Dirty-Hands Zen
Teachings of the Green Dragon

by Valerie Meiju Linet, MRO

Featured in Mountain Record 26.1, Fall 2007

Twenty-five years ago Daido Roshi and twenty others paddled, portaged, mucked, and practiced their way from Old Forge Lake to Tupper Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. This 120-mile canoe trip was the first of many wilderness retreats to come—sacred explorations of the wild that have become hallmarks of the Mountains and Rivers Order Born as the Earth program matrix. Born as the Earth is a web of Zen training, which points to intimacy with the natural world as intimacy with the self.



The Tupper Lake trip was one of the first fireballs breathed by Tremper Mountain’s green dragon, a creature whose vow is to protect the most precious jewel of all: Earth itself. The retreat was intended, on a basic level, to awaken in people a love of and identity with wilderness. The foray, according to Roshi, was memorable for its leech-filled waters, the resistance and “mutiny” of its participants, and, ultimately, a swelling of passion for the environment. Group members were able, after exhausting their resistance, to discover their own profound relationships to nature.

The Mountains and Rivers Order has, from its beginning, used the natural world as a training ground to help people practice and realize the Buddhist Precepts, to live in harmony with the entire universe. What better guide to right action and responsibility than the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil that feeds us? What mirror is clearer than our environment—to show us the places where we take care and the places where we have strayed from our vow to save all beings, sentient and insentient, alike?