Posted inDogen, Ecodharma, Other Teachings

Listening to the Voices of the Great Wide Earth, Part 2 of 3

July 7, 2015

How may I live my life realizing that the wounded world is my own true self, I am that, crying out in pain?


Click to read Listening to the Voices of the Great Wide Earth, Part 1.

Let me share some thoughts based on a posting I read, which summarizes the recommendations for a change of lifestyle following Pope Francis’ encyclical. The article, “Five eco-lifestyle changes the Pope wants you to make” offers five points laying out a concrete way we can so we may be part of the movement toward healing the wounds of our Earth.

To the five points I would like to add two more, to make a “Sevenfold path toward healing ourselves, healing our Earth.” The Buddha offered us an Eightfold path, and this is only seven, so it’s a bargain. Let’s take it while it’s available!

Let me go down the list one by one…

The first point invites us to pray for a conversion of heart. In terms of our Zen practice, it is about giving ourselves wholeheartedly to our practice, even more than ever, for this is precisely what our sitting, our mindfulness, our chanting, our observances, are all about: effecting in us a total conversion of our way of seeing and our way of being…

We are motivated to launch our practice with those fundamental questions that nag us – who really am I? How can I live a meaningful life for the happiness of all who are around me? The key is precisely in that question, who am I?

We just heard the hint from Dōgen, and from my teacher Yamada Koun Roshi. The mountains, the rivers, the great wide earth, and all sentient beings. That, my dear friends, is us! You, me, Lois, Patty, Ramtin, Ben, Leslie, tell me your name, and I can only tell you in response, that’s you! Have we experienced this, and have we really begun to embody that in our lives?

Some of you may have arrived at a glimpse of something or other, and yes, you may be able to say ‘I am mountain, I am the river,’ and so on. But it is another thing to have this question of “who am I?” be answered in a way that totally changes our outlook, our attitude, our entire way of seeing ourselves, our way of seeing and be-ing in the world. Our practice is what opens us to an experience of a total transformation in the way we see the world and ourselves, and truly, truly, undergo that conversion of heart that Pope Francis is talking about. It is no longer to be stuck in the narrow the perspective of the small “I, me, mine,” but to see from the perspective of the Big Self (someone else referred to Big Mind).

How may I live my life realizing that the wounded world is my own true self, I am that, crying out in pain?

The pain of the families in Charleston, the victims of earthquakes in Nepal, the children victimized by trafficking, the voices of the many species disappearing from the face of the Earth, I could go on and on to add to a long long list, and not exhaust it. All of us are part of this pain. So who am I and how can I live? Let us listen to our True Self and let that guide us in all our thinking, speaking, acting, our way of living, day-to-day, moment to moment. Following Pope Francis, we “pray for a conversion of heart.”

The second point, in summarizing the Pope’s message, goes like this: “learn to appreciate beauty.” This is the nature, the beauty all around us. Each tree, each pebble, each flower or blade of grass, and also, each person around us, is that. The whole universe opens up to us baring its pristine beauty each moment. Don’t miss that. So, taking a cue from our practice – slow down, take a breath and realize the infinite the gift of each moment, in each breath, and take time to let that sink in.

The world is in pain and it calls us to respond, yes, but in all of that let us not miss the beauty of each moment. As we pause for one moment and breathe, we may breathe out the debris piled up in our hearts, and this will give us the inner space to see the beauty in each moment, even in the midst of the muck and the mud around us. The Lotus, the symbol of enlightenment in Buddhism, blossoms precisely in the midst of the muck and the muddy waters.

And with that comes the third point – “Practice gratitude and selflessness,” beginning with the family, and extending to the wider circle of all sentient beings. Our hearts are naturally moved to simple gratitude when we realize the beauty in things, when we realize the many blessings we continue to receive, and we are moved to give back in gratitude. No longer just looking out for myself, and what’s in it for me, but realizing that I am given so much, out of gratitude I am moved to give more of myself.

There was a Jesuit priest who was a big influence on me as a university student in the Philippines – he was a chaplain in campus ministry, and had already been dead some years when I came to university. I recall his picture hanging on our student lounge, with his smile, with his motto inscribed on the bottom – ‘give until it hurts’. He keeps challenging me. So am I really giving enough? Well, okay, I wrote a check for this or that cause, I gave this or that donation.

But maybe we can consider the possibility that there may be more we each can give. How can I give more, beginning with my own family circle, and going wider and wider and expanding to the world of sentient beings? To live in a way that no longer just asks “What can I get out of it?” but rather seeks how and what to give, and give some more, in a spirit of gratitude and selflessness.

Click here to read Part 3 of Listening to the Voices of the Great Wide Earth.


By Ruben L.F. Habito, originally delivered at Maria Kannon Zen Center, Dallas, Texas, June 20, 2015

Image credit: Guilt, by Hartwig HKD, CC by-ND 2.0, from
Featured Image Credit: Earth, by geralt, CC0 Public Domain, from

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