The Poet Laureate of Deep Ecology Gary Snyder and His Animal Ethics  (Wei Chen )
The first truth of the Four Noble Truths is duhkha, which views suffering as the ultimate truth. In ecology, suffering is also a crucial element in evolution. While appropriate suffering will contribute to the evolution of all species, excessive suffering will only lead to the extinction of the whole species. Nature itself cannot endure meaningless and enormous suffering. Utilitarian philosopher Bentham also said that the question about animal ethics is not “Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” The evolutionary principle of nature should be the balance of competition and cooperation. In this light, our contemporary ecological crisis is no other than humankind’s overcompetition and lack of cooperation so that the dying nature and animals have stricken back through natural disasters and epidemic diseases.

It is said in Hua-yen Sutra that all dharmas originate from the mind, which sounds painfully true in this Dharma Ending Age. The Shurangama Sutra also reaffirms that the turmoils in the world are the reflections of the five poisons such as greed, anger, attachment, arrogance and disbelief. This paper aims to illuminate Snyder’s animal ethics, which is based on the Buddhist cosmology of the mind and resorts to Tibetan Buddhism, Tien Tai Buddhism and the native American tradition to develop his deep ecological (he changed deep into depth) concept of the transformation of the consciousness in order to correct the Western rationalism, materialism and anthropocentrism.

In this paper, I will discuss Snyder’s Myths & Texts, Earth House Hold and Turtle Island to make explicit the three perspectives of his animal ethics: 1. The concept of “proper places of all beings” in the Tibetan Buddhist mandala; 2. Tian Tai Master Chan-jan’s idea of “the Buddhahood of all beings”; 3. The symbiosis of all peoples in the native American tradition. In Snyder’s ecological cosmology, the food-chain is the channel of energy flowing in nature. In his reference to the native American hunting ritual, the hunting ritual is to express our respect for life through fasting, prayer and gratefulness. Snyder’s concept of the food-chain has communicated Buddhist vegetarianism and the native American hunting ritual. Through the above three perspectives, Snyder’s animal ethics inspired by Deep Ecologist Arne Naess’ idea of “the Council of All Beings” has further deepened and enriched its philosophical foundation and practice.

Department of Religious Studies, Hsuan Chuang University

Life Conservationist Association

HongShi Buddhist Cultural and Educational Foundation


Ministry of Science and Technology,Republic of China

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, R.O.C.

Ministry of Education, R.O.C.

Hsuan Chuang University


Hsuan Chuang University Research Center For Applied Ethics

Buddhist HongShi College