Gary Snyder
Book Bits

Gary Snyder on Radical Social Change

There is nothing necessarily natural or inevitable, argues Gary Snyder, about repression, violence and frustrated personalities, and the more we are able to practice and connect with our deeper natures, the more apparent this becomes. Snyder’s vision for a more enlightened society stems from his conviction that the ‘joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism’ is an anathema to the mountains of junk we are constantly forced to negotiate in our culture, and although these elements are all contained within the Universal whole, it takes a revolution in the way humans understand the world to really manifest this wisdom.


There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization that requires a society to be contradictory, repressive, productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for oneself by taking a good look at Original Nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, one will be led to a deep concern for the need for radical social change through a variety of nonviolent means. 

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and avoidance of taking life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The belief in a serene and generous fulfilment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies that blind, maim, and repress—and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers. 

Avatamsaka (Kegon or Hua-yen) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast, interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop, and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard and must be effective in aiding those who suffer.  


Gary Snyder
From: The Gary Snyder Reader



Leave a Reply