Living with Meaning, Part One: Authentic Existence

- through Francois Leclercq

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The workings of human consciousness can be conscious or insane, meaningful or not, and young people don't always buy into what the traditional old school wants them to buy into and believe. This was the case with Siddhartha Gautama. In his youth, living in conventional reality, he was dissatisfied with the teaching and training that his father's tradition had instilled in him, and which subsequently caused him confusion, stress and conflict.

The more he felt that something was missing from the traditional teachings, the more Siddhartha Gautama became dissatisfied with the luxurious, sensual and self-indulgent way of life that had been freely and generously offered to him, but, at the same time, gently imposed and subtly forced upon him. . The way he lived his princely life did not quite match his image of bliss and happiness.

At this stage of his development, Siddhartha Gautama felt that something was missing, that something had been hidden from him. Over time, he came to distrust the imposed regime, and the more he worried about what was missing at the core of his life, the more troubled, disillusioned, and disenchanted he became.

In the West, throughout recorded cultural history, similar disparities regarding challenging the status quo have also occurred in the hearts of curious young people and innovative thinkers, echoing and through the ancient Greeks and in the so-called Eastern tradition. Indeed, this type of quest is the stuff of which science and literature have been made over the centuries, whether we think of the pioneers from Euclid (c. 300 BCE) to Bruno (1548-1600) or from Homer's Ulysses to Joyce's Daedalus, just to identify a few. The young Buddha fits into the pattern of this search for new truths, albeit with a particularly unique bent.

Using a literary image to illustrate how such innovative thinking could have arisen, we can imagine the figure of a youth standing on the crest of a large towering cliff, in a wide, wild and open landscape, facing a steep precipice who yawns deeply, falling into an empty, invisible, endless void.

The youngster is no longer able to step back into a safe space. The youngster is uncertain and unsteady of foot, full of fear, trembling and frightened. Feeling a bit like a comic jester indulging in a tragicomic farce, but still longing for a hero in search of a curious truth, the youngster stands with an uncertain but brave spirit that wants to jump – jump and fly, as a nymph-turned-butterfly, in a vast, open, inviting but terrifying void.

The young person feels an insurmountable fear of heights, a fear of falling and meeting an abrupt and unceremonious end. Youth is full of anxiety, anguish and anguish, driven by despair, despair and terror. Youth is full of fear in the face of the threat of imminent non-existence, full of dread in the face of lost identity; frozen in terror at the thought of losing the sense of "being" as an existing, continuous and enduring self.

The young person feels such anguish that even the traditionally assumed foundations and fixed concepts of grasped duality and solid reality begin to shake, shake and come loose. The universe, instead of appearing to be a stable, friendly, solid, fixed entity, becomes an ever-changing, incomprehensible, endless, impersonal yet holistic moving process, composed of flickering, fleeting, pulsating energy in a vast whole incomprehensible. cosmos with no known beginning or end.

Our brave but uncertain youth feel completely isolated, alone and alone in their lonely quest. Alienated, with no one to help deal with this disorientation. It is as if those who once offered protection have now abandoned the youth and are no longer there to care as the youth humbly and vainly attempt to reach, stretch and touch the figurative hem of the airy robe of a humming, impersonal singing, an indifferent, incomprehensibly vast majestic cosmos – like an inconsequential beggar, flattering and begging for clarity.

Youth is not just lonely. Nor is there a creator deity to help him. The idea of ​​God is dead. The world has finally come of age. The youth was once immature, but the time has come for the youth to face these struggles now any help from anywhere. It's time to grapple with reality, though what is strictly, factually "real" is always continually, fancifully evading, confusing, and confusing.

Once able to clearly, closely and attentively observe the delicate flow of nature, the young person is no longer able to see the cosmos as having an understandable and idealistic sense of unity, unity and coherence. The crutch of conceptualizing the universe as an objectively solidly rotating concrete entity, as a fixed, unchanging reality, has now been irretrievably crushed and no longer works.

While seemingly “objective” perception involves being based on analytical and empirical duality as intellectual reality, the abstraction of mere theory does not encompass the totality of reality. Such a theory functions only as a tool, and a theory of solid state physics alone cannot convey "the way it is" in terms of subatomic physics, with evolving and changing waves of energy appearing and ceasing, disappearing and reappearing perpetually, in an ever-changing natural process.

On the other hand, although there is much to experience in the "subjective realm", the "subjective" quest quickly becomes confusing as well. Humanity is equipped with tools to see "as it is", but does not know how to refine and use these tools correctly. Instead, we color, contaminate, taint, and shift our perception of cosmic, individualistic global human nature, with feelings and emotions, fallacious notions, and often even obsessive devotions.

We corrupt pure perceptions with the bias of selfish 'likes' and 'dislikes', seasoning and tainting perceptions with out of proportion emotions, then suffer the consequences, developing distorted and disproportionate views of the empirical experience, thus creating comparable aberrations. to silver ore contaminated by mental dross, like a poison perpetually polluting its purity.

At first, our youth had mistakenly believed that these feelings and sensations constituted a real "me", holding the conventional worldly view of "individuality" with the hardcore devotion and addictive delusion common to worldly earthlings. But unconscious concealment, deception and illusion lead to disorientation and confusion. The feeling of being on the wrong track catapults the confused seeker into dismissive, unpleasant, disgusting states of insecurity and even self-hatred.

Deep down, the young person knows that because the purity of moral choice has been compromised, there is a lack of meaningful genuine intention and right action – a lack of authenticity – so the young ends up hating and despising the so-called self for its morality. -duplicity.

There's more to say about where this all came from, but right now we're running out of space. A more in-depth draft will have to wait for the second part of this article.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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