Editorial: Me or We?

Featured in Mountain Record 26.1, Fall 2007


When I consider how we have treated the environment, I imagine a runaway train that’s jumped its tracks, careening out of control. Who’s responsible? The government? Big business? You and I? One of the gifts of many religious traditions, and a central teaching of Zen Buddhism, is to remind each of us of our responsibility for the whole world, the whole universe. The beauty of this, as Daido Roshi often says, is that we are then empowered to do something about it. No victims here. Only activists. So where do we begin?

Morning liturgy at Zen Mountain Monastery gives life to something fundamental: “Buddha nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now.” In his opening discourse for this issue, Daido Roshi asks, what is right here, right now—where our life is taking place? Where do we find ourselves? In our hurried, progress-crazed society, is there a place to just stop and consider what is really needed? What are we progressing towards? What are we taking, destroying, in order to progress? Rather than seeing ourselves as separate, can we see what is intimately woven into our lives? The image of the Diamond Net of Indra evokes the magnificence of that intimacy—what happens to one happens to all.

We can simply open our eyes to witness this teaching in the world around us. Shugen Sensei reflects on the environment in its complete openness—accepting everything, rejecting nothing. And there is karma, the cycle of cause and effect. So when we take, we need to give back. Do we experience such an obligation—a vow to live in harmony with nature—as a burden to us? An inconvenience? Or is it a joy? Could it be simply natural for human beings to give and to give generously?

There are ways to give back, remedies for the state of our environment, as offered up by the voices in this issue. Buy locally. Recognize that we are intrinsically part of community—the community of humans, as well as animals, plants, rocks, streams, all of it. If we think of ourselves as a community, it’s natural to consider where our food, and all that sustains us, comes from—the integrity of the soil from which our vegetables grow, the quality of life of the farm animals that feed us, the amount of fuel used to get the things we need to our tables. The world is constantly giving. Can we be sensitive to what it needs in return? Can we loosen our grip on what we need and tolerate the fear of uncertainty that may arise?

Earth Mind is an evocation of our inherent intimacy with the world, a practice of awareness and a celebration of its wonder and beauty, and a reminder of the great imperative to respond. Gary Snyder puts it simply: “…what we ultimately need most are human beings who love the world”

Karin Jinfu Connelly, MRO
Mountain Record, Editor