Second Law of Thermodynamics is Part of Anicca!

1. As we saw in the post, “Anicca – True Meaning”, anicca describes one of the three basic characteristics of “this world”, namely no matter how hard we try, “we cannot maintain things to our satisfaction in the long term”.

2. What does the Second Law of Thermodynamics say? It basically says, “things in a closed system go from order to disorder, unless energy is put into the system to keep the order”. Thus we can maintain a sort of stability (or “keep things the way we like them to be”) by striving or working hard.

  • But as we get old, our ability to do this wanes, and ultimately we becomes too weak to do anything or just die. It does not matter how much money we have accumulated. All sense pleasures lose their vigor as the body gets old, and money or will power cannot maintain them.
  • A successful business person could say, “look at all the wealth that I created. I have achieved what I wanted”. It is actually a good accomplishment, but can he really enjoy all that in the long term? Even all that money cannot maintain a simple thing like taste of food when he gets really old, not to mention the fact that all that wealth will be left behind at death.
  • However, when we are young, it SEEMS that we CAN maintain things to our satisfaction. This is why it is hard to explain anicca to a young person. A young boy will say, “look at the muscles I built over the past year by working out at the gym! I am invincible”. A young woman will say, “I look much more beautiful now than I was a year ago”.
  • Yet, blossoming at around twenty or so years is just the beginning of a slippery slope. In the end all those strong muscles will fade, and the beautiful figure will sag and decay. That is the reality.

3. We can see the effects of the Second Law of Thermodynamics at different levels. A nice hot cup of coffee will cool down with time and we will have to re-heat to enjoy it again. An ice cream bowl will melt if not kept cold by putting it in the refrigerator which uses energy to run.

  • Mom will come and clean a child’s room, only to find the next day that it is back to the chaotic state; she will need to go through all that work again to get it back to presentable condition.
  • We build a house with a nice garden, only to find that we will have to do repairs to the house and much work is needed to keep the weeds out of the garden and grass cut, etc.
  • The Sun will power our planet for another few billion years, and then it will die. Long before the Sun dies, the Earth will get destroyed.
  • Even our universe will “run down” in 15 billion or so more years.

4. Thus we can see that the concept of anicca is a universal characteristic of “anything that belong to this world”, which includes 29 more realms than the two realms that we can actually experience (the human and animal realms): Things can be maintained EVEN WITH EFFORT only up to a certain time, and NOT forever.

  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics describe the impermanence or the “root cause” for anicca. Even though the scientists understand this impermanence, they do not necessarily PERCEIVE that in their minds with regards to themselves. This is the difference between “impermanence” and anicca.
  • Just like a scientist who has contemplated on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, anyone who is trying to cultivate “anicca sanna” by contemplating on impermanence is nowhere close to Nibbana; see, “How to cultivate the Anicca Sanna?“.
  • Thus, like those young people mentioned above, we all have the wrong PERCEPTION that “we can maintain things to our satisfaction”, i.e., we have the wrong perception of nicca, not the actual reality of anicca.

5. Even when our universe die, there are many that come into existence. This process has been going on for eternity, and so have we. We have been in the rebirth process for ever.

  • The problem is that most of those lives were not as good as this one; we have suffered unimaginably, and unless we get out of this predicament, such future suffering is not avoidable.

6. But the good news is that our minds can become free of this non-stop rebirth process by decoupling from this unstable material base. We are reborn in this “material world” because of our perception of “nicca”, i.e., we believe that we CAN find some suitable place with permanent happiness in this world.

  • Once we grasp the reality of “anicca”, our minds will automatically start becoming free and we will start feeling the niramisa sukha arising from this detachment from the material world; see, “The Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Niramisa Sukha?“.
  • This is another way to look at the reality and our choices.
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