Braxton Lewis's Reviews > The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism

The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
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's review
Feb 06, 2010

really liked it
Read in December, 2009

** spoiler alert ** Direct excerpts from the text:

The influence of modern physics goes beyond technology. It extends to the realm of thought and culture where it has led to a deep revision in man's conception of the universe and his relation to it.

Rational knowledge is thus a system of abstract concepts and symbols, characterized by the linear, sequential structure which is typical of our thinking and speaking.

Zen Buddhists say that a finger is needed to point at the moon, but that we should not trouble ourselves with the finger once the moon is recognized…
knowing is impossible without seeing; all knowledge has its origin in seeing.

In our everyday life, direct intuitive insights into the nature of things are normally limited to extremely brief moments. Not so in Eastern mysticism where they are extended to long periods and, ultimately, become a constant awareness. The preparation of the mind for this awareness--for the immediate, nonconceptual awareness of reality--is the main purpose of all schools of Eastern mysticism, and of many aspects of the Eastern way of life.

The irrational wording and paradoxical content of these riddles makes it impossible to solve them by thinking. They are designed precisely to stop the thought process and to make the student ready of the non-verbal experience of reality.

Zen masters, does not provide any statements. She just provides the riddles.

The solving of a koan demands a supreme effort of concentration and involvement from the student.

The koan grips the student's heart and mind and creates a true mental impasse, a state of sustained tension in which the whole world becomes an enormous mass of doubt and questioning.

The basis of Krishna's spiritual instruction, as of all Hinduism, is the idea that the multitude of things and events around us are but different manifestations of the same ultimate reality.

The illusion merely lies in our point of view, if we think that the shapes and structures, things and events, around us are realities of nature, instead of realizing that they are concepts of our measuring and categorizing minds.

The First Noble Truth states the outstanding characteristic of the human situation, duhkha, which is suffering or frustration. This frustration comes from our difficulty in facing the basic fact of life, that everything around us is impermanent and transitory.
whenever we resist the flow of life and try to cling to fixed forms which are all maya, whether they are things, events people or ideas.

The Second Nobel Truth deals with the cause of all suffering, trishna, which is clinging, or grasping. It is the futile grasping of life based on a wrong point of view which is called avidya, or ignorance, in Buddhist philosophy.

attempt to confine the fluid forms of reality in fixed categories created by the mind.

The Third Noble Truth states that suffering and frustration can be ended.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the Buddha's prescription to end all suffering, the Eightfold Path to self-development which leads to the state of Buddhahood. The first two sections of this path as already mentioned, are concerned with right seeing and right knowing, that is which the clear insight into the human situation that is the necessary starting point. The next four sections deal with right action. They give the rules for the Buddhist way of life, which is a Middle Way between opposite extremes. The last two sections are concerned with right awareness and right meditation and describe the direct mystical experience of reality that is the final goal.

explore various characteristics of the Zen experience and can be used to train the mind and to bring it in contact with the ultimate reality.

These arts are expressions of the spontaneity, simplicity and total presence of mind characteristics of the Zen life.

When he reached the high of perfection, bow, arrow, goal and archer all melted into one another and he did not shoot, but 'it' did it for him.

The notion that all opposites are polar--that light and dark, winning and losing, good and evil, are merely different aspects of the same phenomenon--is one of the basic principles of the Eastern way of life.

Faced with a reality which lies beyond opposite concepts, physicists and mystics have to adopt a special way of thinking, where the mind is not fixed in the rigid framework of classical logic, but keeps moving and changing its viewpoint.

The gate of Plato's Academy in Athens is said to have borne the inscription, 'You are not allowed to enter here, unless you know geometry.'

The Buddha taught that 'all compounded things are impermanent', and that all suffering in the world arises from our trying to cling to fixed forms--objects, people or ideas--instead of accepting the world as it moves and changes.

One should not resist the flow, but should adapt one's actions to it.
The force is nothing but the collective macroscopic effect of these multiple photon exchanges. The concept of force is therefore not longer useful in subatomic physics.

At present, our attitude is too yang--to use again Chinese phraseology--too rational, male and aggressive.

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