What is the middle way

 

Nagarjuna divides his considerations of the world into two levels. The conditional level or relative truth describes the relative presence of things to which three qualities are ascribed: 1. The very nature of things is not examined carefully. 2. Things are bound up in a ceaseless process of change. It is so subtle that things appear and disappear almost simultaneously. 3. Things have a concrete function.


From these three key points the understanding of the nature of things arises on the second, ultimate level of absolute truth. Since things are subject to constant change in their appearance, an independent reality that exists in itself is not possible. Ultimately, the nature of appearances is empty, i.e. devoid of substance and unreal. In this way one does justice to both the appearance of things and the way they change. An extreme and thus rebuttable worldview is avoided, however. These two aspects of reality are inseparable as they describe the same phenomenon. The goal of the Middle Way is to experience the unity of appearance and emptiness in meditation.


The mere emergence of things already shows their conditioned character and contradicts their own, ultimately existing existence. Things do not exist of themselves, but receive their relative reality according to the principle of cause and effect. Ultimately viewed, these phenomena have no inherent nature, in essence they are empty or free from a truly existing reality.