Intimate Responsivity as Essence-Calling-Path-Fruition: Eco(psycho)logical Ethics Via Zen Buddhist Phenomenology



Working hermeneutically with classic Zen Buddhist texts and with corresponding events of daily existence, this chapter explores the suffering generated by humans living as if separate from the rest of nature. Further, it works to cultivate an alternative ethical/relational sensibility growing from and actualized as sensitive, aware, embodied contact with others: two-legged, four-legged, winged, rooted, and otherwise. This approach—nondual (non-separate) yet inherently interreponsive—aspires to sponsor a more convivial, mutually enhancing relationship between humankind and all the other beings and presences of earth. Readers are encouraged to experiment with the following invitation, to play with and test it conceptually and (especially) experientially: What if we welcomed intimate participatory responsivity as our shared essence, calling, path, and fruition? Phenomenological, contemplative, and theoretical perspectives from Buddhist psychology serve as textual and practical supports for this inquiry: for example, “interdependent co-arising,” “no (separate) self,” nature’s “sutras,” “the bodhisattva vow,” and others. The revelatory teachings of thirteenth-century Zen master Eihei Dogen play a key role. The views and spirit of Western phenomenology imbue the present work, while remaining mostly in the background. Joining with allies in this anthology and beyond, this chapter contributes to an evolving, interdisciplinary, eco-psycho-cultural therapy. This continuous practice is devoted to fostering well-being with and for all our relations in the shared earth community.


Ecopsychology Nature Participatory responsibility Contemplative/meditative psychology Phenomenology Zen Buddhism Dogen Nonduality Interdependent co-arising Bodhisattva path 


  1. Abram, D. (1996). The spell of the sensuous. Perception and language in a more-than-human-world. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  2. Abram, D. (2010). Becoming animal. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  3. Adams, W. (1996). Discovering the sacred in everyday life: An empirical phenomenological study. The Humanistic Psychologist, 24(3), 28–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams, W. (1999). The interpermeation of self and world: Empirical research, existential phenomenology, and transpersonal psychology. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 30(2), 39–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Adams, W. W. (2006). The ivory-billed woodpecker, ecopsychology, and the crisis of extinction: On annihilating and nurturing other beings, relationships, and ourselves. The Humanistic Psychologist, 34(2), 111–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Adams, W. W. (2007). The primacy of interrelating: Practicing ecological psychology with Buber, Levinas, and Merleau-Ponty. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 38(1), 24–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Adams, W. W. (2010a). Intimate participation as our essence, calling, and path: Nonduality, Buddhist psychology, and our ecological imperative. ReVision, 31(3&4), 48–53.Google Scholar
  8. Adams, W. W. (2010b). Nature’s participatory psyche: A study of consciousness in the shared earth community. The Humanistic Psychologist, 38(1), 15–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Aitken, R. (1984). The mind of clover. Essays in Zen Buddhist ethics. Berkeley: North Point Press.Google Scholar
  10. Aitken, R. (1991). The gateless barrier. New York: North Point Press.Google Scholar
  11. Aitken, R. (1993). Encouraging words. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  12. Aitken, R. (2003). The morning star. Washington, DC: Shoemaker Hoard.Google Scholar
  13. Bodhi, B. (Ed. & Trans.). (1995). The middle length discourses of the Buddha. (B. Nanamoli, Original Translator). Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Buber, M. (1955). Between man and man. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cook, F. H. (1977). Hua-yen Buddhism. The Jewel Net of Indra. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Dogen, E. (1985). Moon in a dewdrop. (K. Tanahashi, Trans.) San Francisco: North Point Press. (Original work 13th century).Google Scholar
  17. Dogen, E. (1999). Enlightenment unfolds. (K. Tanahashi, Ed.). Boston: Shambhala. (Original work 13th century).Google Scholar
  18. Ferrer, J. N., & Sherman, J. H. (2008). The participatory turn. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  19. Foster, N., & Shoemaker, J. (Eds). (1996). The roaring stream. Hopewell: Ecco Press.Google Scholar
  20. Heidegger, M. (1966). Discourse on thinking. (J. Anderson and H. Freund, Trans.) New York: Harper and Row. (Original work published 1959)Google Scholar
  21. Heidegger, M. (1996). Being and time. (J. Stambaugh, Trans.). Albany: SUNY Press. (Original work published 1951).Google Scholar
  22. Blofeld, J. (1958). The Zen teaching of Huang Po. On the transmission of mind. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  23. Caputo, J. D. (1997). The prayers and tears of Jacques Derrida. Religion without religion. Bloominton: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gadamer, H-G. (2011). Truth & method, second revised edition. (J. Wiensheimer & D. G. Marshall, Trans.) New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  25. Garfield, J. L. (1995). The fundamental wisdom of the middle way. Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, H-J. (2004). Eihei Dogen. Mystical realist. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  27. Kornfield, J. (1993). A path with heart. New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
  28. Levinas, E. (1981). Otherwise than being or beyond essence. (A. Lingis, Trans.) Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. (Original work published 1974).Google Scholar
  29. Loy, D. (1998). Nonduality. Amherst: Humanity Books.Google Scholar
  30. Loy, D. (2002). A Buddhist history of the west. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  31. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perception (C. Smith, Trans.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1945).Google Scholar
  32. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1968). The visible and the invisible. (A. Lingis, Trans.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. (Original work published 1964).Google Scholar
  33. Merleau-Ponty, M. (2003). Nature. Course notes from the College de France (R. Vallier, Trans.) Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Nhat Hanh, T. (1988). The heart of understanding. Commentaries on the Prajanaparamita Heart Sutra. Berkeley: Parallax Press.Google Scholar
  35. Okumura, S. (2010). Realizing Genjokoan. The key to Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  36. Snyder, G. (1990). The practice of the wild. San Francisco: North Point Press.Google Scholar
  37. Suzuki, D. T. (1956). The role of nature in Zen Buddhism. In W. Barrett (Ed.), Zen Buddhism. Selected writings of D. T. Suzuki. Garden City: Doubleday Anchor.Google Scholar
  38. Watson, B. (1997). The Vimalakirti Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Wilber, K. (2000). Sex, ecology, spirituality, 2nd Edn. Boston: Shambhala.Google Scholar
  40. Yasutani, H. (1996). Flowers fall. A commentary on Zen Master Dogen’s Genjokoan. Boston: Shambhala.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations