Saturday, November 16, 2013

Physics On The Henro Trail

I know that a great many people who walk the henro trail are not scientists, not even interested in science, let alone that seemingly difficult area called physics. So, before continuing, let me try and bring those who that applies to up to speed.

Einstein, got the equation right, but completely missed the mark on what it meant. I was shocked when i realized it. In his heyday, he correctly pointed out that:

E = MC2

Can't argue with that, it turns out to be true. And luckily for the physics community, they have been able to put it to good use even though they are using in in an odd way. It turns out that while Einstein's original intuition was correct, he got off-track somewhere between the first idea and the final equations. What i suspect the equation really means is:

E(nlightenment) = M(editation) x C(ompassion) x C(ourage)
E = MC2

When you take a well established meditation practice, combine it with a compassionate life, and multiply that with the courage required to persist in the face of countless odds and distractions, the end result will be enlightenment. Meditation alone can not do it, but it will bring wisdom and virtue to your life. Once wisdom and virtue are the focus of your life, compassion for the world can flow through your life. Living this life, though, is not easy, it's tempting to pick and choose who you want to be compassionate with, it's tempting to choose your friends over your enemies, those who do good over those who seem to do harm. Courage is the backbone that holds it all together.

OK, even though we could spend countless pages on the equation and it's implications, that's enough to get even the non-science inclined up to speed. The real question is what does that have to do with the henro trail.

It all begins with an idea of what you are looking for. Einstein was looking for the origins, the unifying background, of the relative world of form and matter. How do you see that which ties everything together. A henro, in my opinion, is one who is looking at the same question, but in a non-scientific way.

As a henro takes the first steps away from Ryōzenji, he/she is still very much firmly embedded in the world of name and form. The hope is that by the time he/she returns in a month and a half this name and form have taken a back seat to reality. They haven't disappeared, they are still important, but their actual worth, their true value has come to be understood.

As a henro takes these first steps, they must commit to courage. COURAGE. The walk may be difficult — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, some combination of any of those, or all of those. A walk of the trail can be like a walk in your local park, but a pilgrimage will not be. Before taking even those first few steps, commit to seeing these endeavors through, commit to doing your best each and every step of the walk. Not when you think of it, not when the weather is good, not when you are in a good mood, not from time-to-time; commit to staying focused during each and every step of the walk.

Make the walk a walking meditation, and offer compassion to everyone and everything that you encounter. It doesn't have to be verbal, it doesn't have to be overt. Not everyone is looking for it or wants it. But in your mind, compassion for all. Compassion for everything. Compassion and focused mindfulness. Continuously. Day in and day out. Step after step. On the trail. At a temple. In a restaurant. Sitting on the side of the road. At your lodging. In the rain. When it's hot and the trail is steep. When you're being squeezed against the side of the tunnel wall by truck traffic. Always.

With persistence and dedication, your name and form may begin to merge with all the "other" names and forms. With persistence and dedication the lines between you and other may begin to loose their sharp edges. With persistence and dedication the reality behind it all makes an appearance.

With persistence and dedication and with a continued focus on meditation and compassion, you may learn to easily slip back and forth between this reality and the apparent world of names and forms needed to make reservations, buy food, and chant the heart sutra at the temples.

With persistence and dedication, an ever continuing focus on meditation and compassion, and determined courage to continue, the amalgam of the reality you've seen and your individual world begin to operate on its own and you are able to sit back and let it live its life, live your life, live Life in your boots. You still walk, you still greet people, you still visit temples, you still chant the heart sutra, you still enjoy the scenery and a cold beer at dinner, you still look like the person that set out from Ryōzenji, but that personality has been sloughed off and replaced by that of a henro.

E = MC2

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