Middle Way (Skt. madhyamāpratipad; Tib. དབུ་མ་, uma, Wyl. dbu ma) can refer specifically to the Madhyamika school or, more generally, to the Buddha's teachings as a whole, which present a path that avoids the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism.
Middle Way in the Sutrayana
In the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta in the Pali Canon, the first teaching the Buddha gave after his enlightenment which sets forth the four noble truths, he speaks of the Middle Way, the path of practice that avoids the two extremes of sensual indulgence on the one hand, and severe asceticism on the other. He identifies this way specifically as the noble eightfold path.
This is also explained in The Hundred Deeds:
- “Monks, there are two extremes toward which renunciants should not tend. You should not draw near to nor even approach them. What are they? They are the tendency toward seductive luxuries, which for city dwellers have become customary and for ordinary people a habit, and the tendency toward self-inflicted hardships, which are a form of suffering, do not belong to the noble Dharma, and are in fact harmful. For those who keep their distance from these two extremes, there is a middle way that fully enlightens, passes beyond all sorrow, gives rise to the eye of wisdom, and brings true peace. What is this middle way? It is the eightfold path: right view, right understanding, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation.”
- Part Two, 12. The Story of Wealth’s Delight. Translation at 84000.