PZI Teacher Archives

Zen Luminaries: Minding the Earth, Mending the World with Zen Writer & Roshi Susan Murphy


Writer & Roshi Susan Murphy, in conversation with Jon Joseph, reads from her books and talks about her childhood, family, lifelong relationship with the land, the disturbing evidence of climate change in Australia, and her ongoing, warm collaborations with indigenous aboriginal elders. Recorded April 25, 2022. Jordan McConnell sings the vows.



A student asked Yunmen, “What is the teaching that lasts a lifetime?”
Yunmen said, “Say something in response.”


A student asked Yunmen, “Would you summarize the Buddha’s teachings?”
Yunmen said, “Say something in response.”

—The Blue Cliff Record, Case 14

Susan Murphy visits from Kangaroo Park, Australia, with PZI’s Jon Joseph on Zoom.

A longtime advocate for the land, indigenous rights and place, she expresses deep concern over the damage of climate change—the increasing evidence in Australia of the earth’s warming shift with mega dry-season fires followed by disastrous floods.

She introduces to us the aboriginal concept of ‘Country’ as a powerful presence asking us to stay put and reflect on where we are now.

As a child, Susan had a remarkably close relationship with her family and with the land. She was brought up looking to Mother Nature as the only god. She invites us into honorary membership in the Murphy Adventure Club, whose motto was a childhood sketch of the Zen path: Never give up on an adventure. In other words, meet life fully. Never give up on the world, on life.

A wondrous vision that Susan had at age seven has colored her life ever since, and remains a deeply important touchstone. Walking in to the school lavatory, she suddenly felt everything familiar fall away and felt herself emanating radiant light into a completely receptive darkness. She realized she was at once as completely at home in that version of herself as in her everyday childhood.

Susan has a relationship with many indigenous aboriginal elders. Her Aunties and Uncles and subscribe to the indigenous teaching that everything forsaken in the land must be brought back into the light with love. ‘Quiet Country’ is an indigenous concept of wholeness of the land, a more complete and related expression than ‘the wild’, which still separates.

Time = Country = All Time. Country is willing to communicate if you can listen.

You can not divide what is undivide-able, is a core teaching she brings.

Susan finishes by holding up her own open hand—radiant, wide, like the Chinese character for fire—and notes the difference between the open, ancient, and familiar gesture found on the walls of caves, and its counterpart, the sideways hand, which cuts across experience and is more of the ‘white fella’ world.

Hands wide in a goodbye salute.

Jordan McConnell sings the vows.

The conversation includes several readings from Susan Murphy’s book: Upside Down Zen

Susan Murphy Roshi is a dharma heir of John Tarrant Roshi.


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