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Zen Environmental Studies Institute, Ltd.


The Zen Environmental Studies Institute (ZESI) is a religious nonprofit corporation of the Mountains and Rivers Order, located at the Zen Mountain Monastery on Tremper Mountain in upstate New York. Applying the Buddhist precepts to our relationship with the natural world, ZESI is dedicated to cultivating love and concern for the environment by recognizing the wisdom of the insentient and wild. Through workshops, retreats, courses, and research projects, ZESI promotes spiritually-grounded nature study and environmental advocacy. ZESI programs are conducted at training sites, wilderness camps, and retreat centers located within the Zen Mountain Monastery Nature Sanctuary, the Catskill Mountains Forest Preserve, and the Adirondack Mountains Forest Preserve. In addition to wilderness skills training, ZESI offers nature meditation retreats and programs grounded in Zen Buddhist meditation practices on a wide range of topics including: natural history, nature arts, and environmental ethics. In cooperation with the Zen Center of New York City, ZESI sponsors urban environmental programs in Brooklyn to encourage nature appreciation and environmental advocacy in urban settings. The Green Dragon Society, ZESI’s environmental advocacy team, includes environmental scientists, lawyers, river engineers, bioethicists, and media representatives. ZESI has recently launched an Environmental Monitoring Program in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains to monitor water, air, and soil quality as well as a wetland Breeding Bird Census. ZESI membership includes a subscription to the quarterly newsletter, The Green Dragon Howl, and discounts on ZESI programs.



Geographic Location

United States of America
(New York)
Duration of Project 2001–Present

The origins of the Zen Environmental Studies Institute can be traced back to 1980 when the Zen Mountain Monastery, home of the Mountains and River Order, was founded at Tremper Mountain. At this time, the Abbot and Board of Directors designated eighty percent of the Monastery’s 250-acres as a permanent nature sanctuary in order to manifest the community’s commitment to include all insentient beings on the property as members of the sangha. During the 1980s, wilderness appreciation and exploration became a central theme of the Monastery’s retreats and training sessions. In 1991, the “Born as the Earth” program was launched to integrate meditation practice with nature appreciation. The Green Dragon Council was formed in 1992 in order to protect the wetlands of the Esopus River and soon turned its attention to other vulnerable or threatened natural sites and entities. The Zen Environmental Studies Institute was established in 2001 in order to promote the development of green Buddhism through expanded programs in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and New York City. Since its founding, ZESI has developed a broad range of workshops, retreats, courses, and research programs focused on integrating Buddhist practice with nature study, wilderness skills, and environmental advocacy.

Mission Statement “The Zen Environmental Studies Institute is part of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism and is a nonprofit religious corporation that exists to provide training, education, and practice of Zen Buddhism and its relationship to the environment. It sponsors and conducts workshops, training, and research on the environment and the teachings of the insentient. It provides space, facilities, and opportunities for teachers, students, and researchers in environmental work and ecology to interface and practice meditation, study nature, and to study the teachings of the insentient in relationship to the teachings of Buddhism. The direction of Zen Environmental Studies Institute programs arises from a trust in the inherent intelligence of wildness. For almost four billion years, our Earth has been functioning as an intelligent self-organizing, self-maintaining organism that supports life-sustaining relationships. If left undisturbed, this web-of-life ultimately creates an ecological balance for life processes. It provides diversity and balance without producing non-degradable waste nor contemporary society’s abusiveness and exploitation of people and places.”
Partner Organizations Zen Center of New York City
Society of Mountains and Rivers
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information Zen Environmental Studies Institute, Ltd.
P.O. Box 24
Mt. Tremper, NY 12456
Ph:            845.688.7993
Fax:          845.688.7995
Email:       .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)