The European Times is sharing the Ten Love Letters to the Earth of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. These meditations are an invitation to engage in intimate conversation, a living dialogue, with our Earth.
Beloved Mother of All Things
Dear Mother Earth,
I bow my head before you as I look deeply and recognize that you are present in me and that I’m a part of you. I was born from you and you are always present, offering me everything I need for my nourishment and growth. My mother, my father, and all my ancestors are also your children. We breathe your fresh air. We drink your clear water. We eat your nourishing food. Your herbs heal us when we’re sick.
You are the mother of all beings. I call you by the human name Mother and yet I know your mothering nature is more vast and ancient than humankind. We are just one young species of your many children. All the millions of other species who live—or have lived—on Earth are also your children. You aren’t a person, but I know you are not less than a person either. You are a living breathing being in the form of a planet.
Each species has its own language, yet as our Mother you can understand us all. That is why you can hear me today as I open my heart to you and offer you my prayer.
Dear Mother, wherever there is soil, water, rock or air, you are there, nourishing me and giving me life. You are present in every cell of my body. My physical body is your physical body, and just as the sun and stars are present in you, they are also present in me. You are not outside of me and I am not outside of you. You are more than just my environment. You are nothing less than myself.
I promise to keep the awareness alive that you are always in me, and I am always in you. I promise to be aware that your health and well-being is my own health and well-being. I know I need to keep this awareness alive in me for us both to be peaceful, happy, healthy, and strong.
Sometimes I forget. Lost in the confusions and worries of daily life, I forget that my body is your body, and sometimes even forget that I have a body at all. Unaware of the presence of my body and the beautiful planet around me and within me, I’m unable to cherish and celebrate the precious gift of life you have given me. Dear Mother, my deep wish is to wake up to the miracle of life. I promise to train myself to be present for myself, my life, and for you in every moment. I know that my true presence is the best gift I can offer to you, the one I love.
Your Wonder, Beauty and Creativity
Dear Mother Earth,
Each morning when I wake up you offer me twenty-four brand new hours to cherish and enjoy your beauty. You gave birth to every miraculous form of life. Your children include the clear lake, the green pine, the pink cloud, the snowcapped mountain top, the fragrant forest, the white crane, the golden deer, the extraordinary caterpillar, and every brilliant mathematician, skilled artisan, and gifted architect. You are the greatest mathematician, the most accomplished artisan, and the most talented architect of all. The simple branch of cherry blossoms, the shell of a snail, and the wing of a bat all bear witness to this amazing truth. My deep wish is to live in such a way that I am awake to each of your wonders and nourished by your beauty. I cherish your precious creativity and I smile to this gift of life.
We humans have talented artists, but how can our paintings compare to your masterpiece of the four seasons? How could we ever paint such a compelling dawn or create a more radiant dusk? We have great composers, but how can our music compare to your celestial harmony with the sun and planets—or to the sound of the rising tide? We have great heroes and heroines who have endured wars, hardship, and dangerous voyages, but how can their bravery compare to your great forbearance and patience along your hazardous journey of eons? We have many great love stories, but who among us has love as immense as your own, embracing all beings without discrimination?
Dear Mother, you have given birth to countless buddhas, saints, and enlightened beings. Shakyamuni Buddha is a child of yours. Jesus Christ is the son of God, and yet he is also the son of Man, a child of the Earth, your child. Mother Mary is also a daughter of the Earth. The Prophet Mohammed is also your child. Moses is your child. So too are all the bodhisattvas. You are also mother to eminent thinkers and scientists who have made great discoveries, investigating and understanding not only our own solar system and Milky Way, but even the most distant galaxies. It’s through these talented children that you are deepening your communication with the cosmos. Knowing that you have given birth to so many great beings, I know that you aren’t mere inert matter, but living spirit. It’s because you’re endowed with the capacity of awakening that all your children are too. Each one of us carries within ourself the seed of awakening, the ability to live in harmony with our deepest wisdom—the wisdom of interbeing.
But there are times when we have not done so well. There are times when we have not loved you enough; times when we have forgotten your true nature; and times when we have discriminated and treated you as something other than ourself. There have even been times when, through ignorance and unskillfulness, we have underestimated, exploited, wounded, and polluted you. That is why I make the deep vow today, with gratitude and love in my heart, to cherish and protect your beauty, and to embody your wondrous consciousness in my own life. I vow to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before me, to live with awakening and compassion, and so be worthy of calling myself your child.
Walking Tenderly on Mother Earth
Dear Mother Earth,
Every time I step upon the Earth, I will train myself to see that I am walking on you, my Mother. Every time I place my feet on the Earth I have a chance to be in touch with you and with all your wonders. With every step I can touch the fact that you aren’t just beneath me, dear Mother, but you are also within me. Each mindful and gentle step can nourish me, heal me, and bring me into contact with myself and with you in the present moment.
Walking in mindfulness I can express my love, respect, and care for you, our precious Earth. I will touch the truth that mind and body are not two separate entities. I will train myself to look deeply to see your true nature: you are my loving mother, a living being, a great being—an immense, beautiful, and precious wonder. You are not only matter, you are also mind, you are also consciousness. Just as the beautiful pine or tender grain of corn possess an innate sense of knowing, so, too, do you. Within you, dear Mother Earth, there are the elements of Earth, water, air and fire; and there is also time, space, and consciousness. Our nature is your nature, which is also the nature of the cosmos.
I want to walk gently, with steps of love and with great respect. I shall walk with my own body and mind united in oneness. I know I can walk in such a way that every step is a pleasure, every step is nourishing, and every step is healing—not only for my body and mind, but also for you, dear Mother Earth. You are the most beautiful planet in our entire solar system. I do not want to run away from you, dear Mother, nor to hurry. I know I can find happiness right here with you. I do not need to rush to find more conditions for happiness in the future. At every step I can take refuge in you. At every step I can enjoy your beauties, your delicate veil of atmosphere and the miracle of gravity. I can stop my thinking. I can walk relaxingly and effortlessly. Walking in this spirit I can experience awakening. I can awaken to the fact that I am alive, and that life is a precious miracle. I can awaken to the fact that I am never alone and can never die. You are always there within me and around me at every step, nourishing me, embracing me, and carrying me far into the future.
Dear Mother, you wish that we live with more awareness and gratitude, and we can do this by generating the energies of mindfulness, peace, stability, and compassion in our daily lives. Therefore I make the promise today to return your love and fulfill this wish by investing every step I take on you with love and tenderness. I am walking not merely on matter, but on spirit.
Your Stability, Patience, and Inclusiveness
Dear Mother Earth,
You are this infinitely beautiful blue planet, fragrant, cool, and kind. Your immeasurable patience and endurance makes you a great bodhisattva. Even though we’ve made many mistakes, you always forgive us. Every time we return to you, you are ready to open your arms and embrace us.
Whenever I am unstable, every time I lose touch with myself, or am lost in forgetfulness, sadness, hatred, or despair, I know I can come back to you. Touching you, I can find a refuge; I can reestablish my peace and regain my joy and self-confidence. You love, protect, and nurture all of us without discrimination.
You have an immense capacity to embrace, handle, and transform everything that is cast at you, whether it be great asteroids, refuse and filth, poisonous fumes, or radioactive waste. Time helps you to do this, and your history has shown that you always succeed, even if it takes millions of years. You were able to reestablish equilibrium after the devastating collision that created the moon and have endured at least five mass extinctions, reviving yourself every time. You have an extraordinary capacity to renew, transform, and heal yourself—and also us, your children.
I have faith in your great power of healing. My faith comes from my own observation and experience, not from something others have told me to believe. That’s why I know I can take refuge in you. As I walk, sit, and breathe, I can surrender myself to you, trust wholly in you, and allow you to heal me. I know I don’t have to do anything at all. I can simply relax, release all the tension in my body, and all the fears and worries in my mind. Whether I’m sitting or walking, lying down or standing, I allow myself to take refuge in you, and allow myself to be held and healed by you. I entrust myself to you, Mother Earth. Each one of us needs a place of refuge, but we may not know how to find it or how to get there. Looking deeply today, I can see that my true home, my true place of refuge is you, my beloved planet. I take refuge in you, Mother Earth. I do not have to go anywhere to find you; you are already in me and I am already in you.
Dear Mother, each time I sit in stillness on your Earth, I will be aware that because you are in me, I can embody your wonderful qualities: of solidity, perseverance, patience, and forbearance; of depth, endurance, and stability; of great courage, non-fear, and inexhaustible creativity. I vow to practice wholeheartedly to realize these qualities, knowing that you have already sown these potentials as seeds in the soil of my heart and mind.
Heaven on Earth
Dear Mother Earth,
There are those of us who walk the Earth searching for a promised land, not realizing that you are the wondrous place we’ve been looking for our whole lives. You already are a wonderful and beautiful Kingdom of Heaven—the most beautiful planet in the solar system; the most beautiful place in the heavens. You are the Pure Land where countless buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past manifested, realized enlightenment, and taught the Dharma. I do not need to imagine a Pure Land of the Buddha to the west or a Kingdom of God above where I will go when I die. Heaven is here on Earth. The Kingdom of God is here and now. I don’t need to die to be in the Kingdom of God. In fact, I need to be very much alive. I can touch the Kingdom of God with every step. When I touch the present moment deeply in the historical dimension, I touch the kingdom; I touch the Pure Land; I touch the ultimate; and I touch eternity. In deep contact with the Earth and wonders of life, I touch my true nature. The exquisite orchid flower, the ray of sunshine, and even my own miraculous body—if they do not belong to the Kingdom of God, what does? Contemplating the Earth deeply, whether a floating cloud or a falling leaf, I can see the no-birth, no-death nature of reality. With you, dear Mother, we are carried into eternity. We have never been born and we will never die. Once we have realized this, we can then appreciate and enjoy life fully, no longer afraid of aging or death, nor caught in complexes about ourselves, nor yearning for things to be different than they are. We already are, and we already have, what we are looking for.
The Kingdom of Heaven exists, not outside of us, but within our very own hearts. Whether we’re able to touch the Kingdom of God or not at every step, depends on our way of looking, our way of listening, our way of walking. If my mind is calm and peaceful, then the very ground I’m walking on becomes a paradise.
There are those who say that in their heaven there is no suffering. But if there is no suffering, how can there be happiness? We need compost to grow flowers, and mud to grow lotuses. We need difficulties in order to arrive at realizations about them; enlightenment is always enlightenment about something.
Dear Mother, I promise to cultivate this way of looking. I promise to enjoy the practice of dwelling peacefully with mindfulness in the here and the now, so I can touch the Pure Land, the Kingdom of God, day and night. I promise that with every step I will touch eternity. With every step I will touch heaven here on Earth.
(to be continued)
From Love Letter to the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh (2013). Parallax Press, the publishing house of the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism.