The Silver Thread: The Buddha Nature of Nature


I was born and raised in St. Louis Missouri. It is hot and humid. My allergies were aggravated by the heat and dampness. I was also a lonely, angry and depressed child, which may have tainted my perspective about that city. Through that child’s eyes though it seemed to go from winter to summer, skipping the in-between of rebirth.

At age 11 I moved to Michigan. I moved in the fall and endured the winter. Then came my first spring. I knew this was my home.

We all experience the beauty of a Michigan Spring. The rich green that washes everything you see. The crispness of the air. Day by day buds appearing, finally flowering in flowing plumage. As an adult, I often walk my dog in the late afternoon. The lower hanging sun softens the day, but the rich subtle shades of green follow me. The chirping birds give their last flight before quieting for the night… Birth and renewal surround us.

Spring is my teacher. It feeds my Buddha nature.

We are all born Buddha’s. Buddha means “ the awakened one”. Being a Buddha is not an intellectual experience, a bunch of words like those you are reading -cannot bring you to Buddha-hood. Only experiences lead us on that path. It is a path each must follow individually and through the creation of transformative experience.

Every bodhisattva or aspiring Buddha needs a guru. Michigan spring is mine. Spring is a teacher. In that sense, Spring is found within. The view of a rich and verdant spring landscape touches me only to ephemerally escape, and to be found again. The constant on the outside is transitory on the inside.

The experience of nature is reached through intuition. Intuition is body knowledge, a sensuous understanding by the body-mind. The path we follow is often illuminated by accident. I do not seek enlightenment on those walks but sometimes I trip over it.

In the tradition of Zen, you are as likely to be illuminated by accident as by formal practice.

I have written before that the mysterious is often the path to enlightenment. We cannot understand nature but the lack of cognitive understanding leads us to the experience of awe. Nature, like a Zen koan, has no answer; looking for meaning only baffles us, but it may open up clarity when I am not even trying.

Perhaps my greatest enlightenment came from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It is an arduous climb, not so much because of the topographic difficulties, but because of the altitude. At 14,000 your oxygen is reduced by 50%. After 4 days you reach Cabo Hut. After a rest, you make your ascent at Midflight. .7 hours of climbing straight uphill numbs you. The stress consumes your mind. At dawn, I reached the peak in a partial trance. Suddenly my guide reached down took my hand and pulled me to the plateau. The sun appeared to race across the land, finally illuminating all of Africa light.

I broke out crying. There were no thoughts, just naked experience of nature’s miracle. The moment released me from the grip of wishing things were different. It anchored me in the divine presence of now.

It set me in the awe and mystery of life.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here