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"Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion."
Democritus of Abdera
[Who, about 2500 years ago, was the first person known to have sumised the existance of the atom; the smallest indivisible thing in creation.]
[above quote from the book: The God Particle by Leon Lederman]
In this edition I will take a look at three seemingly different books.
First, the one mentioned above: The God Particle (If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?) by Leon Lederman.
Second, I AM THAT I AM (A Tribute to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj) by Stephen Wolinsky, Ph.D.
Third, The Way of Zen by Alan W. Watts.
What, you may ask, do Zen, Advaita, and particle physics have to do with each other? Let alone what do they, if they do, have in common?
Let's see what we can see, shall we?
NM = Nisargadatta
AW = Alan Watts
LL = Leon Lederman
These abreviations also stand for quotes from the respective titles.
NM - "I know nothing. All knowledge is in dream only and not valid."
AW - As butterflies come to the newly planted flowers, Bodhidharma says, "I know not."
AW - Awakening almost necessarily involves a sense of relief because it brings to an end the habitual psychological cramp of trying to grasp the mind with the mind, which in turn generates the ego with all its conflicts and defenses. In time, the sense of relief wears off-but not the awakening, unless one has confused it with the sense of relief and has attempted to exploit it by indulging in ecstacy.
. . . But in itself it [awakening] is just the ending of an artificial and absurd use of the mind.
NM - Trace every action to its selfish motive, and look at the motive intently until it dissolves.
LL - . . . There is, we believe, a wraithlike presence throughout the univers that is keeping us from understanding the true nature of matter. It's as if something, or someone, wants to prevent us from attaining the ultimate knowledge.
NM - Even space and time are imagined.
AW - The Second Noble Truth relates to the cause of frustration, wich is said to be trishna, clinging or grasping, based on avidya,which is ignorance or unconsciousness. Now avidya is the formal opposite of awakening. It is the stae of the mind when hypnotized or spellbound by maya, so that it mistakes the abstract world of things and events for the concrete world of reality. At a still deeper level it is lack of self-knowledge, lack of the realization that all grasping turns out to be the futile efort to grasp oneself, or rather, to make life catch hold of itself. For to one who has self-knowledge, there is no duality between himself and the external world.
LL - Today, many particles later, we have the standard model, which reduces all of reality to a dozen or so particles and four forces.
NM - Beyond the witness there is an infinite emptiness.
AW - The opening words of the oldest Zen poem say that
The perfect Way [Tao] is without difficulty,
Save that it avoids picking and choosing.
Only when you stop liking and disliking
Will all be clearly understood.
A split hair's difference,
And heaven and earth are set apart!
If you want to to get to the plain truth,
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind.
LL - . . . But metaphors are only metaphors. They are crude maps. And to borrow and old expression: we must never mistake the map for the territory. Physics is not religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money.
NM - The primary concept is the knowledge of "I Am." It is the mother of all other concepts. When this concept is there, then so many other concepts also appear. Now, whatever religions there are, they are only full of concepts. Somebody likes a particular concept and passes it on to his disciples, and he gets a following. But with that, they cannot get eternal peace or satisfaction. In order to get that satisfaction, you must find the source of this primary concept "I Am." And once you know that, you can transcend it. Then you do not have anything to tell the world, because the world wants only fragmentary modifications. They want activities. So this knowledge will remain only with you, and there will not be very many customers for it.
AW - [from the Upanishads] Where knowledge is without duality, without action, cause, or effect, unspeakable, incomparable, beyond description, what is that? It is impossible to say!
AW - Sitting meditation is not, as is often supposed, a spiritual "exercise", a practice followed for some ulterior motive.
NM - Later I understood the meaning of spirituality and came to the conclusion that it is as discardable as dishwater. Therefore, I am in no way concerned with spirituality.
LL - . . . There has been a spate of books over the past several years - The Tao of Physics is another example - that attempt to explain modern physics in terms of Eastern religion and mysticism. The authors are apt to conclude rapturously that we are all part of the cosmos and the cosmos is part of us. We are all one! (Though, inexplicably, American Express bills us separately.) . . . The inspiration for such books is usually quantum theory and its inherent spookiness.
Well, I think that's about enough of that! One could spend days weeks years a lifetime, even, comparing Zen to Advaita to Quantum Physics - and not accomplish a darned thing thereby! As the hodge-podge I've thrown togther here shows; I haven't done anything worthwhile at all!
So I'll close this with a little something from Nisargadatta Maharaj:
Give up all this trash, whatever you are studying in the name of religion, in the name of spirituality. Understand only one thing: that Godly principle is there, that I Amness or conciousness - that is the Godliest of principles. It is there only so long as the vital breath or life forces is there.
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