Zen on the Trail draws on the Christopher Ives’s expertise in Zen, global pilgrimage traditions, and backpacking to offer an approach to hiking—and, more generally, all forms of walking in nature—as a form of pilgrimage, as a spiritual practice that can deepen one’s connection to nature, both in the woods and back at home. The manuscript is organized around a two-day backpacking trip in the White Mountains, and it draws from anthropologist Victor Turner’s theory of pilgrimage as consisting of three stages: separation from ordinary social life, liminality, and return to society. In addition to describing Buddhist contemplative practices on the trail and an array of pilgrimage traditions around the world, Zen on the Trail highlights lessons that can be brought home from the trail and offers reflections on pilgrimage in a broad sense. In particular, it describes how one can wake up in nature as nature. This book has attracted the attention of not only those who venture out into nature but those who are interested in meditation, pilgrimage, sacred mountains, Asian approaches to nature, and simpler, more mindful ways of living.
In his talk Ives will discuss how he came to write the book, connections between backpacking and pilgrimage, a way of hiking that is colored by Zen, bringing lessons from the trail back home, and living life itself as a pilgrimage.
Christopher Ives is Professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College. In his scholarship he focuses on ethics in Zen Buddhism, and currently he is working on Buddhist approaches to nature and environmental issues.
His publications include Zen on the Trail: Hiking as Pilgrimage (2018); “Resources for Buddhist Environmental Ethics” (Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 2013); Imperial-Way Zen: Ichikawa Hakugen’s Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics (2009); Zen Awakening and Society (1992); a translation of philosopher Nishida Kitarō’s An Inquiry into the Good (co-translated with Abe Masao, 1990); a translation of Hisamatsu Shin’ichi’s Critical Sermons of the Zen Tradition (co-translated with Tokiwa Gishin, 2002); The Emptying God (co-edited with John B. Cobb, Jr., 1990); and Divine Emptiness and Historical Fullness (edited volume, 1995). He has also published numerous book chapters and articles in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, the Eastern Buddhist, and elsewhere.
He is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and on the steering committee of the Religion and Ecology Group of the American Academy of Religion.
Originally from Litchfield, Connecticut, he received his B.A. in Psychology from Williams College and his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Claremont Graduate School. He currently lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.