Inspiration in Science

We’re more impressed in this part of the world with inspiration in science. We think, “Artistic inspiration, well, who’s to say if a thing is good or bad? But in the Far East they’re more likely to say, “In science, scientific inspiration, you might guess, mightn’t you? But no-one can fake a masterpiece of calligraphy.” Well, however it might be.

If we take an example… There’s a new biography of Rutherford, who confirmed the so-called ‘solar system structure’ of the atom. It has just come out. He was a man who had many of these qualities of a Yogi. He worshipped science as a god. A foreign visitor to his laboratory pointed out to him, said, “You know you could patent some of these discoveries you’re making, and make a fortune?” He said, “Rutherford jumped to his feet and the visitor escaped.” He said, “I thought I was going to be attacked.” For Rutherford, science was something sacred, not to be exploited.

As an example of inspiration, it doesn’t matter the details, but they were firing these particles – alpha particles – through thin foil. Rutherford’s own description was: ‘Its 16-inch shells being blasted through tissue paper.’ He had suddenly an impossible idea. He said to his assistant, the famous Geiger of the Geiger counter, “Check whether any of those particles,” those shells, so to speak, “Have been reflected back.”

How could an enormous shell be reflected back from tissue paper? It would be like going round the Alps and checking whether any avalanches are flowing upwards, but this nonsensical idea came from nowhere, completely against the logic of the situation. So, they tested and they found [it was so.

You go in and you see this flower arrangement. You just look at it now, but you don’t know why. When you’re sitting there, your mind becomes at peace. This is inspiration in our everyday life. It can express itself in that way.

Finally, in the action part of the Gita, he has a vision of the Lord, and in that vision he has… He becomes aware of the part that he’s to play in life. My teacher’s teacher – of course, this is a translation – he said, “Every man must be able to go into nervous and muscular relaxation, and in that silence concentrate his mind on a symbol of God. In the prolonged silence of the soul, there will come before him the archetypes of what he is to create in the inner world and the outer world.” It doesn’t have to be some great masterpiece.

My teacher’s wife was Japanese, and her mother was a famous figure in Zen. People used to come from all over Japan to see her. When they came, sometimes she wouldn’t speak a word. She would sit there, and the visitor would be announced, come in, and she would just serve her tea. They would just sit in silence for a few minutes. Then the visitor would bow and go. They found, when they’d seen her just for that short time, just drunk the tea, just seen those movements, that they had a new courage and a new life to face the difficulties and the battles. They had a, sort of, inner peace in them.

Now a similar story from the Indian line. A saint was to be given a special blessing called ‘Proclaimed Wisdom’: not only to have wisdom but to proclaim it. The heavenly messenger who was bringing this blessing met another one, who said, “This is going to be very difficult because the people here, round here, are such terrible gossips that he’s taken a vow of complete silence. So, he won’t be able to proclaim the wisdom,” (Laughter) but anyway, the blessing had to be given, so it was given and the saint remained silent.

Then there was a man in the town who… He had very heavy responsibilities – enormous responsibilities – and he’d also faced with a mass of not really anxieties but also disparagements from envious people who are always spreading baseless rumours about him to do him harm. He feels absolutely overwhelmed with this mass of troubles, and responsibilities, and worries, and all this mindless spite and venom.

One day in a monsoon, this worried man is taking shelter from the rain, under the eaves. It doesn’t really do much, but you feel you’re getting out of the rain a bit. He saw the saint, who was going to visit someone, walking down the middle of the street through this pouring rain, obviously enjoying the warm rain.

That made a vivid picture and he found it came back to him, recurred to him. Then he began to find, he began to think of all these worries and mosquito swarm of anxieties. It was like a monsoon rain. He found there was something in himself that was beginning to be able to walk calmly. This is an example of inspiration and how it’s communicated.

This was from Bhagavad Gita – Zen & Gita – T.Leggett – 1-8-1984

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Yogas of the Gita are Yogas for when life is in crisis
Part2:  What does non-attachment to the results mean?
Part 3: The first element in the Karma Yoga
Part 4: There should be some creative expression
Part 5: Inspiration in science
Part 6: Zen & Gita Q&A 1 01.08.1984
Part 7: Zen & Gita Q&A 2 01.08.1984

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