It's not often one gets the chance to hold in hand the words of a living master.
At a Library of Congress reading on October 24, 1996, Gary Snyder sounded out the Buddha-nature of his work by reading from "Mountains and Rivers Without End." I was familiar with him as one of the Dharma bums of the fifties, and later -- in the late seventies and early eighties -- as a "deep ecologist." I had read some of his poems and essays, and thought I had "got it." But I hadn't, really.
Not until I heard him read.
That night I bought "Mountains and Rivers Without End" mainly because of the perennial philosophy Snyder paints in "The Blue Sky." In truth, I also felt a sense of longing: longing for the names of old friends he calls upon, names that I (as a Buddhist) miss hearing in my busy monkey-life (Shakyamuni Buddha, Kama, Ramana Maharshi); longing for the sounds of Pali words in Sanskrit chants; longing for the promise of the Blue Land, the Pure Land, the Land of Healing.
I realized later that I bought "Mountains and Rivers Without End" to try and take home some of the intense emotional involvement that the reading invoked. But this work, years in the making, can be appreciated on levels from the purely cerebral to the blatantly emotional. So even though the immediacy of hearing the words has faded, I continue to peel the verses like onions, discovering layers upon layers of truthful artistry that impart new immediacies with every reading.