Arbor Day

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Sunday Lecture

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I vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata's words. Good morning. Good morning on this rainy February morning. Today we celebrate our annual Arbor Day, which we've been participating and hosting and enjoying for 25 years. Thank you. More seed. Today is the 25th year. And it's amazing to sit here in this hall made of the ancient ones, look up at the ceiling and remember where we come from, and down at the floor that holds us, and the great wooden tans that are made from wood, actually recycled wood, I think, and wood that lives again, with our hot and dedicated bottoms glowing


as we sit through the long hours in this hall. And it's wonderful to celebrate Arbor Day today. It comes right along with the opening of the 37th practice period here at Green Gulch Farm. So this hall holds a great deal of life, life force, and, which is so much what I want to talk about today, a great deal of the coming apart of life, which is part of every true, original, ancient, primordial forest. David Brower, who died just a few months ago in the autumn of this year, and so much of what I have to offer today comes from practicing and living and being honored to live in the same bioregion with this wonderful elder who died this winter. He said he didn't like the word old growth,


because old growth can be harvested, and, in fact, the primordial forest can never really be replaced. Even though, as we work today doing restoration plantings, planting some of the ancient ones, some redwood and oaks, as we work today, we will remember and dedicate our work to that, close to, I'm just trying to think, probably two million square miles, the redwood kingdom, when you take the time to really consider that, two million square miles. Now that original stand, virgin growth, whittled down to less than three percent of the original growth, and we will remember that today as we work and dedicate our work to the full awakening and well-being of all life on earth,


all life and the coming apart of life. Today at Green Gulch, while we're sitting here in the Dharma Hall, there's a small clutch of eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-old girls who are participating in our Coming of Age program. It's a wonderful and miraculous thing to consider that in the library or one of the little nests around Green Gulch, this group of girls are taking a look at their life and what constitutes maturation, what it means to take our places in the world and to do it wholeheartedly with spirit and spunk and questioning and hopefully a slight measure of solid meditation thrown in. So we have two very strong young women in their twenties and early thirties who are their guides, their guardians, their mentors. And then reaching out, it's very much like the forest itself,


reaching out in widening rings, a circle of elders, a little bit like in the redwood forest, the circle of elders that hold this wonderful nest in place. So those of us that are lucky enough to participate in this program I think are really moved by this moving on. The program began with Norman Fisher a few years ago and he inherited four young boys who've grown up on the hemlines of Zen Center, within the skirts and on the hemlines of Zen Center. And they met with Norman for a couple of years and considered what it means to take our places. And they'll be planting with us this afternoon, these girls. So I sit here thinking of all those widening circles. No umbrella getting soaked.


I'll just use the rain as my raincoat. Haiku poem from Daito, the founder of a Daito-koji monastery in Japan, 13th century poem. And then a beautiful echo from the Lotus Sutra in honor of today. Rain down the Dharma rain. Rain down the Dharma rain. Fill the whole world. So what I would like to do today is talk a little bit about the experience of living within the forest or next door to a forest. Here we find ourselves miraculously situated in this old barn made of the great ancient ones, a scant three miles from a true ancient forest, an undisturbed remnant of the great kingdom. I don't like to say empire or kingdom, but the kingdom of the redwoods. And it's extraordinary to be able to sit and practice in this valley


with that awareness, with the forest at our back, holding us, keeping us straight, honest, and hopefully a little wild. I brought a bowl, a carved redwood bowl, filled with soil from the roots of a great ancient tree. Yesterday we had our annual watershed walk, which we do right before Arbor Day. It takes a dedicated and somewhat maniacal group of people to want to do this watershed walk. It was more of a watershed hydroplane yesterday, I'd like to say. But what an incredible group of people. I feel some real kinship with the nine people who gathered. We met at Muir Woods National Monument and began to walk radiating out from the forest. And our idea was to walk the boundaries of this watershed and to oversee the land that we find ourselves privileged enough to


be a part of and to practice on. So we walked about six or maybe seven miles. At every point, my friend Mia Monroe, who's a ranger at Muir Woods National Monument, actually the site manager of the woods, although I really like to say the woods is the site manager of Mia. It's a little more accurate. At every point, noticing the lowering skies and the imminent raining down of the Dharma rain, we asked the group, shall we shorten this walk and maybe not walk the full? No, they said, we want to walk the whole thing. So in honor of John Muir, who got happier and happier, the wilder the weather got, happier and happier. Oh, it's a great celebration, he'd say, on top of a glacier with the ice storms battering him and the wind tearing at his clothes. Oh, it's a great day to be alive, and if I die here, it's a great day to die here. Anyway, with all that histrionics, it was rather matched by yesterday's weather, I must say.


One woman, particularly brave, had an injured ankle, so she walked very mindfully and slowly, and we waited for her, barely able to stand up at some points because the wind was so strong. But it was an incredible experience, as it always is, to go out and receive the tidings of the land where we're privileged to live. Really incredible experience to do. And for those of you that are fortunate enough to practice here, I hope you'll take the time to walk this watershed and get to know it, even if you just do a portion of the walk we did yesterday. You might go into the woods and see the great trillium, the native trillium, and the wake robin, which is the white form of the native trillium. It's called that because it wakes up the robins with its first flower. It comes out in December or January. And these beautiful, a slim Solomon's seal just pushing up out of the ground, uncurling.


And then, of course, the plants that give you pause and make you wonder, like the fetid adder's tongue was out yesterday. This fetid adder's tongue produces a flower that has a true scent of rotting flies. And it's to attract the pollinators. It goes to great... You know, the natural world goes to great extremes and so much more revealed than we are willing to be, the lengths we go to. Like the plants in the rainforest that have runway that advertises the genital approach, you know, a runway so that the insects can easily slide into gear and release the gears of the flowers. So the fetid adder's tongue was particularly fetid yesterday. We walked through the woods and really could smell the smell of rotten meat coming up from the flowers. And when the pods ripen, they're called slink pods because they slink along the ground. In the year of the snake, it seemed incredibly auspicious. And so many of the trees that we have loved and practiced with,


a great clutch of bays overlooking Redwood Creek. It's been two years since we walked this section of the trail, and now to see those trees collapsed into the creek, creating new habitat for the silver salmon, their roots strangely alive in the wind, in the rain. We stood there, and also up above at the Grand Dragon Oak, a tree that's been really important to many of us. We stood there and came home. I bring it up in this dharma hall, I bring up this walk because it is an absolute admonition of most traditions to take the time, to find the time, to go out into the wider world and reconnect. I think from talking to many people recently, the broken connections that so many of us feel with the wild, untamed world of fetid adder's tongues and slinking pods


and wake robins coming up out of the dead soil is really lamentable. So to make a vow to walk in mindfulness and to remember where we come from is incredibly important, and it will be the ground of the remarks I want to make this morning. I can't sit here in this seat without recognizing and mentioning that close to, I want to get this right, close to 100 square miles of rainforest are lost every day. This from environmental biologist David Orr. Actually, his numbers are higher. I softened them for us. And to also remember that the greatest biomass on earth is stored in our forests, and they are being cut down at an incredible rate, we say. Land the size of a football field is lost with every second. To sit here, to gather the mind, to dedicate meditation,


means to be willing to look at this dark at the base of the lighthouse, we like to say. These, says Dickens, these are the best and the worst of all times, the times we're living in, and I think that's really true. I certainly feel it when I consider what's happening to the world that we know and love. And, you know, this tradition, this tradition has a founder who was an ordinary man. Our friend and teacher Sulak Sivaraksa said, you know, we need Buddhism with a small b. We need many traditions with lowercase letters announcing them. So the founder of this tradition was an ordinary man who woke up and vowed to spend his life


working for the benefit of all being, to understand the causes of suffering and to investigate and make every effort to end suffering in the life of the world. Not a meager vow. I don't think it's an accident that he took his place at the roots of a great tree, the tree of awakening or the pit bull tree, the Bodhi tree, sometimes called. We have a meager specimen which is an offshoot from this ancient one in our greenhouse, suffering and pining for ancient India, but, you know, trapped in our greenhouse, to remind us and hope you'll make a pilgrimage down there today and give it a little kiss or blow some hot air on it so that it can remember its true place. Anyway, with his back at the tree, this ordinary man sat down and dedicated his life and practice to the full awakening of all beings. One of our friends and residents here, Steve Weintraub, years ago gave a talk where he


told the story of the Buddha's life and all the temptations the Buddha felt when he was sitting with his back at the tree. Intoxicating music and dancing girls he was able to just sit through, war and pestilence he was able to just sit through. But when great doubt came up about how it was that he, a little meager flea of a man, could sit on the earth and make this vow, the tree at his back and the earth underneath his fundamental bottom because they share the same root, fundus. Anus and fundus are the same root. So, sitting on the fundamental earth, he put his hand out on the earth and the earth that supported the tree gave a great shout of encouragement. So, when great doubt comes up, and it does come up for us in these best and worst of all times, it is a very extraordinary experience to take your place at the roots of the ancient ones and come back to what you may not even remember that you know.


That's what today really is. I mean, we dig a beautiful deep hole out on the lawn to dedicate an oak tree. We plant slim redwoods. We cut down acacia and Monterey pines that we planted years ago that are truly choking out habitat in this watershed. But really, we dedicate ourselves to remembering that in times of great doubt, to find a way to take your place and become a full human being is the real inheritance and legacy of our practice. It's what emanates out. Now... I noticed some fresh wisdom yesterday,


walking in the forest and walking on the mountain, coming down to Green Gulch. I remembered how important it is to use well the natural resources that we share. And I thought of Ananda, the Buddha's attendant and faithful, dedicated scribe, he who remembered all the teachings and gave them back again and again. I thought of Ananda speaking to King Udena, and when the king asked, what are these robes that you wear? This is a miniature version of the great rice field robe that the ancient monks of Buddhist time wore. The robe laid out like a rice field, made of cloth gathered from burial heaps, charnel grounds, clean cloth that was cut up and restitched into a pattern, into a robe, into a simple robe, and dyed with the color of the group,


and worn as a reminder to wrap yourself in the vow to save all beings. So when Ananda spoke to the king about mindful care of all of the treasures of the natural world, he began with the robe. He used the example of the robe. And permit me to go through this with you because it's so wonderful this afternoon. Usually on Sunday afternoons there's a class that works on stitching the Buddha's robe. So when a robe becomes worn, Ananda reminded the king, it is our commitment to receive the old robe, to receive the new robe, and to make the old robe into a coverlet for sleeping. So the old robes were stitched into quilts, and when the quilts got old, well, the coverlets were made into mattress covers. And when the mattress covers became worn and used, they were cut up into pieces and put into the mattresses themselves.


They became the mattresses, always supporting. And when the mattress didn't support the active sleepy monk, the mattress was taken apart and made into rags. And when the rags wore out, they were made into dusters. And when the dusters wore out, they were kneaded into living clay and used to stop up the holes and all the leaky parts of the windows and the doors. Although mostly the practitioners in the Buddha's time lived outdoors. They lived under the great blue and gray sky of northern India, which was home. So thinking about that, thinking about cloth living again and having a new life, and thinking about cloth coming apart was something that came up for me yesterday. I remembered this passage about the robes, maybe because we were wrapped in whatever raincoats we could, and thinking about sheltering and protecting ourselves,


I also thought about Buddha's robe living again and again and again. We are caught, says Dr. Martin Luther King, we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. In this inescapable world, no one survives alone. We are all tied in a single garment of destiny. That single garment of destiny might be robes made from rags and living again and again and again. It might be a bowlful of duff from the ancient forest. I'd like to go with you on a magical mystery tour into that life of the floor of the forest, the life that supported the Buddha 2,600 years ago, the ordinary Buddha with a small bee, as he sat with his back at the base of the tree. Because I think, by investigating that life,


we may come to appreciate the mutual network, or the network, the inescapable network of mutuality, in which we are all bound and caught, where we find ourselves. In the time of the Buddha and later, whenever a convocation of practitioners gathered together to practice, the group was called So Rin, meaning forest thicket. A So Rin time was a time of coming together like all the different organisms in a forest and creating a forest thicket under shelter and dedicating the thicket, what comes up out of the thicket, out of the thick of the thicket, to the well-being of all life. So, this is a wonderful metaphor because we are mistaken if we imagine that a single redwood tree is separate from this incredible forest floor


that nurtures health and wholeness and fertility. We are deeply mistaken. And sometimes we forget and only pay attention to the manifest world, the world above the surface, and somehow forget what my original teacher called the great majority, being everyone and all beings who have died and crossed over. Don't forget, he said, the great majority, or join, joyfully join the great majority. It was his rather dark admonition whenever anyone was ill, join the great majority. Thanks a lot. Don't be afraid to join the great majority, but practice, meditation practice, in whatever tradition you are finding it, is all about joining the great majority and recognizing that we are, we are not alone. To remember that, it is necessary to pay homage to the great tribe of decomposers


that hold up the world. You know, the world is made of producers, being the plants. Only plants can strain living sunlight, create green organs and give life, sane the air, sane the sunlight from the air, make it into green tissue and give life. And then there are the consumers, and we are many, the animals, the humans, the many consumers that live off of the stored energy within the bodies of plants, and animals that are fed by plants. So producers, consumers, and then the great microcosm of decomposers, those who take apart waste. A friend of mine from the Cultural Heritage Institute said, you know, thinking, considering the ancient floor of the forest solves the Zen question, if a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? Loudly and audibly, the microorganisms of the forest floor


hear a forest tree when it comes down. Do you know, in your woods, when a redwood tree stands upright, 1,700 distinct organisms have been catalogued, distinct organisms, on the body of an upright living tree. And can you imagine how many on a dead tree? 4,000 and rising. It takes as long for a tree to come apart as it does for it to achieve. It's 1,200, maybe 1,200, 1,500 year age. The oldest trees in the woods, in Muir Woods, are about 800 to 900 years. But the ones up in Humboldt County in the Headwaters Forest are 1,500 years old. True, huge ancients. They make the Muir Woods trees look like willows. They, those great beings, give back to the forest and to our world amply, just as significantly, in fact, even more so, in death, feeding the great, original, primordial cultures.


And, of course, primary among them are the fungi. So here's a bowl of fungi right here on the altar at Jesus' feet. And recently I met a gentleman, a wonderful man named Paul Stamets. Some of you may have heard Paul address us at the Bioneers Conference. And then later he came and spoke again to the convocation of about 1,500 organic farmers and gardeners. And some of us from Zen Center were present for that address when Paul evoked what he calls the flora of his church or the fungi that inhabit the old-growth forest. Living in, I think, in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, he lives in a wonderful world with his wife. They are mycologists. Their great love are the invisible network, the inescapable network of mutuality, which forms our soil, the soil that we depend on.


And it has been their work for the last decade or more to preserve some of the ancient species of polypore mushrooms that are existing in the old-growth forest. You know, some of the... There's an ancient, I think, Haidu country. One of the goddesses of the Native American tradition is carved out of hardened mushroom. She, only the fungi would help her when she lost her sexual parts and lost herself. And only the fungi showed her the way home. So she's carved out of ancient hardened mushroom. Paul brought this figure for us to see. I want us to consider the life of the forest because it is remarkable. I'm a gardener, and I work in the heart of the garden, and I have for close to three decades, particularly here at Green Gulch, but also in many other gardens that aren't as fortunate as this one and don't have the rich ground of the soil


that we've developed here or has been developed here over 30 years. But all soil is beautiful soil, and all soil depends on those delicate and strong fungal relationships that are underneath the ground for life. So will you permit me to go through this a little bit and take it as a journey, a meditation journey? Good, because you're trapped and it's going to happen anyway. When we consider the fungi of our soils, and in our own intestinal tract, please, throughout, you know, on the surface of our skin, but particularly we're looking at that invisible network of mycelium that run into the soil with incredible force and move through the soil and absorb decay, feed on decay and take apart biochemically. They break the bonds, the hydrogen and carbon bonds of life and disintegrate known matter and make it live again.


In the forest where Paul lives, he reckons that there are some fungi that have decomposed and recomposed the floor of the forest six times. Looking at trees that are 1,200 years old, that's some 10,000 to 15,000 year commitment to fertility. Let's act our age. Remember that we're really five billion years old and life depends on remembering this. A meditator's life depends on knowing the darkness in the ground as well as the bright above the ground. So this invisible net is what supports us. And of course the life cycle of the fungi are fascinating. The life cycles, I should say. And, you know, it is natural to be either drawn to these beings or repulsed and frightened by them. Microphobia, fear of mushrooms or fear of the fungal net. Microphilia means love of the fungal net. Think of the people of Asia who have a great love


and dedication to medicine that comes from this world. And then so many of our cultures that we've been part of have a great fear and dread. Paul reminded us that the ancient gilled mushrooms that inhabit the ancient forests are not poisonous and don't contain poisonous materials. In fact, they transform poison. And I'll go over that with you. The gilled mushrooms, I want to be accurate here, they grow and they release spores. They're primitive, they don't have seed. They release spores and those spores germinate or begin to grow on the body of the decaying mother mushroom, which is kind of wonderful. The decaying mother mushroom gives life to the spores as they germinate. And as they germinate, they send into the soil an extraordinary network of thread-like roots, you could say, or mycelium. This astonished me listening to Paul.


He says, the downstream mycelium form a silent, swift network which grows two to four inches a day. And in one inch of fertile forest soil, there are one million tons of microbial network. Of course it's invisible, we can't see it, but it's what makes up the forest. They blossom and fruit up above. Wait, I want to back up a bit. Oh, there was a wonderful, wonderful fact that I pumped him for, wanting to report to you. Okay, well let's just, if you can imagine the gills of the mushroom letting out spores, the spores germinating on the decaying mother mushroom, the mycelium going into the earth, and they go into the earth with jet propulsion force. They split, each cell splits into a perfect, it's really amazing, perfect cross.


And they go up and down and out, they radiate out. And they really have the force of jet propulsion, they push into the earth and begin to colonize, searching for death, searching for decay, because their work is to take apart decay, to break the bonds that are hard to attach, the bonds of attachment are difficult to break. Let me send my mycelial network into them and decompose them, break them apart, because that's what happens. Two to four inches a day is extraordinary, silent and hasty, he said. They move. The mosaics, a mosaic of overlapping mycelial mass. Oh, I gave you a big mistake. One cubic inch of forest soil has one mile of mycelium. It's probably about a million tons, but not right away. I'm trying to be scientific and it's really hard, because this is so exciting. As the mycelium go into the forest, more primordia are formed. So it's a network that continues to grow.


If you take a tree in the forest of Muir Woods and inject it with red dye, trace of red dye appears throughout the forest. We're looking at an interlocking net, an inescapable network of mutuality, Paul said to us, you know, this is the true living Internet. And he was not being flip. Actually, looking at the patterns of connection that can be traced and mapped on the Internet, he says they appear very similar to the pattern of the mycelial network that runs through the soil, as does the dark mass that is evident in many scientific journals. You can find a dark mass of life that shows an imprint not unlike the print of the mycelial network running through the soil. And even a larger view of the cosmos has an echoing or mimicry of this mycelial network. So we're looking at a biological expression of community.


There's an individual tree in the forest, but the network that connects us is so vast and so important to remember. And of course, we all are dependent on this fungal network. Extraordinary amount of medicine, more than half of the world's medicine that we know of. That's not to mention what we don't know, which is vast beyond reckoning. But clearly half of what we do know, what is in the pharmacopoeia of medicine, comes from the natural world, from the ancient forest. And he is doing research on these beings. I just want to give you a sense. Some of you may know these mushrooms if you happen to be microphiliacs. The gypsy mushrooms, they show an antiviral exudate that can function against influenza and also herpes. It breaks it apart, dissolves the bonds, takes it apart.


The lion's mane mushroom regenerates brain cells. Incredible research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's coming from this fungi, from the ancient forest. Cordyceps sinensis, it helps protect against the ejection of organs when there's organ transplants because that mycelial network bonds with the organs. Paul describes how they make braided ropes that can only be severed with a hatchet in the forest. That's the mycelial network. This particular, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it, this particular Chinese mushroom can be responsible for holding onto organs in organ transplanting. And of course the turkey tail mushroom and the chicken of the woods, each extraordinarily important in the treatment of cancer. They take apart proliferation of cells, particularly in gastric cancer and other forms of cancer. This is drawn from the ancient forest. Okay, so


it's in our hands and in our minds and in our hearts to remember where we come from. So I wanted at least to evoke the floor of the forest. And then the next step of course is with mindfulness and awareness and remember that the core root of the word for mindfulness comes from two characters put together, two ideograms. On the top, heart and mind together because that's one word for heart and mind together. So join your heart and mind together and on the bottom, the bottom half of the ideogram, in the present moment. So in the present moment, put your heart and mind together and let's experiment. Let's take our human consciousness which is responsible for the greatest and worst and let's recognize that the trail of, maybe we're living on this planet, my friend Paul Stamets says, in order to provide more food


for the fungi because of all the waste, the trail of destruction that we leave behind us, the footprint or the fingerprint of presence, our presence, is so strong, so prevalent. So knowing that, can we, in full mindfulness and awareness, become ordinary human beings and try to live a little bit more consciously? So we make that pledge together recognizing that we're not just one organism. One day a week, I work at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Berkeley with rowdy, very rowdy classes of middle school students. I work in the garden with them and last week a terrible fight erupted in the garden. It had to do with children not wanting probably to dig up pear trees and plum trees. They lost their consciousness and really started fighting and made the neighbor quite angry. And she came and spoke to one of the leaders of the group and said,


I don't want to be living next door with this kind of fighting going on. And one of the children who was not involved in the actual fight went over and apologized. Later the teacher said to her, that was amazing that you did that, especially considering how many times you're responsible for fights breaking out. And she acknowledged that and he said, what possessed you to do that? And she said, we're a community and if she's unhappy it's my turn to apologize to her. Which was, you know, to me a clear, almost vivid expression of what I'm alluding to or bringing up in the life of the ancient forest. A kind of mutual responsibility. So can we step into that a little bit? Here's what my friend Paul Stamets did. He took some of these ancient cultures that he gathered from the rainforest. He cultured them in a Petri dish because he is a scientist. And he took the cultures,


the microbial cultures or the fungal cultures and mixed them with deadly poisons, with toxins. For example, he took a fungi called the Iceman fungus because it was found in the gut of ancient Iceman, traces of this fungus. He took that fungus and mixed it in a Petri dish with E. coli bacteria. What happened was, as soon as the two cultures met, the fungal or the mycelial mass, which is called the mother mass. This is a scientific term. The mother mass began to send out, radiate out crystals that surrounded the E. coli, the bacteria. He's watching this under a microscope. This is brand new research, friends. Hot off the press. He watched and the E. coli completely disarmed and I shouldn't use that word, but the E. coli overtook


the mycelial mass, just completely destroyed it. And there was a kind of shuddering and then the mother mass sent out another ring of crystals, which Paul describes so beautifully. He said that second, the macro-crystallous stage had a strange attractant call for the E. coli. And the crystals gathered around the E. coli, which were stunned and disbanded. They weren't in their usual configuration and they absorbed the E. coli bacteria. Now this is really amazing work. Did the fungus then become poisonous? No. It broke apart the bonds of attachment. It kind of disintegrated them and there was no trace of the E. coli. Now this is fresh work. So he experimented. He thought, okay, let's keep going. He introduced some fungal cultures to sarin, which is the basis of chemical weaponry.


And sure enough, they began to take apart the sarin. We're talking about biological remediation or healing of the earth. And as if that wasn't enough, he also participated in Bellingham, Washington. There was a terrible toxic spill of oil. And he said, let me see if the fungal cultures can deal with this oil, Bunker C diesel oil. So there was a contest in the city and six agencies came together and they did bioremediation or they did remediation on damaged soil. And at the end of a month, they went back and Paul and his group, Primordia, how's it called? Fungi Primordia, yeah. His group injected the spores of fungi into the poisoned oil soil. And after a month, they came back to the soil. And the soil from the first five batches of soil


was absolutely fetid. It was lifeless, too, and had a terrible smell. That's what everybody described. At the very end, they came to the fungal experiment. They drew back the tarp and the entire heap was colonized with oyster mushrooms, the entire heap. And a fragrance not unlike the forest floor came up from what was poisoned soil. Now, this is the basis of pesticide, herbicide, many of the toxins that are poisoning our waters and our lands from our own trace. Let's not forget the origin of this. But, you know, Paul said, that was exciting. And those mushrooms don't colonize a heap unless there's real good food for them there. So they were taking apart the oil spill. But even more exciting, they stayed with the experiment for another eight weeks, double the time, until the mother mushrooms began to rot, flies came in, laid their eggs, birds came to eat the maggots of the fly larvae, and the birds deposited their manure,


which was rich in seeds, and plants began to grow, and the next emanation of bacteria came in and continued the process. And that pile is still being taken apart, growing more and more fragrant. And people are beginning to wonder about this world. Now, my friend, Paul Stamets, got so excited he could hardly speak. We had to give him breathing room. He told us that he was taking, he was on cordyceps sinensis himself to keep his tongue from separating from his mouth because he's so excited. And this work, you know, he begged us, those of us who can, to offer it to the wider community so that we will respect and remember where we come from. At the same conference a few years ago, we heard from the Lübecki family from Austria who told us they've been making compost with very rich fungal and bacterial cultures. And they told us that after the Chernobyl disaster, a cloud of radiation was blown across Europe.


And when they began to track the radiation, they discovered that the Lübecki farm was free of radiation. That can only be attributed to their compost because it's the sole and only product that they produce for their fields. All of the fields that were treated with this microbial-rich, fungal-rich compost didn't show the traces of radioactivity that were dominant and prevalent. And in fact, it was so noticeable that they tested that area three or four times. So, isn't it amazing to think of this? So, in his lifetime, the Buddha made a very simple statement. He said, Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up.


Uncover then what is concealed, lest it be soddened by the rain. Now, of course, I would say, so that it can be soddened by the rain in our times now. But the point here is very, very simple. Practice, meditation, wholehearted mindfulness and awareness, fully blossoming like the fungal spores that fall from the mother mushrooms. Fully blossoming and fruiting, fruitful awareness depends on uncovering what's hidden and what we're not willing to look at, and getting to work. Because Buddhist practice is all about deep sitting, and not only Buddhist practice, Buddhist practice with a little b, and all meditation practice, all traditions that turn, that look at the world from within, or look at within from the world. All traditions depend on silent, deep reflection,


and getting to work, standing up together and getting to work. In the last year of his life, David Brower went around to so many different places, and he asked every audience, How many of you would be willing to spend a year, a year out of every ten years, actually offering CPR, CPR, conservation, and restoration on this planet? How many of you would be willing? And he said, sometimes people would be kind of daunted. And then he said, Well, how many of you are not willing to do it? And nobody raised their hand. So he said, Okay, then let's get to work. And that means learning or remembering how to live conscientiously and in full awareness and humility, the source of the word for humus, humility. It shares humorous, humility, humble, humane, human. Humus, of course, is decomposed organic matter on the floor of the forest. It's what the fungi have finished with,


and they give back. There's fool's gold, which is all the work of the world and the work of the wind. And then there's real gold, which is the black gold in the heart of the forest. So humus, human life, depends on humility, recognition that we're responsible for so much of the problem. And we also have within our hearts and minds in the present moment the ability to remediate, to serve in the same way that the fungi do. And that's the heart and soul of this day and of our practice. Why you come here on a Sunday morning? To remember, so that we can remember together that we are a biological community, dedicated and committed to working together lifetime after lifetime after lifetime. Okay. I would like to finish,


so you can stand up and stretch and eat muffins or whatever else. And also so that we can come back together and really talk deeply about the work that you're doing, you know, so that we can support each other, be an inescapable network of mutuality. Of course, think of the Buddhist image of Indra's net where every web of the net is tied together with a little jewel and that jewel reflects every other being in the net. Wonderful image for the inescapable network. So let's come back together after a little break and discuss how we can be a support, a source of fertility and support for each other. And I'd like to close with one of my favorite stories of a Saint Phocas. Saint Phocas was a saint, a Christian martyr who lived in probably the fourth century, we're not quite sure. He lived east of Constantinople on a little isthmus or peninsula of land


that jutted into the Black Sea. And in the time of persecution, he was called the patron saint of the garden, Saint Phocas of the garden. In the time of religious persecution that was so rampant, probably in the third or fourth century, the Roman Empire sent out some messengers looking for Phocas of this isthmus, this Black Sea isthmus. And three messengers from the Roman Empire came to his home and asked about his whereabouts. He asked about the whereabouts of this person. The gardener that they encountered said, I know him well and I'll take you to him tomorrow, but now it's time to rest. Come in, make yourselves at home. Let me give you something to eat, a place to sleep, because this is a rough and wild place and it's best if you overnight here. And so the soldiers did. And the next morning they were eager to go and find Phocas. And the man said, first let me feed you.


And they had breakfast. And then they went out into the garden and the gardener had dug a huge hole in the garden and he stepped into the hole and he said, you need search no further. I am Phocas, the man you're searching for. And the Roman emissaries shrank back. They thought, my heavens, is it our fate to kill this person who has hosted us so beautifully and put him under the ground? And Phocas said, no, I insist. This is your mission and I'm ready as long as I can fall here. So he was beheaded and buried in his garden. And this is the lives of the saints include this true story of Phocas, the gardener who gave the ultimate gift to the ground. And I was thinking, well, what would have happened to his body? First of all, buried there on that lonely isthmus,


the fungi surely would have hydrolyzed his protein and broken apart, gotten in there and broken apart with those cross-shaped, you know, bonds from the organelles. The mycelial network would have gone into his body, left his bones intact, but taken all of his juices and begun to work him over. And followed then by the bacteria that love nitrogen, they would have taken the protein of Saint Phocas and freed it. Either soil-borne, it would have been nitrates, free-in-the-atmosphere ammonia gas coming up from that garden. And then, of course, later, more fungi coming in and taking apart the carbon. Carbon recombines in one 150th of a second, oxygen in one 17th of a second. So many reactions were happening. And then the white worms and the maggots


and all the beings that lived again and decomposed the saint and left behind a mound of fertile, humus-rich earth to contemplate. So, I think of Saint Phocas and David Brower and the great oak tree that came down at Green Gulch many years ago. Today, on Arbor Day, I think of them all together in one Saurin community and have joined together. And the nine of us who walked yesterday on the hills receiving the tidings of this good land and coming back to who we are. Again and again and again, joining the great majority. So let's end with the Buddha's encouragement.


And remember that rain soddens what is kept wrapped up. Uncover then what is concealed. Join the great majority, lifetime after lifetime. And if you have a little time this afternoon, please join us, even for 10 or 15 minutes of work. A rainy day is a blessing day. So if you'd like to join us on this 25th celebration of life and the coming apart of life, you are welcome. And thank you very much for letting me be part of this network today.