The 21st century is a critical time for our environment. Global warming, pollution, deforestation: the problems are large, and it's easy to feel helpless. Yet it's important not to get lost in despair; we can be serious about environmental problems and still be joyful. This ability is crucial not only for dealing with the environment, but also with spiritual practice. The earth's crisis is a physical manifestation of the crisis within us; if we don't see the one, we won't see the other. We can address the crisis within ourselves by awakening to the earth as a living being with a mystical reality, a living being that can show us how to deal with ignorance and delusion. If we let it, the earth will help us heal ourselves, which in turn allows us to heal the earth.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes zazen, or seated meditation, as the means to study the self and understand who we truly are. Dharma talks are an essential aspect of Zen training and take place in the context of zazen. Said to be "dark to the mind and radiant to the heart", a dharma talk is one of the ways in which a teacher points directly to the heart of the teachings of the Buddha. In our meditation practice, it is easy to get lost in self-doubt, fantasy, numbness, and emotional agitation. Dharma talks help to ground our practice, providing inspiration and an essential recognition of exactly where we find ourselves, so that we can learn to face difficulties and obstacles with a free and flexible mind. This talk was given at Zen Mountain Monastery or the Zen Center of New York City of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism, founded in 1980 by the late American Zen Master John Daido Loori, Roshi (1931-2009).