A Teacher’s Death and the Tao of Imperfection

Until last week, I had never heard of Michael Stone.  He was a respected Buddhist teacher, author, mental health advocate.  He died July 13.  He was 42 years old and left behind a wife, family, and evidently, legions of admirers in Canada.

Over the weekend, it was revealed that Stone likely died from an opioid overdose.  Naturally, there are some who find this shocking, disillusioning, feeling that yet another Buddhist teacher has let them down.  But actually this is a fairly common story.  It’s just another Buddhist who wasn’t perfect.  There are many such Buddhists.  I know because I’m one of them.

Dharma folk looking to following saints are in the wrong religion.  They should be hanging out with the Catholics.  They have lots of saints.  Most holy ones.  But the truth is, as American writer and salesman for the Larkin Soap Company, Elbert Hubbard pointed out, “Every saint has a bee in his halo.”

Sometimes you see a painting of Buddha with a sort of halo around his head but someone painted that.  Buddhism is a living philosophy.  The Buddha’s teachings centered on the human condition and the most salient characteristic of human existence, suffering.  We may read about how the Buddha was “The Perfect One,” but we have to understand that if he were an actual historical figure, at one time a living human being, he must have experienced suffering even, after he awakened.  There is no possibility that he was truly perfect.

At Lion’s Roar I read something Stone wrote that I thought was worth sharing:

“You’d think that given all this inner work, an incredible network of support, strong friendships, a loving partner and kids, and lastly, a life dedicated to embodying the dharma (literally every single day includes practice and study), that I’d be immune to extreme mental states…

It can be hard to admit even to ourselves that there are times when the stability of awareness that we discover in [meditation] just isn’t there.  When this started happening I’d say my practice needs to get deeper.  But the truth is, there was a chemical change in my brain.”

That chemical change was probably bipolar disorder, which Stone lived with all his life.  In the above quote, Stone is more or less acknowledging his own faults and failures.  I think he is also suggesting that it is a mistake to think that meditation is the magic pill that will cure all our ills.  From what I understand, Stone was a non-traditional Buddhist teacher.  It is certainly refreshing to hear a teacher address his or her own imperfections.  I would much rather listen to a ‘guru’ who says, “You know, sometimes I’m a jerk,” than someone with an attitude of “Gather around children and listen to my perfect words.”

Four words in Stone’s statement stand out for me: “immune to extreme mental states.”  That’s where many of us make our mistake.  We shouldn’t be looking for immunity but rather self-restraint, discipline, balance.  No one is immune.  Even the Dalai Lama gets angry and admits it.

To relieve the sufferings of others, the bodhisattva must suffer his or her own.  If we don’t have sufferings and face them, then how can we help others use dharma to cope with theirs?  And suffering is largely self created, it is unrealistic to expect monks and nuns and dharma teachers to be without faults and problems.

If you follow the link above, you can read the family statement that describes Michael Stone’s manic last day.

In the end, Michael Stone was defeated by the bipolar condition.  But he was undefeated in many other areas.  From what I have read, it seems obvious that he worked on himself as he struggled though the onslaught of extreme mental states, and I have no doubt that this own struggle gave him the insight and wisdom to help others learn to do the same thing.

To win over oneself does not mean to become “perfect.”  I’d say it means to become more human.  A huge part of the struggle is to simply admit that we are not perfect, that we have faults, and then we find the real success lies simply trying to change.  By the same measure, the practice is not perfect either.  So when faced with situations like this, we cannot say, well, Buddhism and meditation do not work.  Yhey only work as well as we do.

I will not defeat cancer.  Does that mean I have failed as a Buddhist?  I am not perfect.  Does that disqualify me as a teacher?  I can only answer those two questions with a third:  How do we judge inner transformation and its results?

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says

Greater the conquest of oneself
than subjugating others,
that one who’s always self-restrained,
that one who’s tamed of self .

Neither deva nor minstrel divine,
nor Mara together with Brahma,
can overthrow the victory
of such a one as this.

Month by month for a hundred years
a thousand one might sacrifice,
but if for only a moment one
might honor the self-developed,
such honor were better by far
than centuries of sacrifice.

I reccommend you read Lynette Monteiro’s take on this story at 108zenbooks.


Cloud’s Illusions

In The Art of Living, Thich Nhat Hanh says,

“We should not be afraid of suffering. We should be afraid of only one thing, and that is not knowing how to deal with our suffering.  Handling our suffering is an art.  If we know how to suffer, we suffer much less, and we’re no longer afraid of being overwhelmed by the suffering inside.”

I don’t feel I am afraid of suffering.  I just don’t like it.  Suffering sucks.  Especially physical suffering.  I used to think I knew how to deal with suffering.  I am not so confident about it right now.  I am not sure I have yet mastered the art of suffering,

As I write, a dull pain is throbbing through my left leg.  My knee feels as though hot needles are piercing it.  This is my “normal.”  Constant pain has been my reality for over two years now.  It’s called lymphedema and has been described as “swelling in one or more extremities that results from impaired flow of the lymphatic system.”  There is no medical cure.

According to legend, the Buddha’s first teaching was The Four Noble Truths.  The first truth is sarvam idam duhkham: “all this is suffering.”  It’s important to understand that the truth of suffering is based on the two principles of interdependence and impermanence.  With regard to the former, this is why I have always maintained that Buddha could have easily said, “all this is happiness.”   As for the latter, suffering or the “the unsatisfactoriness of life, its pain, its malaise, its inherent ‘ill’-ness” has as its primary cause our inability to find complete and lasting satisfaction.

In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind Shunryu Suzuki puts it much better than I can:

“In Buddhism it is a heretical view to expect something outside this world. We do not seek for something besides ourselves. We should find the truth in this world, through our difficulties, through our suffering.  This is the basic teaching of Buddhism.  Pleasure is not different from difficulty.  Good is not different from bad.  Bad is good; good is bad.  They are two sides of one coin.  So enlightenment should be in practice.  That is the right understanding of practice, and the right understanding of our life.  So to find pleasure in suffering is the only way to accept the truth of transiency.  Without realizing how to accept this truth you cannot live in this world.  Even though you try to escape from it, your effort will be in vain.  If you think there is some other way to accept the eternal truth that everything changes, that is your delusion.  This is the basic teaching of how to live in this world. Whatever you may feel about it, you have to accept it.  You have to make this kind of effort.

So until we become strong enough to accept difficulty as pleasure, we have to continue this effort. Actually, if you become honest enough, or straightforward enough, it is not so difficult to accept this truth.  You can change your way of thinking a little bit.  It is difficult, but this difficulty will not always be the same.  Sometimes it will be difficult, and sometimes it will not be so difficult.  If you are suffering, you will have some pleasure in the teaching that everything changes.  When you are in trouble, it is quite easy to accept the teaching.  So why not accept it at other times?  It is the same thing.  Sometimes you may laugh at yourself, discovering how selfish you are.  But no matter how you feel about this teaching, it is very important for you to change your way of thinking and accept the truth of transiency.”

I accept the truth of transiency.  Somehow it doesn’t make things much easier.  It’s still difficult.  I am not afraid of the pain, but I am sick to hell of it.

The question is how deeply inside I accept impermanence.  There is no cure for lymphedema, except in my mind.  Right now, my mind is depressed and I lament at the thought that this chronic pain is going to be the reality of the remainder of my life.  But that’s because I am viewing what I am experiencing in the present moment to be permanent.

All this, our perceptions, thoughts, feelings are like clouds in the sky.  They change shape, they move, appear, and reappear.   I guess it’s like Joni Mitchell wrote, “It’s cloud’s illusions I recall.  I really don’t know clouds at all.”

That’s something I need to change.


Guest Post by Russ Riley

Today, the first ever guest post at The Endless Further.

My nephew, Russ Riley (left), is a student at Hastings College in Nebraska.  Last semester, he took a class on Buddhism, and naturally, to complete the course he was required to write a final paper.  I think it’s pretty good.  His teacher did, too.  Gave Russ an A-.  And I want to share it with you.

Now, since we live some 1500 miles apart from each other, I have not been much of an influence in Russ’ life.  So whatever interest he has in Buddhism is a result of his own spiritual journey.  Matter of fact, I don’t believe we had ever talked about Buddhism together until just recently.

Likewise, I gave him some guidance on the paper (after all, what good is having an uncle who is Buddhist if you can’t tap into his vast storehouse of wisdom), but I didn’t help him too much.  And it was his professor who suggested the theme of Jack Kerouac and the Beat movement and how jazz music relates to Buddhism. 

In any case, without further ado, here is one young man’s thoughts on some of the Dharma:

How You See Is What You Get

Russ Riley

The search for happiness can be a tough one, especially with the monotony of everyday life. When people are in our way and we have to be somewhere right now, it can be easy to forget what is actually happening right now. We can very easily get caught up in our thoughts and emotions and before we know it we’re stuck in a fit of anger and frustration: all because that car didn’t get out of my way, or because I didn’t deserve to stub my toe on that crack in the sidewalk. When we practice Buddhist philosophy we can come to an understanding that happiness is all around, and that our perception is what needs to change. In order to find true happiness we must let go of our expectations and live in the present moment.

Where am I? Here. What time is it? Now. This is something we don’t often think about with our Western mindsets. To Be Here Now means to live completely in the present moment. It means not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future, but thinking about the feelings and senses of the eternal present. It means thinking about the hardness of the chair you’re sitting in, the feeling of your breath flowing in and out across your lips, the breeze lightly brushing your skin. When we practice being in the present moment we are practicing one of the most important aspects of Buddhism. One person who was particularly good at this was Jack Kerouac, one of the most influential writers of the 1950’s. He was known for his spontaneous behavior and helping create a movement called the beat movement. His writing style was as spontaneous as the lifestyle he lived and wrote about, as he often typed on 120-foot long teletype paper. This style was called spontaneous prose, a much practiced stream of consciousness with a trail of untampered thoughts, one leading to the next. Kerouac developed this style so that the words on the page were his purest thoughts. It is quite clear that this writing style has many similarities to that of an improvised jazz solo, even more specifically, a bebop solo played by Charlie Parker. Phrases were well thought out, allowing breathing space for the reader, just like Parker’s solos, each passage based around a key idea. Both based in New York in the 50’s, they ended up crossing paths and Kerouac was blown away by Parker’s spontaneity and originality in his musical phrases. As the bebop movement grew, it became more than just music. It became a lifestyle, an image of these fast paced, high energy entertainers living a life free from all the worries and problems of the real world. A prime example of this lifestyle is the beat generation, which Kerouac wrote about and helped start. Being a ‘beat’ meant you were nonconforming and original, questioning social, religious, and political matters. It meant living in the moment, being in the now.

Kerouac has said that bebop and Parker in particular were very influential on his life and works. In fact, Kerouac was so moved by Charlie Parker that he wrote the following poem about him, comparing him to Buddha.

Charlie Parker looked like Buddha
Charlie Parker, who recently died
Laughing at a juggler on TV
After weeks of strain and sickness,
Was called the Perfect Musician.
And his expression on his face
Was as calm, beautiful, and profound
As the image of Buddha
Represented in the East, the lidded eyes
The expression that says “All Is Well”
This was what Charlie Parker
Says when he played All Is Well.
You had the feeling of early-in-the-morning
Like a hermit’s joy, or
Like the perfect cry of some wild gang
At a jam session
“Wail, Wop”
Charlie burst his lungs to reach the speed
Of what the speedsters wanted
And what they wanted
Was his eternal Slowdown.

Jack Kerouac thought Charlie Parker looked like Buddha. At the beginning of the poem, Kerouac refers to Parker as the Perfect Musician, similar to how a monk would call Buddha the Perfect Being. Kerouac, a man who practiced Zen Buddhism for part of his life, compares Parker’s face to Buddha. He also attributes a spiritual significance to his musical playing abilities. Kerouac praises Parker’s creative energy as if it were a spiritual force working towards a musical awakening. When he wrote about his writing style, spontaneous prose, he compared it to playing jazz music. In an excerpt from the book, Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, Kerouac describes his theory of composition: “PROCEDURE: Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.” This example of how the artistic visions of Kerouac and Parker crossed paths is perfect. They both had a thirst for spontaneity and originality. Kerouac saw the Zen in Charlie Parker’s approach to jazz in this new style called bebop. In this poem, Kerouac isn’t so much comparing Parker as a person to Buddha, but more so it’s a reference to how Charlie Parker’s playing makes him feel. All Is Well.

In 1956, a Zen Buddhist and friend of Kerouac, Gary Snyder, suggested that Kerouac write a sutra. What he wrote became The Scripture of Golden Eternity. The work consists of 66 prose poems, which deal with the nature of our consciousness and the impermanence in everything. Mainly influenced by his Buddhist background, the title “scripture” alludes to his Catholic upbringing. In the first verse, he says:

Did I create that sky? Yes, for, if it was anything other than a
conception of my mind I wouldn’t have said “sky”-That is why I
am the golden eternity. There

are not two of us here, reader and writer, but one, one golden
eternity, On-Which-It-Is, That-Which-Everything-Is.

In this passage Jack Kerouac introduces another very important concept in Buddhism, which is, the oneness of everything and nothing. He believed that everything is a part of something greater. That we are all one essence functioning in a nonexistent and unimportant reality. Kerouac refers to himself as a divine being when calling himself the “golden eternity.” He also implies that others are part of this divine being when he says, “You are the golden eternity because there is no me and no you, only the golden eternity.” He is emphasizing the importance of the unity of humanity. I think the golden eternity refers to the realization of Buddhist philosophy, the principle that once one understands the endless mystery of everything and nothing, once one realizes we are all one energy, one can understand true happiness.

The problem in Western society today is that we are so focused on individualism and being different from others. We generally define ourselves by what we are not, instead of what we are. This creates a “this and them” mindset and only feeds our nasty egos. In the West we have our Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated. But upon first inspection of this saying, it feeds the ego. It is based on you helping other people for personal benefit. I will act in a positive way towards you, so that the result is you acting positive towards me. I’m helping you with the intentions of getting help for myself. This should not be the case. We should be compassionate to others simply because it is the right thing to do. In Buddhism, it is said that every sentient being is the same energy. If you look close enough, smaller than atoms, protons, and electrons, there is just energy. If we think this way, it becomes obvious that we must not be harmful to others, because we are all the same. Not the same beings, but the same being.  Another more scientific way to look at it is to look at the four most common elements in the human body; hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Not only are they most common in human bodies, but every other living thing on Earth. Furthermore, these elements are among the most abundant in the universe, with hydrogen making up 75%, oxygen the third most abundant, followed by carbon, neon, iron, and nitrogen. The same elements that make up 96% of the human body make up more than 75% of our universe.

The idea that we are all one is an idea that was brought forth by Siddhartha Gautama himself. This teaching is described best in one of the earliest surviving Buddhist texts, the Vajracchedika Pranjaparamita Sutra, or the Diamond Sutra. It was discovered by Aurel Stein in 1907 in the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas. The complete history is unknown, but it is said to be an adaptation of another sutra, translated in 401 CE by Kumarajava, who translated many of the Buddhist sutras. The Diamond Sutra explains that a bodhisattva must abandon all concepts of “self,” he or she should get rid of all notions “other.” When a bodhisattva helps someone, he or she should not have the idea that someone is being helped. One must empty the mind of all concepts of discrimination. Buddha says that the ultimate truth cannot be expressed in words. He says no one can attain transient wisdom, and that the very idea of attainment is one that should be forgotten.

Another essential Buddhist concept deals with our perceptions.  Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Perception is very important for our well-being, for our peace. Perception should be free from emotion and ignorance, free from illusion. In Buddhism, knowledge is regarded as an obstacle to understanding.” He explains that if we hold something as truth, we need to be ready to abandon it or else when truth comes to knock at our door we will not open it. He gives a very good example: A man with a young son whom he loved very much was away on a business trip. While he was gone, bandits came and burned down his village and took his son. When the man returned he saw the destruction and panicked. He found a corpse of an infant whom he thought was his child. He held a cremation ceremony and carried his son’s ashes wherever he went. He loved his son more than anything. One night his real son escaped and came knocking on his door in the middle of the night. When the man asked who it was the boy told him it was his son. He man became angry and thought it was some boy making fun of him and yelled at him to go away. They never saw each other again (48). Knowledge is an obstacle to our understanding. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge. For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.

Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand, but throwing away what we hold as truth will help us better understand and become more aware. Kerouac wrote a verse in The Scripture of the Golden Eternity that expresses this concept very well. It states:

Stare deep into the world before you as if it were the void: innumerable holy ghosts, buddhies, and savior gods there hide, smiling. All the atoms emitting light inside wavehood, there is no personal separation of any of it. A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not: so rest and be assured. While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light.

In the first line of this verse Kerouac is referring to meditation, seeing the world as it truly is, free from illusion, being totally aware. One will see good things and bad things, but underneath all of that is just energy. Understand that it is all emptiness, empty of any self that is intrinsic, permanent, and independent. He refers to atoms emitting light, saying there is no personal separation of any of it. All things are all interdependent. We are all one. When Kerouac says, “A hummingbird can come into a house and a hawk will not” he is implying that whether good or bad, change happens. One day it is cloudy, another day it is not, but do not worry about stuff happening, be happy. Think not of the future, nor of the past, but be here now. This attitude is where Zen and Beat align. Happiness is all around, you just have to perceive it as such. In the last line of this verse Kerouac means that when we are looking for truth, we may be confronted with what we think is not truth. When we let go of our previous knowledge, we can fully understand. The idea of light and dark can be compared to that of good and evil. The Buddhist understanding is that good and evil are not two separate things, but they are innate, inseparable aspects of life. The line “devoured by darkness” is referring to the fact that it can be very difficult to let go of what we hold as truth. In order to truly understand and perceive reality, we must be ready to abandon our truths. Without darkness, there is no light. Without light there can be no darkness.

Kerouac’s verse reminds me of a famous singer and song writer who became quite well known for his teachings of peace and love. His name was John Lennon and he wrote a song called Tomorrow Never Knows, which says, “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying, it is not dying. Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void, It is shining, it is shining.” The idea of this verse correlates with Kerouac’s Scripture verse quite well. In Zen, not knowing is an important concept. When we can lay down all our thoughts, let go of our preconceived notions and expectations, and surrender to the void, we can truly understand and see the light.

No matter who you are, where you are from, which religion you are a part of, you can practice Buddhism. We can all help the world be a more peaceful place by starving our ego and fueling our compassionate loving side. Abandon your views, let go of your judgments, be in the present moment and desire nothing. Buddhism is not a set of beliefs, but a way of life. There are no rules and constrictions, just concepts to practice and apply to daily life. Be good to one another, for deep down, we are all the same energy. With these realizations we can find our Buddha nature and contribute to a more loving peaceful world. Happiness is everywhere as long as we remember where we are, and what time it is; as long as we remember to Be Here Now.

Work Cited
Camia, George -. “Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, & Zen Buddhism.” Roots Rock Boston. Roots Rock Boston, 3 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 May 2017.

Weekes, Henry, Mo Hafeez, Samuel Burnt, Tobias Berchtold, Richard Birch, and Ayush Joshi. “Bebop: Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, and the ‘Beat Generation’.” Wall of Sound Magazine. Wall of Sound Magazine, 10 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 May 2017.

Inc., Wolfram Research. “Abundance in the Universe of the Elements.” Abundance in the Universe for All the Elements in the Periodic Table. Wolfram Research Inc., n.d. Web. 19 May 2017.

Kerouac, Jack. The Scripture of the Golden Eternity. San Francisco: City Lights, 1994. Print.

Hanh, Thich Nhat, Rachel Neumann, and Mayumi Oda. Being Peace. Berkeley: Parallax, 1987. Print.

Riley, David. “Jack and the Buddhastalk.” The Endless Further. The Endless Further, 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 May 2017.

Riley, David. “Secrets of the Diamond Sutra.” The Endless Further. The Endless Further, 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 May 2017.


Out of Steam

Last month marked the 7th anniversary of The Endless Further.  I guess that’s sort of an accomplishment, because I read somewhere that the average lifespan of a blog is 2.75 years.

As you may have noticed, blogging in the last year or so has really slowed down.  There is a simple explanation for that.  I’ve run out of steam.  When I started the blog, I had a few things to say.  Well, I’ve said them.  At least, three or four times already.

There’s also the physical stuff I’m going through: lymphedema and chronic bursitis.  I’ve been in constant pain (or at least, persistent soreness) for over two years.  It takes away my energy, and weakens my enthusiasm for such things as blogging.

This is not to say that I’m quitting or shutting down the blog.  But posting is going to be really slow from here on out.  I’ll post again when I’m inspired to, or when I think I have something new or important to say.  I will probably post more frequently on The Endless Further Facebook page.

I want to thank you for reading my blog.  If you have found it informative or encouraging, I am glad.  I’ve heard from a small number of folks who have said that’s been the case for them.

I received Buddhist precepts on September 25, 1983.  That’s nearly 34 years ago.  Since then, I won’t say I have been a perfect Buddhist or anyone’s role model, but I have learned a few things.  And the most important of what I’ve learned is this:

Buddhism holds the view that the highest life condition, what we call Buddhahood or awakening, is not a destination to be reached in the remote future, but a potential already inherent in life.  The aim of Buddhist practice is to tap into this Buddha-nature, to change our thinking and our life, and then, strive to understand the meaning of compassion, to understand another person’s problems.  As the Dalai Lama says, this is the purpose of existence, to help others remove the cause for their suffering.

Until next time, peace.


We are the Earth

Earth Day.  I remember the first Earth Day in 1970.  I was a senior in high school.  We had an assembly out on the football field and listened to a couple of speakers.  Not a big deal.

Forty-seven years later, it is a very big deal.  This year, there are plenty of interesting events to participate in, including a March for Science to take place today in more than 500 cities around the world.  According to the organizers, 13,500 people have signed up to attend the San Francisco march and science fair alone, while an additional 17,000 have expressed interest in the events via social media channels.

The President of the United States says that climate change is a Chinese hoax, a truly irresponsible stance driven in all probability by a dislike of regulations rather than any philosophical outlook, for I suspect this man has few core beliefs outside of those about his own greatness.

In the U.S., climate change denial is wrapped up with religion.  The SF Chronicle reports, “Many evangelical Christians believe that stewardship of the Earth and taking care of the poor and sick are core to their faith.”  8 in 10 evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump, and what I find interesting is that many of these Christians believe that God gave humans dominion over the earth, yet few of them believe that human action has much of an effect on the environment.

Buddhism and Taoism are more sympathetic to the idea of climate change, because these religious philosophies, as they have been practiced in China and Japan, view nature as a partner in the quest for spiritual development, as opposed to a thing to exert dominion over.

Lao Tsu, in the Tao Te Ching, says

Humanity follows Earth.
Earth follows heaven.
Heaven follows the Tao.
Tao follows what is natural.

“Heaven” signifies a natural order or organizing principle of the Universe, the “way of heaven.”  The way of Tao is to be in harmony with the way of nature.  The ancient Taoists saw this as not only our nature but also, our duty.

Buddhism teaches the oneness of self and the environment (esho funi).  If there is something wrong with the environment, then it is only a reflection of a “wrongness” within ourselves.  Human beings suffer the disease of separation – separation from the environment and each other.  We are not in harmony with nature.  We must continue to change our concept of the environment, appreciating the interconnectedness of nature and all things.

Several years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh published a book titled Love Letter to the Earth.  In Chapter 1 “We are the earth,” he writes

“At this very moment, the Earth is above you, below you, all around you, and even inside you.  The Earth is everywhere.  You may be used to thinking of the Earth as only the ground beneath your feet.  But the water, the sea, the sky, and everything around us comes from the Earth.  Everything outside us and everything inside us comes from the Earth…

The Earth is not just the environment we live in.  We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us.”

We are the Earth.

We are nature.

We are the environment.

The key to the problem of climate change is to change people’s minds.  The survival of the planet is too important to allow people to be in denial about climate change or to ascribe the coming catastrophe to a ludicrous conspiracy theory.

“Thus when we say that all sentient beings have within them the Buddha-essence or the Buddha-nature we mean that all sentient beings have minds which can change and become Buddha’s minds.”

– Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations

In this case, having a Buddha mind means being a bodhisattva of the earth, that is, a steward of the earth, taking on the planet’s sufferings, vowing to liberate all things in nature.

I know that I am not doing enough.  If I want to change the environmental crisis, I must first change my mind.  If I want to see pure air and water, I must first purify my mind.  I must go to that place within where I know without doubt, without denial, that I am the Earth.