Does the real exist?

- through Sophie Solere

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What is real and what does the expression specific to Buddhism mean: all existences are empty?

We know that when an accident occurs, the testimonies on the event can differ greatly, and yet the witnesses will swear to have perceived the same color of the vehicle, the same clothing worn by such and such an individual. They were there, so they saw it all and remember it well. Could these versions and variations of details be explained by the fact that people like to lie or embroider? Of course not, the discrepancy between the facts and the memory that the witnesses have of them can be explained simply as follows: our perception and the distortion of the memory construct what we call reality.

What is real? Similarly, we may be about twenty in this family meal, how many dining rooms are there? A ? Twenty rather, as many as the number of guests who perceive the space, the others, the subjects of conversation, react to it according to their situation, their particular point of view and their own history. No one sees or experiences this table the same way. The real is largely constructed by the observer. Add to this that the relationship between these points of view forms a very complicated and very unstable image of the famous family reunion… Each depending on the other and their reactions. Which is enough to explain all these family stories, these disputes and the great difficulty of coming to an agreement.

The supreme beauty of impermanence

Let us understand that neither the perception we have of things and beings, nor the beings and things themselves are stable, everything moves, everything is always in motion. This impermanence as Buddhism calls it is the nature of real. In Japan, it is even seen as supreme beauty: the delicate cherry blossoms and the splendor of the crimson foliage of autumn remind the Japanese of the fragile beauty of existence, the touching evanescence of all life.

We ourselves are subject to incessant changes, moods, emotions, disturbances and changes of forms and thoughts: the self of this morning on waking is no longer, it has given way to the one who, duly costumed, is getting ready to take the train or get into his car; the person who comes to the appointment must make way for the colleague who shares his midday meal with the office mates, and he will also make way for the father and the mother who returns home in the evening, to the wife or to the husband… We are an infinity of faces and roles. Emptiness in Buddhism is the absence of solidity in the world, subject to constant change, all forms are constantly in motion. Our big problem is to believe what we see and to identify with these judgments. What we call samsara, this cyclical and infernal existence, is this hopeful and fearful attempt to freeze things and tell stories.

Imagine perfectly calm water in which the trees of an undergrowth and the sky are reflected. All the leaves and their subtle movements are visible here, the birds and the clouds and even the tiny insects, a whole universe seems to be at your fingertips. All you have to do is bend down to collect a little of this universe in your hand. Now, if you do, you grasp nothing, you cloud everything and the water escapes between your fingers. This marvelous open mirror, shimmering and liquid surface in which the universe and its forms unfold freely is the ultimate reality. The will to seize and manipulate this reality, to appropriate it is where the ego is built. The ego is not an autonomous existence, it is a way of considering reality as an object which it can dispose of. The ego is the consciousness that is no longer open and without grasping. In this sense, the ego does not exist autonomously, it is simply an attitude, a way that abandons the full and fruitful plenitude of being to prefer that of having.

What we call samsara, this cyclical and infernal existence, is this hopeful and fearful attempt to freeze things and tell stories.

Meditation is not about making a special place or connection, about creating a space of safety and an ivory tower in which we can withdraw; meditation is about letting go of grasping or flight, about opening up again and again. It consists of seeing clearly in all the stories we tell ourselves. “The big route isn't difficult, just don't grab or choose,” says Sozan. The universe unfolds by itself without my building it. The experience of meditation is to see through all these stories that we tell ourselves and to really live.

Invitation cards

Let's take a story we hold dear, a fight we cherish, a situation we're so sure we're right about. Are we really right? Are we absolutely sure? And, if we let go of this story, how would we feel? Wouldn't we be freed from an immense weight? This accusation, because it is often that, and if we turn it around and apply it to ourselves?

Are you really this mother or this father? Or would your job define you? Otherwise are you the friend, the lover, the enemy, the prey or the executioner of so and so? Are you your bank account or your country house? Your beloved hobby? Your memories of childhood or holidays? Let go of all histories and identities. Here, now who are you? But above all, do not answer. Ask yourself the question without inventing or looking for another story, let the opening of the question you open.

In the face of a problem or a difficult situation, observe your mind and the judgment that forms there. Before identifying with it or engulfing yourself in what you think you see, believing in what you think, observe this thought and ask yourself the question: what is it? Are you going to act on this thought or free yourself from it? Without this thought, what do you perceive now? Who is in front of you? What do you see ?

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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