptural injunctions. Those do senseless men torture their own bodies and Me dwelling in them. Know such persons to be of demoniac resolve.

Gita 17.5-6

Even the food dear to these three types is of three different kinds. The same is the case with worship, austerity and charity. Hear from Me about this distinction regarding them.

Gita 17.7

Persons who are Sattvika by nature like food that promote longevity, vitality, energy, health, happiness and cheerfulness, as also those that are juicy, soft, nourishing and agreeable.

Gita 17.8

Persons who are Rajasa by nature like foods that are bitter, salty, excessive heating, pungent, burning and thirst-producing as also what bring on uneasiness, depression and disease.

Gita 17.9

Persons who are Tamasa by nature like foods that are stale, tasteless, putrid, decayed and unclean, and constitute the leavings of others.

Gita 17.10

That worship is of the nature of Sattva which is in accordance with scriptural injunctions, and which is performed by one not with an eye for its fruits but merely out of the feeling that it is one’s duty to perform it.

Gita 17.11

O scion of the Bharata race! Know that worship to be of the nature of Rajas, which is performed with its fruits in mind and for vain display.

Gita 17.12

That worship is of the nature of Tamas which is not sanctioned by scriptures, which is without gift of food, without the chanting of holy mantras, without sacramental presents and without sincere sraddha.

Gita 17.13

Service of the Devas, holy men, teachers, parents and wise persons, as also observance of cleanliness, uprightness, continence and non-injury – these constitute austerities pertaining to the body.

Gita 17.14

Speaking only words that are inoffensive, true, pleasant and beneficial as also regular recitation of scriptures constitute austerity pertaining to speech.

Gita 17.15

Serenity of mind, gentleness, moderation in speech, self-control and purity of heart – these are called austerity of the mind.

Gita 17.16

This threefold austerity, performed with the highest faith, by men who are not motivated by expectations of reward and who are established in mental equipoise, is declared to be of the nature of Sattva.

Gita 17.17

The austerity that is performed with much show and ostentation, and having in view recognition, praise and adoration as a pious man by others, is said to be of the nature of Rajas. It is unstable and leads to no permanent good.

Gita 17.18

The austerity performed through the practice of self-torture under the influence of perverse theories or done for the destruction of another, is spoken of as Tamas by nature.

Gita 17.19

That gift which is made out of a sheer sense of duty, without expectation of any kind of return, at the proper time and place, to a fit recipient, is said to be of the nature of Sattva.

Gita 17.20

The gift which is given in consideration of some gift in return, or with some fruit to be reaped in future, or in a grudging mood – that is considered to be of the nature of Rajas.

Gita 17.21

The gift which is made at an important time and place, to an unworthy recipient, unceremoniously and in a slighting manner – that is said to be of the nature of Tamas.

Gita 17.22

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  • Man just cited the whole Gita chapter
    – Haridasa
    Commented May 1 at 12:47
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The Bhagavad Gita certainly advises moderation, and avoiding of extremes, in the practise of Yoga.

Moderation for Yoga practise

nātyaśnatastu yōgō.sti na caikāntamanaśnataḥ.

na cātisvapnaśīlasya jāgratō naiva cārjuna৷৷6.16৷৷

6.16 But, O Arjuna, Yoga is not for one who eats too much, nor for one who does not eat at all; neither for one who habitually sleeps too long, nor surely for one who keeps awake.

yuktāhāravihārasya yuktacēṣṭasya karmasu. yuktasvapnāvabōdhasya yōgō bhavati duḥkhahā৷৷6.17৷৷

6.17 Yoga becomes a destroyer of sorrow of one whose eating and movements are regulated, whose effort in works is moderate, and whose sleep and wakefulness are temperate.

As highlighted above, the actions of the Yogin need to be moderate.

It is possible to infer from the above that a Yogin might avoid extremes in deciding what is dharma, and take the moderate approach.

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Speaking about the middle path is meaningful only after having clarified what the extreme paths are. The historical Buddha is said to have tested to live like a prince in a palace and alternatively to fasten like an ascetic. Both paths he did not find satisfying.

In Hindudism there are several proposed paths to liberation (moksha). The Bhagavadgita alone talks about three possible paths of yoga: jnana, karma, bhakti.

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