Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Master Dogen, writing what is necessary to write, wrote:

“Authentically succeed to the samadhi of the ancestors.”

So what is samadhi?

Sensing an atagonistic balance of opposing forces, sensing this in Zazen, non-verbally, intuitively, not only within himself but also in the external world, Gudo Nishijima searched for a scientific explanation that matched his experience. The explanation Nishijima Roshi selected was balance of the autonomic nervous system.

For 25 years that explanation has been both an inspiration and a stumbling block for me. Then, this spring, following the hint of an American scientist who left a comment on my blog, I found a scientific explanation which seems to me to hit the target more completely. The explanation can be found in the writings of the professor of chemistry Frank Lambert. (See for exampe

In 1925 the physicist Arthur Eddington said:
“The second law of thermodynamics is time’s arrow.”

The second law is time’s arrow because, for example, over time, water flows downhill, flowers wilt and fall, kesa-strings break, mirror’s crack, energy tends to dissipate. This is not only a scientific theory; it is the real experience of every one of us. We do never see fallen flowers returning to the branches of trees or cracked mirrors repairing themselves.

So Arthur Eddington said:
“The second law of thermodynamics is time’s arrow.”

It is also the real experience of every one of us that, for short or long periods of time, water may not flow. Instead, in the heat of the summer sun, it may evaporate. Flowers may not wilt and fall but grow. Kesa-strings and mirrors may remain unbroken. Energy may remain concentrated in a tree or (with the input of extra external energy), it may become even more concentrated -- one plum flower, two plum flowers, three, four, five... limitlessly many plum flowers!

To express this, in 1998 Frank Lambert modified Eddington’s statement, as follows:
“Chemical kinetics firmly restrains time’s arrow in the taut bow of thermodynamics for milliseconds to millenia.”

Sitting in the full lotus posture is called in Shobogenzo “the king of samadhis.” Why? I think because it is the supreme way for a Buddhist monk to practice and experience the antagonistic balance between:

the ‘downhill’ tendency of time’s arrow


the opposing ‘uphill’ work done via chemical kinetics.

Each person can verify for themself, inductively and deductively, in their own Zazen, the presence of ‘downhill’ flows such as release of energy from unduly tense muscles, passing of suppressed thoughts, and oxidation of food; and also the presence (inductively) of ‘uphill’ work such as effort to keep sitting upright in spite of tiredness, pain, distractions, et cetera, as well as (deductively) synthesis of essential biological compounds such as calcium and the ingredients of bone marrow.

Speaking from my own experience of sitting in the full lotus posture four times a day for 20 years, sitting in the full lotus posture with the body is a kind of ‘uphill’ work which we should do; sitting in the full lotus posture with the mind has to do with allowing ‘downhill’ flows; and sitting in the full lotus posture as body and mind dropping off is just an expression of spontaneous flow itself.

I think that this explanation accords with what Nishijima Roshi knows already, and what he taught me already -- deeply, intuitively, non-verbally.

I could not care less whether people of scant Zazen experience such as Michael Tait agree with me or not. My hope is that Nishijima Roshi will notice what an extremely powerful weapon the 2nd law of thermodynamics might be for promoting true Buddhism. Nishijima Roshi has been searching for such a powerful weapon for many years. So I guess that his recent silence might represent the process of his coming to a conclusion about it.

Now for a few weeks I am going to a small house in France, where there will be nature in tremendous abundance but no Broadband. So I shall stop posting on this blog for a while.


Blogger docretro said...

Have a nice time in france :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006  

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