What is an authentic self-seeker?

Dedicated to Joseph the Swede!

The other day I met a man who said he was a monk. He told me his path was that of an authentic self seeker. He did not claim that he was authentic himself, but merely that he strove to maintain the authenticity of his path, and by this he hoped to one day live authentically himself.

I asked him what this meant to live authentically. He said that he didn’t yet know, but his heart would tell him when his actions flowed from such a point. Maintaining the authenticity of the path he knew much about. But even this much authenticity was difficult for him to maintain. He easily got carried away by life and forgot to reflect on what he was doing. Everything would be going well and then one day he would wake up and realize that he had completely lost awareness, that days had gone by without him having given a moments thought to anything. Acting automatically, without awareness, he said, was the how people got into trouble.

He said that the path of an authentic self seeker was not at all laid out. There was nothing for him to do except learn about himself from each and every action. There were still times when he thought one direction held his path only to be told later by his heart that he was following the wrong path. He said that even he couldn’t tell the difference between what his heart was saying and what his mind or ego were saying. It seemed to him that they all spoke in the same voice; it was only in content that they differed. He had a loose theory that he called useless, well almost useless: The heart calls for change, reason seeks stasis, and the ego tries to define his limits. He likened the heart, the reason, and the ego to the three worlds: heaven, earth and Hades respectively.

I asked him why he thought the heart always called for change and he said that since our hearts speak from the heart of nature itself, and the nature of nature is change, then change must be the calling of the heart. And reason, he added, seeks to understand everything, label it and put it into categories. So reason, he reasoned, must like stasis most of all since it cannot understand things that are always changing. And as for the ego, it was always being a pain in the ass; at times challenging him and at other times limiting him. But he appreciated what his ego did for him. If it wasn’t for his ego he never would have gone down the path of self. His ego provided the class room and all the tools for his heart to learn. It was rarely pleasant, but the opportunity for growth offered by the ego was tremendous.

The physical world, for him, had become merely a conduit to his inner world. He said that he believed in the golden rule about doing unto others, but he did not know how he would have others do unto him. He learned early on that people did not want the same things, and he found out quickly that many of the things he would have others do unto him were no the sort of things that others would like done to them. Regardless of all this confusion about the golden rule, he maintained that the rule was sound, it was up to him to discover what it was he wanted that could be universally applicable.

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