In The Fields Of Light

You ask me why I live on Green Mountain ?
I smile in silence and the quiet mind.
Peach petals blow on mountain streams
To earths and skies beyond Humankind.
– Li Bai

Birth of Siddartha, mural from Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya, Sri Lanka

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Solaris – Waiting
Buddhism and the Possibilities of a Planetary Culture – Gary Snyder
Daoist Poetry
Solaris – Inward
Site Update:
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On our Featured Artist Gallery we have a wonderful bit of art and poetry, featuring the beautiful composite photos of Lang Jingshan & coupled with the brilliant Daoist poetry of Li Bai. This is a seriously beautiful mix of image and poetic imagery. I hope to bring more of these marriages to

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The “Dream Engines” Mix

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Escaping Poverty
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Entropy landscape sheds light on quantum mystery
How ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ inspired Victorian hedonists
Solaris – Waiting


Buddhism and the Possibilities of a Planetary Culture – Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder

Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love, and compassion, acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one- “self,”—because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hang-ups and cultural conditionings. Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or to indulge themselves in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics, and social orders. The national politics of the modem world are “states” which maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated, and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies. The conditions of the Cold War have fumed most modem societies— both communist and capitalist—into vicious distorters of true human potential They try to create populations of preta—hungry ghosts with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests, and all anima1 life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a society be contradictory, repressive, and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for oneself by taking a good look at Original Nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, one will be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of nonviolent means.

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and avoidance of taking life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The be1ief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim, and repress—and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.

Avatamsaka (Kegon or Hua-yen) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast, interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop, and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he or she must be effective in aiding those who suffer.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajñā), meditation (dhyana), and morality (shila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself—over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.” This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a truly free world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty, and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous crazy. It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior—defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygamous, polyandrous, or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West. It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old”—the I.W.W. slogan of 70 years ago.

The traditional, vernacular, primitive, and village cultures may appear to be doomed. We must defend and support them as we would the diversity of ecosystems; they are all manifestations of Mind. Some of the elder societies accomplished a condition of Sangha, with not a little of Buddha and Dharma as well. We touch base with the deep mind of peoples of all times and places in our meditation practice, and this is an amazing revo1utionary aspect of the Buddhadharma. By a “planetary culture” I mean the kind of societies that would follow on a new understanding of that relatively recent institution, the National State, an understanding that might enable us to leave it behind. The State is greed made legal, with a monopoly on violence; a natural society is familial and cautionary. A natural society is one which “Follows the Way,'” imperfectly but authentically.

Such an understanding will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our past. If we are lucky, we may eventually arrive at a world of relatively mutually tolerant small societies attuned to their local region and united overall by a profound respect and love for the mind and nature of the universe. I can imagine further virtues in a world sponsoring societies with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, “natural credit” economics, far less population, and much more wilderness.

* * * Snyder, Gary. “Buddhism and the Possibilities of a Planetary Culture,” in Engaged Buddhist Reader, Arnold Kotler, ed. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1996. 123-126. [Gary Snyder is a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and teacher of literature and wilderness thought at the University of California at Davis. He is founder of the Ring of Bones Zendo, and author of Mountains and Rivers Without End, Axe Handles, Turtle Island, Earth House Hold, and many other books.]
I have always had a love for Daoist (when I was a young guy “Taoist”) poetry. Very heady stuff, pre-Zen and full of wry tumbles and play on words. Li Bai has become a favourite of mine over the years, but oh, there are so many other great poets from the Daoist tradition. Enjoy.

(Lang Jingshan – wonderful photographic artist, please see: Featured Artist Gallery)
Daoist Poetry

Birds Calling in the Ravine

I’m idle, as osmanthus flowers fall,
This quiet night in spring, the hill is empty.
The moon comes out and startles the birds on the hill,
They don’t stop calling in the spring ravine.
– Wang Wei
The Great Way

The Great Way has no gate;
there are a thousand paths to it.
If you pass through the barrier,
you walk the universe alone.
– Wu Men
Down From The Mountain

As down Mount Emerald at eve I came,
The mountain moon went all the way with me.
Backward I looked, to see the heights aflame
With a pale light that glimmered eerily.

A little lad undid the rustic latch
As hand in hand your cottage we did gain,
Where green limp tendrils at our cloaks did catch,
And dim bamboos o’er hung a shadowy lane.

Gaily I cried, “Here may we rest our fill!”
Then choicest wines we quaffed; and cheerily
“The Wind among the Pines” we sang, until
A few faint stars hung in the Galaxy.

Merry were you, my friend: and drunk was I,
Blissfully letting all the world go by.
– Li Bai
Returning to Songshan Mountain

The limpid river runs between the bushes,
The horse and cart are moving idly on.
The water flows as if with a mind of its own,
At dusk, the birds return to perch together.
The desolate town is faced by an ancient ferry,
The setting sun now fills the autumn hills.
And far below high Songshan’s tumbling ridges,
Returning home, I close the door for now..
– Wang Wei
The Old Dust

The living is a passing traveler;
The dead, a man come home.
One brief journey betwixt heaven and earth,
Then, alas! we are the same old dust of ten thousand ages.

The rabbit in the moon pounds the medicine in vain;
Fu-sang, the tree of immortality,
has crumbled to kindling wood.
Man dies, his white bones are dumb without a word

When the green pines feel the coming of the spring.
Looking back, I sigh;
Looking before, I sigh again.
What is there to prize in the life’s vaporous glory?
– Li Bai
A Monk Asked

A monk asked Chao-chou Ts’ung shen (777-897) (Joshu), “Has the oak tree Buddha nature?”
Chao-chou said, “Yes, it has.”
The monk said, “When does the oak tree attain Buddhahood?”
Chao-Chou said, “Wait until the great universe collapses.”
The monk said, “When does the universe collapse?”
Chao-chou said, “Wait until the oak tree attains Buddhahood.
– Wu Men

Lang Jingshan
Solaris – Inward


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