RIVERS & MOUNTAINS

The first issue of Buddhism at the Crossroads (formerly Spring Wind Buddhist Cultural Forum), published by the Zen Lotus Society in Toronto, focuses on the environment. In her article on environmental ethics, Stephanie Kaza argues that “because Buddhism focuses on the mutually conditioned nature of mind and the interaction of mind and nature, . . . Buddhist practice and philosophy offer a broadly inclusive framework for an environmental ethic that is appropriate for the twentieth century.” Meanwhile, “Turning On to the Environment without Turning Off Other People” by philosophy professor Philip T. Shepard warns against the temptation to look to Buddhism “for the moral authority to support environmental causes against their opponents.” Instead, he suggests that Buddhist ecoactivists find “the middle way in environmental politics” by making the “difficult effort to understand one’s opponents. It is precisely those whose actions are most repugnant to us that we most need to understand.”

The Ten Directions, published biannually by the Zen Center of Los Angeles, includes a report by Peter Matthiessen on an environmental retreat led by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh told more than two-hundred environmental activists, “When you take care of the environmentalists, you take care of the environment.” “Many of the participants had never sat zazen before,” writes Mathiessen; “they persevered bravely, and by the week’s end, they were sitting as assiduously as all the rest.”

 

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Cover of Karuna

The same issue of The Ten Directions includes an interesting exchange on hunting and meat-eating, inspired by a previous article, “Indra’s Net as Food Chain,” on Gary Snyder’s ecological vision. Zenson Gifford Sensei of the Toronto Zen Center found it “amazing, if not appalling, to see how some Buddhists can use subtle rationalizations to justify the taking of life and the eating of meat.” In a lengthy reply, Snyder writes that “the simple distinction vegetarian/non-vegetarian is too simple. . . . Guilt and self-blame are not the fruit of practice, but we hope that a larger view is. The larger view is one that can acknowledge the simultaneous pain and the beauty of this complexly interrelated real world. . . . So far it has been the earlier subsistence cultures of the world, especially the hunters and gatherers, who have—paradoxically—most beautifully expressed their gratitude to the earth and its creatures. As Buddhists we have yet something to learn on that score.”

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