we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

Old Buddha’s Gift, Part-1: the Body is Mind

A short selection from Essay Twenty-Seven in Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice. [YOU MIGHT WANT TO SKIP THIS ON A FIRST READING OF THE TWO BUDDHAS SEQUENCE]

“If your cart doesn’t move,” [Dogen] asks, “is it better to prod the cart or to prod the horse (sic)” …everyone knows you should prod the horse … the secular world has plenty of ways to prod the horse [meaning the mind] but “lacks any method of prodding the cart [meaning the body].” —Brad Warner [1]

We get into trouble when we take our religions too literally, but not taking things literally enough can actually be a problem for Zen students. This “trouble” arises, of course, when teachings which emphasize propositional uncertainty start the thinking mind down overly convoluted pathways, instead of releasing it to engage with the more radical authority of a teacher’s simple and direct communications. But when Dogen spoke of the bodymind, [2] he meant us to take this at face value. When we train the body to sit still, and to be perfectly balanced, the mind doesn’t just follow the body’s postural enlightenment show: the mind is the body’s subtle gestures, habits, and training. https://www.extremophilechoice.com/2018/03/16/the-importance-of-a-body-for-ai-and-for-what-it-means-to-be-human/

And so it is that our continuous physical imitation of family and peers [3], whether outright or subliminal, makes “our” culture of “proper behaviour” seem more probable than an outsider’s lecture on moral relativity (the view that behaviours might be wrong in one culture but right in another). A Zen teacher, on the other hand (or any good teacher really), is thoroughly confident that her unhurried pause, and her unguarded, receptive, eye contact, will speak louder than a wordy lecture on open-mindedness. A quiet mind is the body’s stillness, and this is why years of sitting practice can lead to self-knowledge and acceptance of others in a more direct way than any amount of counselling and argument alone.


1. Warner, Brad. 2007. Sit Down and Shut Up. Novato California: New World Library. p. 48. See also, Dogen, 2010. p. 4-5/11.

2. Dogen zenji, Eihei. 2010 in Bielefeldt, trans., Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma [Shobogenzo] Book 12: Lancet of Zazen (Zazen shin). Soto Zen Text Project, Online Translations p. 4-5/11.

3. Bargh, John A. Jan. 2014. Our Unconscious Mind: Scientific American. vol. 310, no. 1, pp. 30-37. p. 35, the “chameleon effect”.

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