“Smokey the Bear Sutra” by Gary Snyder

Posted by – November 17, 2015
Categories: Excerpt Literature & the Arts

Poem excerpted from the Io Anthology

Io Anthology cover

Created by Richard Grossinger and Lindy Hough in 1965, Io forged an eclectic path through the upheavals of the 1960s in art, literature, science, and the life of the spirit with writing that embraced astrophysics, science fiction, parapsychology, topology, poetry from Black Mountain, Beat, and New American traditions, wisdom from Hopi and Iglulik elders, homeopathy, hermetics, alchemy and the occult, astrology, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism.

The anthology features very early work from Stephen King, Gary Snyder, Jayne Anne Phillips, and many others. Here we’ve shared a poem by the legendary Gary Snyder from Io‘s 7th issue, Oecology.


Once in the Jurassic, about 150 million years ago,
the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite
Void gave a great Discourse to all the assembled elements
and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings,
the flying beings, and the sitting beings—even grasses,
to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a
seed, were 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 Buddha-nature.”

“The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings
of great 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 attach-
ments, 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 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 only 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

            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 food, 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

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


And he will protect those who love 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,
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

Will always have ripe blackberries to eat and a sunny spot
under a pine tree to sit at,


                                    thus have we heard.

(may be reproduced free forever)

Tags: Poetry Gary Snyder

About the Author

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Julia was delighted to find out that “professional book recommender” was a job. She has been working in marketing and publicity with independent Bay Area publishers ever since. She joined North Atlantic Books in 2014. She lives with her husband and two very nice cats in Oakland.