Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End.



"if you, who are valley streams and looming mountains, can't throw some light on the nature of ridges and rivers,who can ?"




     Gary Snyder began writing Mountains and Rivers Without End, his long poetic cycle in April 1956, auspiciously enough on the Buddha's birthday. It was eventually published in full in 1996 and the long gestation period thus predates, opens and encloses Snyder's published poetic career. The lengthy period of composition was hinted at by Kerouac's fictionalisation, soon after Snyder began work. In The Dharma Bums, published in 1958, Snyder's fictional alter-ego Japhy Ryder notes that;


I'll write it on and on a scroll and unfold on and on with new surprises and always what went before forgotten,see, like a river,or like one of them real long Chinese silk paintings that shows two little men hiking in an endless landscape of gnarled old trees and mountains so high they merge with the fog in the upper silk void.I'll spend three thousand years writing it, it'll be packed full of information on soil conservation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, astronomy, geology, Hsuan Tsung's travels, Chinese painting theory, reforestation, Oceanic ecology and food chains.1




      Accordingly the work invokes the full range of Snyder's social and environmental concerns as well as his participation in anti-war protests and events such as the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park. Given its breadth the epic reads as a complement and commentary to the real work of Snyder's life. The depth of compassionate activism and aesthetic achievement that the epic unfolds and maps out belies Yeats' maxim that 'the mind of man is forced to choose/perfection of the life or of the work'. Writing of 'The Ring Of Bone Zendo', the creative lay Buddhist community that Snyder co-founded in his home community, his description might as easily be applied to Mountains and Rivers Without End. The "ecological, and playful creative commitments to a women-babies-house-soil-and-All Beings-being together spirit has been central to the inspiration of this Sangha for years".2


     Snyder's overall structuring principle for the project is that of the painted hand scrolls of Sung Dynasty China, whose resemblance to the landscape of his native Cascades led him to study the Orient. In the minimising of the presence of the human subject, Snyder's method resembles the Orientalist influences that impressed  Pound and the Imagists which derived specifically from haiku or koans.(Snyder,unlike Pound of course, both wrote and spoke Chinese and Japanese).Another Oriental influence that emphasises the diminution of the human subject, is Chinese landscape painting, of which Snyder said "the Chinese had an eye for the world that I saw as real".(TRW,94) In Chinese, the characters representing Mountains and Rivers, when presented together, make the ideogram representing landscape. Additionally the title mirrors Dogen's famous sutra.The other major Oriental influence is the Japanese No drama Yamamba(Old Mountain Woman), a work belonging to the tradition which, as Snyder describes it is "a gritty but totally refined high-culture art that is in the lineage of shamanistic performance".(MRWE,155)


            The poetic arena that Mountains and Rivers Without End records reflects its authors geographical and intellectual wanderings. Accordingly it ranges from the Orient of Sung Dynasty China, the Kyoto of the fifties and sixties (where Snyder lived as a Zen monk for 12 years), through the fifties Beatnik America Northwest Coast of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco,and their connecting arterial Highway 99, to the (almost)pristine wildernesses of Alaska, Baja California and the Southwest, through the encroached-upon landscapes of Mount Tamalpais to the concreted-over of Los Angeles Basin and New York Bedrock. Despite such nomadic origins Snyder writes that "I never lost my sense of belonging to North America, and I kept nourishing the images and practices that kept me connected to a sense of the ancient, sacred Turtle Island landscape."(MRWE,155) All of the poems reflect, by way of exemplifying practice, Snyder's messianic devotion to the wilderness without and within which he has made his constituency, and that is the most profound avenue of access to Turtle Island.As he writes in another context, 'whilst wilderness may temporarily dwindle, wildness won't go away', and it is Snyder's particular talent to produce a wilderness hymn to 'Walking The New-York Bedrock', by his unerring ability to catch the still, small voice of "Rivers that never give up/Trill under the roadbed,over the bedrock". Similarly a poem such as 'Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin', juxtaposes a more familiar aspect of that most hyper-modern of American cities with the older voices of owl and hawk.       


            The  work draws from a lifetime's immersion in the study of mountains and waters, as Snyder describes in his afterword.


I came to see the yogic implications of 'mountains' and 'rivers' as the play between the tough spirit of willed self-discipline and the generous and loving spirit of concern for all beings:a dyad presented in Buddhist iconography as the wisdom-sword-wielding Manjushri, embodying transcendent insight, and his partner Tara‚, the embodiment of compassion.


His career as poet,Buddhist and environmentalist has been informed by both intellect and heart, and the poems reflect this, ranging from profound meditations on the Avatamsaka Sutra in 'Bubbs Creek Haircut' and 'With This Flesh', to the temporarily dwindling wildernesses of 'Walking the New York Bedrock' or the 'Los Angeles Basin'.His 'An Offering for  Tara‚', directs attention to his profound conviction that the principle of interconnection amounts to an ecological insight.The equation of Tara‚ (at once Bodhissatva, Mother Goddess and Tantric Deity) as the space for realising enlightenment, as the mother-goddess-body of the phenomenal world points Snyder out of the zendo into the service of all living things.


    The consummate ease with which he moves from the Hopi petroglyph of Kokop'ele (in 'The Hump-Backed Flute Player'), to Hsuan-Tsang a Chinese bearer of the Buddhist Dharma, and carrier of Nagarjuna's sutras on shunyata, or emptiness (an awareness of which engenders compassion, as the Tibetan Milarepa (cited as a frontispiece) points out) indicates that there is a very highly developed level of fertilisation going on here.Snyder, in this sense continues and massively extends the Poundian project of utilising Orientalism as a dissecting tool for his own culture, as well as significantly writing both within and beyond the Pound-Williams line of poetics so that at times his lines appear to provide the kind of representational clarity that the Imagists dreamed of.This is above all an American poetic project, despite the depth of allusion to Buddhist lore, and it is difficult to imagine any one else who could sucessfully cover the range that Snyder does here. I turn now to an examination of several of the poems from Mountains and Rivers Without End that are most representative of Snyder's work. In particular they raise several of the issues with which I have been dealing in this dissertation.


            'The Blue Sky' appeared in October 1968, and was later collected in Six Sections Plus One.Writing in 1992 before the whole sequence had been published Patrick Murphy described it as "the most allusive and complex section of Mountains and Rivers published to date",an opinion shared by Ekbert Faas 3, and an assessment with which most readers would agree.The difficulty and apparent impenetrability of the poem (which has persistently resisted explications 4) is twofold, lying firstly in the depth of mythological lore that Snyder uses and secondly in the absence of connectives between (what appear to be) fragments.The first point which recalls the difficulty facing readers of Myths & Texts raises important issues for Snyder's work.The fact is that Buddhist mythology is not only difficult but also(as in this case)frequently obscure.The sutra on which the poem is based ,for example, was translated into English only once (and then in a limited edition published in Peking in 1936) before 1979.5


The vast range of the poem from the sutras of the 7th century Chinese Buddhist canon, through Mohave Indian myth via the global folklore of semi-precious stones, Indo-European linguistics and Meso-American ethnobotany, do at the very least render Snyder open to charges of  both obscurantism and elitism.His lighthearted remark concerning his audience's familiarity with Shiva and P‚rvatÓ and his rebuttal in the same interview of the obscurantist charge notwithstanding, Snyder's declared aspiration is that "the level of meaning, content, interest and music is (going to be) strong enough in Mountains and Rivers to sustain the reader through it."6 Now that the work is finally in the open, of course it remains to be seen whether or not Snyder is correct and whether a work that is at times more richly difficult and densely allusive than the positively gnomic Myths & Texts will prove as popular as its predecessor.7 Snyder's teasing suggestion that he would write a final footnoted section of the poem which would explicate the preceding sections in footnote has, one assumes, proved unworkable but the poem does conclude with both what the publishers describe as a 'mini-intellectual autobiography' and notes to the poems themselves that resemble, but are not as exhaustive as Eliot's on The Waste Land.I quote the note relating to 'The Blue Sky' in full below.


Certainly as it stands the way is clear for much critical exegesis and still more annotation.It should be pointed out that the absence of understanding of the content of a poem does not preclude engagement with its aesthetic qualities.Recordings of tribal poetries for example or of Buddhist ceremonies can have affect despite not being entirely understood.In this context I agree with Julia Martin's assessment that the recorded version of Snyder reading 'The Blue Sky'(which features a musical accompaniment) is crucial in engaging with the text.8 The charge of elitism is less easy to sidestep given that Snyder's mythopoeic works are the product of a voluminous erudition and a uniquely syncretic mind.They are clearly difficult and whilst there is an immediacy and simple directness to some of his works(including sections Mountains and Rivers) that makes them accessible this is less evident in the poem in question.Snyder has emphasised the value of authoritative teaching as a means of making "people get the idea that there are higher standards than what they've been accustomed to"9, and it is worth reading this difficult poem as one might approach a koan.        


            Snyder describes this poem as follows;


This section is an exploration of some of the lore of healing as found in Mahayana Buddhism and in Native North America.Bhaishajyaguru(Sanskrit)-the 'Medicine Buddha'-is known in Japan as Yakushi Nyorai.He holds a tiny medicine bottle in the palm of one hand.Eons ago he made a vow to work for the welfare and healing of all sentient beings.


            Another element is the ancient lore of the protective and healing powers of the colour blue and of certain blue stones.


            The character k'ung, used for the Buddhist term 'shunyata' or 'emptiness' in Chinese, also means 'sky'.I was once told by a Native California elder that the diagnostic and healing hand of a 'trembling hand healer's hand' was guided by an eagle so high up in the sky as to be out of sight."(MRWE,160)


            If the motivating impulse here is exploratory, with the foregrounding of the quest motif initiated in the opening section (as Steuding suggests) then it is the emphasis upon healing lore that confirms Snyder's return to the familiar psychic terrain linking Buddhism and Amerindian myth that he has described as "oldest American-Asian shamanism".(EHH,35) It is the linking of the inner and outer journeying that initiates the poem.


                      'Eastward from here


          beyond Buddha-worlds ten times as


          numerous as the sands of the Ganges


 there is a world called


                  PURE AS LAPIS LAZULI


 its Buddha is called Master of Healing,






                  it would take you twelve thousand summer




                  driving a car due east all day every day


                  to reach the edge of the Lapis Lazuli realm of


                  Medicine Old Man Buddha-


                  East.Old Man Realm


                  East across the sea, yellow sand land


                  Coyote old man land


                  Silver, and stone blue'






            Despite the suggestion of a literal directional east (as well as a synedochal evocation of the Buddhism to which Snyder's life has been dedicated) which of course depends upon a stable point of reference, it is the de-centering of any idea of this Archimedean point or centre that is seen by Julia Martin as more important here.She suggests that despite the fact that the poem "is about making offers no unifying 'centre' " but instead, "foregrounds the process" (where) "the eye is shifted from one fragment to the next...because to conceive of wholeness outside of the continual play of difference and interdependence, to desire the attainment of a transcendental Absolute... is, according to the teachings of sunyata,to remain bound by that desire."10 I will examine Martin's comments, which are undoubtedly the most detailed to have appeared on this poem so far, in some detail, but it is worth noting that her characterisation of this process of filling in resembles the confabulation of Kenneth Rexroth.11 Interviewed by Faas, Snyder has suggested that each of the sections that comprise Mountains and Rivers are centered around one image or ku ('focal images of structural import'/ a 'phrase' or a 'notable utterance'12, and has further elaborated on this  poem. Snyder suggests that


What is important is that little comment on 'comrade' itself.I tried to imagine the poem arching like the bow of the sky...I tried to think of the poem as going from one horizon to the other horizon.It starts eastward from here,looking east,sunrise, and ends 'thinking on Amitabha in the setting sun' towards the center 'where the Eagle/that Flies out of sight/flies.'So the blue sky is the sky itself, the arch of the sky, the kam, the camber, it is the structure of the poem, starting from one end to the other and then going back to the center, and ties into the idea of bow and comrade".13


            The key issue, then is that of healing and making whole as the text explicitly indicates("Heal, hale....whole.") Snyder's project here is to recast (to break down and fuse or compost)mythology firstly as holistic metanarrative with the shamanic poet as the uttering voice and secondly as performative healing song itself.It is in this sense the most shamanic of all Snyder's works, and the repetitive references to the colour blue(the dominant colour in Bhaishajyaguru's Assembly),the visual appearances of Kokopilau in an earlier version, as well as the defamiliarising language reinforce this.14 The composting of the semantic structure of language is a particularly important strategy in this regard, as Snyder uses a variety of techniques to disrupt the poem's moves toward closure or a final meaning.Hence the apparent digressions of etymological asides, the visual breaks in the various versions (images of Kokopilau,full stops,lacunae etc)direct quotations from the Sanskrit,geological data,song lyrics and dreams act both to disrupt sense, and as Steuding puts it to "create a kind of contemporary mantra".15 I am reading the poem as essentially shamanic performative(a reading which is greatly strengthened by listening to Snyder's delivery of the poem), or as a language event. By implication that the poem is being presented less as aesthetic artifact than as healing text itself.I turn now to the implications of this assertion.


            Snyder in a reading of this poem in the 1980's, spoke of a lesser known Buddha associated with the East ,Bhaishajyaguru (Skt),Yao-shih fo(Ch) and Yakushi(Jp), the Master of Healing.He was transmitted early into China from India and developed a great following among the people.For reasons that are now unclear this worship was suppressed.Just as Amitabha's worship was associated with Gold, so his cosmological land to the East is associated with Blue.As Martin correctly suggests, the obscure Bhaishajyaguru is a 'typical candidate for Snyder's attention'.The emerging implication of the idea that the poem is in some sense a mantra for the Healing Buddha,a reading emphasised by the quotation and translation of the Sanskrit 'Spell of the Master of Healing', which follows directly and significantly after the etymological exploration of the term 'heal'.16


            I honor the Lord, the Master of Healing,


      shining like lapis lazuli, the king, the


      Tathagata, the Saint, the perfectly enlightened


      one, saying OM TO THE HEALING










            I have discussed both the significance of mantra and its repetition(mantra-yana) in relation to tantra and deity yoga elsewhere , but it is worth emphasising the point that the speech of the adept within the Vajrayana, becomes the mantra of the deity or yidam that is being invoked.Following invocation of the deity by the use of mantra, self-identification with the deity and consequent view of all of reality as the mandala of the deity,the adept inhabits the transformed reality that has been generated. Following this the adept is able to rechannel the invoked energies and perceive what is variously termed the 'Clear Light' of reality.17 To fully trace the complex links between shamanic utterance and tantric mantra is clearly beyond the scope of my discussion here,although one may note in passing the shamanic elements within Tibetan Buddhism that originate in  Bˆn, the pre-Buddhist shamanic faith that Buddhism in Tibet absorbed.18 The salient point to note for my purpose here is that both place great emphasis on the healing potentiality of language.Both shaman and tantric practitioner see language as essentially magical and therapeutic in nature.Language is magical because of its ability to evoke change on the internal and psychological level but also on the level of external reality, due to the fact that no separation is made between the two realms. Snyder has emphasised the importance of language in this context, writing that


one of the few modes of speech that gives us access to that other yogic or shamanistic view(in which all is one and all is many, and the many are all precious) is poetry or song.(TOW,13-4)


The tantric practitioner sees the language of a mantra (which means instrument of thought or speech 19)as effecting transformation on the consciousness of an individual by virtue of the stored power embodied in the syllables.Snyder has extended this in suggesting that


mantras or koans or spells are actually superelliptical poems that the reader cannot understand except that he has to put hundreds of more hours of meditation in toward getting it than he has to put in to get the message out of a normal poem."(TRW,21-2)


The parallels between the poet and the shaman have been explored in a number of studies 20,and Snyder's assertion that the poem seeks to "jump from the healing impulse in Buddhism to a North American shamanistic healing"21,suggests that he is well aware of this theme. The esoteric and exclusive languages of both shamanic utterance and mantra,  resemble the 'defamiliarised poetic vocabulary. All are examples of 'entrainment', where an altered state of consciousness is induced through the use of a variety of techniques,including sound.Gary Doore in a short and provocative essay argues that, the


shaman driven into a trance by the sound of loud drumming,..the Zen monk sitting in silent meditation...and the yogi repeating a mantra...are all investigating entrainment...producing blocking through sensory overload of the sequential processing function of the left lobe of the brain(responsible for logical, rational thought processes),thus keeping activity of that hemisphere constant.22


Certainly Snyder subscribes to such a view, as he would also to the assertion in the same essay that yoga grew out of shamanic disciplines.My point is not to contend as several writers have poetry23, that shamanic trance is the origin of all religion or of all art, but to highlight that there is considerable evidence to support Snyder's claims about his own poetry. There is adequate evidence to support the sort of assertion that Snyder is making here for poetic language;namely that it is a healing song.(I quote this passage in full on pages 65-66).In his argument relating shamanic and poetic language, Snyder suggests that;


messages are transmitted and things are taught and songs are sung within the shamanistic special realms of practice...We bring back from our special practices... to the open realm of human dialogue where we can address it to anyone.24


The most obvious analogy is with the seer and prophet distinction that I outlined earlier, and this suggests the conclusion that the poem as a healing song relates the poet's own insight after the shamanic model.


            I turn now to a consideration of the specific features of the sutra of the Healing Buddha that are applicable to Snyder's use.The first point to emphasise is the general importance of both text and image as guides to enlightenment within Buddhist traditions.The vows of the Buddha of Healing include a pledge to assist those who hear his name.As Birnbaum puts it;


the calling of the name of the Buddha('O Lord Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Buddha') at any time or place invokes the Divine healing forces of that Buddha and his saving powers...the response will either be dramatically immediate, or it will manifest in the improved karmic circumstances of the next incarnation.25


This dramatic effect of recitation of the Healing Buddha's name is in line with the anticipated efficacy of mantras and suggests why Snyder translates it, on line 32 punningly using the Anglo Saxon word 'Spell', with its imprecatory connotations. The poet as shaman in summoning the Healing Buddha generates merit not only for himself but also for anyone listening to the recitation as well as for the regions in which it takes place.26 The contemporary worship of the Healing Buddha in China (known as Yao-Shih), adds another dimension to this aspect.Yao-Shih forms part of the visual iconography of Chinese Buddhist temples, with Sakyamuni seated in the centre, Amitabha seated to the right in the West, and the Healing Buddha seated to the East, in the realm of paradise.Birnbaum writes;


Bhaisajya-guru and Amitabha represent in this trinity the Divine forces watching over the living and the dead.Prayers for living persons, in this context, are directed to Bhaisajyga-guru, while prayers for friends and relatives are directed to Amitabha.27


Amitabha's western paradise is invoked in the lines "thinking on Amitabha in the setting sun,




                          his Western paradise-


                          impurities flow out away, to west,


                          behind us, rolling,




            The etymological explorations (of the words blue,sky turquoise,azure, medicine ,celestial and comrade ) are of course far more than mere digressive interludes, or the "dictionary entries (that) simply do not make a poem."28 The colours are all centered around the association blue sky; azure and turquoise both being described as sky-blue.As Snyder points out in the notes, the ideogram used for the sky in Chinese anglicised as K'ung represents sunyata or emptiness.The blue sky that surrounds the poem thus is/is not emptiness.I have noted earlier the importance of the concept of sunyata in Buddhist philosophy.Snyder cites the  Tibetan poet-saint Milarepa's assertion that 'The notion of emptiness engenders compassion' as an epigraph to the book.Enlightenment considered as enlightened heart/mind can only take place through Bodhicitta, which, as the sincere and compassionate desire to aid all sentient beings has obvious parallels to the healing foregrounded here.Sunyata is further alluded to by the etymology which in highlighting the positional nature of language terms directs the attention of  the reader to the absence of discrete identities and apparent linguistic interconnection.


            To read this as a homology between language and reality however is to draw the wrong conclusion about the poet's intention.It is less the case that language mirrors the reality of an interconnected world where all forms are without self-essence(the fundamental teaching of sunyata),but that language is the reality of the interconnected universe.Language within Buddhist philosophy is as real and as empty as the phenomenal world itself. Snyder's acceptance and emphasis of this point is apparent from the other epigraph to Mountains and Rivers Without End. Dˆgen's essay 'Painting of a Rice Cake', addresses precisely this issue.It alludes to a symbol of abstract theory that is worthless in realising the Buddha-Dharma.Dˆgen however writes that "If you say the painting is not real, then the material phenomenal world is not real, the Dharma is not real."29 The remark directs attention to the authenticity (the pre-conceptual suchness or tathata-the immanent aspect of sunyata) of all phenomena.Hence the conceptual is the emptiness that outlines the form or material reality, notwithstanding the fact that both painting of a rice cake and rice cake  are empty of self-essence.The crucial issue for Snyder's purposes is that Dˆgen's text highlights the actual phenomenal reality of language, so that the language of the poem is neither mirror or lamp to reality, but by virtue of being real in itself, lies somewhere between the two.30 Emptiness and form are inseparable and indivisible,as they interpenetrate.


            Snyder's view of language has been heavily influenced by his Zen practice.On the one hand, he dismisses the notion of an unsayable reality arguing that


in Zen we find that that which cannot be said is not complete.If you have an understanding and cannot express it, then your understanding is not yet complete.The act of expressing clarifies your understanding of it.However,the nature of that expression may not be clear and transparent to everybody, which is why Zen literature is not easy to follow...So the person who has a Zen eye can understand it.31


On the other hand he has stated that "I don't think with language..language is well after the fact..language comes in  much later".32 Language becomes then the culminating expression of experience; a conceptualisation that recalls Eliot's phrase(if not the ethos) the 'raid on the inarticulate' as well as those Romantic theories of language,that emphasise poetry as an expression of, the immanence in nature,rather than of the individual ego.33 To use Abrams' terms, poetry then operates to illuminate that which already exists.The problem is , of course that in a poem like the one in question language can appear more obfuscatory than illuminative.I would draw attention to Snyder's emphasis on the difficulty of some Zen literature, by way of answering this problem, not merely to suggest that Snyder is arguing for the view of language as a verbal pointer to reality, but that he is also arguing that language has the quality of a game.34 Whilst the poem as mantra, directs the reader's attention to an experience that is beyond language, it must be to an experience that the reader can potentially understand.


Whilst Snyder's poetic, then clearly shares immanentist ground with Wordsworth in emphasising already existing levels of numinous interconnection his position differs quite sharply from Romanticism in its de-emphasis of the self.Snyder outlines the distinction;


Romanticism is the human ego advancing and confirming nature and telling nature what it is.And seeing themselves in nature, to let nature tell you who you are is enlightenment.And I think that's the difference between my poetry and Romantic poetry.35


Lest this seems too dismissive of the Romantics, it should be borne in mind that the immanence of nature that marks Snyder's work is one informed by firstly the Buddhist deconstruction of the subjective ego and secondly by the science of ecology. Neither of these were available to Wordsworth and thus his quite radical assertions about poetry remained unsupported. As Altieri phrases it;


Poetic language neither imitates nor restructures reality but tries to disclose or reveal what we might  ordinarily not recognise...The poet can be a culture hero precisely because he understands that there are latent in his culture and in men's ordinary lives moral forms worth recognising and preserving".36


The struggle for Wordsworth's immanentist soul has been the subject of many studies over the last few decades, and whilst there is no critical concensus, there have been several suggestions that the poet's sensibilities reflect a proto-ecological awareness.37    


            For the interested reader ,Snyder's introduction of the lore of precious and semi-precious stones opens up the folkloric universe with which they are now familiar, recalling his characterisation of his era as the first in which world myth is universally available.Rather than chasing every reference to the folklore of blue stones, which have been exhaustively analysed in several studies, it is more productive to consider how the stones function in the poem itself.38 My contention is that within the space of the mantra the stones may be said to counter the fluid emptiness of the sky itself with their phenomenal form.Under the mantra-like chant of the poem all form has become an aid to enlightenment.Given that the associative index of stone, leads the reader toward Sartre's notorious dramatisation of nausea, where the essential whatness of the object negates the human subject, one is led to ask if Snyder's use of such imagery falls into the opposite trap of a vain human projection onto the landscape (variously called narcissism or the pathetic fallacy).Such anthropocentric recourse is a familiar poetic strategy to counter the brute facticity or tathata 39 of matter, that can erode the human subject.Where Sartre's anxiety stems from the erosion of subjectivity that the apprehension of 'suchness' engenders in his narrator, the narcissistic narrator attempts to evade this by vainly projecting human value into the object.40 I see this as the sort of fundamental Romantic strategy, that Snyder explicitly rejects in the interview quoted earlier.He similarly deals with nausea in an interview by suggesting that


when Sartre,the Western philosopher,goes to the tree,touches the tree trunk and says,'I feel in an absurd position-I cannot break through my skin to get in touch with this bark,which is outside me,'the Japanese poet would say...'Sartre is confessing the sickness of the West.(TRW,67)


It is clear that the subject/object dichotomy is regarded by Snyder as an illusory product of the Occidental mind rather than a metaphysical given.To lend weight to this interpretation ,Snyder earlier denies,in the same interview that poetry is self expression.


A great poet does not express his or her self,he expresses all of our selves.And to express all of our selves you have to go beyond your own self.Like Dogen,the Zen master,said,"We study the self to forget the self.And when we forget the self,you become one with all things."And that's why poetry's not self-expression in those small self terms.(TRW,65)


The distinction here,between a poetry of self and a poetry of selves, is crucial when Snyder's relation to the Romantics is considered.The Snyderian subject, of course is untroubled by the realisation that the subjective identity is fundamentally empty.


            Another avenue for emphasising this emptiness, of loosening the girders of the soul, of course, is the use of psychedelic or entheogenic substances.41 The allusion to 'the lord of the lost paradise./(Glory of morning,pearly gates,/tlitliltzin,the "heavenly blue".)',is an explicit reference to Meso-Amerindian shamanism.The seeds of the Morning glory plant (that includes the varieties pearly gates and heavenly blue) were used throughout pre-Columbian Meso-America in shamanic ritual(tlitliltzin is an Aztec word meaning 'sacred black ones').The seeds contain ergot derivatives, the naturally occurring substance chemically related to LSD25.The prefixing of this allusion with the phrase 'lord of the lost paradise', is not some sort of paeon to stoned bliss, however.The use of entheogenic morning glory seeds took place within the context of ritual practice where an ecstatic trance was used as a divinatory aid to diagnose the cause of a patient's sickness.The poet's allusion to such a psychoactive plant of the gods(whose contemporary local names among the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca include such epithets as Semilla de la Virgen/seed of the Virgin and Hierba Maria/Mary's Herb) with its associated use in healing rituals,emphasises the self dramatisation of the poet as shamanic culture healer.42


            At the close of the poem the only resolution offered is the emptiness and completeness of the sky itself, that is highlighted by the anaphora.The sky is both sunyata and tathatha; that is healing. As Julia Martin identifies it; "the awareness freedom from desire: wholeness, healing."43




 The blue sky




 the blue sky.




 The Blue Sky




 is the land of








 where the eagle that flies out of sight










            It is in the realisation of sunyata that the poet can begin to heal; as the epigraph from Milarepa that opens the work suggests. "The awareness of emptiness engenders compassion.". The blue sky, described by Martin as "the colour, not in the ordinary sense, of 'something' but of vast spaciousness"45, is the ku of the koan here. The blue sky as mutually and simultaneously sunyata and tathata operates as a visual koan. It invokes the type of mythological resonances that I have discussed, fusing both American Indian and Buddhist lore to manifest presence, and simultaneously the space embodies vast emptiness. Such dual allusions mirror the juxtapositional method that switches the attention from one to the other, from form to emptiness and back.


A description of the famous stone garden at the Rinzai Zen temple at Ryoan-ji, clarifies this point. The garden consists of fifteen rocks arranged on a large area of white sand in five groups of 5-2-3-2-3. Snyder's contemporary, the artist Will Peterson described the relationship between rock and sand.


To achieve the 'perfect mutual solution' of form and vacant space, the relationship must be so that the mind does not dwell on either form or vacant space, but flows freely between both, and includes both...Form is arranged in vacant space in such a way that we perceive emptiness as form and form as emptiness.46


The crucial point here is the free flowing of the mind between form and emptiness, that awakens the compassion that is healing. Compassion flows from the dissolution of self into sunyata, and the simultaneous awareness of form. The poet as shamanic healer works through the use of mantric poem to emphasise emptiness, each juxtaposed fragment being constantly replaced by another so that the mind cannot dwell anywhere.Emptiness, as Nagarjuna said is essentially compassion.47 The poet's strategy for healing depends upon juxtaposing emptiness and form. The emptiness of the sky and of the vast open space of the American continent, and the form of Buddhist and Native American myth.


            A similar strategy moves the poem 'The Hump-Backed Flute Player'. Opening with an invocation of the most ancient petroglyphs in the American Southwest, Kokopilau, the poem immediately juxtaposes Hs¸an Tsang, who;


  went to India 629 AD


  returned to China 645


  with 657 sutras, images, mandalas,


  and fifty relics-




The connective between these seemingly disparate figures is the arterial rivers of the body of the land itself.


   the Pamir the Tarim Turfan


   the Punjab      the doab


   of Ganga and Yamuna,




Sweetwater, Quileute, Hoh


Amur, Tanana, Mackenzie, Old Man,


Big horn, Platte, the San Juan




            Both figures are used by Snyder as symbols of seed bearing. According to Hopi myth, Kokopilau carried the seeds of plants and flowers which he distributed during the Hopi migrations, creating warmth with the music of his flute. The frequent representation of the figure with an erect penis is believed to symbolise human fertility.48 As Snyder points out in his notes "As a possible emblem of genetic diversity his work is not over:guardianship and preservation, not just of plants and animals, but of peoples and cultures as well."(MRWE,160) Hs¸an Tsang brought back the Heart Sutra from India to China; what Snyder calls the "one-page condensation of the whole philosophy of transcendent wisdom"(MRWE,160-1).49 The idea of a distillation of regenerative wisdom is thereby emphasised. Of Hs¸an Tsang, Snyder suggests;


            he carried




            he carried


                   "mind only"








            This last reference requires explanation of what Snyder is emphasising. The Yogacara school was the other major sect of early Indian Buddhism, stressing that all of reality is 'mind only' or 'nothing but consciousness'. The basic premise is that all of reality is interdependent and relational, and (most pertinently for Snyder's work here) that the Buddha nature(seed or essence) is present in all phenomena. In emphasising interdependence, the Yogacara tradition stressed the positive aspects of sunyata whereas its main rival, the Madhyamaka laid more weight on the use 


of sunyata as a means of cutting through attachment to form.


The purpose of these somewhat esoteric allusions is not to be obscurantist, but to stress again the poet's faith in redemptive imagery. Snyder's enthusiasm for myth has been exhaustively discussed, in relation to his contention that it amounts to a provisional ordering of reality. Snyder's assertion that "poetry is intimately linked to any culture's fundamental worldview, body of lore, which is its myth base, its symbol base, and the source of much of its values-that myth-lore foundation that underlies any society"(TRW,70), amounts to a declaration that the poet is hatching a new myth. The products of mind are accessible to all of humanity. He writes that "folklore and mythology are the koans of humanity and that all of humanity has that as its store of feelings to deeply return to over and over again, and to make one more leap into a very sizable community".(TRW,84) The redemptive possibilities that this allows the shamanic poet, acting to heal his culture is typified by the invocation of a Native American revitalisation movement.Hence;


Ghost bison,ghost bears,ghost bighorns,ghost lynx,ghost pronghorns, ghost panthers, ghost marmots, ghost owls: swirling and gathering, sweeping down,


     Then the white man will be gone.           


     butterflies on slopes of grass and aspen-


     thunderheads the deep blue of Krishna


            The lines allude to the Ghost Dance belief that the earth would roll up and swallow the whites and their cities before the old ways would return with the return of the game and the wildlife. As Snyder points out in his notes "White man' here is not a racial designation, but a name for a certain set of mind. When we all become born-again natives of Turtle Island, then the 'white man' will be gone." (MRWE,161). As well intentioned as such attempts to evade contemporary political realities may be this remains a contentious strategy.The way to such transformation of the invader mentality depends upon a variety of redemptive images. Some of these are from the east as "the million waving grass-seed-buddhas", or the delicately evoked ruins of Nalanda. Or more obviously from Turtle Island; the hump-backed flute player in Canyon de Chelly, or the "Bristlecone Pine". The invisible presence of the Indian intrudes to remind the poet of his burden. "Ah, what am I carrying? What's this load?" This is not a reference, as Steuding woud have it to the poet's need to atone for his complicity in Indian genocide, but refers to the 'burden' of cultural transmission.50 The poet invokes the vision of "old Jack Wilson,/Wovoka, the prophet", not looking back to what Steuding refers to as 'pathetic' ghosts, but instead looking forward to Wovoka's vision. The lines


Black Coyote saw the whole world


In Wovoka's empty hat


suggests that the poet can use such prophetic visions to serve the redemptive aspirations of his work. The earlier ghost section of the poem restates Wovoka's vision, and as is clear corresponds to Snyder's own. These lines are followed with several meditative snapshots of phenomenal reminders of the immensity of space within which the poet's mind moves. All myth and history is opened up as the poet is able to know the planet as one ecosystem; depending both upon the "worldwide network of folktale and myth imagery that has been the 'classical tradition' ...and the new(but always there) knowledge of the worldwide interdependence of natural systems".(TRW,173).


all manner of beings


may swim in my sea


echoing up conch spiral chambers




the mirror:countless ages back


dressing  or laughing


what world today?




The ability to operate within such space, even to be aware of it is a testament to the poet's practice; what he refers to as




pearl crystal jewel


taming and teaching


the dragon in the spine




spiral wheel


or breath of mind




The openness that such practice produces enables the shamanic poet to be receptive to the still small voices of Turtle Island.


it was whispered to me


by the oldest of trees




By the Oldest of Beings


the Oldest of Trees




Bristlecone Pine.




And all night long sung on


    by a young throng




of Pinyon Pine.




            The 'problem' of Snyder's feminising of nature (the strategy that I am here metonymising as Gaia imagery) persists.Patrick Murphy, Tim Dean and Julia Martin have all critiqued Snyder in this regard.A brief survey of their opinions is necessary before looking at whether Snyder's work in Mountains & Rivers Without End evades these criticisms. Murphy has discussed Gaia imagery in terms of a "broader movement to resacralise nature;it also is the most recent manifestation of the Western tendency to render the planet in female gender terms"51, and highlights the implausibility of any attempt  to utilise an image derived from a patriarchal culture in a non-sexist manner.He goes on to discuss the passivity and subservience of the roles attributed to the female within patriarchal cultures, suggesting that the mere attribution of a feminine attributes implies that the planet is thereby downgraded.


            The difficulties that I have with accepting this logic, notwithstanding any real difficulties that there are with feminising the ground, is that Murphy repeats a common critical strategy of overemphasising the bucolic connotations of the name Gaia. This says less about Gaia than about critical projection, there is ample evidence in Greek mythology, for example to emphasise the more demonic aspects of Gaia.One thinks of the goddess' encouragement of her son Cronus' castration of his father Uranus' (her husband) and her bearing of the monster Typhon, by way of countering any rigid view of Gaia as a benevolent and nurturing deity.


To be fair to James Lovelock,(the biochemist who, with the assistance of the novelist William Golding, first applied the name) his comments on Gaia have frequently stressed the less congenial elements of the metaphor.Lovelock, in the 'Green' issue of Poetry Review warned that "If a species, such as humans , adversely affects the environment, then in time it will be eliminated with no more pity than is shown by the micro-brain of an intercontinental ballistic missile on course to its target".52 Given the explicitness of such remarks it is surprising that the nurturing aspects have been seized upon in most commentaries on Gaia, something that Lovelock might have avoided if he had used a name like Kali, for example.             Similarly Martin has raised the issue of the attribution of gender to nature in Snyder's work. She writes that ;


Snyder's Goddess connects nature, woman, and all the other unfortunates that appear on the wrong side of the divide in a binary is quite explicitly an attempt to heal the damage caused by these attitudes and to propose the mythic feminine as an image of totality.(my emphasis)53


As Martin indicates, the key issue here is the attempt toward a transcendence of dualisms that Snyder derives from Buddhism. In an interview Snyder argues that;


Buddhism would say that the male/female differences are real enough, but on a fairly illusory level, and that our essential nature is free of all that. After all, our essential nature is the nature of rocks and trees, and there are no men and women there."54


The extent to which such transcendence of gender is possible will be considered in relation to Snyder's use of the Buddhist deity Tara, goddess of compassionate wisdom.


            Tara , known as 'She Who Leads Across', appears in Snyder's work as early as Regarding Wave. Tara  is at once boddhissatva, mother goddess, and tantric deity, whose worship continues in India, Tibet, and Nepal. Her boddhissatva nature is unique in that she attained enlightenment as a woman, and thereafter took the Boddhissatva Vow, defying the tradition that boddhissatva's were male.55 Tara's remarks after achieving enlightenment and being urged to pray for transformation into a man, clarify her transcendence of dualistic thinking.


Here there is no man, there is no woman


No self, no person, and no consciousness.


Labelling 'male' or 'female' has no essence,


But deceives the evil-minded world.56


Snyder makes the same point, in a letter to Julia Martin, when he describes how the use of binary oppositions, of which gender is one, is purely a strategic one.


There are such terms in esoteric Buddhism as the garbha (womb) realm and the vajra (thunderbolt) realm. But all of these are studied to the point of dissolving the dualism...Prajna paramita is the 'perfection' of a kind of wisdom that goes beyond such distinctions as being/nonbeing yin/yang essential/phenomenal or even wise/ignorant, or even enlightened/unenlightened. The wisdom that has done this is the wisdom that has 'gone beyond'...But to make the circle interesting, the esoteric Buddhist tradition represents the wisdom that goes beyond all dualisms as...a goddess.57   


            This association goes some way to countering that critique, typified by Dean of what he sees as Snyder's valorisation of "Nature as the good mother, Mother Gaia."58 Dean, in arguing that the "strategy of gendering the land as female - and thence valorising it - simply perpetuates the oppressive patriarchal ideology it is trying to subvert"59, misses the point that the it is precisely such oppositions as valorised/denigrated that Snyder seeks to transcend.  Snyder's use of Gaia/Tara‚  as a redemptive image for the whole system is less a gendering of the planet, than a metaporisation of the idea that it is one system. As metaphors Gaia as the Classical mother of the gods and Tara‚  as mother of the Buddhas are both provisional orderings of a reality that transcends such dualism. In the light of the extent to which this one system is under threat from human action concern over the legitimacy of feminising tropes can seem somewhat trivial. Ted Hughes, trenchant as ever, has described the increasing evidence of the destructive effects of organochlorides on mammalian fertility as equivalent to the state demanding a testicle from every male in the country!60 The value of such imagery in highlighting an increasin1gly stark reality is not confined to the elegiac mode . The Tibetan belief that all sentient beings have been our mother in beginningless time operates as a spur to compassion rather than to justify gender based oppression.     


            A recent study of the Buddhist deity Tara  clarifies a point that Snyder has made; namely the representation of dualism transcending wisdom as female.


Tara's Wisdom is emphasised by Her title 'Mother of All Buddhas. Wisdom can only be feminine because it is insight into Ultimate True Nature or Emptiness,  one and indivisible,  the eternal and immutable source and ground of all that is."61


Despite(or perhaps because of)the use of the more familiar Gaia,  in place of the esoteric Tara‚ ,  Snyder is making the same point here about interconnection ; namely that the interconnected-network-biosphere-being embodied in Tara  is mother to all things. 62


             Thus there are two metaphors incorporated into such 'goddess imagery'; firstly that Gaia-Tara  symbolises the  interlocking-system as a whole and secondly that she represents the biosystem as that which literally gives birth to all beings. Accordingly Snyder's use of Tara‚ 's vow speaks for the whole work itself.


"Those who wish to attain supreme enlightenment


in a man's body are many...


therefore may I,


            until this world is emptied out,


serve the needs of beings


with my body of a woman."


            The key phrase here is 'serve the needs of beings'; the traditional boddhissatva vow. Such feminine imagery, in which Mountains & Rivers Without End abounds is redemptive in that it speaks of the whole system; it serves to direct attention toward a generalised interconnection that informs the whole system, and which can be realised through direct contact with specific space. Snyder's work here epitomises the maxim to 'think globally and act locally'. Thus the frequently used feminine imagery operates as the genius loci to ground the work, as in 'An Offering for Tara ', where the context of Tara‚  worship is the "newest mountains,/Baby Krishna Himalaya,/snowy Storehouse Mountains,", of the "upper Indus River watershed, on the Western Tibetan Plateau, around Ladakh and its main town of Leh"(MRWE,161). Such landscapes become avatars of Tara‚ , she-who-leads-across. They are the arena for the transcendence of dualistic thinking.  


            The poems here celebrate six decades of openness to the voices of those various tutelary spirits that have informed Snyder's work.


Ghosts of lost landscapes


     herds and flocks,


           towns and clans,


great teachers from all lands


tucked in Wovoka's empty hat,


      stored in Baby Krishna's mouth,


             kneeling for tea


in Vimalakirti's one small room




Above all it celebrates the individual voices of the planet-biosystem, as in 'We Wash our Bowls in This Water'. Snyder juxtaposes a reverential Zen meal-time prayer with a scientific text on the photosynthetic reconstitution of water. Such temporary knots in the web are the living fabric of the biosystem that Mountains and Rivers Without End celebrates. They, as much as his fellow creatures on the way, are the body of the Gaia-Tara -web of which the poet sings. His lifelong devotion to the real work, of spreading the dharma of the Gaia-Tara‚ -web is aptly summarised by his closing dedication to the generations to come.


This poem, which I have come to think of as a sort of of sutra-an extended poetic, philosophic, and mythic narrative of the female Buddha Tara‚ -is for them.(MRWE,158)   


Snyder may well be too modest.In fact Mountains and Rivers Without End stands as a testament to Snyder's engagement with the Gaia-Tara‚ -web of which we all are a part. Using the century's premier poetic form, the long poem, he moves from the regionally and locally specific to the planetary, highlighting the interconnected weave as he goes. His true genius is to foreground the interdependent co-arising of all phenomena in a work and ultimately an engaged life that has truly been 'for all'.  










1.Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 144.


2.Gary Snyder, 'A Brief Account of the Ring of Bone Zendo,I',  Ring Of Bone Zendo Newsletter, 15th October 1986,8-9. cited in Murphy, Understanding Gary Snyder, 14.


3.Patrick D.Murphy , Understanding Gary Snyder.1992  ,75.


Ekbert Faas,'An interview with Gary Snyder', in Toward a New American Poetics:Essays & Interviews.Santa Barbara.Black Sparrow.1979,132.Faas writing of the difficulty of the poem emphasises 'all those names'.


4.For example Murphy 1992, repeats Beongchen Yu's misreading of the figure of 'Old Man Medicine Buddha' as 'combining Hsuan Tsang and Koko'pilau; a (mis)interpretation that is surprising given that he cites Snyder's explicit linking of the poem (in Katherine McNeill's bibliography) with Bhaishajyaguru's sutra.However the Healing Buddha is not a very well known figure amongst Occidental Buddhists, let alone literary critics, so it is an understandable error.Hsuan Tsang, of course who I discuss later carried the sutra of the Healing Buddha to China from India.Koko'pilau is not mentioned in either of the versions of the poem although his image appears in Version 1.      


5.Snyder notes (at a London reading of 'Dharma Poems') that Walter Liebenthal's translation 'is not available' .I was unable to find a copy but have benefited from Raoul Birnbaum's ,The Healing Buddha. London.(Shambhala.Revised Ed 1989).I am grateful to the librarian of the Buddhist Society for drawing this work to my attention.


6.Ekbert Faas , 'An interview with Gary Snyder', in Toward a New American Poetics:Essays & Interviews. ,140.


7 .Snyder has recently been awarded Yale University Library's Bollingen Prize in Poetry for 1997. 


8.Julia Martin , 'Practicing Emptiness:Gary Snyder's Playful Ecological Work',Western American Literature.1992.


9.Julia Martin, 'Coyote Mind: An Interview with Gary Snyder', ,,151.


10.Julia Martin, 'Practicing Emptiness:Gary Snyder's Playful Ecological Work', 9


11.James Kraus ,Gary Snyder's Biopoetics,defines confabulation as 'filling in of memory with spontaneous association',81.


12.Gary Snyder in Sherman Paul , In Search of the Primitive ,301


13 .Snyder, Faas Interview, 137.


14.There are three different versions of this poem and I am loath to label any one definitive. One in 'Six Sections Plus One'.(a reprint of that which appeared in Caterpillar.5.1968,Version 1) one in 'No Nature' (Version 2) and one in  Mountains & Rivers Without End,(Version 3) The eight images of Kokopilau which are used to break up the sections of the poem  appear only in   Version 1.


15.Bob Steuding , Gary Snyder, op cit , 108.


16.The translation of the Sanskrit does not appear in the Version 2.The etymological line reads ;


Heal . hail whole (khailaz . .  .kail  .   .   .koil I.E.r) (Version 1.)                             


Heal. hale whole(unblemished ...kailo )"holy"               (Version 2.) 


Heal ,      hale. . . . whole. (Version 3.) 


17.Also described as the experience of 'pure reality', the Clear Light of the Void is traditionally associated with the moment of death.The 'Ground Luminosity, or 'Clear Light,' where consciousness itself dissolves into the all-encompassing space of truth'.Sogyal Rinpoche , The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying ,259.  Yoga of the Clear Light is an advanced tantric practice that teaches the adept to accept rather than flee from the Clear Light experienced at death, by familiarisation.


18.This identification of  Bˆn as a shamanic faith is not without problems.See Geoffrey Samuel, op cit.


19.Agehananda Bharati ,. The Tantric Tradition. New Delhi. B.I.Publications.1983.,103


20.Tom Henighan , 'Shamans,Tribes, and the Sorcerers Apprentice:Notes on the Discovery of the Primitive in Modern Poetry'.Dalhousie Review.59, 1979. Michael Tucker ,Dreaming with Open Eyes:The Shamanic Spirit in Twentieth Century Art and Culture.London.Harper Collins.1992. Michael Sweeting , Hughes and Shamanism',in The Achievement of Ted Hughes,ed Keith Sagar.Manchester University Press. 1983.


21.Patrick.D.Murphy,Understanding Gary Snyder ,74.


22.Gary Doore , 'Shamans,Yogis, and Boddhissatvas', in 'Shaman's Path:Healing,Personal Growth and Empowerment'.London.Shambhala.1988 , 217.


23.See Weston La Barre , The Ghost Dance.New York.Doubleday.1970.Andreas Lommel , Shamanism:the Beginnings of Art.New York.McGraw Hill.1967.


24.Faas Interview, Faas,Towards a New American Poetics,128.


25.Raoul Birnbaum,The Healing Buddha , 84.


26.Raoul Birnbaum,The Healing Buddha.


27.Raoul Birnbaum,The Healing Buddha,91.


28.Yao-fu Lin ,' "The Mountains are Your Mind":Orientalism in the Poetry of Gary Snyder.' ,Tamkang Review,6,1975,383.


29.Dˆgen,'Shobogenzo Gabyo'(Painting of a Rice Cake),Kazuaki Tanahashi,Moon in a Dewdrop:Writings of Zen Master Dogen.Berkeley.North Point Press.1985.


30.Pre-Romantic and Romantic theories about the nature of poetic language have tended either to see the poetic mind and poetry itself as a mirror reflecting reality as it is or as a lamp illuminating (and transforming) reality.M.H.Abrams ,The Mirror and the Lamp.Oxford: Oxford University Press.1971, discusses these in considerable depth.


31.Julia Martin , 'Coyote Mind:An Interview with Gary Snyder',Triquarterly,79,1990 ,166.


32.Gary Snyder,'Interview with Lewis MacAdams.December 12th 1988'


33.An example of the former would be Shelley's lines from 'A Defense of Poetry', where he writes of "a going out of our own nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own".in Shelley's Poetry and Prose.New York.Norton Critical Editions.1977 ,487.


34.This is the point that Wittgenstein was making (in Philosophical Investigations) when he asserted that 'if a lion could speak we could not understand him'.The comprehension of language games requires a similar enough worldview.The language of a Zen master is liable to be superficially impenetrable to outsiders.


35.Harald Mensch , 'The Richness of Interface(Ein Interview mit Gary Snyder)'. Amerikastudien=American Studies,32,1987.


36.Charles Altieri , 'Wordsworth's "Preface" as Literary Theory'.Criticism,18,1976,135-136.


37.Karl Kroeber , Ecological Literary Criticism:Romantic Imagining and the Biology of Mind.New York.Columbia University Press. 1994. Terry Gifford , Green Voices:Understanding Contemporary Nature Poetry.Manchester University Press.1995. Both writers highlight the importance of the poem 'Home at Grasmere' (believed to be the part of the unfinished work, The Recluse) in most explicitly articulating the poet's immanentist ethic.


38.An excellent and fascinating discussion of gems, with a great deal of relevant background information for this poem is George Frederick Kunz , The Curious Lore of Precious Stones.New York.Dover.1971(reprint of 1913 edition.).Also of great interest is Lois Sherr Dubin , The History of Beads from 30,000 B.C to the Present.London.Thames Hudson.1991.  


39.The term tathata, is one of the fundamental terms of Mahayana Buddhism (Great Vehicle Buddhism,which,with its adherence to the spirit rather than the letter of the sacred texts,and clear recognition of the many paths to enlightenment, has the openness which Snyder clearly approves of).It is usually represented by the clumsy neologisms; 'suchness', 'thatness',or 'thusness'.It derives from the Buddhist Ashvagosha's designation of being.It is this concept which formed the basis of Nagarjuna's celebrated demolition of metaphysical concepts,and subsequent proof that reality cannot be grasped by concepts or ideas.Deriving from this he named that which may not be named as sunyata,or the void,which is one of the fundamental Buddhist tenets.


40.A modern example is Ted Hughes' poem,  'Pibroch', which asserts that  'A pebble is imprisoned/like nothing in the universe' .


41.Psychedelic (meaning mind-manifesting) as a term is not only orthographically incorrect, but has been discredited by association with the sixties counterculture.The neologism entheogenic (meaning 'realising the divine within') seems a more appropriate term for Snyder's purposes here.See Jonathon Ott , Pharmacotheon:Entheogenic drugs, their plant sources and history.Kennewick .Natural Products Co.1993, for a discussion of the etymology.


42.For a description of the sacred morning glory use in contemporary Mexico see Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann , Plants of the Gods:Their Sacred,Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers.Rochester, Vermont.Healing Arts Press.1992. Jonathon Ott , Pharmacotheon:Entheogenic Drugs, their Plant Sources and History.Kennewick .Natural Products Co.1993, Ch 2.


43.Martin, 'Practicing Emptiness: Gary Snyder's Playful Ecological Work', 9


44.Sherman Paul,  In Search of the Primitive, 288, argues for this representing "the absolute for which blue stands in Buddhist thought", which is a rather careless use of language.. In fact as Martin points out it is  more to do with the "realization in the everyday of the acentric relatedness that sunyata implies". Martin, 'Practicing Emptiness: Gary Snyder's Playful Ecological Work ,17. Paul does go on to indicate that "nothing is unrelated in a universe of interdependence",289.


45.Martin, 'Practicing Emptiness: Gary Snyder's Playful Ecological Work', 9.


46.Will Peterson, 'Stone Garden', Evergreen Review 1,1957,134. Shu-chun Huang, 'A Hua-yen Buddhist Perspective of Gary Snyder',  uses this example and quotes Peterson, although not in relation to the pom in question.


47.Quoted in Robert Thurman, Tsong Khapa's Speech of Gold in the Essence of True Eloquence. Reason and Enlightenment in the Central Philosophy of Tibet, Princeton: Princeton University Press.1984, 171.


48. Frank Waters,  Book of the Hopi, London:Penguin, 1977, claims that the figure was left by the Hopi "from the tip of South America, all the way up to Canada", 38.


49.Hs¸an Tsang (596-664), known as the 'Great Traveller'  visited most of the sacred sites in India, journeying on foot through Iran, Afganhistan, Tien Shan. His life and travels inspired the novel Monkey, translated by Arthur Waley.


50.Steuding, Gary Snyder, 102.


51.Patrick.D.Murphy,'Sex-typing the Planet:Gaia Imagery and the Problem of Subverting Patriarchy',Environmental Ethics,10,1988.


52.James Lovelock,Poetry Review,80,1990,4.


53.Martin, 'The Pattern Which Connects :Metaphor in Gary Snyder's Later Poetry', 118.


54.Martin, 'Coyote Mind:An Interview with Gary Snyder, 158.


55."There are many who desire Enlightenment in a man's body, but none who work for the benefit of sentient beings in the body of a woman. Therefore until samsara is empty, I shall work for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman's body". T‰r‰'s Vow in, Martin Willson,In Praise of T‰r‰:Songs to the Saviouress. Boston:Wisdom 1996,34. Snyder quotes the vow in the poem.




57.Snyder, letter to Julia Martin, 20 August 1984, quoted in Martin, 'The Pattern Which Connects: Metaphor in Gary Snyder's Later Poetry', 114.


58.Dean, Understanding Gary Snyder, 178.




60. Man of Mettle, An Interview With Ted Hughes, Blake Morrison, The Independent on Sunday, 5th September 1993. Paul Brown, ' Ruining by Imitation', The Guardian Thursday 15th May 1997.


61.Willson,In Praise of In Praise of Tara:Songs to the Saviouress,13.


62. The Tibetan maxim that all beings have been our mother in beginingless time makes the same point.