published April 22, 1992
Cover Image by Takeda Yoshifumi
How would Dogen respond to the nuclear wastes accumulating in his backyard? East Asian Buddhism historically has survived by staying somewhat aloof from direct involvement in social policy conflicts, instead offering an example of a counter¬culture in its monastic communities. After only a few decades of development, Western Buddhist communities, on the other hand, are already displaying a strong tendency toward “socially-engaged” Buddhism, as exemplified by Joanna Macy’s work.
Dogen’s sense of connection and responsibility to the ecology might be inferred from another passage in “Being Time,” in which Buddha’s enlightenment is equated with the maintenance of our environment’s being time:
Mountains are time. Oceans are time. If they were not time, there would be no mountains or oceans. Do not think that mountains and oceans here and now are not time. If time is annihilated, mountains and oceans are annihilated. As time is not annihilated, mountains and oceans are not annihilated. This being so the morning star [at the time of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment] appears. (Tanahashi trans.)
— Taigen Dan Leighton, Being Time Through Deep Time
The Lady and the Monk: Four seasons in Kyoto, by Pico Iyer — Paul Wadden