Peter Coyote enlightens campus

 

Photo by Jeff Li.

Photo by Jeff Li.

Yesterday, Oct. 1, Peter Coyote ’64 gave a talk about the power of intention. Coyote has had a long and varied career, to say the least. After Grinnell he was active in the countercultural movement of the 60s and started a career as an actor and narrator. He is most well-known for his work with Ken Burns. During the last few decades, Coyote has focused his energy on Buddhism, recently becoming a priest of Zen Buddhism in 2011.

During the lecture Coyote drew on his own experiences and his relationship with the Buddhist faith to demonstrate the importance of intention. To start things off he discussed some basic facets of Buddhist belief and then moved into a discussion of how we are all connected to the universe in some way.

“We have never for one instant not been part of all of [the universe] and we are always part of all it,” Coyote said.

Coyote used this idea to set up the crux of his lecture: letting go of the human ego.

“In a world in which everything is changing and there are no fixed realities, the only thing we can control is our intention,” Coyote said.

Coyote argues that this control of intention is what allows us to lead a life that is personally fulfilling. At the same time, the pursuit of personal fulfillment should be combined with selflessness. In the question and answer section following the talk, Coyote addressed this issue more directly.

“The question of how to be selfless is an impossible question,” Coyote said. “There is great power to be had by taking an unattainable vow because what it does is it binds you to a moment-by-moment decision. If you keep that vow it will color the decision you make.”