A Fire Runs Through All Things
Zen Koans For Facing The Climate Crisis
The latest book from Eco Dharma Pioneer Susan Murphy Roshi
At a time of climate emergency, Zen koans show us how crisis itself can reveal the regenerative openness of life, mind, and being.
“As in a fairy tale, we have the impossible task of saving the earth. We know that there are sensible things that are good to do but we must also do what we haven’t thought of—seeing our lives and the earth with fresh eyes. Susan Murphy is steeped in Zen and the indigenous understanding of the Australian bush. She is an artist who can turn toward the dark forces and find a golden path. This alchemical skill makes her the right guide for the impossible tasks and inconceivable problems we face. She’s a true and terrific guide. The Red Queen said to Alice, “It’s jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam today.” Susan’s book is jam today. May you read it with joy.”
John Tarrant, Pacific Zen Institute
Zen koans are a tradition of holistic inquiry based on “encounter stories” from East Asia’s most radical Buddhist tradition. Turning this form of inquiry toward the climate crisis, Susan Murphy contends that koans can help us enter the mind of not-knowing, from which acceptance and possibility freely emerge. Koans reveal intimate, mythic, artful, playful, provocative, humorous, and fierce ways to engage the work of protecting and healing our world.
The koans point firstly at ourselves—at the very nature of "self." Until we hold “self” as a live question rather than its own unquestioned answer, we’re stuck looking on from the “outside,” hoping to engineer change upon a problem called “climate crisis,” all the time oblivious to the fact that we’re swimming in a reality with no outside to it, an ocean of transformative energy. Do we dare relinquish our wish for absolute control and fearlessly surf the intensity of our feelings about the suffering earth?
In addition to her use of dozens of traditional and new koans, Murphy illuminates the little-known Zen resonance with the oldest continuous body of indigenous wisdom on earth, summed up in the subtle Australian Aboriginal word Country. Murphy draws from her study and coteaching with Uncle Max (Dulumunmun) Harrison, a distinguished Yuin Elder, to show how this millennia-deep taproot of intelligence confirms the aliveness of the earth and the kinship of all beings.