Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth

Reading Gary Snyder and Dōgen in an Age of Ecological Crisis

By Jason M. Wirth

Subjects: Environmental Philosophy, Environment And Religion, Poetry, Literature
Series: SUNY series in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics
Paperback : 9781438465425, 174 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438465432, 174 pages, July 2017

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Table of contents

Preface (Milarepa’s Stone Tower)

Part I: The Great Earth
1. Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth

2. Geology (Poetic Word)

Part II: Turtle Island
3. Place (Land and Sea, Earth and Sky)

4. Bears (The Many Palaces of the Earth)

Part III. Earth Democracy
5. The Great Potlatch

6. Seeds of Earth Democracy


Engages the global ecological crisis through a radical rethinking of what it means to inhabit the earth.


FINALIST for the 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Philosophy category

Meditating on the work of American poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder and thirteenth-century Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dōgen, Jason M. Wirth draws out insights for understanding our relation to the planet's ongoing ecological crisis. He discusses what Dōgen calls "the Great Earth" and what Snyder calls "the Wild" as being comprised of the play of waters and mountains, emptiness and form, and then considers how these ideas can illuminate the spiritual and ethical dimensions of place. The book culminates in a discussion of earth democracy, a place-based sense of communion where all beings are interconnected and all beings matter. This radical rethinking of what it means to inhabit the earth will inspire lovers of Snyder's poetry, Zen practitioners, environmental philosophers, and anyone concerned about the global ecological crisis.

Jason M. Wirth is Professor of Philosophy at Seattle University. He is the author of Schelling's Practice of the Wild: Time, Art, Imagination and The Conspiracy of Life: Meditations on Schelling and His Time; the translator of The Ages of the World by F. W. J. Schelling; and the coeditor (with Patrick Burke) of The Barbarian Principle: Merleau-Ponty, Schelling, and the Question of Nature, all published by SUNY Press.


"Wirth's passion, resulting from his avoidance of academic distance, produces an urgent sense of the ecological stakes of the current crisis, as well as the practical value of Snyder and Dōgen's ideas for producing potential solutions. Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth is a powerful exercise in interdisciplinarity. Its eclecticism invites students of literature, philosophy, religion, and ecology, as well as anyone interested in the question of how to live during a time of ongoing environmental degradation." — Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

"This book is an exemplary work of scholarship and practice in cross-cultural environmental philosophy … With its philosophical grounding, moral and spiritual compass, alliance with indigenous people, and commitment to the commons, Wirth's radical proposal for earth democracy makes this book particularly compelling." — Journal of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition

"…Wirth's book offers rich material for scholars of Buddhist ethics." — Journal of Buddhist Ethics

"…Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth is a profound spiritual meditation upon the work of the American poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder and the thirteenth-century Zen Master Eihei Dōgen, and it represents the most sincere expression of engaged Zen practice as 'the cultivation of wisdom and compassion within our interdependent becoming with, through, and in, some way, as all other forms of life' … As a book from and about the Dharma, Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth awakens within us the heart of the Buddha." — Frontiers of Philosophy in China

"There are numerous books that discuss Snyder's ecological view and, to a lesser extent, his relation to Dōgen. There are also many books on Buddhism and ecology. But this book is unique in its focus and format and its authorial voice. It's a distinctive, ambitious, and timely work." — David Landis Barnhill, translator of Bashō's Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Bashō

"This is a very interesting book on, arguably, the most crucial topic that we are facing today. It makes us realize how deep we are in the ecological crisis, and that this crisis is not merely a crisis outside of us, but lies first and foremost deeply in ourselves. An incredibly timely and important book—I could not stop reading it and thinking about it." — Gerard Kuperus, author of Ecopolitical Homelessness: Defining Place in an Unsettled World