Quote for Contemplation 3 / Nov 3
"No Earth, no Buddha." - Darion Kuma Gracen (1949-2007)
This is one of my favorite Kuma-sensei quotes. It was a seed thought sometimes used as a meditation phrase assigned for contemplation during retreat (which was usually in Nature: pine forest, spruce valley, shaded rock outcropping, or cave).
Though quite simple and memorable, the simplicity of the phrase conceals an intuitive spiritual cosmology that isn’t the easiest to articulate because it weaves aspects of different shaping influences. Hers was certainly not a traditional or orthodox Buddhism.
Other than the spiritual syncretism we see in the Japanese tradition of Shugendō (the path of the yamabushi), certain expressions of Shingon, or a few examples of individuals in history who clearly practiced a path characterized by spiritual syncretism (Ōtogaki Rengetsu, Ryōkan Taigu, and Ikkyū Sōjun), I’ve never seen anything in print that quite describes anything like Kuma-sensei’s spiritual worldview.
Without writing a whole textbook on comparative religion, I will simply say that Kuma-sensei had an integral spiritual worldview that wove together elements of Taoist cosmology, Zen practice, Shinto reverence for Nature, an esoteric form of Pure Land (in contrast to orthodox ideas found in Jōdo-shū and Jōdo Shinshū), and all of this was held in such a way that valuable insights from neuroscience, ecopsychology and Jungian psychology (alchemical and archetypal psychology) were incorporated when and where a clear resonance of ideas meshed.
She also had some very interesting ideas about past-present-future and I always had the impression that she viewed her own spiritual cosmology and practice path as part of an ancient-yet-ongoing process, subject to change, always leading to an expanding and evolutionary understanding of time and being. Hers was an organic, ever-shifting stance, not fixed or static; and, yet, there were certain “roots” of practice, so to speak, which flow forward from the deep past and were non-negotiable in the “practice-present.”
One of these root ideas involves an animistic view of Earth and the Cosmos not only as sentient and “crackling with consciousness” but also as an enlightening force. In this context, the full quote from which the smaller one above is taken provides a glimpse into the deep heart-mind of Kuma-sensei as a Wayfarer:
“No Tao, no Kami. No Kami, no Earth. No Earth, no Buddha.” — Darion Kuma Gracen
Tao (Dao), in this context, is understood to be the vast, inconceivable, incomprehensible, and ultimately un-nameable cosmic reality (seen and unseen) within which all things live and have their being — including when passing from the Realm of the Ten Thousand Things (visible reality) into the dark-enigma of the unseen (which is perceived to be ceaselessly regenerative). This same quality or structure of the seen/known and unseen/unknown is mirrored in our own psyche (namely, the conscious mind and the personal unconscious, or what some call the subconscious).
Kami, a Japanese word sometimes translated as “gods” but more readily spoken of by Kuma-sensei as “the shaping powers” — those “catalytic creative forces of the universe” (musubi is another Japanese term that expresses this) and the “numinous powers of Nature.” In this context, kami are perceived as unseen (but often felt or sensed) life-bolstering energies that have the power to shape material reality. In traditional Shinto, the kami created the universe and certain mountains, trees, and waterfalls can be the dwelling place of the kami.
Earth, as stated, is perceived here as a Dao and Kami-influenced reality. It includes the materiality of our planetary Earth but — from a multidimensional perspective — includes much more that we cannot see, perceive, or fully fathom, much like the microscopic mycelium network beneath the forest floor.
As humans, we are Earth. We are ‘of Earth’. We are connected to Earth. We depend upon the Sun, Earth, Water, and Salt for life and survival. In the words of philosopher Alan Watts, “You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.” In this way of seeing, as beings-of-Earth, as extensions of Earth, any fully awakened human is a buddha (the Sanskrit root word budh, ‘awake’, is the root word for buddha) and, thus, a full expression of Tao, Kami, and Earth.
SOUND MAP OF VOICE OVER
“Confluence” / Endless River / Roy Mattson (click to learn about Roy’s full album)