IN WILDERNESS practice, the natural world is the text and the teacher. We take a bow to Her and serve, not as teachers or even guides, but as supporters of individuals who wish to approach—to confer directly with—the world.|
It is a living text.
We choose this teacher, specifically because the natural world is the most free from human imprint, from any narrowness or bias that must be inherent in any human lens, and because the natural world is the most whole, inclusive, equitable, intricate, and responsive system/organism we can imagine.
[In the Raihai Tokuzui], Zen Master Dogen said that not all beings speak
with a human tongue.
You should entreat trees and rocks
to preach the Dharma,
and you should ask rice fields
and gardens for the truth.
Ask pillars for the Dharma
and learn from hedges and walls.
Long ago the great god Indra
honored a wild fox as his own master
and sought the Dharma from him,
calling him ‘Great Bodhisattva.’ (*)
Being in the natural world instead of the zendo allows one to let go of one’s cultural identity, one’s personal identity. Where did Buddha attain his enlightenment? He was sitting on the Earth under a tree. Where did so many of the Tibetan yogis awaken? It was in the great vastness of the open spaces, in the depths of caves, in the crystalline light of very high mountain passes.
From the Buddhist perspective, this community is alive, all of it, and practicing the Way together. We’re part of it. To destroy that world is to destroy elements of our own nature, qualities of our own mind realm that are fundamentally important to helping us move through and past the suffering of deep alienation.
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(*) translation by Francis Dojun Cook, How to Raise an Ox, 1978