Friday, July 27, 2007

It's in the Without

The kind of spontaneous flow that makes sitting-zen joyful is not something I manufacture on the black cushion. It is a tendency inherent in all the energy in the universe ( In endeavoring to realize it, the major difficulty always seems to be in the without.

To walk into an unlit place full of unknown things is not difficult: the difficult thing is to do so without fear.

To survive a stormy ferry crossing is not difficult: the difficult thing is to do so without getting seasick.

To lengthen the spine is not difficult: the difficult thing is to do so without narrowing and twisting the back.

To extend the neck while sitting in lotus is not difficult: the difficult thing is to do so without stimulating the monkey reflex in the arms.

The difficulty is always in the without:

Confidence without arrogance.

Stillness without fixity.

Lengthening the spine without narrowing the back.

Working towards a definite end, such as the Buddha's enlightenment, without end-gaining.

From translating Shobogenzo I picked up some understanding, mainly intellectual, about Master Dogen's teaching of just polishing a tile, not worrying about making a mirror.

My understanding was not totally intellectual -- before I started the translation in earnest, I spent two years in which I sat in the full lotus posture for a minimum of five hours, every day. And that kind of practice inevitably involves a certain amount of going without -- at least at a very crude level.

But I really only began to wake up to the problem of my own end-gaining tendency when I began working with Alexander teachers.

FM Alexander really was, in my opinion, a truly great human being. What Gautama Buddha discovered starting from one side, with a traditional yoga asana, FM Alexander discovered starting from the opposite side, with only his own conscious reasoning.

People in future will erect Mike Cross statues, because I was the first stupid donkey who really put two and two together. But for the present there is nobody who understands what I am talking about.

Confidence? Or arrogance? I don't know. You decide.

If you are still here reading this blog, you must suspect there is a grain of truth in what I am writing. But in that case, why the hell don't you ask me questions?

We have got this wonderful tool here, through the internet. Why the hell don't you use it? What are you afraid of?

You....! You....! I would like to reach out of the computer screen and hit you with a big stick!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fundamental Grumble of the Middle Way

In 1999, after training as an Alexander teacher and a reflex inhibition therapist (but still having very little real understanding of what either Alexander work or reflex inhibition meant), I called my practice "The Middle Way Re-education Centre." Shortly after I posted up a web-page at (last year I scrapped this and set up a new one at But on the original webpage, the sub-title I used was something like this:

Beyond the traditional forms of Zen practice and non-form as it is practiced in the Alexander Technique, there is a middle way of reflex action.

Not for the first time in my life, my "too excellent" brain had leaped ahead and found the answer, leaving my poor old lumbering body struggling to work out how.

One could easily spend a lifetime researching the transmission through India, China, and Japan of just one traditional form: e.g., the kasaya, the Buddha's robe.

FM Alexander considered that, in the matter of practicing non-doing he had in his lifetime only "scratched the surface of the egg."

Peter Blythe of INPP Chester, having spent a lifetime approaching some understanding how the vestibular part of the ear can be retrained, told me that if he had another lifetime he would like to devote it to trying to understand how to retrain the auditory part of the ear.

In 1244 Master Dogen wrote:

"There is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body; there is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind; and there is sitting as body and mind dropping off, which is not the same as sitting as body and mind dropping off."

This statement is of a similar order of truth as Einstein's statement that e = mc2.

It didn't matter tuppence whether Einstein whispered gently, or shout and swore, that e = mc2. Nothing changes the fact that e = mc2. E = mc2.

But Einstein was only expressing a truth of the material world. Master Dogen was expressing truth of a higher order: the truth of the matter-and-mind-dropping-off world.

Has anybody heard any good jokes recently?

A good joke, for me, one that makes me chortle inside, has a punch-line which reveals to me that I was expecting something different.

The truth is never what we expect the truth to be, and never how we expect the truth to be. Doesn't the history of science show us that? They say that quantum physics, while passing every scientific test thus far, is so counter-intuitive that even Einstein couldn't accept it might be true.

And yet, without knowing it, we expect Gautama's truth to be like such and such, and we expect it to have a sound like golden bells being rung by a golden Buddha. We don't expect to hear it being yelled by a man of conspicuously low self-esteem -- the non-venerable one, the not chosen one, Mr Angry, red-faced and swearing. But our expectations and preconceptions are one thing. The truth is totally another.

In the absence of any good jokes, are there any questions?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Talking 'Bout a Revolution

In 1244 Master Dogen wrote:

"Bodily sit in the full lotus posture.
Mentally sit in the full lotus posture.
Dropping off body and mind, sit in the full lotus posture."

He wrote further:
"There is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body. There is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind. And there is sitting as body and mind dropping off, which is not the same as sitting as body and mind dropping off."

For 750 years nobody clearly understood the real meaning of these words.

What I experienced in 1994, after thirteen years of hardcore Zen, was a complete revolution in my approach to sitting-zen.

From "Don't think; just do!" to "Don't just do; think!"

From "oneness of body-mind" to "psycho-physical integration."
The same thing except totally opposite.

For the past thirteen years I have been struggling to make sense of it. And gradually I have made sense of it.

In years to come, people will write books, make TV programmes, build bloody statues, to celebrate the revolution about which I am talking. But for the time being there isn't one person who truly understands what the hell I am on about.

I am not worthy of it -- of that I have no doubt. And yet,
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo belongs totally to me.

Anybody heard any good jokes recently?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sitting as Body & Mind Dropping Off

An Old Non-Buddha said: "Zen practice is body and mind dropping off."

Zen Master Dogen said: "Sit in the full lotus posture as body and mind dropping off!"

Here, as I see it, are four aspects of it:

(1) Sitting as physical doing.

Just following the other. Just doing it. The body breaking out of inaction. Using the self.

Expressed negatively: Not doing my own thing. Losing myself in doing. Forgetting myself in doing.

Exemplified by: Hardcore Zen. When the wake up bell rings, everybody gets out of bed. 1,2,3 Go!

(2) Sitting as balance.

Balance of two opposites -- left and right, front and back, flexor and extensor tone, lengthening and widening, passivity and activity, parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves, yin and yang, accepting and using the self, et cetera.

Expressed negatively: mutual negation of feeling and thinking, of doing and not doing, of excitation and inhibition.

Exemplified by:
* a real conversation with both speaking and listening.
* Vipassana practice. Being awake to breathing and birdsong at the same time, in one unified field.

(3) Sitting as total commitment.

Mobilization of the whole self, centered on the lengthening spine. Thus becoming one piece -- by an act of psycho-physical integration.

Expressed negatively: dropping off old wrong patterns and attachments.

Exemplified by:
* a wren singing -- with its voice, with its ears, with its whole body
* a monk chanting Fukan-zazen-gi well, using everything -- eyes, ears, voice, breath, intellect, the whole body in a chanting/listening posture.
* the sitting in lotus of Master Kodo Sawaki -- with no hair on his head, no direction home, no book in his name, no wife (although he admitted that he wanted one), no stone having been left unturned in his kesa research. No false pretences. No gap.

(4) Sitting as spontaneous flow.

Sitting doing itself. Effortless ease. Like springing up out of the earth.

Expressed negatively: lack of superfluous effort; no consciousness of physical or mental effort.

Exemplified by: Gautama under the bodhi tree.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sitting in Lotus with a Body and a Mind

The tribe of Judah has produced more than its fair share of individuals whom I admire a lot. Old Testament Judaism you can keep, but I have had some good friends of Jewish heritage -- all non-belongers. Perhaps it is the courage of non-belonging individuals like Albert Einstein and Bob Dylan, swimming against the tide of their own strongly tribal heritage, that strikes me as particularly admirable.

Although I never met Master Kodo Sawaki, my impression of him also is that he was a very strong individual -- a man who truly made a difference, who was not just one of the Japanese herd.

There is something very powerful, insistent and real in Bob Dylan's words and voice when he demands to know:

How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown....

How does it feel? How does it feel to be on your own? How does it feel not to be a member of a tribe united under the spurious banner of an -ism?

Not only Judaism, but all -isms you can keep -- up to and including Buddhism, realism, and so-called “real Buddhism.” You can keep that which hides itself in the guise of so-called Soto Zen; namely, Japanese corporatism/nationalism. You can even keep individualism. The point of sitting-zen is not to be an individualist but just to be a true individual.

How does it feel, to be on your own?

A mistake I have often repeated in the past, upon being knocked back, is deliberately not to ask how it feels, but instead to throw myself with renewed vigour into doing something. It is a habit I probably first picked up on the rugby field -- when you get a knock, shut out how it feels; just run it off.

There is truth in that approach, but it is not the whole truth. It is only a philosophy of doing.

It is the philosophy of the parade ground: Head up, chin in, spine straight, mind blank. Just blindly obey your sergeant major, dropping off your own body and mind.

It is the philosophy of hardcore Zen, of warmongering Zen -- Sit the fuck down, and shut the fuck up! 1,2,3 jump! Just fucking do it!

I doggedly knocked the Shobogenzo translation into shape using that kind of energy, but in later years, in light of Alexander’s wisdom, the wisdom of non-doing, I have come to see that the doing approach is not the whole truth. It is not the subtle technique of the truly enlightened. It tends not to result in true spontaneity.

As Marjory Barlow observed, when I showed her how I had grown accustomed to holding my head and spine in sitting-zen: “There is no freedom in it.”

Actually there is a certain freedom in just doing, in just robotically sitting in the full lotus posture with the body, pulling in the chin and keeping the spine straight vertically. It is a kind of temporary blocking out of worries and feelings. But it is the exact antithesis of the kind of freedom Marjory was interested in, which is freedom from doing. Freedom from doing means, in other words, freedom from wrong patterns of use of the self, freedom from pulling the head down into the body and all the rest of it.

To work towards this latter kind of freedom is what FM Alexander called "the most mental thing there is." To work towards the condition that Master Bodhidharma called "the body being naturally empty and still," turns out, ironically, to be the most mental thing there is.

This kind of effort, the most mental thing there is, requires us to actively decide not to do, but to see the wrong inner patterns and to actively wish to be free from them.

A real wish for freedom, for a bit of nothing, does not come easily. But the more real is the wish, the more clear is the seeing, and vica versa -- a virtuous circle.

Conversely, if the wish is not real, as I know all too well from experience, what you have is a gap and what you get is a vicious circle leading to separation between heaven and earth, confusion.

On the subject of circles, a Dharma-heir of Gudo who has known me for 25 years recently remarked, from reading some of my emails to him and my internet outpourings, that I seem to be continually going round and round in circles.

He may very well be right, but I prefer to hope that I am going round and round in spirals.

Shortly I shall return to the round cushion, I shall bodily sit in the full lotus posture, and, all being well, my mind will return to the same old questions, observing the ancient fourfold criterion of kaya, vedana, citta, and dhamma:

How am I, really? What is my emotional state?

Where am I, here and now? In particular, where is my head?

What am I really wishing for? What does it mean really to wish to allow the head to spill out, from the entirety of my sitting-in-lotus being, in a forward and up direction, while allowing the back to lengthen and widen, and the limbs to release out of the body?

How does it feel, what is it like, what does it mean, in the end -- whether you are in or out of a particular family, or in or out of a particular Sangha -- to be completely on your own? What does it mean not to be like a monkey in a tribe of monkeys, but really to be an upright individual, free from the influence of all the vestibular reflexes?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Readiness Is All

When a pupil requiring vestibular re-education was sitting on a chair in front of FM Alexander, FM would teach the pupil not to be interested in gaining the end of standing but just to attend to the process (the ‘means whereby’) of allowing the neck to be free, to allow the head to release forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, while directing the knees and pelvis away from each other -- altogether, one after another.

In this way, FM would give the pupil a new experience of standing up without standing up.

As long as the pupil was able to inhibit his desire to gain the end of standing, the pupil would remain relatively free from what, in the act of standing, ordinarily governed him -- i.e. his faulty vestibular processes. With his pupil relatively free, FM could use his hands to move the pupil out of the chair, and thereby give the pupil a whole new experience of movement.

But, and it is a very big but, FM knew very well how difficult it is to pursuade somebody to give up, or inhibit, the desire to gain an end in view.

So sometimes FM would play a trick on the pupil as follows:

FM would pivot the pupil forward and up from the hips, so that the pupil was still sitting on the chair, but teetering on the brink of standing. The pupil would be poised on the chair, ready to stand. With the help of FM’s hands, the pupil would be allowing the head to release out of the body, the shoulders to release apart, the ribs to expand and contract freely, the pelvis to open up and let out the legs, et cetera. This allowing of freedom in all the joints rendered the pupil totally available for the movement of rising from the chair, and the pupil would experience this condition of freedom, of poise, of readiness.

Then, cunning old FM, instead of going ahead with the movement out of the chair would pivot the pupil’s torso back to the vertical. And FM would say to the pupil: “There! I disappointed you, didn’t I?”

This was a way FM used of demonstrating to the pupil that, on some level, the pupil had not in fact totally given up his desire to gain the end of standing. This was an expedient means that FM devised to make his pupil conscious of the gap between two kinds of thinking, or two kinds of volition -- supposed and real.

Experienced like this, it is not so difficult to understand what the gap is between what we think we are thinking and what we are really thinking, between what we think we are aiming for and what we are really aiming for, between how we think we are and how we really are. It is not a philosophical problem. It is a very real and practical problem.

Hence, FM used to say: “A child of three can understand this work. But give me a man who has been educated, and God help me!”

SHOAKU MAKUSA -- The non-doing of wrong. A child of three can understand that teaching, but an old man of eighty cannot practice it.

These past few days, deep inside, I have been feeling a little bit disappointed. At the same time, my understanding of what the gap is, has become a little less intellectual and a little more real -- a little bit less like the old man of eighty who cannot practice it, and a little bit more like the child of three who can understand it.

Even with sitting-zen four times a day and Alexander work, I am pretty much lost. Without either of those two teachings, I might be totally and utterly lost.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Towards a Bit of Nothing

Head shaved following the traditional example of I do not know how many hundreds of thousands of nameless monks, body wrapped carelessly in a 9-striped kesa gorgeously sewn by Pierre Turlur, I wish to allow my neck to be free...

To allow the head to be directed forward and up...

To allow the back to lengthen and widen...

Altogether, one after the other... a little bit of nothing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Gap Revisited (4): Something or Nothing?

My credo:

I love just sitting. I don’t want to get something out of it. I don’t sit in the full lotus posture out of any personal ambition, out of any desire for fame and profit. I am not afraid of being the one who turned out to be wrong. I understand that trying to be right is a delusion. I shall be happy to be a nobody, restricted by nothing, except by enjoyment of sitting in the full lotus posture, with body, with mind, and dropping off body and mind. I wish to devote my life just to sitting like this, and thus to be caught by stillness. I don’t wish to get to the bottom of the Buddha’s enlightenment through the clarity of my own intellectual understanding about the vestibular system et cetera; I wish to devote myself to the very practice-experience which, transcending understanding, gets to the bottom of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

BUT, this declaration has to be real. The person who says it has to really mean it. If when I say it there is even the faintest trace of me not really meaning it, then there is a gap. And if the slightest gap arises, the mind is lost in confusion.

This continues to be my actual experience. Effort to make some sense of this experience leads me back to Master Dogen's fourfold criterion which, as I have argued by now ad nauseam, may have to do with four vestibular reflexes. For example, though I may say "I do not care," when my Moro reflex is unduly excited, I care. Though I may say, "I know where I am going," when my Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex is playing up, I am lost.

In the end, one has to laugh at oneself. What else is there for it? When I introduced myself on this blog as a big Zen fraud, I wasn’t joking.

Now, come on DL: Are you just saying that, or do you really mean it?

The Gap Revisited (3): Stillness & Fixity

Fixity is non-movement due to attaching to something.

Stillness is non-movement due to nothing.

The truth is that I tend to be attached to this and that: to ideas, to feelings, to habits, to people, things and places, to my own body and life. I attach even to stillness itself.

If, even though I am like this, I am proud of having understood something of the Buddha’s teaching, then, just in that false pride, there is a gap. But this is mainly how I am.

So please let me be for a while, to fixate on my own fixity.

But there again, are there any questions?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Gap Revisited (2): Q & A with Gudo

My Question: I notice that it is still very difficult for me, when I practice sitting-zen, to be free of idealistic effort (trying to be right, trying to become somebody). After almost 70 years of daily sitting-zen and studying and teaching Shobogenzo, do you still notice any idealistic tendency within your own sitting-zen practice?

Gudo's Anwer: After almost 70 years of daily sitting-zen and studying and teaching Shobogenzo, I do not have any kind of idealistic tendency in my life. When I am practicing Zazen, I always keep my spine straight vertically, and such efforts can not do anything for me to do other than sitting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Gap Revisited

A contributor to this blog named Floating Weed, who turned out to be a student of Michael Luetchford by the name of Michael Tait, even though I haven’t met him, has taught me a lot about my own unreal tendency. MT, like me, is quite a convincing clever cloggs who tends to think he has understood what he hasn’t truly realized at all.

I have written on this blog about the 2nd law of thermodynamics, aka time’s arrow. But if I truly realized the tendency that energy has to flow spontaneously out, why would I worry so heavily about transient states of the body-mind? If I truly realized the direction of time’s arrow, why would I fret about past mistakes?

I have written of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the ultimate theory of gravity. But if I were truly clear in regard to gravity, then why would the effort to sit upright cause me to pull my head back and down?

I have written of Newton’s 3rd law of motion. But if the principle of antagonistic action had truly entered my skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, then why would the idea of lengthening cause me to narrow? Why would my eyes tend to stray from the mid-line?

I have metioned quantum physics, quoting the principle that quantum physics deals not with certainties but with probabilities. With this in mind, I investigate the potential which I have to make an autonomous decision: I form an intention to move and yet decide not to do anything. By this means, I have been taught, I can allow the possibility of an action taking place. But the truth may be that I have never truly allowed, even once in my life, an action to take place. Like the hypocrite Jews, Christians and Muslims of which the world is full, I say “Thy will be done,” but don’t really mean it. I want God’s dice to be loaded in my favour.

These instances of non-realization, I have argued on this blog, are all a function of the ear, the original organ of stillness.

Pop psychologists, dabblers in Buddhist meditation, and readers of Zen literature, tend to latch on to the idea that true realization is right here within the grasp of everyone here and now, if only we would wake up to the wisdom that they have realized from their psychological or meditative insights and wide reading.

Alfred Tomatis, FM Alexander, Zen Master Dogen, and Gautama Buddha, to name four examples, were not like that. Those four guys all understood something profound about the human ear -- the original organ of both outer and inner listening, of both movement and stillness.

Those four understood that cheap intellectual understanding is never enough.

Sitting-zen practice cannot be like that. It can’t be a matter of cheap intellectual understanding. It has to be real.

This is why, in his rules of sitting-zen, Master Dogen cautioned us so clearly and strongly against un-reality, against the arising of any gap, against false pride in our understanding -- a tendency which causes us to poke our head in while almost completely losing the vigorous road of getting the body out.

It is a tendency that I have, it is a tendency that Michael Kendo Tait evidently has, and it must have been a tendency that Master Dogen also had -- or else how would he have known it so well?

It is not a tendency to be denied or hated, in self or others. It is something to be seen as it is. In our continuing quest for nothing, it is just a bit of something, a bit of something to drop off.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Fourfold Criterion Revisited (4): Not That

In contrast to the laws of the Universe, a human being like me can be unreal.

How is it that a human being becomes unreal. How can we begin to understand un-reality?

Here are four aspects of un-reality that I observe in myself:

(1) CARING = over-excitement of the fear reflexes, resulting in a temporary energy rush.

(2) LOSING THE HEAD = failure to integrate incoming sensory information, from within and without, into a meaningful whole; failure to filter out noise.

(3) DOING = directing my energy off to one side; hence losing the principle of antagonistic action in the middle way.

(4) KNOWING = undue certainty; reductionism; unreal confidence.

What does it mean to be a truly conscious upright being as Gautama was? What, ultimately, is the point: To be at the cutting edge of knowing, in some particular sphere, such as Buddhist philosophy, or Alexander teaching, or quantum physics? Or to be fully conscious of the much wider mystery?

In ‘My Credo,’ a speech given to the German League of Human Rights in Berlin in 1932, Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:

“The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.”

I think that what Einstein is expressing here might be partial consciousness of the wider mystery. Whereas Gautama’s teaching of the middle way always wants to bring us back from partial consciousness.

The real point of Gautama’s sitting-zen, as I see it, is not to make ourselves real. It is rather to see through, No!, to spring the whole body free from, un-real tendencies -- including for example the tendency which is leading me to write this post, craning my neck towards the computer screen in a caring way, while outside the sun is shining on oblivious of me, and inside a black cushion sits vainly pushing up against thin air.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Fourfold Criterion Revisited (3): Non-Scientific Realities

Since meeting Gudo Nishijima in 1982 I have been endeavoring to get to the bottom of Master Dogen’s rules of sitting-zen, in which may be observed the following four key imperatives:
(1) Don’t waste energy by grasping for what you already have.
(2) Sit upright.
(3) Sit still, non-thinkingly.
(4) Realize what freedom is.

Since starting in the Alexander work in 1994, I have also been endeavoring to get to the bottom of the four directions which, in the matter of sitting upright with maximum freedom and ease and minimum misdirection of energy, FM Alexander considered primary:
(1) Let the neck be free
(2) To let the head release upwards, out from the body
(3) To let the spine lengthen and the back widen
(4) Sending the knees forwards, out from the hips.

Since 1998 I have also trained and worked as a specialist in vestibular re-education of children and adults with balance, coordination and learning problems (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder).
This work has gradually revealed to me the primary importance, in sitting-zen practice, of observing/inhibiting four vestibular reflexes. These four reflexes have been called the four cornerstones of all human behaviour. Equally, they may be called the four cornerstones of all misdirection of human energy. The four reflexes, to give them their scientific names, are:
(1) The Moro Reflex; the baby’s panic/grasping reflex
(2) The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex; the reflex by which the baby responds to changing positions of its head in the gravitational field.
(3) The Asymmetrical Tonic Reflex; the pointing reflex which separates the baby into two sides. As the head turns, the limbs extend on the side to which the face turns, and the limbs flex on the opposite side.
(4) The Symmetrical Tonic Reflex; the reflex which enables the body of the infant, from around 6 months, to defy gravity for the first time, so that the infant rises into the cat-sit position, with arms and neck extended, and hips and knees flexed. This reflex also thus separates the infant into two halves; top and bottom.

The two tonic neck reflexes, ATNR and STNR, in their raw, infantile, uninhibited form, both dis-integrate the self. The corollary of this is that inhibition of these reflexes -- for example by the action of cross-pattern crawling, or by other actions requiring co-ordination of the four quadrants -- works in the direction of re-integrating the self.

In previous posts I have suggested that the four vestibular reflexes may be seen as constituing an underlying a priori basis (“a criterion before knowing and seeing”) not only for Dogen’s rules of sitting-zen and Alexander’s four directions, but also for the four foundations of mindfulness outlined by Gautama Buddha in the Maha-sati-pattana Sutta; namely,
(1) Kaya; body
(2) Vedana; feeling
(3) Citta; intention
(4) Dhamma; realizations

A couple of weeks ago, Joyce Evans, the widow of the late Ray Evans, my former Alexander head of training, gave me some of Ray’s old books, including biographies of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

Having been deeply impressed by the life stories and words of both Newton and Einstein, men who devoted themselves to seeking out the underlying simplicity and unity of nature, I would like to tentatively propose a further sub-set of four, as follows:

(1) Reality of energy.
(2) Reality of the Earth in spacetime.
(3) Reality of interaction.
(4) Reality of reality.

(1) The reality of energy is beautifully described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics; namely, that energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused or dispersed and spread out.

(2) The reality of the Earth in spacetime is brilliantly described by Einstein’s general theory of relativity -- a theory of gravity.

(3) The reality of interaction is elegantly encapsulated by Newton’s 3rd law of motion: To any action there is always an opposite and equal reaction.

In light of Newton’s 3rd law, we can understand that the intention to sit still is, when non-buddha ascends beyond buddha, not only the intention to realize a state of the nervous system. Stillness is not a state of something. Stillness is absence of noise in a dynamic interaction. It is absence of disturbance, absence of dissonance.

In other words, stillness is not a fixed thing in a person; it is a bit of no-thing, and a bit of no-thought, in a mutual relationship between person and world.

A baby extends its neck and arms, and flexes its hips and knees, thereby instinctively pushing itself upright for the first time. A monk consciously performing the same action for the several thousandth time may notice that not only is he pushing himself up against the floor but also that the floor is pushing up against him.

A sitting body is pulled towards the centre of the Earth. And, equally, the surface of the earth pushes a sitting body upwards. Just that.

Equivalence of just sitting and just being sat -- a body thus being naturally empty and still. Isn’t this the point of sitting-zen, as indicated by Master Bodhidharma?

(4) It seems that physicists today are on the scent of a grand unified theory which will combine gravity and quantum theory in a theory of everything.

It is said that quantum physics deals not with certainties like e = mc2, but only with probabilities. This, apparently, was the discovery that led Einstein to object, “I cannot believe that God plays dice.”

Master Dogen was recording the rules of sitting-zen 680 years before Einstein wrote that e = mc2. But one can suppose that if Master Dogen were to express his own theory of everything in mathematical terms, it might contain expressions along the following lines:

Let e = e.
Let mc2 = mc2.

If a physicist followed Master Dogen’s rules of sitting-zen, he might discover that the ultimate reality to which Dogen pointed has to do not only with the e and the mc2, but also with the freedom to let, which is never certain.

In such a case, however, “physicist” might not be an adequate label for the discoverer. Non-physicist might be closer to the mark.

Gautama Buddha was a non-physicist, a non-philosopher, and a non-politician. He did not wish, from above, to force down upon us lesser beings, as a dogma, that “reality is reality” -- still less did he pronounce that “Buddhism is realism.” Instead, Gautama gave us, in the practice of sitting-zen, the means whereby each non-buddha might discover for himself the freedom to let.

The essence of that gift from Gautama Buddha, I believe, is inhibition of all four vestibular reflexes and, ultimately, inhibition of the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex -- because inhibition of the STNR, as manifested in a truly upright sitting posture, is the hallmark of one who has transcended monkey-like behaviour -- a true, autonomous, individual human being; a non-buddha.

In his biography, Einstein is quoted as follows: “Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.”

I bow to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as revered ancestors in the original invisible Sangha.