In his 2003 exhibit “Jinzu,” Daido explored this intimacy with nature as “mystical presence.” The term refers to mystical powers said to be accessible to advanced spiritual practitioners. He wanted to go beyond first impressions to see things more deeply, to try to convey the intrinsic nature of the fallen leaf, or rounded stone. When I first saw these photos in the Monastery dining hall, I was stunned into silence. Each decaying lotus leaf was a majestic tapestry of light and form reflecting a unique conflu- ence of conditions. His camera and eye, his way of seeing, had made an invitation, a request to be present with each particular being. I felt drawn in to the intimate world of each leaf, sensing the wabi flavor of early autumn, the growing season coming to a close. The dining room disappeared and I entered the world of the insentient, Daido’s beloved dharma playground. Daido’s deep love for the natural world found philosophical resonance in the writings of thirteenth-century Zen master Eihei Dogen. Here was the fresh, unfettered view he sought, poetic encouragement to drop the false dichotomies of human and nature, self and other, to awaken fully to the realm of non-duality. In countless dharma talks, workshops, and conferences, Daido explored the deeper meanings of Dogen’s “Teachings of the Insentient” and the truly vast world of mind-to-mind transmission. In Hearing with the Eye, Daido wrote, “When you are open and receptive, when you are alive and alert, everything is constantly teaching, constantly nourishing. These mountains and rivers, the great Earth and its boundless oceans are continually manifesting the words of the ancient teachers, continually expressing the truth of the universe.” Daido affirmed that every one of us has this capacity to “hear with the eye and see with the ear,” to find the original intrinsic clearness in our own insentient nature. He knew this deep in the marrow of his bones, and he wanted us to know it, too.
He provided opportunities to receive these teachings wherever he could. He took students on field trips to the mountains, sharing his wilderness dharma practice in the silence of a canoe or campfire meditation. He invited Buddhist environmentalists like me to come teach at the Monastery, to engage thorny issues of consumerism and climate change. He began water quality monitoring at Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks, eventually building a small retreat cabin at this launch site for the wilderness retreats. As long as he was able, he led the sangha on the annual pilgrimage up Mount Tremper, honoring the presence of the mountain in the practice community.