The Middle Way: Parable of the Zither

Middle Way - Parable of the Zither

The Middle Way: Parable of the Zither

The concept of the Middle Way is one of the most important teachings in Buddhism. The path of the Middle Way is the path of moderation between the extremes. It also means that balance is the key to harmony in literally everything in life.

The concept of the Middle Way is beautifully illustrated through the Parable of the Zither which is found in the Anguttara-Nikaya, Buddhist text of the Pali Canon in Theravada tradition.

Sona was a young disciple of the Buddha. Born in an affluent family, he was diligent, astute, and cheerful.
Ever since renouncing his secular life, he was highly motivated and more assiduous in his meditation practice. As the days went by, he found himself mired in melancholy which gave way to frustration, befuddlement, and agony. Before long, he became so emaciated and haggard-looking.
Exasperated over his lack of spiritual progress, he went to the Buddha to seek guidance.
The Buddha said: “Tell me Sona, in earlier days, were you not skilled in playing the stringed music of the zither?”

“Yes Lord,” replied Sona.”And, tell me, Sona, when the strings on the lute were too taut, was then your zither tuneful and easily playable?”

“Certainly not, O Lord.”

“And when the strings on the zither were too loose, was then your lute tuneful and easily playable?”

“Certainly not, O Lord.”

“But when, Sona, the strings of your lute were neither too taut nor too loose, and adjusted to an even pitch, did your zither have a wonderful sound, and then was it easily playable?”

“Certainly, O Lord.”

“Similarly, Sona, in the practice of the Way, if energy is applied too strongly, it will lead to strain and restlessness; if energy is too lax, it will lead to lassitude. Therefore, Sona, keep your energy in balance and you will then be able to focus your attention on the spiritual cultivation.”

Practicing Middle way is the key to happiness. Do everything in moderation – exercise, diet, sleep, work – and you then be able to have a balanced lifestyle brimming with joy.
May you neither tighten nor loosen the zither strings of your heart so as to play a harmonious melody of life. May your life be one with the resonance of the Middle Way.
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