Meditation in the Wild

Meditation in the Wild

Buddhism's Origin in the Heart of Nature

A history of Raw Nature as the Buddha’s first teacher, inspiring some followers to retreat there in search of truth.


Meditation in the Wild takes the reader on an adventure with the Buddhist forest monks and hermits of the last 2500 years. Walking into jungles and living on mountain sides, their encounters with nature teach us about the meaning of life and death, our struggles with our own minds and how we treat each other. Sitting with tigers, biting insects and bamboo shoots they looked on life compassionately. They remind us of who we are and what we have become.


Charles S. Fisher takes us across several continents and 25 centuries, as he retraces the migratory path of a radical traditional of Buddhism. Determined to recreate the context in which the Buddha became enlightened, we move far beyond urban centres where monastic study, doctrine, and Buddhist scriptures have evolved, to examine the ways of more solitary practitioners living in the wild. Critically, through entering nature and experiencing its indifference to our self-soothing stories, we have the power to stimulate awareness of our mortality- that unpalatable eventuality that our society so assiduously covers over with distractions and comforts of all sorts. This book will be of interest to anyone for whom meditation is an important tool, as well as to cultural and religious historians. However, the extremes of self-deprivation and isolation historically practiced by forest-dwellers are unlikely to appeal to many readers as a current way of life. Perhaps the example of forest-dwellers will instead provide an incentive to look beyond our alienated technological lives, to take in the weather, the seasons, and to irrigate our roots in a living world, which needs us to become aware of her before we can know ourselves. Review by Michael Gray ~ Michael Gray, Caduceus. issue 87

I’m not sure whether it was Fisher’s explanation of Buddhist philosophy in the context of experiencing nature, his ability to communicate erudite concepts to layman, or all the years I’ve spent working in my yard in Florida, but page after page Fisher’s dissertation seemed so logical and easy to understand. He takes us through the growth of Buddhism from its natural origins in Buddha’s experience of the wild, up to modern day practice. Tracing the growth of structured religion out of human experiences that were the same thousands of years ago as they are today makes everything seem much closer to our everyday life than the rituals and ceremonies that now represent those early experiences. The concept of letting nature act as one’s master teacher on the spiritual path is a very interesting one, as is the idea of using fear as a teacher. Let customers know that this is a thorough and insightful discussion of the foundations of Buddhism and its progression into its current forms. Many of them will be inspired to seek out natural avenues for connecting with untapped spirituality. ~ Anna Jedrziewski, Retailing Insight (online reviews)

This book is an exciting portrait of how the Buddha and meditators since his time have gone back into raw nature to try to understand themselves and humanity's place in the world. It draws upon history, poetry, and art to give a feeling of what it must have been like to go off into the woods to meditate. The examples drawn from Zen poets and Chinese paintings are captivating. While the book has scholarly foundations, it is quite readable. It also shows how our modern lifestyle affects our understanding of nature. I think Meditation in the Wild will find a large audience among the growing number of readers of books on meditation. Many people have now had a taste of meditation and are interested in reading more about its history and its relation to the natural world. Readers of books about nature and spirituality will also be drawn to this book. ~ Jack Kornfield, founding teacher Spirit Meditation Center

An astonishing … interpretation and inspiration distilled over a lifetime of study of both natural history and the Buddhist dharma. ~ Wade Davis, National Geographic Explorer in residence and author of Into the Silence, One River, and The Serpent and the Rainbow. ,

Meditation in the Wild: Buddhism’s Origin in the Heart of Nature follows up on Fisher's earlier Dismantling Discontent: Buddha's Way through Darwin's World, which showed how Buddhism didn't come out of nowhere but was a measured response to restore a natural animal being in a world that had been truncated--phenomenologically bulldozed--in the wake of encroaching civilization. Meditation in the Wild backs up and extends that most credible thesis, but here he zeros in on centuries of Buddhist adepts, forest monks and mountain meditators whose varied practices illuminate the historical roots and natural context of the practice that Alan Watts called the no-religion religion. Studded with poetry, historical details, and level-headed analysis, Fisher again proves a most credible guide to the modern relevance of an ancient tradition. ~ Dorion Sagan, science writer, author of Notes from the Holocene

Intriguing and insightful, Meditation in the Wild hits a sweet spot between Buddhism and the environment. Charlie Fisher asserts that Buddhist practice must be understood in the context of closeness with wild nature – the context in which Buddha himself attained enlightenment. As a professor and a scholar, Charlie has clearly broken new ground. Through a detailed exploration of he writings and stories of past Buddhist masters, he reveals the details of how wild nature aided their quest for enlightenment. As a man (and longtime meditator) who has himself lived close to the wilderness much of his life, Charlie's authentic connection to the wild shines through on every page, especially as he describes his close encounters with bears and wolves. The teaching tools of the wild are sometimes harsh: fear, cold, hunger, loneliness. Yet from them the sages learned to let go of ego, cease grasping, and find their place in the natural world. It's a lesson all humanity must take to heart. ~ Tim Ward, author of What the Buddha Never Taught

As Buddhist meditation becomes ever more widely practiced today, it is vital to recognize its intimate connection to the natural world. In returning us to the sources of the tradition, Charles Fisher's timely book affirms how mindfulness is inseparable from a heightened awareness of the sublime and fragile environment of which we are inextricably tied through every breath we take. ~ Stephen Batchelor, author of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“….nature is fundamentally unreliable, mostly uncomfortable. Nature is too cold, too hot, too windy. It opens us to what is. That is the Dharma. We work with that.” This is just one of many kernels of wisdom Charlie Fisher reveals for us in his astonishing distillation of Buddhism’s fundamental connection to the natural world. For those who care about the environment, this book is an important reminder of the need for frequent, contemplative reconnection with nature in order to best protect it. ~ John Miceler, Eastern Himalayas Program Director

Charles S.  Fisher Ph.D.
Charles S. Fisher Ph.D. For thirty years Charlie Fisher was a professor of Sociology at Brandeis University. He taught courses on the history of science, ethnograph...
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