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Extreme Asceticism and the Middle Path

Once, as Prince Siddhartha sat meditating beneath the Bodhi tree, he had subjected his body to extreme fasting and was on the brink of death. Sujata, a kind-hearted woman who lived near the Bodhi tree, had offered him sweet rice pudding when he was on the verge of death from starvation. The Buddha gratefully accepted her offering and ate the sweet pudding, which gave him the strength to continue his meditation. Despite his physical weakness, he persisted in his quest for enlightenment. On his way to enlightenment he was faced with obstructions and temptations caused by demon Mara, his army and three daughters. With sheer willpower and unwavering focus, he continued to meditate until he finally achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha. Later Buddha began his first teaching by telling his listeners to take the middle way, the middle path between extreme asceticism on one hand and sensual indulgence on the other. This exhortation to moderation underlies much of Buddhist thought through the centuries and across traditions.

Dr. Archana Srivastava