Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Buddha’s “Theory of Everything”

The voice of physicist Stephen Hawking was broadcast into space (toward the black hole 1A0620-00) after his memorial service on June 15, last year. I have no idea what utterances of his were selected, but for a science geek like me it surely could not have been more exciting than something he said nearly forty years ago. In 1980, Stephen Hawking received what is probably the most distinguished recognition a physicist can receive, short of a Nobel Prize. He was elevated to the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University. Hawking’s predecessors included Newton and Dirac. On the occasion of his inauguration he gave a speech on the state of physics in which he wondered aloud whether the end was in sight for its theoretical branch.

Mindful that such predictions had been made before, he concluded nevertheless that the answer might well be yes. By the end of the century it was conceivable, he declared, that physicists would have at hand the ultimate theory of nature, one that described all the forces and particles and explained, with no fudging around, why the universe was the way it was.

Well it’s now 2019, Hawking has passed on, and we haven’t had our answer. For a time physicists had high hopes for String Theory (and Superstring Theory, M-theory, and so on). Because it had made so few specific predictions, String Theory was hard to disprove. Hyped initially as “a theory of everything,” it has fallen short, failing to provide a key to all physics in our universe.

The latest effort in this line is the search for physics’ most elusive particle, the Higgs Boson, whose existence would explain all others and how they fit together into the jigsaw of the universe. The physicist Leon M. Lederman ironically called the Higgs Boson the “God particle.” On July 4, 2012, two experimental teams at the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator at CERN, near Geneva, announced the discovery of a trace of the Higgs, or “of a previously unknown boson whose behavior so far has been ‘consistent with a Higgs Boson.’” Champagne corks popped, but sometime after the celebrations we were told that it would take a lot more work and analysis before CERN scientists had the cold numbers to say this was definitely the particle predicted in 1964 by Peter Higgs, who thought it to be “the arbiter of mass and cosmic diversity.”

In fact, rather than getting closer to a unified understanding of the universe, we seem to be moving further away from the “ultimate theory of nature” Stephen Hawking had so confidently foretold. To make matters worse, earlier, in 1998, two teams of astronomers had discovered that the expansion of the universe (after the initial big bang) was not slowing down with time and gravity, as all cosmologists had confidently believed; it was actually accelerating. Physicists speculated that the acceleration was caused by something they named Dark Energy, which was said to make up 69 percent of the universe. Another theoretical “something” called Dark Matter takes up the remaining 27 percent, leaving only 4 percent for everything else: the solar system, stars, galaxies, black holes, cosmic dust, everything—everything ever observed, even by the Hubble telescope in its most far-reaching deep-field configuration.

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Sogyal Rinpoche Dead at 72

The embattled Tibetan Buddhist teacher and author died at a hospital in Thailand.

By Matthew AbrahamsAug 28, 2019

Sogyal Rinpoche | Photo by Olivier Riché https://flic.kr/p/oh6zeL

The influential and controversial Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche died on Wednesday at a hospital in Thailand. He was 72. Born Sogyal Lakar in Kham, Tibet, he was best known as the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. A lama in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, he was the founder of the international Buddhist group Rigpa, which he led until 2017. He retired that year after his students came forward with highly publicized allegations that he had emotionally, physically, and sexually abused them. Even before then, accusations of abuse had long shadowed him.

“Sogyal Rinpoche’s health deteriorated today after he suffered a pulmonary embolism and he left this world around 1pm here in Thailand,” a post on his Facebook page announced Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, a Facebook post said that Sogyal Rinpoche was at the hospital being monitored for complications arising from his battle with cancer. Doctors had earlier removed two cancerous spots on his liver. But in a July 25 post, the lama said that more cancerous cells had been detected and that he was beginning chemotherapy.

While many took to social media to remember Sogyal Rinpoche’s writings and teachings, it is hard to disentangle from his legacy the numerous allegations of abuse that received renewed attention after his students released a 2017 letter calling on the teacher to step down. In September 2018, Rigpa released a report by a law firm hired to investigate the claims that confirmed many of the allegations against him.

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The Bodhisattva vows: “Failing to ward off defamation”

The Buddha taught the “eight worldly conditions”) Lokavipatti Sutta (AN 8:6), instructing his disciples among others not to be attached to status and to not have aversion to disgrace.

In Tibetan Buddhism we speak of “the eight worldly concerns” or “eight worldly dharmas” (Tib. འཇིག་རྟེན་ཆོས་བརྒྱད་, jikten chö gyé, Wyl. ‘jig rten chos brgyad).

While the list of four pairs of “eight worldly conditions” translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu are:

Gain/loss,status/disgrace,censure/praise,pleasure/pain,

 
Tibetan Buddhism and their teachers¹ usually teach these four pairs of “the eight worldly concerns”:

Gain and loss,happiness and unhappiness,Fame and insignificance,praise and blame.

 
Tibetan Buddhism traces back their list of “the eight worldly concerns” to Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend, verse 29:

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Meditation Coaches, the Next Frontier in Major League Sports

In the beginning there was god-given brawn: Babe Ruth could go carousing until the sun came up and then smack a baseball beyond the horizon with a flick of his wrists. Or there was god-given talent: Ted Williams and his eyesight so perfect that when he enlisted in World War II, doctors were astounded by his 20-10 vision. The heroes of old, like all mythic characters, were born heroes. It’s hard to picture the Great Bambino lifting weights or the Splendid Splinter struggling with his swing. It’s even harder to picture them meditating.

But times have changed. The days of athletes inhaling pregame cheeseburgers and exhaling halftime cigarettes are long gone, and our understanding of performance has grown exponentially. In the arms race for an edge that is professional sports, teams and players have found ways, both legal and illegal, to optimize the body’s potential. But as anyone who has seen superstar quarterback Tom Brady’s surprisingly unimpressive draft photo knows, athleticism alone may not separate you from the pack at the upper echelon of sport.

“The last frontier now is the mental part of the game,” Bob Tewksbury, a major league pitcher for 13 seasons and the current mental skills coordinator for the Chicago Cubs, told me. “Everyone’s got a certain amount of talent to be a pro, but it’s the mental part that separates the good from the great.”

For Tewksbury and others in his field, incorporating mental skills is the next step in the evolution of athletics. 

“When I came up to the big leagues . . . you didn’t really lift weights. You ran, you played catch,” he said. But today, major-league teams have multiple strength and conditioning trainers and nutritionists on their payrolls, he said, and now many athletes are turning to mindfulness.

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Hong Kong Protesters Mark Hungry Ghost Festival

Demonstrators in Hong Kong burn offerings outside police station, activists decry an elephant’s treatment at Sri Lanka festival, and Thai monks take first place at video game tournament. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Karen JensenAug 24, 2019

Protesters in Hong Kong throw "hell money" over a police barricade during the Hungry Ghost Festival. | SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week. 

Hong Kong Protests Continue at Hungry Ghost Festival

No end is in sight for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The unrest began as a series of protests against a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed a person arrested in Hong Kong to face trial elsewhere, including mainland China, and has escalated into widespread demonstrations against the Chinese government that have included violent clashes with the Hong Kong police. On August 14, police fired tear gas at demonstrators who had gathered outside a police station in observation of the annual Hungry Ghost Festival, a tradition with Buddhist and Taoist origins that honors ancestors by burning incense, hell money (a special currency used as an offering also known as “ghost money” or “joss paper”), and papier-mâché versions of material objects. Some of protestors’ hell money featured images of Beijing-backed Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuetngor and former Chinese Premier Li Peng, infamous for his role in the Tiananmen Square massacre. The South China Morning Post reported that police retaliated after protestors refused to stop aiming laser pointers at the station building.  After issuing warnings, the police fired several rounds of tear gas, which caused the crowd to disperse. Later the protestors returned to the station, and the stand-off continued until around midnight with no further reports of tear gas or force. Earlier this month, massive protests crowded the Hong Kong airport, creating delays and causing airlines to suspend service for hundreds of travelers.

Exiled Tibetans Show Their Support for Hong Kong 

Meanwhile in Dharamshala, India, Tibetans showed their support for the Hong Kong protests with a demonstration and candlelight vigil on August 19, according to Phayul.com. Activists, locals, and tourists walked from the main square in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, to the Tsuglagkhang Complex, the temple of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, chanting and carrying signs with messages of solidarity such as “Hong Kong is NOT China” and “Tibet with Hong Kong.” The event’s organizer GuChuSum, a group founded by former political prisoners of Tibet, said in a press release, “We stand with [the] people of Hong Kong in their fight for justice and right to self-determination . . . We urge leaders and nations who are silent on the issue to condemn the atrocities inflicted upon the non-violent protesters in Hong Kong.” 

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