for the Earth
The three poisons
Cardinal Buddhist teachings
invite fresh interpretations in environmental contexts.
In the Buddhist teachings, suffering
arises from the afflictive emotions of greed, anger/hatred,
and delusion/ignorance. These "three poisons" are
symbolized by a rooster, a snake, and a pig.
How might these afflictive emotions affect how we --
as individuals and as a society -- interrelate with
Consider ignorance. The
original meaning—that people are ignorant of their true nature
and the true nature of existence—is as valid as ever. In addition,
we seem to be increasingly ignorant of our place in nature.
How many of us know where our
water comes from or where our garbage goes? When you
put gas in your car, do you know where it came from
and how it got to you? The pump tells you the price
per gallon, but do you know the ecological cost of
fueling and driving your car?
In the field of caring for the Earth, bodhisattva
mind manifests as a heartfelt sense of oneness with other beings
and the Earth. Zen students at the Green Gulch Zen Center in northern
California have been struggling to save what remains of an old-growth
redwood forest. After a recent demonstration, a member of the group
was asked if she was going to return to the Zen Center for the next
training period. "No," she replied. "I'm
going to practice in the trees."
Oneness with other life-forms is also expressed in less lofty ways.
The medieval Japanese Zen monk Ryokan was reportedly so considerate
toward all beings that when he sunned himself in the morning he would
carefully pick the lice out of his robe and place them on a nearby
rock. After sunning himself, he would gently place the lice back in