"The whole point of Zen training in a natural environment is to make us open and receptive to the insentient, to nature itself as the teacher. Being born on the earth is about intimacy," writes John Daido Loori, the spiritual leader and abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York, and founder of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen.

We live on the Earth and are surrounded by wonders. Buddhist teachings nudge us towards an acknowledgement and understanding of the interdependence of all life forms and processes. Yet our propensity to see ourselves as dominating nature or separate from it continues to create environmental problems. We are now at a critical time in evolution, says Loori, "a time that could decide the fate of both the human race and the planet we all share."

We must listen to the voices of the ten thousand things. We must become intimate with rivers and mountains. We must heed the call of Dogen, Chinese sages, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Hermann Hesse, and others who tell us to heal the great earth of ours. We must listen to the sermons of rocks and water and see the world afresh.