Gary Snyder (born in 1930) is a poet and environmental activist, and one of the pioneers of American socially engaged Buddhism.
Snyder initially taught himself Zen meditation while he was a graduate anthropology student, and later encountered the painter and writer Saburo Hasegawa, Alan Watts, and Allen Ginsburg, all of whom became dharma mentors and friends.
Snyder later spent time studying and practicing at Rinko-in Temple in Japan, where he first took refuge as a Buddhist when he was 25 years old.
Snyder has written many poems and essays, but is perhaps best known for Mountains and Rivers Without End (1997).
This quote is an excerpt from the essay “Buddhist Anarchism,” originally published in Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1 (City Lights, 1961). It also appears in Earth House Hold (New Directions, 1969) under the title “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution.” You can access the complete essay online here.
There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means….
The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself — over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”