...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter...
September 23, 2003
This Issue: Buddhism and Ecology
Those Dam Builders!
Spiritual Approach Urged to Save Earth ...Gazette
2. The Ecology of Buddhism ...by Mushroom Cloud Nine
3. The foundations of ecology in Zen Buddhism ...by Ven.
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week: Dharma
Rain Zen Center
5. Book/Movie Review: Dharma Rain:
Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism ...by Stephanie Kaza
(Editor), Kenneth Kraft (Editor)
Those Dam Builders!
This was an actual letter from and a reply to the Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality. The fun stuff really comes in the
to: GRAND RAPIDS DISTRICT OFFICESTATE
OFFICE BUILDING 6TH FLOOR350
OTTAWA NW GRAND RAPIDS MI 49503-2341JOHN
OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITYHOLLISTER
BUILDING, PO BOX 30473, LANSING MI 48909-7973RUSSELL
J. HARDING, DirectorDecember
Ryan DeVries 2088
DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County
has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental
Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on
the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified
as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following
and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream
of Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of
this type of activity. A review of the Department's files show
that no permits have been issued.
the Department has determined that this activity is in violation
of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource
and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts
of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan
Compiled Laws annotated.
Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially
failed during a recent rain event causing debris dams and flooding
at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are
inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department
therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities
at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition
by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the strewn
restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31,
1998. Please notify this office when the restoration has been
completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled
by our staff.
to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity
on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated
enforcement action. We anticipate and would appreciate your
full cooperation in this matter.
feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.
Representative Land and Water Management Division
DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm County
certified letter dated 12/17/97 has been handed to me to respond
sent out a great deal of carbon copies to a lot of people, but
you neglected to include their addresses. You will, therefore,
have to send them a copy of my response.
of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner and/or contractor
at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan - I am the legal owner and
a couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process
of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris"
dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did
not pay for, nor authorize their dam project, I think they would
be highly offended you call their skillful use of natural building
materials "debris." I would like to challenge you
to attempt to emulate their dam project any dam time and/or
any dam place you choose. I believe I can safely state there
is no dam way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam
resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence,
their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.
to your dam request the beavers first must fill out a dam permit
prior to the start of this type of dam activity, my first dam
question to you is:
you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or
do you require all dam beavers throughout this State to conform
to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these
particular beavers, please send me completed copies of all those
other applicable beaver dam permits. Perhaps we will see if
there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and
Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection
Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101
to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.
first concern is - aren't the dam beavers entitled to dam legal
representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute
and are unable to pay for said dam representation - so the State
will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department's
dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during
a recent rain event causing dam flooding is proof we should
leave the dam Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing
them and calling them dam names. If you want the dam stream
"restored" to a dam free-flow condition - contact
the dam beavers - but if you are going to arrest them (they
obviously did not pay any dam attention to your dam letter-being
unable to read English) - be sure you read them their dam Miranda
rights first. As for me, I am not going to cause more dam flooding
or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders.
you want to hurt these dam beavers - be aware I am sending a
copy of your dam letter and this response to PETA. If your dam
Department seriously finds all dams of this nature inherently
hazardous and truly will not permit their existence in this
dam State - I seriously hope you are not selectively enforcing
this dam policy - or once again both I and the Spring Pond Beavers
will scream prejudice!
my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build
their dam unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the
grass is green and water flows down stream. They have more dam
right than I to live and enjoy Spring Pond. So, as far as I
and the beavers are concerned, this dam case can be referred
for more dam elevated enforcement action now. Why wait until
1/31/98? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then,
and there will be no dam way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass
conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental
quality (health) problem. Bears are actually defecating in our
woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating
bears and leave the dam beavers alone. If you are going to investigate
the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful
where they dump!)
unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to
contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this
response to your dam office.
Spiritual Approach Urged to Save Earth ...Gazette
is committing "ecological suicide," and only a massive
change in action will prevent the planet's collapse, warned
retired MSU-Billings political science professor, Daniel Henning,
who spoke Tuesday as part of the university's Distinguished
is working today," he said, speaking to a nearly full lecture
hall. "We're like fools heading over the side of a cliff.
Something has got to change."
an author, international environmental activist, United Nations
consultant, Fulbright scholar and former Buddhist monk, said
science and technology will never be able to address the current
woes of the planet. The only hope is through a spiritual approach.
Buddhism, with its emphasis on compassion and love for all forms
of life, offers a particularly good model, he said.
was born and found enlightenment in a forest, Henning said in
the lecture, which was titled, "Buddhism and deep ecology."
retiring early from his position at MSU-Billings -- he taught
for 25 years there -- Henning traveled the world working on
environmental causes, especially those involving national parks
in Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. Among his other accomplishments,
he helped write the management plan for the Angor Wat temple
complex in Cambodia. During a sabbatical, he took up Buddhism
and lived in monasteries in Vietnam, Nepal, Thailand, Burma,
Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Cambodia. Henning is also the
author of "Buddhism and Deep Ecology" and "Tree
Talk and Tales."
took questions from the audience and dispensed tidbits of wisdom
picked up from his days in Asia.
you look into an elephant eye, it's just filled with wisdom
and compassion," he said.
also warned, "If you don't do good in this life, you'll
be reborn as a cockroach."
of Henning from his monk days were projected onto the wall of
the large auditorium. The images of him with his head shaved,
barefoot and wearing a cranberry-colored monk robe prompted
giggles from some of the students.
was basically a good life," he said, as he delivered the
lecture wearing a jacket, tie and a full head of hair.
helped Henning understand the beauty and inter-connectedness
of nature. They also made him feel humble about his own role
in the world. Humans, he said, occupy a privileged position
on he planet, but are increasingly abusing their power. Ancient
tropical rain forests are on the verge of disappearing and unknown
thousands of plants and animal species are lost each year. With
each loss, our own extinction comes closer, he said.
are not being good ancestors," Henning said. "We are
letting the world be destroyed right in front of us. ... We
must go with a more spiritual approach. For centuries, we've
been thinking this way. Look what's happened to our planet."
The Ecology of Buddhism ...by
Mushroom Cloud Nine ...Mushroom Cloud Nine is a human, a student,
and a few other things.
I learn more in school, I can't help but become aware that there
are amazing similarities between the fundamentals of ecology
and the fundamentals of certain religions. More specifically,
my knowledge of Buddhism reflects many direct comparisons between
it and the concepts in ecology. These similarities are of major
importance because religion is one of the most important fundamental
determinants of culture. If Buddhism is recognized as being
an ecologically aware religion, then I could hypothesize that
the health of the entire globe could benefit from adhering to
Buddhist principles, or at an extreme, from widespread religious
conversion to Buddhism.
understanding of Buddhism includes the following principles.
Prince Siddhartha, or the Buddha (enlightened one), spoke out
against the inequalities of the caste system in India. According
to him, salvation was attainable by everyone not just those
in the more important castes. Salvation comes in the form of
knowledge, especially self-knowledge through the elimination
of covetousness, craving and desire. The principle of complete
honesty and the determination to not hurt another person or
animal is also a major tenet in Buddhism. Important too, was
the concept of karma. All of these principles are an acknowledgement
of "oneness" in the universe. Buddha also spoke of
pursuing balance, rather than extremes.
concerns about the inequalities of the caste system can be seen
in a number of ways to relate to ecology. This same concept
can be related in many ways to the wealth of the world and how
a small portion of the world holds all of that wealth and consumes
the majority of its' resources while the poorer (or lower caste)
people starve or are seemingly denied resources based on the
"natural order" inherent in a caste system. The fact
that Nike shoes are produced cheaply in South East Asia for
about a $1.50 and sold to us in North America for over a $100
is a sign that Nike profits significantly by farming out work,
that would be expensive by North American standards, to poorer
according to Buddha, is attainable by everyone. From an ecological
perspective, I think that redemption is the closest conceptually
that we can get to the idea of Buddha's spiritual "salvation".
Yes, everyone can be redeemed. Those who are rich can be saved
from spending their life thinking they are the center of the
universe, thinking they are the only one's who ever get hungry
or sick. Those who are poor can be saved by the rich finding
their redemption by feeding and healing those in need.
comes in the form of knowledge especially self knowledge through
the elimination of covetousness, craving and desire. This sounds
surprisingly like will power, which us obese North Americans
know nothing about.
Buddhist principle of complete honesty and the determination
to not hurt another person or animal, fits into the principles
of ecology with amazing ease. Complete honesty is needed in
ecology so that we do not overlook or downplay the importance
of any one part in an ecosystem as complex as the earth. So
too is the determination to not hurt another person or animal.
This principle is an important tenet of ecology. By destroying
or possibly causing irreversible harm to a species we may be
hurting our own future chances for survival. Presently the predominantly
non-buddhist world is in a bind. Without military spending or
military sales to foreign countries, what would the economies
of these countries be based upon? Without war more money would
be available to help the sick or starving people in the world,
thus supporting the Buddhist principles further.
in these fundamentals of Buddhism are the fact that Buddha realized
the connectedness of all living things. This in itself is probably
the most compelling evidence of the connection between ecology
Siddhartha, as a young man, went through many extremes to find
enlightenment. He fasted for long periods, meditated for long
periods, took vows of silence and studied things for extreme
lengths of time. When he was through, he felt no closer to enlightenment.
After a careful review of his path to enlightenment, he discovered
the problem with his approach. Instead of these extremes, he
thought, perhaps enlightenment lies at the middle most place
of all of these extremes, within an absolute balance of everything.
This, according to Buddhism is when Prince Siddhartha became
the enlightened one, or Buddha. His evolution to Buddha, is
one that ecologists wish the whole world could make.
other ways that Ecology is related to Buddhism are that they
have both been persecuted. Many cultures that openly enjoy the
unbridled benefits of a capitalist (extreme) economy are lead
to embrace principles that are not ecologically sound (balanced)
only because they are more economically expedient. So too has
Buddhism fallen prey to criticism by those who consider its
principles to be too moderate. Those with more extreme beliefs
or ideals can not understand the moderation inherent in Buddhism.
second way that Buddhism is like ecology is in their apparent
coinciding revivals. Ecology is experienced a year or two of
their lives to an ecological stewardship, which was actively
supported by the rest of the world, we would have greater ecological
success living on earth. Despite good ideas, it is clear that
much work needs to be done worldwide before such a program could
The foundations of ecology in Zen Buddhism ...by Ven. Sunyana
Graef ...Religious Education ...Vol. 85 Issue 1 Winter.1990
...Pp.42-48 ...Copyright by Religious Education ...Vermont Zen
Center Shelburne, VT 05482
you yourself, who are the valley streams and mountains, cannot
develop the power which illuminates the true reality of the mountains
and valley streams, who else is going to be able to convince you
that you and the streams and mountains are one and the same? --Zen
Master Dogen (n1)
it is part of being human to question who and what we are. Unfortunately,
because we rely almost exclusively on our senses, the hard we
look, the more we misinterpret what we see. We believe on the
one hand that we are an insignificant dot in the universe, separate
from all other humans, much less the natural world. But we also
believe that we are the most highly evolved organism in creation,
entitled to use whatever we can grasp for our own ends.
have a different view of humanity. In terms of theirpsycho-spiritual
development people stand about midway between Buddhas and amoebas.
However, on an absolute level, people, Buddhas, amoebas, dogs,streams,
and mountains are one and the same. Buddhism addresses the apparent
disparity between what we see and what we actually are. And it
does so by delving into the roots of what it means to be human.
What does this have to do with Buddhist ecology? It is inseparable
from it. For Buddhist ecology can no more be sundered from knowing
the nature of our true self than mountains and streams can be
sundered from our true self. The premise of Zen Buddhist ecology
is this: When we understand what we really are, we will be at
peace with ourselves and our environment. We will cease trying
to enlarge ourselves through possessions and power, take responsibility
for our universal self -- the world -- and start living to give,
rather than get.
life of wisdom is a life in harmony with the natural world.
In an age where filthy refuse washes up on shorelines, where
we raze vast forests by the minute, where we pollute the air
and water with chemicals, the thought of living in harmony with
the natural world seems a long-forgotten dream. Like a sand
castle swept away by waves we are eroding the very foundation
of our existence. Still, we can return to a simpler, more careful,
watchful way of life -- if we know the path.
is a story that senior Zen practitioners often tell novices.
It is about a monk in search of a teacher, but of course, it
is about much more than that. Like many such tales it seems
inscrutable at first, then unattainable, and finally inspiring.
It has relevance here because it betokens a manner of living
which embodies the essence of Zen ecology. It was the custom
in ancient China for Zen monks to refine and deepen their spiritual
understanding by traveling through out the country to study
with respected teachers. One such monk had heard that a renowned
Zen master lived in seclusion near a river, and he was determined
to find him and train with him. After many weeks of travel he
found the master's dwelling. Gazing at the river before the
master's hut, the monk was filled with joy at the thought of
soon meeting his teacher. Just then he saw a cabbage leaf slip
into the water and float downstream. Disillusioned and greatly
disappointed, the monk immediately turned to leave. As he did,
out of the corner of his eye he saw the venerable teacher running
to the river, his robe flapping wildly in the wind. The old
man chased the cabbage leaf,fished it from the water, and brought
it back to his hut. The monk smile and turned back. He had found
understand why the monk would abandon his teacher before even
meeting him is to know the foundations of Zen Buddhist ecology.
Why would a single discarded cabbage leaf provoke such intense
disillusionment? Was the monk a fanatical environmentalist who
found even this minor bit of pollution from his master-to-be untenable?
Or was there something else he perceived? After all, most people
would think nothing of scrapping one leaf of cabbage. Surely few
would consider it wasteful. And if it happened to fall into a
stream . . . well. With the land and sea so clogged with the detritus
of civilization, a cabbage leaf drifting downstream would seem
an insignificant, perhaps even pleasant sight. To the monk, however,
the errant leaf signified much more. Litter, waste, yes, but also
a window to his would-be teacher's spiritual attainment. For the
perceptive monk, it was, for a moment, persuasive proof that the
master had not yet penetrated the last barrier of Zen.
way we relate to and interact with the environment says more
about us than our awards, Ph.D., and business successes. It
says more about us than our Chagalls, diamond rings, and three-bedroom
homes. For it is not what we have, but the way we live that
reveals the inner person. To be indifferent to even a leaf of
cabbage exposes a dualistic view of the world: I exist there,
and the world and all it contains is out there --for me to do
with as I please. Such carelessness betrays an unawareness of
the singular value of each aspect of creation. This awareness,
the soul of Zen Buddhist ecology,is not something most people
are born with; it grows through years of religious education,
training, and practice.
goal of Buddhist ecology is much more than an unpolluted environment.
It is a life of simplicity, conservation, and self-restraint.
Ultimately this ecology is a manifestation of the spiritual
realization of the individual. It is born in the individual,
and comes to fruition through the individual's religious understanding
and practice. Rooted in action, not intellectual understanding,
in the end it is actualized and expressed through the deeds
of one's daily life. Such mundane chores as taking out the garbage,
cooking a meal, cleaning the toilet, and working in the garden
are all occasions for the cultivation of spiritual awareness.
For the monk, the discarded leaf testified that the master lacked
this awareness. It indicated that he had not entirely purged
himself of an egocentric view of creation. Misconstruing the
actual nature of phenomena,he still had the outlook of an ordinary
person. Certainly this was not what one would expect from a
deeply enlightened Zen Master.
ecology, then, must emanate from spiritual education and discipline.
For a Zen practitioner this discipline begins with a type of
meditation called zazen. The practice of Zen meditation allows
one to center, focus, and quiet the mind. The word "zazen"
means sitting with the mind focused or totally absorbed in one
thing. Ordinarily the mind is so clouded with irrelevant thoughts,
fantasies, worries, judgments, and desires that we are unable
to see things as they truly are. We live in a dream, spending
our days in vain regrets and denials of the past, while anticipating
the future with worries and hopes. And so, the present escape
us before we have even taken note of it.
object of Zen training is to learn how to live in the here and
now --to take this instant just as it is. The practice of Zen
demands consummate attention to the task at hand: full awareness
and total involvement ate very moment. For example, the position
of head cook in the Zen monastery is traditionally held by the
most spiritually advanced monk or nun, for only such a person
can accord food the respect and care it demands. Zen Master
Dogen said that a cook must treat rice and vegetables as if
they were his own eyes. He admonished the monastery cook about
the proper attitude toward the preparation of food in these
your eyes open. Do not allow even one grain of rice to be lost.
Wash the rice thoroughly, put it in the pot, light the fire,
and cook it. There is an old saying that goes, "See the
pot as your own head, see the water as your lifeblood."(n2)
practice of unremitting attentiveness and awareness enables
--actually forces -- one to face every moment without the cloak
of judgments. Having mastered this discipline, one is able to
confront the most fundamental pollution of all, the pollution
of the Mind -- our pure or Buddha nature --with the mind --
our discursive intellect grounded in ego. From a Zen Buddhist
standpoint the intellect and its henchman, the ego, are the
primary causes of all pollution. Nevertheless it is not by the
elimination of intellect, but by understanding its proper function,
that we eradicate the source of pollution. The intellect's primary
role is to assess the phenomenal world through categorization,
analysis, and judgment. Because we ordinarily view everything
through this faculty, we divide our environment into that which
we perceive as being either internal or external. In so doing,
we invent a "me" bounded by "my" sensations,
"my"thoughts, "my"needs, "my"
desires. This "me," called in Buddhism the ego-I,so
dominates the personality that it eventually becomes an omnipresent
dictator, affecting not only oneself but one's associates are
well. Despite our blind belief in the verity of this small self
or ego, in truth it does not exist. The practice of Zen points
out a way to free oneself from the clench of ego by delineating
clearly the nature of the essential self. Once we discover the
unreality of the ego-I, we no longer relate to the world from
an individual, self-centered perspective, but rather from a
universal perspective. This is the weltanschauung of a true
no one is born with this unitive world-view. How does one acquire
it? Actually, many people experience glimmerings of the interconnectedness
of life at one time or another. Such insights often change the
way they seethe world, making them feel more a part of it and
therefore more responsible for its welfare. A student told me
he first became convinced of the unity of all existence while
a moment, everything dropped away. There was no beach, no ocean,
no sound, no movement, no me. Everything was joined in perfect
harmony, a nothingness bursting with all things. I was filled
with indescribable joy and wonder. The feeling lasted just a fraction
of a second, but I have never forgotten it. Years later, it was
the memory of this experience that led me to Zen practice.
tell of similar experiences while walking in the woods, listening
to music, skiing, sitting quietly, baking, and doing just about
anything else imaginable. For most, the insight soon fades,
leaving a evanescent sense of the oneness of all life. The desire
to relive and harness this experience often galvanizes people
to undertake a spiritual journey.
or awakening brings the unshakable conviction that everything
is intrinsically one, whole, and complete. In time, feelings
that had arisen from an intellectual acceptance or a nebulous
impression of oneness become a sure knowledge of the unity of
all life. With spiritual awakening comes the realization that
we are not just a tiny speck in the universe, two hands, two
legs, a face, and a mind, but that we embrace all existence.
In other words, awakening brings the realization that we are
no less than the universe itself. This the Buddha affirmed in
these words:Verily, I declare unto you that within this very
body, mortal though it be and only a fathom high, but conscious
and endowed with mind, is the world and the waxing thereof and
the waning thereof, and the way that leads to the passing away
Buddhist does not believe that the trees, the water, the stars,
and the great wide earth possess a divinity obtained through
God's process of creation. Rather, he or she is convinced that
the essence of the universe is none other than divine perfection
itself, in a word, Buddha. This understanding, grounded in an
awareness of the interdependent relationship of all existence,
spontaneously gives rise to feelings of profound intimacy, universal
compassion, and responsibility for the natural world.
Master Eisai expressed it this way: Because I am, heaven overhangs
and earth is upheld. Because I am, the sun and the moon go round.
The four seasons come in succession, all things are born, because
I am, that is, because of Mind.(n4)
at a deep level we accept that all phenomena are in essence one
with our own body, we will treat everything, animate and inanimate,
with reverence. Since we are not separate entities, what happens
to the universe happens to us as well. Buddhist ecology, therefore,
encompasses not just this planet, but the whole cosmos.
person of the deepest spirituality will also have a tender concern
for every aspect of creation. Such an individual could no more
harm a living creature than he or she could harm himself or herself.
Buddhist scriptures contend that a bodhisattva(n5) will not even
walk on grass lest it be harmed. Indeed, the first Buddhist precept
is the admonition not to kill,but to cherish all life. This attitude
is especially important with respect to food, since anything we
eat must die to sustain us. Still, it is less destructive, on
a relative level, to take the life of a carrot or an apple than
to take that of a more highly evolved form of life, such as a
cow, a chicken, or a lobster. Too, from a purely ecological point
of view, it is less detrimental to the environment to eat as low
as possible on the food chain. All this explains why many Buddhists
is another important aspect of Buddhism that bears upon ecology.
Buddhism teaches the doctrine of karma, which is the law of cause
and effect relating to our actions. Karma means that whatever
one sows, one reaps, be it good or evil. The consequences of meritorious
acts are always good. Evil acts, on the other hand, ensure painful
retribution. Buddhists are aware that we are constantly creating
new karma by our actions. One who believes in the law of causation,
therefore, will be careful not to cause pain to people, animals,
plants, or the earth itself, for harming them is simultaneously
takes place on two levels. From the view of spiritual realization,
we harm ourselves each time we harm the environment because we
are the environment. From the view of the law of causation, we
harm ourselves because we create negative karma from which we
will suffer sooner or later. A devout Buddhist could never, for
example, dump toxic chemicals into a river, for he or she would
unequivocally know that he or she is poisoning himself or herself
in both an immediate and future sense. That is, he or she is poisoning
his or her absolute body -- the world -- and poisoning his or
her future, through acquiring bad karma.
course, it takes many years before some Zen practitioners are
able to accept the notion of karmic retribution. Besides, karma
serves more as a deterrent to wrong action than an encouragement
for ecologically responsible behavior. How, then, does the novice
Zen practitioner who lacks the motivating experience of enlightenment
cultivate a reverential attitude toward the earth and all its
first, the primary means of acquiring ecological awareness is
education and example. Novices are taught, for instance, that
water must not be wasted, but conserved. At retreats and other
times teachers remind them not to let the water run when brushing
teeth. Likewise, during a shower they must turn off the water
when soaping the body and washing hair. Similarly,the kitchen
supervisor cautions them not to leave the water running when
washing vegetables or dishes.
waste is not limited to water. The novice learns to use and
reuse every scrap of paper, then recycle it. Much of the paper
used for letterhead and other purposes, in fact, may already
be from recycled stock. Garbage that can be recycled is separated
and taken to a recycling center. Bits of vegetables that the
cook cannot use become soup stock or compost. Food is never
wasted. At meals the novice learns to wipe every morsel of food
from the plate with bread, pickles, or carrot sticks. Prayers
before meals remind the Zen practitioner that food should be
eaten in the spirit of an offering from those who produced it.
Buddhist trainees are taught to protect the environment. Cleaning
supplies are ecologically safe. (They might not work as fast,
but that doesn't matter. You use more elbow grease.) Aerosol
sprays are unheard of at many Zen centers. Lights are turned
off when no longer needed. Trainees are taught to treat all
creatures of the earth with compassion. Plants, also having
life, are not to be willfully destroyed. At many Zen centers
flowers are rarely picked for decorative purposes, although
they may be used for offerings -- for example, in the altar.
More often, greens for the altars are artificial or dried so
that they last indefinitely. The altar flowers, too, may be
dried, artificial, or perhaps a living,flowering plant.
a way of giving to the world and not just taking from it, some
Zen centers plant trees and flowers each year. Many Buddhist
groups maintain organic gardens. The members of at least one
Zen center regularly clean the streets and sidewalks in their
neighborhood. Other centers have regular fast days during which
money that would have been spent on food is sent to famine relief
the beginning, the novice does these things out of a sense of
obligation; it is the "right" thing to do, and besides,
it is part of Zen training But as the individual develops spiritually,
these practice become habitual. More than that, they become
part of the way one lives. It is never a matter of its being
too much trouble, or too inconvenient, or unnecessary, for example,
to recycle the garbage. One does it with the same lack of self
consciousness with which one brushes one's teeth. In the end,
it is a way of life that is an expression of one's spiritual
awareness, an understanding that has penetrated every aspect
of one's life. Living in harmony with the earth does not happen
over night. It takes many years of training and deep spiritual
understanding for a person's actions to be instinctively universal,
rather than self-centered. Recall the story of the monk and
Zen master recounted earlier. The monk decided to stay with
the master because he spontaneously chased after the leaf; the
master could not have done otherwise. His action was as unselfconscious
as reaching for a lost pillow while sound asleep. The teacher's
life was permeated with compassion and attentive care for all
things, even a leaf of cabbage. He knew well that nothing is
separate from the universe -- which means, from ourselves.
Zen Master Deign, "Cease Snack" (The Sounds of Valley
Streams, the Forms
of the Mountains), translated by Francis DLO Cook in How to Arisen
Ox (Los Angeles: Center Publications, 1978), p. 114.(n2) Zen Master
Deign, "Tans Kyokun" (Instructions for the Zen Cook),translated
by Thomas Wright in Refining Your Life (New York: John Weatherhill,
1983), p. 6.(n3) From the Anguttara-Nikaya II, Samyutta-Nikaya
I, quoted by Lama Govinda in Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism
(New York Samuel Wiser, 1974),p. 66.(n4) From the Kozen-Gokoku-Ron,
quoted in The Three Pillars of Zen, by Philip Kapleau (New York:
Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980), p. 126.(n5) A being of deep wisdom
and compassion who devotes his or her life to
If you are convinced that, as Zen Master Deign said, "you
and the streams and the mountains are one and the same,"
how could you live the selfish existence of one who despoils
the environment? When a massive oil spill threatens the ocean,
could a single wave stand aloof, acting as if it alone were
unpolluted, or work only to cleanse itself? No, the wave and
the ocean work as one, for in reality, they are one. What affects
the ocean, affects the wave. Just so, what affects the universe,
affects each of us, since we and the universe are not two. Therefore,
in a person of wisdom,compassionate concern for the world will
instinctively arise. The expression of this universal compassion
Dharma Rain Zen Center
Rain Zen Center (DRZC) is a diverse group of people who come
together to share the practice of meditation, and to study the
principles of Buddhism. The purpose of the Center is to offer
instruction in Zen practice and Buddhist teachings, and to provide
a place where people can form a community that supports Zen
practice in everyday life. For these purposes, the Zen Center
has two buildings available for the practice of meditation and
other aspects of the study of Zen. The first is the Center House
at 2539 SE Madison, which includes a small meditation room (pictured,
right), library, office, residences, some small meeting rooms,
and Dharma School facilities for children. Take the House Tour
to see more. The second is a two-story church building at 2514
SE Madison. It has a large meditation hall, (pictured, left)
lecture room and institutional kitchen. Take the Zendo Tour
to see more. Both are conveniently located in central SE Portland
within a block of each other. The center uses these buildings
for a full array of classes, workshops, meditation periods and
ceremonies. The description in this brochure indicates most
but not all of the activities of the Center. For more complete
and up-to-date information, consult the events section of the
latest issue of the Center's monthly newsletter, Still
Zen Meditation - The primary practice in Zen Buddhism
is "zazen" which means "sitting meditation."
For people new to Zen, Dharma Rain Zen Center offers an introductory
workshop in zazen practice several times each month. Zen
Meditation is designed for complete beginners, of course,
but it is also recommended for anyone who has not received instruction
in the Soto Zen style of zazen. No previous experience is necessary.
We start with an explanation of the purpose and the basics of
the method, then various postures are demonstrated which participants
try out. This is followed by a period of meditation and an opportunity
to ask questions.
Starting A Practice - This workshop offers tips on starting
a practice. It emphasizes the way we can cultivate insight by
looking at our own actions in the light of the Buddhist Precepts,
the importance of compassion in Zen practice, and how the principles
of meditation apply to every activity. Some time is spent on
the forms used at the Zen Center. For example, there is an explanation
of the altar and other items found in the Zendo (meditation
hall), and the reasons behind chanting, bowing, and other things
done during retreats and services.
Basic Teachings - Here we provide an introduction to
terminology used at the Center, and cover some basic Buddhist
concepts essential to understanding Zen that are often referred
to in other classes. It is the perfect place to bring questions.
three workshops are usually held at the Center House, and are
offered without charge. Cushions and benches are provided, but
you should wear loose, comfortable clothing. There is no need
to pre-enroll. Please check the calendar in Still Point
for scheduling details.
of the way Zen is practiced in some temples in the Far East,
it has gained a reputation for very strict discipline. In some
of these temples, even beginners are expected to sit for long
periods in full lotus, without moving at all. This is very difficult
for anyone not used to sitting on the floor. At Dharma Rain
Zen Center, people are encouraged to change positions as needed.
In addition, we recommend that people use chairs or benches
in the meditation hall if this is better for them. Sitting in
zazen should become comfortable with practice, and lead to stillness
and peace of mind. It should not become a grueling endurance
addition to the introductory workshops mentioned above, there
is a class at the Zen center almost every Wednesday night, except
during the summer months. Classes focus primarily on Buddhadharma
(Buddhist teaching), particularly from the Soto Zen perspective.
Sometimes, however, we have teachers from other religious traditions
come to inform us about their practice, or we may invite a guest
speaker with information on other issues of interest to our
members. Wednesday night classes are open to the public, and
there is no charge.
bi-monthly, the Center holds a retreat. Some of these are one-day
retreats, usually held on a Saturday from 8:00am to 4:30pm,
with a vegetarian lunch. The schedule includes meditation and
services, tea, class, work periods (mindfulness practice), and
an opportunity for discussion and questions. There is a fee
charged for every retreat, but the Zen Center strives to keep
these fees low. Introductory Retreats emphasize
the problems and concerns of newcomers and are geared to avoid
overloading new practitioners. Other retreats are more intensive,
and offer special teaching, ceremonies, or practices. They involve
more meditation periods, and usually include a teaching ceremony
called "formal sanzen." These retreats can last anywhere
from one to seven days.
two resident teachers of the Dharma Rain Zen Center are called
"sensei," which means "one who has gone before."
In Zen practice there is no line drawn between a daily life
of mindful attention and the spiritual exercise of meditation,
so they serve both as teachers to the Sangha (community), and
temporal directors of the daily work of the temple. Whether
lecturing, giving private counseling, pointing out a mistake,
or teaching by example, it is their purpose to help each student
find his or her own center in meditation, understand the Precepts
in daily life, and bring an energetic mindfulness to all situations.
Above all, they wish to help the students fully realize their
own potential in practice.
Abbot, Kyogen Carlson-sensei (at left), was ordained by Roshi
Jiyu-Kennett in 1972 at Shasta Abbey, where he trained as a
monk for five years before receiving full certification as a
teacher (Dharma Transmission and inka). He remained at Shasta
Abbey another five years to continue training, and to serve
as a staff member and personal assistant to Roshi Kennett.
Director is Gyokuko Carlson-sensei (at right), who was ordained
in 1975, also by Roshi Jiyu-Kennett at Shasta Abbey. In 1980
she graduated from the seminary program, then remained at Shasta
Abbey to deepen her practice and to help out as a staff member
until she and Kyogen-sensei married in 1982 and came to Oregon
to teach. For more photos and information on the teachers, see
Meet the Teachers.
1986, after much discussion, Kyogen and Gyokuko senseis resigned
their membership in the organization headquartered at Shasta
Abbey, and the Zen Center, always a separate and independent
organization, also became unaffiliated. Since then we have established
a board of directors which is composed of trustees appointed
by the Abbot, and elected members who form a 2/3 majority. It
is the purpose of the elected board to make the temple responsive
and responsible to our community, which is essential as we work
to preserve and promote the tradition of Soto Zen practice and
develop our spiritual lives together.
is open to anyone who makes a commitment to practice and to
the support of the Zen Center. There are levels of membership,
however, that reflect differences in levels of commitment. Specifics
about these types of membership are discussed in a separate
flyer, "Membership and Financial Support."
members deepen their commitment to Zen practice and to the teachings
of Buddhism, they may wish to formalize that commitment though
Lay Ordination. Lay Ordination signifies becoming a Buddhist
by joining the "Sangha of the Ten Quarters," which
refers to the larger community of Buddhists throughout the world.
Lay ordination is not a commitment to a specific teacher, temple,
or even to the school of Buddhism in which the ceremony is done.
It is a commitment to the basic principles of Buddhism, particularly
the aspirations expressed in the Buddhist Precepts. Lay Ordination
is done during a special week of meditation and ceremonies.
someone has been an active, contributing member for one year,
and has made the commitment of lay ordination,
he or she qualifies as a Senior Member. Membership on
the Board of Directors is restricted to Senior Members. Sometimes
there are special retreats or other events for Senior Members,
and they often help out at the Center by leading workshops and
a later time, it is possible for a Senior Member to make a deeper,
more personal commitment in the form of discipleship to one
of the teachers. Lay discipleship is a serious step, in which
teacher and disciple agree to walk on the path of practice together.
Lay Disciples make a commitment to the lineage and practice
of Soto Zen, and give the teacher permission to be involved
in their lives. At the same time, the teacher agrees to make
the disciple's progress a matter of his or her personal concern.
For the relationship of teacher and student to confirmed, there
must be great willingness and deep trust on both sides.
of the Dharma Rain Zen Center come from many different walks
of life and have differing expectations of the temple. We also
welcome the many people who participate in Zen Center activities
who are not members. So far as the Center is able, staffed by
volunteers and funded only by the membership, we offer a variety
of programs and services to meet these considerable and varied
needs at low or no cost. During most of the year, the Center
operates a daily schedule of morning and evening mediation periods.
A full listing of this schedule, plus information on retreats,
class topics and times, social events, and workshops, is published
each month in Still Point, a newsletter available by
subscription. In addition to scheduled meditation periods, the
Zen Center will open the doors to the Zendo or Library for personal
study during reasonable hours when this does not conflict with
scheduled events. The exceptions are when we are closed Sunday
evening through Tuesday morning, and occasional periods when
the temple is closed except to members.
programs offered at the Center include Resident Training, Private
Retreats, and Dharma School. Resident Training is an opportunity
for members to live in the Center sharing temple duties, while
Private Retreats permit people to join the temple life by making
use of the guest room. Dharma School is for children, approximately
every other Sunday, from 10am until 11:30. Emphasis is placed
on helping the children learn to be comfortable in a religious
setting, and illustrating ideals such as compassion, mutual
understanding, and peace of mind. Through stories and songs,
art projects and games, the children learn about Buddhism and
other religions and explore topics as diverse as death, sharing,
changing seasons, personal feelings, and telling the truth.
from the Zen Center will be more than happy to answer questions
you may have about any of these programs, or on aspects of Buddhism
or Zen, and the priests are available by appointment for counseling
on spiritual matters. The Center also observes traditional Buddhist
holidays with ceremonies that are open to the public. Private
ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, memorials, and naming
ceremonies can be arranged by speaking to the priests.
religious tradition called "Buddhism" began in 588
B.C.E. with the life and teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha. He began
life as Prince Siddhartha Gotama, heir to the throne of the
Shakya clan, but he came to feel that the power, riches, and
duty of kingship that were to be his inheritance were a great
burden. So he renounced his position, fled the palace, and took
to the forest on a religious quest. He had a deep and very personal
need to understand why living things suffer. His one desire
was to find the cause and cure for suffering. After many years
of ascetic practices, learned from the best teachers he could
find, he realized he was no closer to answering his basic questions
about life, or of satisfying his deep spiritual need, than he
had been previously during the indulgent years of his youth
and childhood. Concluding that the truth was to be found in
neither extreme of self-indulgence or self-denial, he resolved
to follow a middle path. He then sat in meditation with compassionate
determination for seven days and experienced enlightenment.
Thereafter he was called Buddha (awakened one) Shakyamuni (sage
of the Shakya clan). This experience of enlightenment, and the
compassionate wisdom cultivated during years of training both
before and after it, provided the basis for teaching selflessly
offered to all who asked during the remaining 45 years of his
life. His determination when seeking, his courageous proclamation
of the Middle Way, and the wisdom demonstrated in his life of
teaching have supplied inspiration to Buddhists for more than
years after the death of Shakyamuni, Buddhism continued to spread
across the map of Asia, evolving in different ways as it moved.
The beginnings of Zen as a distinct sect of Buddhism can be
traced to a reformer who began teaching in China in the late
Fourth Century C.E., a time when Chinese Buddhists showed more
interest in debating philosophy and reading complex texts than
in the urgent business of finding the Truth within. This teacher,
Bodhidharma, is remembered for his emphasis on disciplined
meditation practice and the importance of direct personal experience.
Zen continued to evolve, and by the time it reached Japan in
the 13th Century, there were several Zen schools with different
styles of training. One of these was Soto Zen.
important teaching in Soto Zen is that every thought, word,
and action is part of our spiritual life, whether or not we
choose to acknowledge them as significant. The practice of Zen
is fully developed when all aspects of life are integrated into
a deep awareness, and the wisdom of the Buddhist moral precepts
guide us as naturally as healthy lungs guide the flow of breath.
In Soto Zen, ongoing growth toward this integration comes from
the continuous practice of the three pillars of "sila"
(morality), "dhyana" (meditation), and "prajna"
(wisdom). We cultivate these in everyday life with zazen practice,
which strengthens concentration and opens the mind to the truth;
work, which encourages vigor and develops capacity for "mindful"
action; and the study of Buddhist principles and Precepts, which
cultivates selflessness in thought and action. A Zen Master
once said that Zen is not something that can be added to our
lives; rather our lives, just as they are, should become Zen.
Because of this, Zen practice should lead us to a full and healthy
engagement with life for the benefit of self and others. Dharma
Rain Zen Center is dedicated to helping people cultivate and
realize the practice of Zen in normal, everyday American lives.
Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism ...by
Stephanie Kaza (Editor), Kenneth Kraft (Editor)
...In many senses, modern consumerism, with its promotion of
greed, attachment, and self-centeredness, is the reversal of
Buddhist values. The result is that modern Buddhists are moving
into social activism, specifically environmentalism, and protecting
the world's ecology from the devastation of unchecked consumerism.
In Dharma Rain, Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft offer
a resource for Buddhist environmentalists. They begin with sources
in Buddhist Scriptures and writings of past masters. The rest
of the book is a treasury of perspectives from contemporary
Buddhist activists who look deeply at causes and solutions to
environmental devastation that is happening in places like Thailand,
where 70 percent of the forest has disappeared in the 20th century,
and in Tibet, where the Chinese communists continue to quietly
destroy not only Tibetan society but also its once-teeming wildlife
and verdant flora. Many great minds chime in: Thich Nhat Hanh
on interbeing, the Dalai Lama on true political success, Sulak
Sivaraksa on buddhism with a small "b," Peter Matthiessen
on the snow leopard, Joanna Macy on dependent co-origination,
and Gary Snyder on the "harming" inherent in certain
things we eat; Dharma Rain is an embodiment of Thich
Nhat Hanh's observation that "life is one," that "our
way of walking on the earth has a great influence on animals
and plants." --Brian Bruya
Reviewer: from Boulder, CO ...To borrow from poet William
Blake, this anthology encourages us "to see a world in
a grain of sand, and Heaven in a wildflower." Previous
green anthologies, such as the 1991 "Green Reader"
(which I also recommend), convincingly show that we are in the
midst of a global environmental crisis. This impressive, 491-page
collection not only examines the many problems contributing
to that crisis (e. g., consumerism, nuclear waste, deforestation,
and overpopulation), but proposes that it is now time we rethink
our attitude "not only to people, but to plants, animals
and places" (p. 356), suggesting that a compassionate,
buddhist perspective can help. Contributors to this anthology
include, among others, Thich Nhat Hanh, Gary Snyder, Joanna
Macy, the Dalai Lama, Peter Matthiessen, Peter Timmerman, Robert
Aitken, Rick Fields, and Christopher Titmuss. Although all of
the contributors write from a buddhist point of view, you do
not have to be a buddhist to appreciate this book.
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