"Kind speech," Dogen says, "means that when you see sentient beings you arouse the heart of compassion and offer words of loving care. It is contrary to cruel or violent speech." The diplomat who said that earth legislation is a waste of time and resources appears to be someone who is profoundly disconnected from a direct experience of the earth and from the tens of hundreds of thousands of voices that are attesting to this truth.

Artists practice kind speech when they're engaged in direct contact with the earth and their art comes out of that close relationship. All the many men and women who are working and speaking for the welfare of the earth are like this: educators, scientists, activists, parents, business people. Dogen says that kind speech "has the power to turn the destiny of the nation." Our present condition needs to be turned. Yet as powerful as speech is—and the Buddha had a deep understanding of this—it's not enough. It's only truly powerful if it compels us to act.

Dogen says to have beneficial action we must benefit all classes of sentient beings, which is "to care about their distant and near future and to help them by using skillful means." He's talking directly to us in the twenty-first century. It seems wholly appropriate that he speaks of "all classes of sentient beings." We consider ours to be a classless society, yet we do create classes of people and objects: people, careers, lives, environments at the top and those at the bottom. On this basis we create a sense of—and justification for—value and disregard. But Dogen is saying we must benefit all classes of beings: air, soil, water, rocks. Is there anything that we can afford to leave out? Is there anything that is not necessary? Anything that is unimportant? Buddhism has never advocated ignoring any aspect of your mind. When we begin to practice and encounter a host of memories, thoughts and emotions that are painful or distasteful and that we would very much like to ignore, we're taught to turn towards them rather than away. To neither deny nor indulge. In this way, we discover our capacity to not be governed by any aspect of our mind; then we are free to use all of it.

Dogen defines identity action as nondifference from self and others. He taught, "Because the ocean itself does not exclude the ocean, it is the ocean and it is large. Because mountains do not exclude mountains, they are mountains and they are high. Because a wise lord does not weary of people, his people assemble." Because the ocean itself doesn't exclude the ocean, it is the ocean and it is large. There is nothing that is not this ocean. And when we turn against one thing in this universe, this is the ocean excluding the ocean; it is the self excluding the self; it's buddha excluding buddha. This skin that surrounds what I call myself does not contain my original nature. Realization is to see directly that the self is the ocean; it has no boundary.