Christopher Ives: Zen, Ethics, and the Wildness of Nature


On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Christopher Ives, scholar and practitioner in the Zen Buddhist tradition, and author of Zen on the Trail: Hiking as Pilgrimage, recently published by Wisdom. Chris specializes in modern Zen ethics, as well as Buddhist approaches to nature and the environment. In this conversation, you’ll hear Chris talk about his exposure to American Zen in the 1970s, and how his upbringing in New England prepared him for a very different encounter of Zen in Japan, where he spent years practicing. Chris also discusses the history of ethics and social engagement in traditional Japanese Zen Buddhism, and how this has differed from American approaches to Buddhist ethics more broadly. Lastly, Chris compares the symbolic value of nature in Japanese and Zen culture, to the raw and wild nature Gary Snyder writes about in his poetry, and how both have influenced his writing and practice. He then offers ways of enriching our sense of connectedness to the deeper rhythms of nature, whether through hiking in the mountains or simply sitting outside in our own backyard.

About the Interviewee

Christopher Ives is a professor of religious studies at Stonehill College. In his teaching and writing he focuses on ethics in Zen Buddhism and Buddhist approaches to nature and environmental issues. His publications include Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist EthicsZen Awakening and SocietyDivine Emptiness and Historical Fullness; a translation (with Abe Masao) of Nishida Kitaro’s An Inquiry into the Good; and a translation (with Gishin Tokiwa) of Hisamatsu Shin’ichi’s Critical Sermons of the Zen Tradition. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and is serving on the steering committee of the Religion and Ecology Group of the American Academy of Religion.

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