Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Gautama's Law

On experiencing pain, living organisms tend to contract into themselves in a self-protective reaction. Sitting in the lotus posture, we can investigate this reaction as the unconscious tightening of muscles--maybe even including the muscles of the heart.

But holding tightness in muscles requires energy and, whether we like it or not, all energy has its own inherent direction -- a spontaneous tendency to disperse, unless obstructed from doing so.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, a Buddhist monk named Gautama became the first human being not only to see this fundamental law of the Universe, but also to understand its practical implications in liberating human beings from suffering. Therefore I think, as Buddhists, we need not call this most fundamental law of the Universe “the second law of thermodynamics” but should call it instead Gautama’s Law, or the Buddha-Dharma.

To sit upright in the full lotus posture, putting the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right; to sit in the full lotus posture as a conscious act of devotion to Gautama's Law; and thus to sit in the full lotus posture as the practice and experience of spontaneous release, is the supreme true realization of Gautama's Law.

Therefore Zen Master Dogen instructed us:
Sit in the full lotus posture, with body, with mind, dropping off body and mind.

And he taught us:
Sitting is Gautama's Law.
Gautama's Law is sitting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Help me with a little more explitcitness. I get the concept of 'activation energy'. More than intellectually I have experienced this when I was a runner. One teammate and I made the intention to run at least 4 miles a day, every day. After a year of this, I ran a 4:10 mile and he went to the Olympic Trials for the marathon. Of course we trained a lot more than that 4 miles a day, we had excellent coaching, and we trained with many talented and energetic people - but as I recall it was our building up of the energy of intention that released our flow of training - that allowed us to reap the benefits of so many good conditions.

In the sitting, what is the thinking that is useful as activation energy?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

It is a good commment, and a good question.

With respect to your comment, I think what you describe is the surmounting of what Lambert calls "activation energy barriers" through diligent physical practice. It corresponds to Master Dogen's instruction "Sit in the full lotus posture, bodily."

With respect to your question, I recommend you to seek the answer from a teacher, face-to-face. The answer can't be transmitted in words -- although words can bear witness. It is a case of ISHIN-DENSHIN -- "transmission of the mind by the mind itself."

FM Alexander described his work as "an exercise in finding out what thinking is." But there again, you have the not insignficant problem of finding an Alexander teacher who truly knows the score.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Cross, I appreciate what you wrote today. Many thanks.

"For a sage who wishes to ascend yoga, action is said to be the means. But for one who has ascended Yoga, self-control is said to be the means."


Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, your answer orients me well.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

In Master Dogen's teaching there is always a paradox: Studying the self and forgetting the self. Self-control and spontaneity. With body and with mind; shedding body and mind. The truth he points to is always between the cracks -- hence the usefulness, when we come to try to clarify the teaching, for ourselves and for others, of dialectic -- aka "the four philosophies."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Blogger JundoCohen said...

Hello Michael Cross,

I usually overlook what our fallen angel writes, but I have been meaning to point this out for awhile.

"The Second Law of Thermodynamics" has about as much to do with Zazen as, for example, Einstein's Special Relavity, Pythagoras' Theorum or my mother's recipe for apple tarts have to do with Zazen. Did you know, for example, that human form in Zazen can resemble a right triangle that satisfies A2 x B2 = C2? Did you know that time slows for someone sitting still in Zazen compared to someone walking Kinhin? Do you know that my mother's apple tarts also formed perfect right triangles, heat dissipating little triangles, much as does the human form in Zazen? Isn't that all just amazing coincidence with important implications to our sitting?

With all due respect, it is a common tactic of pseudo science to take conservative scientific concepts and stretch them beyond recognition into subjects far far beyond their intended scope. The Skeptics Societies around the world regularly point out these misuses by New Agers, general cranks and the like, all forms of half-education. I am very sensitive to this, because Zazen and such can be lumped in with all the crazies by those who understand not what we are. Here is a page of misuses and misinterpretations of the Second Law and Thermodynamics in general.

As to the rest of your analysis of proper Zazen, well, I find it rather one of those "angels on the head of a pin" type discussions. For me, perfect Zazen is no harder than eating a vanilla ice cream on a hot summer's day. There is, of course (to borrow your words an (A - the effort of ice cream eating which is required to surmount “activation energy barriers”) and a (B - the spontaneous dissipation of energy which follows from this ice cream eating effort), and the laws of Thermodynamics (it is a heat dissipation, of course) apply perhaps more directly than in Zazen.

None of that is a concern ... I just taste the pure taste, no thought of something else, no comparison to other treats I have encountered or dreamed of ever tasting, and I know all there is to know about its sweetness.

It's not rocket science!

Gassho, Jundo

Thursday, June 29, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

The 2nd law of thermodynamics, describes a direction which is inherent in all energy--a tendency to disperse spontaneously if not obstructed from doing so.

It is not about "heat dissipation." Heat is the name for a process of energy transfer from a body at a higher temperature to one that is at a lower temperature.

Heat does not dissipate. Energy dissipates. And that process of energy dissipation, is called, in some cases, heat. It is called, in other cases, a blue lotus flower opening.

According to Master Dogen, to study Buddhism under a false teacher is worse than not studying Buddhism at all. Therefore I clearly and loudly proclaim that Gudo Nishijima made a terrible error in transmitting the Dharma to you, James Jundo Cohen. You are a nasty piece of work, as documented on my blog, in your own words.

Thursday, June 29, 2006  
Anonymous juan said...

Dear Mr. Cohen, This is none of my business but this is a public forum so here goes.. It is very evident to almost everyone in the blogosphere that mike is not a stupid person. One can say many things about him but not he lacks in intelligence. I cannot understand what is to gained by your coming onto his blog and speaking to him as if he were a child. this is especially puzzling if you believe, as you have said previously, that he is mentally disturbed. It is not only insulting but you appear to be deliberately provoking him. Your words are worse than him calling you a nasty piece of work. your condescension is like a sharp stick. it is obvious you know what buttons to push to rile him. I do not think he has fallen as low as some others in dogen sangha. He has a certain integrity whereas you apparently have very little.

Thursday, June 29, 2006  

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