Photo by Ron Hogan Green

In the midst of ignorance, we are convinced that we are separate from the mountain and from the rest of the world. We think the world is out there and we are here, contained in this bag of skin. The problem is that when we see ourselves as separate from the rest of the universe, we abdicate our responsibility to it. This is most evident in the way we treat the environment, what we commonly call nature.

In general, we have a very limited understanding of nature. We believe it's made up of phenomena in the physical world but does not include manufactured objects and human interaction. But the fact is that human beings are nature—just as much as a tree or a spider web or the Brooklyn Bridge is nature.

How can we discount our own role in creating the earth the way it is? We've altered this planet irreversibly. We've produced automobiles, factories, and aerosols. We've refined carbon-based fuels. We've created global warming. All of these are acts of nature—human nature.

Most of the disasters we face today are human-created. Tsunamis and earthquakes kill tens of thousands, but we kill millions, and we do it for profit. Yet most of the killing is hidden. When we include the human element in our understanding of nature, we become conscious of the fact that we're responsible for the whole catastrophe. The question then becomes, what will we do about it? When will we do it? What are we waiting for?


John Daido Loori is known for his unique adaptation of traditional Buddhism into an American context, particularly with regard to the arts and the environment, and the use of modern media as a vehicle of spiritual training and social change. He is the author of True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen's Three Hundred Koans and Hearing with the Eye, a prose and visual commentary on Master Dogen's "Teachings of the Insentient," among others.

From John Daido Loori Roshi's upcoming book, The Way of Mountains and Rivers, a prose and visual commentary on Master Dogen's Mountains and Rivers Sutra.