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Sangha Reflections: On Wildness

· Open Access, Sangha Reflections · ,

AS A KID I TRIED TO IMAGINE the rural landscapes around me without telephone poles and electric wires—how the rivers and hills might have looked to the Native Americans or the first European settlers or the deer and raccoons. Even then I was yearning for wilderness and an unobstructed aliveness.

Drawn to Buddhism through Daido Roshi’s teachings of sacred wild, it wasn’t enlightenment I was seeking so much as a fuller, more awake intimacy with the natural world and myself within it.

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Photo by Charles Wagner

The Veil of the Beloved

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

For there to be a change from the lonely state of delusion—if we are really to fulfill our purpose in life—we have to go about it in a very strong way. We have to plug in to something so enormously great that we can’t say we grasp it, but rather that we are grasped by it. Our minds tell us that it is the divine splendor, but all our ideas and representations fall by the way and seem so futile, and what we do to bring about the change we seek seems to be so very inadequate.

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Photo by Jeanne Gunesoglu

Plum Blossoms

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Eihei Dogen, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Rujing, my late master, Old Buddha Tiantong, was the thirtieth abbot of the Tiantong Jingde Monastery, renowned Mount Taibai, Qingyuan Prefecture, Great Song. He ascended the teaching seat and said to the assembly:

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To Know Living Things

· Articles & Essays · ,

From the journals of Thomas Merton

Yesterday I was sitting in the woodshed reading and a little Carolina wren suddenly hopped on to my shoulder and then on to the corner of the book I was read- ing and paused a second to take a look at me before flying away.

Same wren just came back and is singing and investigating busily in the blocks of the wall over there.

Here is what I think.

Man can know all about God’s creation by examining its phenomena, by dissecting and experimenting and this is all good. But it is misleading, because with this kind of knowledge you do not really know the beings you know. You only know about them. That is to say you create for yourself a knowledge based on your observations. What you observe is really as much the product of your knowledge as its cause. You take the thing not as it is, but as you want to investigate it. Your investigation is valid, but artificial.

There is something you cannot know about a wren by cutting it up in a laboratory and which you can only know if it remains fully and completely a wren, itself, and hops on your shoulder if it feels like it.

A tame animal is already invested with a certain falsity by its tameness. By becoming what we want it to be, it takes a disguise which we have decided to impose upon it.

Even a wild animal, merely “observed,” is not seen as it really is, but rather in the light of our investigation (color changed by fluorescent lighting).

But people who watch birds and animals are already wise in their way.

I want not only to observe but to know living things, and this implies a dimension of primordial familiarity which is simple and primitive and religious and poor.

This is the reality I need, the vestige of God in His creatures.

And the light of God in my own soul.

And God in man’s history and culture (but so mysteriously hidden there and so strangely involved in the Passion which He must suffer to redeem us from evil).

The wren either hops on your shoulder or doesn’t.

What he does—this he is. Hoc est [That it is].

And our ideas of Nature etc.? All very well, but non est hoc; non est hoc [it is not this, it is not this]. Neti, Neti [Neither this nor that].

Do no violence to things, to manipulate them with my ideas—to track them, to strip them, to pick something out of them my mind wants to nibble at….


Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was an American Trappist monk, social activist and writer.

From When the Trees Say Nothing by Thomas Merton; edited by Kathleen Deignan. Copyright © 2003 by Ave Maria Press, P.O. Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Used by permission of the publisher.

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Photo by Maciej Surowka

Machig’s Last Instructions

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Machig Labdron, translated by Jerome Edou

Then Machig spoke:
For ninety-nine years, I have worked
for the benefit of beings.
Now this work is almost complete.
I will not take birth again in this human realm in a physical form,

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Photo by Chris Webster

Meeting Machig Labdron

· Articles & Essays, Open Access · ,

by Jody Hojin Kimmel Osho

Right now you have the opportunity.
Look for the essence of mind—this is meaningful.
When you look at mind, there is nothing to be seen.
In this very not-seeing, you see the definitive meaning.

—Machig Labdron

A few years ago I was leafing through a magazine and came eye-to-eye with a young Tibetan woman, an infant swaddled to her back.

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Photo by Roy Wood

Joyous Body: The Wild Flesh

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I have been taken with the way wolves hit their bodies together when they run and play, the old wolves in their way, the young ones in theirs, the skinny ones, the fat ones, the long-legged, the lop-tailed, the floppy-eared, the ones whose broken limbs healed crookedly. They all have their own body configuration and strength, their own beauty. They live and play according to what and who and how they are. They do not try to be what they are not.

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Photo by Mona Johansson

The Time for the Singing of Birds

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Kathleen Dean Moore

For lo, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time for the singing of birds has come.

—Song of Solomon

This is a story a friend gave to me. I am giving it to you.

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Photo by Mona Johansson

Mirror in the Street

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Rebecca Solnit

Nineteenth-century Paris was often compared to a wilderness by its poets and writers. They sensed that the city had somehow become so vast, so magical and unpredictable, that one could wander it as though it were not made by human beings and reason, but rather had sprung up with all the mystery and intricacy of a jungle.

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

· Poems · ,

by Wendell Berry

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