Verses for Environmental Practice

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In celebration of Earth Day, we republish this pure blessing of contemplation, gratitude and intention from the late Zen teacher Robert Aitken Rōshi. May it offer inspiration for your own responsive relationship with our magnificent home.

Photo by Nina Luong on Unsplash

Waking up in the morning
I vow with all beings
to be ready for sparks of the Dharma
from flowers or children or birds.

Sitting alone in zazen
I vow with all beings
to remember I’m sitting together
with mountains, children, and bears.

Looking up at the sky
I vow with all beings
to remember this infinite ceiling
in every room of my life.

When I stroll around in the city
I vow with all beings
to notice how lichen and grasses
never give up in despair.

Watching a spider at work
I vow with all beings
to cherish the web of the universe:
touch one point and everything moves.

Preparing the garden for seeds
I vow with all beings
to nurture the soil to be fertile
each spring for the next 1000 years.

When people praise me for something
I vow with all beings
to return to my vegetable garden
and give credit where credit is due.

With tropical forests in danger
I vow with all beings
to raise hell with the people responsible
and slash my consumption of trees.

With resources scarcer and scarcer
I vow with all beings
to consider the law of proportion:
my have is another’s have-not.

Watching gardeners label their plants
I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture
and let plants identify me.

Hearing the crickets at night
I vow with all beings
to keep my practice as simple –
just over and over again.

Falling asleep at last
I vow with all beings
to enjoy the dark and the silence
and rest in the vast unknown.

By Robert Aitken. Published in Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism, ed. Stephanie Kaza and Kenneth Kraft (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2000), 471-473.

Robert Aitken Rōshi

Robert Aitken Rōshi

Robert Baker Dairyu Chotan Aitken Rōshi (June 19, 1917 – August 5, 2010) was a Zen teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He co-founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha in 1959 together with his wife, Anne Hopkins Aitken. Aitken received Dharma transmission from Koun Yamada in 1985 but decided to live as a layperson. He was a socialist advocating social justice for gayswomen and Native Hawaiians throughout his life, and was one of the original founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship
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