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Theme: Middle Way

This incredibly detailed 8th century ivory carving from Kashmir depicts a starving Siddhartha surrounded by demons and distractions as he attempts to achieve his realization. At this point in his story Siddhartha has been practicing very extreme ascetic traditions leading him to only eat 1 grain or rice a day (or 1 hemp seed according to some sources). However one day while bathing in a river he almost passes out fr because he was so weak from starvation (which is depicted to the right of the main figure). He realizes he is no closer to enlightenment, so Siddhartha decides to eat some yogurt in a bowl offered to him by a maiden (that appears to the left of the main figure in the sculpture). Its at this moment that he decides the true path to enlightenment is not a path of extremes, but rather a middle way between extreme asceticism and extreme luxury. From here he goes to Bodhgaya to achieve enlightenment.

Image credit: Fasting Buddha (detail), Kashmir; 8th century; ivory; Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund, 1986.70.

Mindfulness Meditation Series

Himalayan practitioners have, for centuries, used meditation to quiet the mind, open the heart, calm the nervous system, and increase one’s ability to focus. Now, western scientists, business leaders, and the secular world have embraced meditation as a vital tool for brain health. Learn more

Presented in partnership with Sharon Salzberg and the New York Insight Meditation Center.

About the Teacher

“Each of us has a genuine capacity for love, forgiveness, wisdom and compassion. Meditation awakens these qualities so that we can discover for ourselves the unique happiness that is our birthright.

— Sharon Salzberg

Sharon Salzberg is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She has been a student of meditation since 1971, guiding meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. Sharon’s latest book is Real Happiness At Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace, published by Workman Publishing. She is a weekly columnist for On Being, a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and is also the author of several other books including the New York Times Best Seller, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program (2010), Love Your Enemies (2013), Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience (2002), and Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (1995). For more information please visit: