Learning From Nature
The beauty of the natural world has always been a huge source of inspiration for us as a species. The keen observation of nature has led to some of humankind’s greatest achievements: artistic, literary, and scientific. Likewise, our religions also have much to say about nature. Many prophets and scriptures have been directly inspired by aspects of nature, which then become the subjects of metaphors and parables in their teachings. Because the natural world is something concrete that we all participate in and co-inhabit, allegories based on nature become a universal language that can convey lessons which are otherwise quite abstract. This collective language allows for shared meaning making across time and geography.
“Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one."
“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."
“Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion.”
“When a soul has in it the life of the spirit, then does it bring forth good fruit and become a Divine tree."
“Krishna, the mind is restless, turbulent, powerful, violent; trying to control it is like trying to tame the wind.”
“There is a Japanese saying, ‘For the moon there is the cloud. For the flower there is the wind.’ When we see a part of the moon covered by a cloud, or a tree, or a weed, we feel how round the moon is. But when we see the clear moon without anything covering it, we do not feel that roundness the same way we do when we see it through something else. When you are doing zazen, you are within the complete calmness of your mind; you do not feel anything. You just sit. But the calmness of your sitting will encourage you in your everyday life. So actually you will find the value of Zen in your everyday life, rather than while you sit. But this does not mean you should neglect zazen. Even though you do not feel anything when you sit, if you do not have this zazen experience, you cannot find anything; you just find weeds, or trees, or clouds in your daily life; you do not see the moon. That is why you are always complaining about something. But for Zen students a weed, which for most people is worthless, is a treasure. With this attitude, whatever you do, life becomes an art.”
“Nin [patience, constancy] is the way we cultivate our own spirit. Nin is our way of continuous practice. We should always live in the dark empty sky. The sky is always the sky. Even though clouds and lightning come, the sky is not disturbed. Even if the flashing of enlightenment comes, our practice forgets all about it. Then it is ready for another enlightenment. It is necessary for us to have enlightenments one after another, if possible, moment after moment. This is what is called enlightenment before you attain it and after you attain it."
"The symbol Taoists have used since ancient times to represent the Tao,[the yin-yang symbol], shows the two conjoined phases of the moon[…]Every month the moon effortlessly shows us that something comes from nothing. Lao-tzu asks us to emulate this aspect of the moon—not the full moon, which is destined to wane, but the new moon, which holds the promise of rebirth."
“Lieh-tzu was not a person given to casual chatting. After his students begged him tirelessly for half a day, he finally said, ‘Think about this. Old man sky never says a word, but we can see that everything has its place in the universe. Nature has a lot to teach us. All you need is to open your eyes and look. The changes you see in nature follow a course. The four seasons behave in a regulated way. In truth, all human matters follow the same principles as the workings of heaven and earth. What more is there for me to say?’"
“In the whole world, nothing is softer and weaker than water. And yet for attacking the hard and strong, nothing can beat it, because there is nothing you can use to replace it.”
“It knows everything, the river, a person can learn anything from it. Look, you have already learned this, too, from the water: that it is good to make your way downward, to move lower, to seek the depths. The wealthy aristocratic Siddhartha is becoming a hired oarsman."
"‘Do we see the hundred thousandth part of what exists? Look here; there is the wind, which is the strongest force in nature, which knocks down men, and blows down buildings, uproots trees, raises the sea into mountains of water, destroys cliffs and casts great ships onto the breakers; the wind which kills, which whistles, which sighs, which roars—have you ever seen it, and can you see it? It exists for all that, however.’"
“[Rachel] Carson placed her final hope for the survival of life on the empathy, compassion, and care aroused by the emotion of wonder. ‘I believe,’ she wrote, ‘that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.’”
“Let us not be like the man of Sung. There was a man of Sung, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and so he pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very stupid, and said to his people, ‘I am tired to-day. I have been helping the corn to grow long.’ His son ran to look at it, and found the corn all withered.”
"Therefore, one should follow the steadfast, the wise, the educated, the self-reliant, the dutiful and the noble. Even as the moon follows the path of the stars, so ought one to follow such a virtuous and highly intelligent man."
"And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees - of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at [each of] its fruit when it yields and [at] its ripening. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe." (6:99)
"Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky?" (14:24)
"Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the tree that is flourishing, it nourishes, while that which is ready to fall, it overthrows."
"All things are nourished together without their injuring one another. The courses of the seasons, and of the sun and moon, are pursued without any collision among them. The smaller energies are like river currents; the greater energies are seen in mighty transformations. It is this which makes heaven and earth so great."