Jaworski 1Jordan JaworskiProfessor ReadyEnglish 1050: The Beats and their Spawn26 October 2015Gary Snyder’s InfluencesGary Snyder, a poet associated with the Beat generation, interestingly enough did not “consider himself a beat” (Messersmith 90). However, his influence on the Beat generation is undeniable. Characters based on Snyder are found throughout Beat literature, most notably, in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums where he is credited as “the number one Dharma Bum of them all” (qtd. in Charters 47). It’s easy to trace Snyder’s influences on prominent Beats, but what factors served as the primary influences on Snyder’s own life, writings, and opinions? Snyder’s values, studies, and experiences were the major influences on his works. After studying Buddhism in Japan, Snyder applied these teachings and principles to his life and poetry. Moreover, Buddhism taught him to see nature as a source of knowledge, which led him to become an environmental activist in order to protect the philosophical value found in the wilderness. Therefore, the most notable influence on Snyder was Buddhism as it serves as a theme in his poems as well as led to his environmental stance. A direct example of Buddhism in Snyder’s works is found in his poem “Toji”. In this poem Snyder describes his “experience of practicing Buddhism in Japan” at the Shington temple in Kyoto (Park 99). The message that Snyder tries to convey in this poem is that Buddhism allows the mind to separate itself from the external environment and “peacefully coexist” (Park 100). For example, the poem reads, “Nobody bothers you in Toji; the streetcar clanks by outside”(qtd. in Chambers 305). From this line it is clear that through his studies Snyder was able to find peace of mind despite the chaos of society. In other words, it stresses “the significance of controlling one’s mind beyond any locality or place where the body physically stays” (Park 100).His pursuit of enlightenment allows Snyder to “let his guard down” and free himself from the
Jaworski 2constraints of society “as he pursues a realm of pleasure” (Gray 131). Overall, this poem shows how serious Snyder took Buddhism. So much so, that he was willing to dedicate a significant amount of his life to studying and practicing it in Japan. As a result, Buddhism played a major influence on Snyder’s life as well as his view on the world and society.