Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Robert Frost and The Middle Path

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The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Environmentalists have absconded with this metaphor, the pop psychology, new age and gay communities have taken it for their own, usually mistakenly rewording it to The Road Less Traveled. So why not a Buddhist take on it?

Given a choice between doing something the easy way or the hard way, we must learn to do it the hard way. We must practice enough to see the two roads clearly and then take the one less travelled.

The road less traveled, the hard way, is the Middle Path. The easy way is the way of pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, a path that leaves us never satisfied with who or where we are, never able to be present in the moment, never able to be peaceful and happy. The road less traveled, the path on which all our stress-producing story-telling ends, that Middle Path, that’s the harder of the two. That’s the one that can make all the difference.