The Practice of Moderation

by Fernando Perfas

“Scores of Buddha images in the Phra Rabiang pavilion at Wat Pho” | Photo by Shankar s. via Creative Commons

A principle with a wide-ranging application in life is moderation. Otherwise known as the Middle Path, it is teaching preached and practiced by the Lord Buddha which is central to Buddhist philosophy. The Christian equivalent is the virtue of temperance. It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, for it is believed that no virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself if the virtue was opposed to some desire. Moderation as a principle is both simple and profound. It shows the Buddha’s absolute grasp of reality in different levels, from the gross through subtle manifestations, all of which are in a state of flux. This is the physics of the universe, the yin and yang.

“Dialectics posits an initial state (thesis) which eventually breeds its opposite (antithesis). The ensuing tension or conflict between the opposite states (social revolution or radical change) results in a new state (synthesis), which eventually creates another opposite in an eternal cycle or dialectic process.”

The inherent nature of reality is change. The German philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel applied the same observation in his theory of dialectic which Karl Marx borrowed and developed as a keystone of his social and political philosophy known as dialectic materialism. Dialectics posits an initial state (thesis) which eventually breeds its opposite (antithesis). The ensuing tension or conflict between the opposite states (social revolution or radical change) results in a new state (synthesis), which eventually creates another opposite in an eternal cycle or dialectic process.

Although Buddhist thought has broad applications in life, the Buddha was not particularly interested in politics or social change, but was more concerned with helping man understand a basic fact of nature: the principle of change. Such understanding concerns how man cultivates right attitude and conducts his life in accordance to such principle (right living). For example, non-attachment or not clinging to anything in order to avoid mental anguish when one suffers the loss of the love-object exemplifies the application of a full understanding of the nature of reality — change. Particularly, the Buddha believes in achieving a state of inner harmony, where the mind remains unassailable by conflict or the state of change; neither swinging the state of mind from one polar end of the pendulum to another, instead, remaining steadfast in the middle path.

Understanding and practicing the principle of moderation has important implications not only in one’s spirituality but in maintaining mental health as well. Any excess creates an imbalance, hastening, and strengthening polarity, which perturbs the organism’s functioning. From the biological to the psychological or spiritual realms the same principle applies. Optimum biological functioning enhances psychological functioning and vice versa. The adage “a balanced life is a key to inner peace and happiness” means adherence to the middle path or the practice of moderation.

“Optimum biological functioning enhances psychological functioning and vice versa. The adage “a balanced life is a key to inner peace and happiness” means adherence to the middle path or the practice of moderation.

What can we glean from the principle of moderation as it applies to social or political life? Perhaps a simple and yet powerful example is the obvious fact of social inequality. Social policy or a political structure that breeds social inequity will eventually result in social upheavals once a critical mass is reached by the competing social forces.

This can result in either regime change or the emasculation of society through persecution or oppression to buy time for the regime. Sooner or later, as certain as the rising and setting of the sun, the critical mass is reached and the forces of change prevail.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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