In 1969 the poet Gary Snyder wrote and published - for free distribution - a short prose-poem called “Smokey the Bear Sutra” which I’ve included below. In this poem Snyder’s main metaphor is of raging forest-fires of greed and war, oppression and destruction all being put out by Smokey the Bear, an incarnation of the Great Sun Buddha.
Today in 2017, living in a more-crowded and more frightened America, one of computers and robots, surveillance cameras, the militarization of the police, and corporate greed and deception of a magnitude perhaps not foreseen by Snyder 50 years ago, I think a more apt metaphor than forest-fires is to imagine Dumpster Fires raging all across America.
And instead of Smokey the Bear, maybe it’s time to invoke Kali, Indian goddess of righteous wrath and redemption. Armed with her trident of penetrating insight and her sword of discrimination, clad with a necklace of human skulls representing loveless knowledge and empty-headed egotism, and a skirt of severed arms and hands symbolizing human greed and manipulation, let her stamp out the Dumpster Fires of today’s America.
We can help: trample blind hunger and useless attachments underfoot with your standing poses, confront spineless politicians with your backbends, fling damp sand on the fires of greed and war with your forward bends, snuff out the Dumpster Fires of mindless rage with ujjayi, the victorious breath!
All I’m suggesting here a little flippantly is that we, each of us, use our practices not just for ourselves, but to heal the larger community we are all part of: family, our neighbors, our cities, all the other living critters, the trees and waters, the whole show.
SMOKEY THE BEAR SUTRA by Gary Snyder
Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago, the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite Void gave a discourse to all the assembled elements and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings, the flying beings, and the sitting beings--even the grasses, to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning Enlightenment on the planet Earth.
"In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon. The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddhanature."
"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that future American Era I shall enter a new form; to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger: and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it."
And he showed himself in his true form of
SMOKEY THE BEAR
A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful. Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war; His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;
Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;
Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:
all true paths lead through mountains--
With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;
Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;
Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;
Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.
Wrathful but calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...
HE WILL PUT THEM OUT.
Thus his great Mantra:
Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam
"I DEDICATE MYSELF TO THE UNIVERSAL DIAMOND BE THIS RAGING FURY BE DESTROYED"
And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children: And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant
SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:
DROWN THEIR BUTTS
CRUSH THEIR BUTTS
DROWN THEIR BUTTS
CRUSH THEIR BUTTS
And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.
Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.
Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.
Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.
Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.
Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.
AND IN THE END WILL WIN HIGHEST PERFECT ENLIGHTENMENT
...thus we have heard...
(may be reproduced free forever)