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In love with the world

I fin­ished read­ing In Love With the World by Yongey Mingyur Rin­poche, writ­ten with Helen Tworkov, a dis­ci­ple. This monk is the son of a long line of Bud­dhist monks and has already made him­self known for oth­er books that I have not read. His most recent book intrigued me. Under the title, it reads A Monk’s Jour­ney Through the Bar­dos of Liv­ing and Dying.

The sto­ry is sim­ple, mod­eled on that of the Bud­dha. Rin­poche, a monk, already well estab­lished in his func­tions as a wise man, decid­ed to leave every­thing to reach his full poten­tial. We quick­ly get to the heart of the mat­ter. The monk leaves on the sly because he knows very well that no one would have let him do it. He is a tulku, a rein­car­na­tion, and although his teach­ing was rig­or­ous and ascetic, he was no less ele­vat­ed in the cot­ton wool. Like Bud­dha. Poor, he remains rich, used to fine fab­rics and impec­ca­ble food. His teach­ing is revered ; Rin­poche nev­er trav­els with­out his helper. Leav­ing all this to live in mis­ery is mad­ness, yet nec­es­sary accord­ing to the monk, in order to achieve the ulti­mate enlight­en­ment that all Bud­dhists seek.

The book is excit­ing for this aspect. Hav­ing been around priests, but also the­ol­o­gy stu­dents, I was able to feel the same detach­ment from the reli­gious folk­lore that sur­rounds all reli­gions, includ­ing Bud­dhism. Rin­poche is a frank intel­lec­tu­al, and the read­er fol­lows the slight­est mean­der­ings of his thought, very generous.

I had pre­vi­ous­ly read an equal­ly inter­est­ing book on the par­al­lel between psy­cho­analy­sis and Bud­dhism, how these two ways of approach­ing lib­er­a­tion were both unit­ed and at the oppo­site ends of the spec­trum, each tak­ing a dif­fer­ent approach to reach the cen­ter of one­self undoubtedly.

Rinpoche’s book is in line with this reflec­tion. The man is at the same time imbued with cer­tain­ties, but not with­out ques­tions. The adven­ture he embarked on quick­ly put him to the test, and it is fas­ci­nat­ing to read it. We learn a lot in a very few pages about what Bud­dhism is. This book is, there­fore, valu­able in this regard.

So I was thrilled for the first third of my read­ing. Then, an impa­tience, some­times dis­sat­is­fac­tion began to emerge. The author makes great digres­sions to explain this, that. We often leave the adven­ture itself, an expe­ri­ence that last­ed four years, but which will only be described for the first three or four weeks of the journey.

The sto­ry could be sum­ma­rized as fol­lows. After a week of walk­ing from one train to anoth­er, expe­ri­enc­ing some dis­com­fort, but still liv­ing in min­i­mal com­fort, because he could still afford a room and food, Rin­poche final­ly decid­ed to leave his monk’s robe, put on that of a poor man and, for lack of mon­ey, beg for his food.

The food he eats, left­overs from restau­rants, gives him a fever, dengue fever. For two or three long chap­ters, he becomes deliri­ous, resists, he’s in India and that it’s nor­mal to have diar­rhea. But things get worse, the fever increas­es, he starts to delir­i­um, sees him­self die con­scious­ly, learns to enjoy his con­scious­ness. His expla­na­tions are both fas­ci­nat­ing and… intel­lec­tu­al. He quick­ly approach­es death, noth­ing exists any­more, every­thing exists, words clash. Obvi­ous­ly, know­ing that the author is still alive and that he is telling his sto­ry, we know very well that he will get by… We would like him to suc­ceed and move on to some­thing else… I’m start­ing to skip pages, the text becomes a lit­tle repet­i­tive. Always well writ­ten, of course, but noth­ing is learned any­more. Rin­poche is res­cued by a good Samar­i­tan who pays for the care at the hos­pi­tal. The monk will leave two days lat­er, eager to con­tin­ue his jour­ney. And that’s the end of the book.

I had the impres­sion while read­ing this book that I was lis­ten­ing to my own ques­tions again, to rub shoul­ders with some of my per­son­al reflec­tions and dis­cov­er­ies. They cer­tain­ly do not have the depth and finesse of what is writ­ten in this book, but nev­er­the­less, I have been through it a lit­tle bit, even if it does not nec­es­sar­i­ly lead me to some­where. Kind of like that monk ?

Make no mis­take about it, this book is a good read. Bud­dhism is a jour­ney between cer­tain­ty and uncer­tain­ty. There is under­stand­ing only in learn­ing to be aware of every­thing, and being aware of every­thing can­not be explained. It is the unspeak­able, but since every­thing is strong­ly intel­lec­tu­al­ized and rea­soned in this book, we end up aban­don­ing our­selves to our lack of knowl­edge. It’s like the Big Bang of physi­cists. There is no before the Big Bang, there is only after. Under­stand who can. Math­e­mat­ics, although a human inven­tion, speaks loud­er than we do.

The book, there­fore, deals, of course, with rein­car­na­tion, with more finesse and less eso­teri­cism to which we may have been accus­tomed, but this con­cept escapes me more than any­thing. I don’t under­stand the mechan­ics behind it. Con­scious­ness would be pure, dis­em­bod­ied, the body is only a pas­sage, and the log­ic of our con­scious expe­ri­ence leads us to believe that the ego is not and is. In short, cul-de-sac and devel­op­ment. Imper­ma­nence reigns. But what else ? Since the human race mul­ti­plies abun­dant­ly, how is the bal­ance achieved in what is trans­formed since noth­ing is lost, noth­ing is created ?

I remain almost hun­gry, left to myself once again. My dai­ly life may not be an aban­don­ment, an adven­ture that could be writ­ten in a book. Rin­poche would say it’s per­fect that way. All you have to do is live your life, to be ful­ly con­scious sec­ond after sec­ond. It’s the only gift we have. There does not seem to be a donor. But the gift is there. 

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