Schrodinger's Cat, Nansen's Cat

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39272

    Schrodinger's Cat, Nansen's Cat



    AUDIO VERSION AVAILABLE HERE>>




    In a famous thought experiment, the physicist Schrödinger imagined a hypothetical cat, unobserved in a black box, the cat alive and dead at once, perhaps neither or both or something else altogether. Its poisoning (or not) hangs upon a tiny trigger, an as yet unobserved atom whose quantum state as decayed or undecayed, neither or both or something else altogether, is itself indeterminate until observed. Because the atom's state is indeterminate, so is the life (or not) of the cat.

    As a corollary to this conundrum, another physicist, Hugh Everett, offered a scenario (the "many-worlds interpretation") in which every possibility at every cross-road of events actually exists, perhaps in many ways, in countless alternative worlds in some of which the cat is dead, in some of which it is not, in some of which there was never a cat at all, in some of which there is something else altogether. Some further physicists posit that all these realms might exist in parallel in a great "multi-verse," within which we only witness one outcome ... although, I suppose, other "us's" might be witnessing other outcomes elsewhere (or some other witnesses are doing so, or nobody does, or something else altogether.)

    What is the connection of these great Quantum questions to Zen?

    Beats me. I really have no idea.

    I have no idea because I am not a physicist, only a Zen teacher. I am not one of those modern pseudo-scientific Prajna pundits who too easily drop the word "Quantum" into their spiritual talks, declaring that modern theoretical physics proves the claims of ancient Buddhist mystics. Even the physicists themselves cannot fully agree with each other about what their theories mean, and about all the ramifications, so how could some New Age Sage have the inside dope without a PhD from MIT? Yes, there are some interesting parallels to "parallel universes" in several cherished Mahayana scriptures which describe worlds-upon-worlds, in numbers far beyond all the sands of the Ganges, infinite ages, timelessness, Master Dogen's fluid vision of relative being-time which seems to resonate with what Einstein had to say centuries later. It is cool that science seems to confirm (or, at least, not contradict) some of what old time Buddhists had to say about space and time, although it is true too that modern science also frequently contradicts flat out some traditional claims of Buddhism (such as that the earth is flat, as many of our Dharma ancestors once believed.)

    No problem, especially for us Zen fellows who assert that Zen is content with "what is" ... whatever "what is" is. If the earth is flat, if the earth is round or square, if time is finite or infinite, if there are many universes or only this one, if the world is just matter and energy or not ... then no matter, we're cool with it and just keep sitting our Zazen here and now. We keep sitting our Zazen here and now, whether or not there is sitting happening in all those alternate "here's and now's" too.

    This came to my mind in talking with a dear Zen friend who is very, very sick these days, with his life sometimes hanging in the balance. He said that he feels sometimes like Schrödinger's cat, on the razor's edge of life and death. Because my friend is an old Zendo 'cat' often found curled upon his Zafu, he describes experiences of being a separate "self" worried some days about his own survival, yet also (as Buddhism teaches) "empty" of separate self-existence, thus not just this little life and "self." Both those parallel facts are true at once, for my friend was once born yet (so say we Zen folks) was also never truly "born" at all ... something like a wave which came to rise from the sea, but because the wave remains the sea all along just undulating, he is also a wave that never truly "came" from somewhere else. He has always been just the sea waving. Equally, should the wave crash upon the shore, the wave vanishes yet vanishes nowhere, for the wave has always been the sea's swirling, waving water of these waters, ever the twirling tides twirling, and the sea flows on and on. One need not return to what was never left. I sometimes like to tell folks that, if Hamlet had been a Zen Buddhist, he might have entertained other options beyond merely "To be, or not to be."

    Is this comparable to the particle that, emerging mysteriously from some voidless-void, is constant energetic motion, thus there yet not, a diffuse field fluctuating that is really neither "field" nor "particle" while, somehow, giving form and life to this world? I don't know. Perhaps, yes, if not to the scientist, then at least to the poet in my heart: There is no solid "sea," no distant and severable source nor outside border, no fixed and frozen solid to nail down and trap. There is only this on and on flowing flowing, and we are somehow such.

    Likewise for my friend's illness: His wave is not looking so good right now, and its appearance is a bit broken. Life is quite stormy, and the ocean very turbulent for him these days. Even so, the waters of the sea never suffer, they just change and flow, conforming to circumstances and whatever comes, to all that is encountered. Is that the same as the photons in those "double-slit" experiments that conform to wave or to particle in response to their circumstances? Again, I have no idea. But I do know that the water ... whether smooth or stormy, as mist or glacier, cloud or rain ... does not seem to resist the transitions, does not suffer, and simply moves with the cycles of change. Waves have risen, waves have fallen, ice spreads and recedes, storms come and go, clouds condense and evaporate, hydrogen and oxygen bond and break bonds ... yet not a single drop of water is lost somehow. The sea remains the sea, just this on and on flowing flowing.

    I told my friend too that, while I cannot attest to the "many-worlds" hypothesis of Dr. Everett, and though I am without grasp of the accompanying math, I know for a fact that my friend is to be found many places, countless places, in most of which he is not sick in the least. Oh, I do not mean that there are necessarily parallel universes containing parallel versions of "my friend," in some of which he is sick and some not. Maybe, perhaps there are ... or not ... or both ... I don't know. Nor am I saying that there are twins and doppelgangers of "my friend" scattered about this one universe: In a universe seemingly as vast as the one we inhabit, filled with galaxies exceeding in count the sands of the Ganges, emerged from the Big Bang or many Big Bangs, spreading far beyond the visible event horizon, there might be endless identical copies, or near copies, or kinda-roughly-like copies of my friend scattered here and there, some with his same smile and postal address, some almost the same or more or less or just a bit... some sick but some not. It could be, seems logical.

    But, frankly, I do not know them ... even if, I suppose, some other "me's" somewhere might. I wish them well but I, right here, only worry about my friend, this one on this planet.

    So, when I say that I know, for a fact, that my friend is found in countless places, all places, I mean that, in Zazen, as the separate "self's" hard borders soften, sometimes fully drop away, we are each revealed as each other, shown as all things, beings and moments that are each and every thing, being and moment, as if each other in other guise. Not only my friend, but all of us. The star in the heavens is my friend shining, and my friend is the star walking with two legs on earth, or lying in bed. The bird is the fish flying in the sky, and the fish is the bird swimming in the ocean. You are the mountain reading these words with your eyes, and the mountain is you rising thousands of feet high. Like that. If there is one universe, if there are countless universes, both as one grain or countless grains of sand, we are the one, we are the countless, for we are what is. We flow in and out of each other, and as each other, although our various eyes each see things from different angles somehow. My eyes look into your eyes, and your eyes look at me, while other things we see have no eyes it seems. Nevertheless, we are each but gazing in a mirror, are each mirrors gazing at mirrors within a vast mirror. Furthermore, because the star is the sea, and my friend is the sea, and because you and I are the sea, as is the fish, bird, mountain, all blades of grass, every thing, being and moment all the sea ... we are all just water of these waters, flowing on and on ...

    Thus, so long as the bird flies on and the fish swims strongly, while the mountain rises tall, as long as they are not sick ... thus he, my friend (as them) is not sick too. That is a fact even as, alas, my friend lies coughing in bed.

    I do not know if a physicist can ever quantify that in a lab, but it is true.

    In a famous Zen story, set more than 1000 years before Schrödinger, Master Nansen faced some monks arguing over ownership of another poor feline. To silence them, Nansen held a knife to the kitty and declared, "If any of you monks can say one word of truth, I will spare the cat. If not, I will kill it. So, speak!” Alas, when none could respond, Nansen cut the cat in two (although, truth be told, I think it just a story. Given the vows of a monk not to kill, and the Karma which would be involved, no real puss was put to death. No animal was actually harmed in the making of this Koan.) Even so, it might be said that the fighting monks are the ones who had already divided the cat by their dispute, by their ideas of "my" and "mine," "me vs. you vs. cat" long before Nansen even raised his knife. Nansen, by silencing the monks and stilling the selfish clutching and divided thinking, wielded the Bodhisattva Wisdom Sword of Manjushri, which "uncut" the cat and all separate things, beings and times into wholeness ... free of all frictions, divided fractions, fractures and fighting factions.

    Instantly, Nansen and all cats anywhere, the birds and mountains, you me, Everett and Schrödinger ... my friend too ... are life and death, neither and both and something else, all the sands of the Ganges, not a drop missing, waves and particles, here, there, each, all, everywhere ...


    ... just flowing on and on ...




    Gassho, J

    stlah

    PS - I have removed the photo of Erwin Schrödinger after I was informed of certain confirmed stories of his pedophilia. Sorry to hear that. I hope it does not take away from the point of the remainder of the essay ... https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebecca...h=7d115a6542ff
    tsuku.jpg
    Last edited by Bion; 05-14-2024, 08:35 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Bion
    Treeleaf Unsui
    • Aug 2020
    • 3734

    #2
    Ah, thank you for staying on this topic a bit longer and developing it. It's been a nice thing to focus on during this week.

    Gassho
    sat and lah
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-14-2024, 12:33 PM.
    "Stepping back with open hands, is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world." - Hongzhi

    Comment

    • Tairin
      Member
      • Feb 2016
      • 2733

      #3
      Thank you Jundo


      Tairin
      Sat today and lah
      泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

      Comment

      • Doshin
        Member
        • May 2015
        • 2644

        #4
        The multiuniverse has made it into several movies

        Doshin
        Stlah

        Comment

        • Tai Do
          Member
          • Jan 2019
          • 1362

          #5
          Thank you, Jundo!
          Gassho,
          Tai Do
          Satlah
          怠努 (Tai Do) - Lazy Effort
          (also known as Mateus )

          禅戒一如 (Zen Kai Ichi Nyo) - Zazen and the Precepts are One!

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39272

            #6
            Originally posted by Doshin
            The multiuniverse has made it into several movies

            Doshin
            Stlah
            In fact, the multiverse may be kind of a cosmic movie "multiplex," with infinite theatres each playing different versions of films. In some, King Kong does not climb the Empire State Building ... in some a rabbit does ... in some the rabbit climbs up your leg ... etc.

            Did I blow your mind?

            Gassho, J

            stlah
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Doshin
              Member
              • May 2015
              • 2644

              #7
              Originally posted by Jundo
              In fact, the multiverse may be kind of a cosmic movie "multiplex," with infinite theatres each playing different versions of films. In some, King Kong does not climb the Empire State Building ... in some a rabbit does ... in some the rabbit climbs up your leg ... etc.

              Did I blow your mind?

              Gassho, J

              stlah
              Yes you did! But with me that can be easy

              Doshin
              Stlah

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39272

                #8
                I have removed the photo of Erwin Schrödinger after I was informed of certain confirmed stories of his pedophilia. Sorry to hear that. I hope it does not take away from the point of the remainder of the essay ... https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebecca...h=7d115a6542ff

                Gassho, J

                stlah
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • Kaitan
                  Member
                  • Mar 2023
                  • 447

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Jundo
                  I have removed the photo of Erwin Schrödinger after I was informed of certain confirmed stories of his pedophilia. Sorry to hear that. I hope it does not take away from the point of the remainder of the essay ... https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebecca...h=7d115a6542ff

                  Gassho, J

                  stlah
                  It so disappointing to know this about him.

                  Gasshō

                  stlah, Kaitan
                  Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
                  Formerly known as "Bernal"

                  Comment

                  • Bion
                    Treeleaf Unsui
                    • Aug 2020
                    • 3734

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    I have removed the photo of Erwin Schrödinger after I was informed of certain confirmed stories of his pedophilia. Sorry to hear that. I hope it does not take away from the point of the remainder of the essay ... https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebecca...h=7d115a6542ff

                    Gassho, J

                    stlah
                    It does not. One can behave terribly as a human being and have some brilliant ideas. But, thank you for taking swift action.

                    Gassho
                    Sat and lah
                    "Stepping back with open hands, is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world." - Hongzhi

                    Comment

                    • Kokuu
                      Treeleaf Priest
                      • Nov 2012
                      • 6755

                      #11
                      Thank you, Jundo. Lovely writing and I did not know that about Schrödinger. We all contain multitudes, and sadly not all of them are good.

                      When I was a student there was a well known rhyme:

                      "Schrödinger, Erwin, professor of physics,
                      Wrote daring equations, confounded his critics!"

                      It might come from a longer piece.

                      Edit: I don't know if Facebook knows about this thread but this advert for a t-shirt just appeared in my feed: https://www.qwertee.com/shop/tees/sc...-s-cat-revenge

                      Gassho
                      Kokuu
                      -sattoday/lah-
                      Last edited by Kokuu; 01-15-2024, 05:24 PM.

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39272

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Kokuu
                        Edit: I don't know if Facebook knows about this thread but this advert for a t-shirt just appeared in my feed: https://www.qwertee.com/shop/tees/sc...-s-cat-revenge

                        Gassho
                        Kokuu
                        -sattoday/lah-
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • DGF
                          Member
                          • Feb 2022
                          • 117

                          #13
                          Thank you Jundo,

                          Gassho
                          Diana
                          Sat

                          Comment

                          • Hōzan
                            Member
                            • Dec 2022
                            • 417

                            #14
                            [emoji120]

                            Gassho, Hōzan (Solenziz/Michael)
                            Satlah

                            Comment

                            • Onkai
                              Treeleaf Unsui
                              • Aug 2015
                              • 2842

                              #15
                              Thank you, Jundo.

                              Gassho, Onkai
                              Sat lah
                              美道 Bidou Beautiful Way
                              恩海 Onkai Merciful/Kind Ocean

                              I have a lot to learn; take anything I say that sounds like teaching with a grain of salt.

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