Frequently asked questions about this website and its status
Is this just a personal website?
So far, it's a personal website by default because it has all been authored by one person. "I" when you come across it means Robert M. Ellis. However, there's no reason in principle why it shouldn't carry material by other people, if such material fits into the overall purpose of the website to promote the Middle Way. Although there is some more personal material on the site which talks about my own individual experience, the purpose of this is to humanise the site a bit and help people to engage with the ideas. The site is not primarily about me as an individual and it has a bigger purpose than that.How widely shared are the ideas on this website?
My experience is that Middle Way Philosophy represents an unusual point of view when explained explicitly, but that many people have implicit ideas that resemble it. It is based on the conditions required for us all to learn from experience, so it is not an extremist point of view based on a particular fixed idea. However, it is not widely understood or shared by academics, even though its central points have been explored in detail in a Ph.D. thesis (which certifies that at least one group of "respectable" academics thought that they made enough sense to be worth accrediting). You can read the comments of one of my examiners here. That thesis has also been subsequently published online by the British Library, which is again an indication that it was judged to make a serious academic contribution. There are also some other papers on this website that have been through academic peer review. Middle Way Philosophy is not in the academic mainstream because it challenges some of the underlying assumptions in analytic philosophy, Continental philosophy and Buddhist Studies, none of which it really fits into. I discuss some of the reasons I have found it difficult to get into the mainstream on the page introducing the thesis and on the page about me (Robert M. Ellis).
Is this a Buddhist website?
If you read the section on Buddhism you will see that, if Buddhist means "following the Buddhist tradition", this is not a Buddhist website. It is a website about the Middle Way, and the Buddhist tradition does not have a monopoly on the Middle Way. I aim to acknowledge my many debts to Buddhism without letting Buddhism dominate. Some of the material on the white pages was written primarily for Buddhists, and the word "Buddhist" is used in the titles of two of my books, but in all these cases "Buddhist" is used to mean "Middle Way", not "following the Buddhist religious tradition". I do hope that this website will be of interest and use to Buddhists, but also to many other people. The Trouble with Buddhism makes it clearer how I think the Middle Way differs from traditional Buddhism.
What country is this website from?
The website is UK based and the language is British English. Where any points come up that are specific to the UK (e.g. on Religious Education) I have tried to provide an explanation with international readers in mind. I am also now gradually installing Google translation facilities, but they are not on all pages as yet.
Does this website represent any organisation?
I am no longer directly involved in the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order - now Triratna Buddhist Community), though I have many friends in it. Whilst referring to the FWBO at times, and offering what I hope is a balanced critique of it, I am certainly not representing the FWBO in any way. I am also not representing any other organisation, overtly or covertly. See the page on the FWBO. I am increasingly involved in the activities of the Secular Buddhist movement - see Secular Buddhism (US) and Secular Buddhism (UK) - though how far these are motivated by the Middle Way is still a matter of debate. Secular Buddhism is still far too new and disorganised for there to be anything one could call a secular Buddhist organisation, so I could hardly claim to represent such a thing.
How can the website be claiming to support practice when it is so full of theory?
Only because human beings are full of theories, some of which are not readily acknowledged. If human minds were not full of fixed ideas which need clearing before more useful ones can be developed in their place, there would be no need for critical philosophy. However, as it is critical philosophy is very much a practical pursuit. Of course, as well as clearing the ground one also needs to plant something in it, and theory needs to be supplemented by other kinds of action. This website is not primarily about the details of meditation practice (apart from one page on meditation), and the best place for that is a local meditation class or a meditation retreat. There is quite a lot of general discussion of ethical practice, but again there is no substitute for individual discussion of this.
Is there any way of discussing the ideas on this website offline?
There are quite a few constraints on discussion online. I am interested in creating a network of people interested in discussing the Middle Way and its implications, whatever their background and commitments. It's looking increasingly likely that such a network, if it emerges, will be linked to Secular Buddhism UK. I am hoping to organise a retreat on Middle Way Philosophy through Secular Buddhism UK. In principle I'm also happy to accept invitations to come and give talks or participate in seminars about the Middle Way, for example to university groups or Buddhist groups, though obviously there may be practical difficulties depending on your location. If you're interested in these or any other ways of discussing this material, please drop me an email at email@example.com .
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