I've just ordered this book,"Mother Earth Spirituality", and I want to share this finding with everyone.
After reading "Black Elk Speaks" I picked up this book because I believe that Native American ways of living have much to offer us. We neglect their wisdom at our peril. It is a great privilege that we have access to their knowledge on how we can live in harmony with Mother Earth. The author starts with the question why he should teach non-Indians about Native American spirituality and answers that it is time to share that spirituality because it does not belong to the Indians alone but to others with the right attitude; we all live in one world. If kept within the Indian community their old wisdom will not be allowed to work its environmental medicine on the world where it is desperately needed. A spiritual fire that promotes a communal commitment to a worldwide environmental undertaking is needed. Native or primal ways will fuel that fire and give it great power. Mother Earth can be revered, respected and protected.
He then quotes the letter from Chief Seathl (Seattle) to the President of the United States of America in 1854 - one of the most unusual and eloquent letters that a President can have received. "How can we buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?" The truth is that we could really stop here, go into a quiet room and reflect on those three sentences and we will surely discover the root cause of many of our ills. We put a price on everything the Indians think has no value and we place no value on everything the Indians think is valuable. Sparkling water in a stream flowing through a wood has no value to us but it is the essence of life to the Indian. Having polluted our rivers and killed the fish we are at long last starting to ask ourselves those very questions that Chief Seattle asked of the President 150 years ago.
Another point made by Chief Seattle haunts me. "...to harm the earth is to heap contempt on the Creator. The Whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste." How many of us today are saying somewhat similar things to our deaf leaders? But the heart and soul of the Indian way of life lies at the end of Seattle's letter, "So, if we sell our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children, and love it ... as God loves us all. One thing w know. Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to Him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see....." How many of us would claim that we have loved the land as the Indians loved the land, or cared for the land as the Indians cared for the land? If we answer 'no', then surely that means that we have something to learn from the Native Indians. I am sure that if Chief Seattle were here today he would cry to see what we have done to those lands the Indians held sacred. He would cry for the pain inflicted on the earth. He would cry for us who in our greed and selfishness have wrought such damage on ourselves and our children.
I agree with and applaud Ed McGaa. A spiritual fire that promotes a communal commitment to a worldwide environmental undertaking is needed. Native or primal ways will fuel that fire and give it great power. We should all learn something from this book. But not just read and think and speak. But act. This book is nothing if we do not act on it. This is what Stephen Covey was telling us in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change" that first we have to change ourselves, and only then we can change others and the world.
Einstein told us that we need a higher level of thinking to get ourselves out of the mess than the thinking that got us into the mess. Stephen Covey tells us that in such situations as we are in today we need a quantum change that can only be brought about by a completely new paradigm. Our current way of living is the paradigm that got us into the mess. The Indian approach is probably the paradigm that will get us out of the mess. If we read this book with an open mind and without prejudice, I believe that the Native American paradigm should be at the top of the shortlist of new paradigms from which we should make our selection for building the world we want for our children.
By DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS
Just watched the Nova special Cracking The Maya Code. The written language is so beautiful and fun. It holds so many intellectual as well as spiritual and earth mysteries. Very beautiful work preserved wonderfully in stone. Thank goodness the very few, intelligent people over the years worked so tirelessly to decipher it. These folks were from all over the world, from all walks of life: a human rainbow uncovering the mystery of this, our humanity, which was almost completely stamped out by missionaries. Not really the fault of missionaries, as perhaps, partially at least, they were trying to stop the practice of human sacrifice. I believe they at least has that much right. Thank goodness, though, the "baby in the bathwater" was carved in stone and therefore preserved, as throwing everything out the window is seldom good practice.
No Water, No Moon
When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.
At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!
In commemoration, she wrote a poem:
Inch Time Foot Gem
A lord asked Takuan, a Zen Teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.
Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man:
Reading about ancient Celtic/Gaelic celebration of Beltane (May Day) on May 1st. Similar practices to what I am reading about from White Buffalo Calf Woman: nine as a sacred number, fire and smudging to purify and heal, sun blessing the tribe.
"On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God) to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. An old Gaelic adage: "Eadar da theine Bhealltuinn" - "Between two Beltane fires".
The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.
Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying". Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers. Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring."
Christina Aubin, Posted: April 30th. 2000
Practice inclusion despite differences.
Roar of the Buffalo Horn
Today I have begun what I consider pipe holder training as well as something I believe will amount to schooling in a form of music I cannot not yet claim to understand. A true Chinupa (pipe) holder has been gifted his or her pipe, which I have not. I went on the internet and bought what I consider a "practice" Chinupa. Why? Because pipe holders are serious about what they are holding (have in their care). For me to even fathom that a pipe would "choose" me, I decided I would need to practice. So I bought a catlinite elbow pipe with a cedar stem, of similar material to those which come from Pipestone, MN. Something tells me mine was quarried elsewhere, as such a cheap "knock-off" pipe could not be the work of a master carver. I suppose it could, but these appeared to be produced in mass quantity. So depending on your viewpoint of such things, this way of obtaining a Chanupa could be mistake number one. Good thing I am practicing!
Even so, it is as close to (if not actually) a real Chinupa as I have ever come in contact with. I am in the middle of my second read of Mother Earth Spirituality by Ed McGaa Eagle Man, which I feel is giving me a basis of respectfulness for the way of the Chinupa holder. Ed would consider this a personal pipe, not a ceremonial pipe, so for that reason I am doing something perhaps a little different with it because I feel I have been, in some way, called to the practice I am undertaking. More on that after some details.
In 2002 I began making a bag for myself completely of knots tied together using small hemp string. In my opinion it was a very beautiful piece, but I ran out of patience with it and hung it as a flat piece on my wall for nine years. A few months ago, as I began to contrive my experiential project, I pulled it out and finished it with a few special added features for the Chinupa which was on its way. I made two separate sections for the bowl and the stem and an extra pocket to store tobacco. This has taken several weeks, but I completed it to my satisfaction (for now) a few nights ago.
In the meantime, the Chanupa arrived, and in order to be respectful of it while I worked on its new home, I smudged it and let it move in to the bag though it was still under construction. I also did some research and bought a pipe cleaning kit. All that I did was in anticipation of the Vernal Equinox, and here the story takes a turn toward the musicality of my venture.
Living in Minnesota (literally "smack-dab" in the middle of Lake Minnetonka), we see the seasons change very blatantly here. Perhaps because of this I feel fairly attuned to the changes the earth goes though during the course of a year. So much so that I have been studying the ancient Celtic calendar as the Celts were also a very seasonally focused people. What I am finding is the marking of the eight "ticks" of the year (the first two of which have been Imbolc and The Vernal Equinox, Oestar) seem very rational and spiritual at the same time. I feel them! I would say we all do a little bit here. We feel the renewing of light as February begins and the change in the air as mid-March passes and the snow begins to really start to melt. So I have decided to mark these moments with my own little ceremony involving my Chanupa. I believe a rhythm may begin to emerge: the rhythm of the earth perceived perhaps not audibly but in other ways. A rhythm greater than a drum beat but exactly the same. At least, that is my hypothesis. I am not set on falsely creating what I do not understand, so my learning will entail finding whether or not what I have just written is actually the case.
What I am about to learn from doing this I do not know. I expect it will take several years to begin to understand. In the meantime, eight times a year may not seem like much to those who bless with fire several times a day, but having been a heavy smoker for ten years, and with an asthmatic wife, eight times a year seems just right. Today I took my Golden Gopher seat cushion outside into the melting snow of the woods which is our back yard, sat on a log which was recently uncovered because of the melting snow, loaded the pipe, dusted a bit of my tobacco to each of the nine directions as a symbolic gesture, and struggled to keep the pipe lit as puffs of smoke rose up toward our house and then dissipatedly. I simply tried to remain thankful as I looked at the bare and black trees, fog and drizzle in the air, both my feet in 18 inches of melting snow on either side of the log.
What the experience which lasted only ten minutes did, I don't know, except for that it was a step. Perhaps a step toward respecting the earth or self, or toward becoming conscious of what is around me -- this kind of insight will only reveal itself in time, if ever, and I simply remain open to partaking and listening with my being to whatever happens. Eagle Man says in his book that the earth needs more pipe holders, so I begin by trying to understand what it means to be one.
Roar of the Buffalo Horn
To start with, let me say something that has helped me tremendously in sorting out what things are of true spiritual value. Today there is so much out there claiming to be spiritual truth. It is confusing, to say the least. Here is my "formula" in sorting out the real from the fake, or in my terms, the spiritual from the religious: If it is real, it works; if it works, it is real! In other words, if something has, say, healing power, it will heal.
Religious Ceremonies of the Lakota
(Excerpt from "Postmodern America: the Indian Wars" by Mike Burton)
The story of the "White Buffalo Woman" (Ptesan Win) who brought the pipe and the seven sacred ceremonies was recorded in Black Elk Speaks in 1931. The ceremony of the pipe and three of the Ptesan Win's sacred ceremonies -- the sweat lodge, the vision quest and the sun dance -- have never stopped being performed. The pipe is the "chanupa" or the "inyan sha," the "red pipe" whose bowl is made of a red stone found only in western Minnesota. The bowl is the earth, the woman, the flesh. The stem is the sky, the man, and the spirit. The two joined bring life (Crow Dog 133-135).
The "inipi," or stone lodge (often called sweat lodge) is a ceremony of purification and prayer. The lodge, built of willow saplings and covered with canvas and blankets, is in the shape of a turtle or womb. Rocks "inyan"are heated in a bonfire until they glow, and after the people enter they are brought inside the lodge whose door flap is shut. The people pray and sing ancient songs to the drumbeat while the water pourer joins the four elements of water, rock, fire and air. The door is opened and the rock runner brings in more stones. The cycle is repeated four times and the inipi ceremony is concluded by a feast. The vision quest, the "hanbleceya" is another cycle of four. For four consecutive years -- one day the first, two the second etc--the quester fasts, after being purified in the sweat lodge, he or she sits on a blanket in an isolated place and cries through the night for a vision. Often the vision comes through an animal, plant, insect, the wind or stars who changes into human form or speaks with a human voice. After completing the time on the blanket, the quester again goes through the inipi lodge and then to a feast and giveaway, giving gifts to the elders and supporters (Inipi & hanblecheya ceremonies from my own experiences).
The sun dance (along with the Peyote ceremony) is the most dramatic & controversial of the current traditional ceremonies. It is a four day dance held yearly in mid to late summer. The dancers fast, and after a pre dawn inipi sweat, dance until evening (or sometimes late into the night), when they again are sweated. On the third or fourth day they are pierced, usually on the upper chest. Rods (often carved from choke-cherry sticks or antlers) are stuck through the flesh and are attached to ropes or rawhide tied to the central tree. Sometimes a dancer will be pierced in the back and drag the ceremonial buffalo skulls around the circle. Another might choose to attach to a horse, sometimes being pulled up the tree and hanging until the skin breaks. The other dancers dance to the tree pulling away from the attached ropes and blowing the sacred eagle bone whistles until the skin tears away. Some dancers fall into a trance and are carried out of the circle by arm and leg loops made of sage wrapped in red cotton cloth--they are "wakan," holy, and must not be touched (information from Buffalo Horse--16 year sundancer, 7 years at Crow Dog's Paradise -- and from my own experience. For a 1880's description see the Great Sioux Sundance in which 1200 braves danced).
Other ceremonies are still being observed. The Yuwipi, a healing and finding ceremony is conducted at night in a house or covered lodge. The medicine man is wrapped in a thick blanket and tied securely with rawhide. The house is darkened -- the windows covered in blankets and all reflective surfaces removed--and the observers sit in a circle around the bound man and the altar. During the prayers and songs the spirits untie the medicine man and tell him the way to heal or find what is lost (Crow Dog 118-123).
The Ghost Dance is a more recent ceremony. In 1888 the Lakota sent men to Nevada to consult with Wovoka, a Christian Paiute who proclaimed a new world and the return of the buffalo. They returned having seen the whole world inside his hat, and bringing the Ghost Dance. The dancing spread quickly, especially as many reported going into the spirit world and meeting dead relatives (at this time, due to the harsh winters and war with the "wasichu," [whites], most living Lakota had more dead friends and relatives than living ones). Others ghost dancers went to the spirit world and brought back designs for shirts which would make the wearer impervious to bullets. The Army became extremely nervous, killing Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse who promoted the dance, and exterminating the 300 in Big Foot's Minneconjou tribe at the battle of Wounded Knee, where the tribe was surrendering after nearly starving and freezing to death in Canada. The Ghost Dance, and all the other "heathen" ceremonies were banned by law. Leonard Crow Dog's great grandfather Jerome was a ghost dance leader and taught the songs and ceremonies to his grandson Henry, an honored medicine man who handed the traditions down to Leonard Crow Dog, his son, who brought back the ghost dance during the Wounded Knee occupation in 1973 (see chapter 5 in Crow Dog).
About the time the Ghost Dance was introduced to the Lakota, the Peyote Ceremony #1 #2) was also being introduced, from the Mescalero Apache fleeing Texas, who had learned the ceremonies from Mexican Indians. Initially the Ceremony was conducted with a Bible and Christian imagery, but the Lakota replaced the Bible with the chanupa ( pipe). There evolved two kinds of ceremonies, the "moon fire" (sometimes called a "crescent moon fire" or "half moon fire") conducted with a chanupa, and a "cross fire," conducted with a Bible. The Peyote ceremonies are recognized under law as Native American Church services. The service begins at dark. The celebrants sit in a circle in a house (or tipi) around a central fire and pass around pieces of peyote cactus. A Roadman (minister) with his blue & red shawl and fan of feathers leads the ceremony in songs, prayers and "doctoring," assisted by a drummer who keeps a fast beat on the water drum throughout the night, and the "cedar man" who burns the sacred plants (cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco). A "door man" or "fire man," guards the door and tends the fire, and near him is the "water carrier," the wife or daughter of the road man. The sacred foods -- water, corn, meat, & berries -- are placed by the central fire. At dawn the people come out to see the sunrise and eat a meal together (see chapter 11 in Crow Dog).
Work CitedCrow Dog, Leonard & Richard Erdoes. Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.
Lately I have been working on music and reading less: kind of the ebb and flow of studying and participating in spirituality, as making music is a very concrete way for me to invoke spirit. When I am called, then I do. When I am not, then it is time for me to learn for the next time I am called (i.e., by reading). Even so, I slip in a little reading when possible during my music times. This morning this six-page pdf about a white man's call to conduct inipi ceremonies struck me as indicative of the struggle to work as one out of pure spirit, all people of the earth who wish to follow the red road:
Enlightenment means that you have directly experienced your true nature, your intrinsic perfection and wholeness. But that doesn't mean you have somehow gotten rid of your imperfections and become a perfect being. Realization lets you see perfection and imperfection simultaneously. When you can view your imperfections from the place of knowing your intrinsic perfection, your life is forever changed. Then, as you continue along the Path and experience that view more clearly and directly, you become more and more confirmed in your perfection. You will see that your perfection is always present, whether you're striving for it or not.
The Path of the Human Being, Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way, Dennis Genpo Merzel, 2005
Egalitarian democracy and liberty as we know them today owe little to Europe. They are not Greco-Roman derivatives somehow revived by the French in the eighteenth century. They entered modern Western thought as American Indian notions translated into European language and culture.
The Iroquoise abhored slavery. Thomas Paine, who certainly knew of these Indian values, became one of the first Americans to call for the abolition of slavery. He went to France after the War for Independence to help the French draft their constitution. Later, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the first volume of Democracy in America, repeatedly used phrases such as "equal and free." He said that the ancient European republics never showed more love of independence than did the Indians of North America. He compared the social systems and the values of the Indians to those of the ancient European tribes before they became "civilized" and domesticated (Eagle Man cites Jack Weatherford's 1988 Indian Givers here).
Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths To Healing Ourselves And Our World, Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, 1990
The sacred herb [chanupa tobacco in Black Elk's Vision], the daybreak star, symbolizes the powerful knowledge and serenity that flow from the knowing and applying the ultimate values that only a nature-based value system can provide. Those who become close to nature, and respectful of her, discover these powerful truths. By viewing the world through the crystal clear lense of this kind of value system, one can see the great power of healing, as the Grandfathers promised. It must be remembered, it is God that created nature. We are learning directly from God's creation. There is no middle person to alter, or confuse, the direct perception of real, God-designed knowledge.
Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths To Healing Ourselves And Our World, Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, 1990
Warriors of the Rainbow: Cree Prophecy
Last century an old wise woman of the Cree Indian nation, named "Eyes of Fire", had a vision of the future. She prophesied that one day, because of the white mans' or Yo-ne-gis' greed, there would come a time, when the earth being ravaged and polluted, the forests being destroyed, the birds would fall from the air, the waters would be blackened, the fish being poisoned in the streams, and the trees would no longer be, mankind as we would know it would all but cease to exist. There would come a time when the "keepers of the legend, stories, culture rituals, and myths, and all the Ancient Tribal Customs" would be needed to restore us to health, making the earth green again. They would be mankind's key to survival, they were the "Warriors of the Rainbow". There would come a day of awakening when all the peoples of all the tribes would form a New World of Justice, Peace, Freedom and recognition of the Great Spirit.
The "Warriors of the Rainbow" would spread these messages and teach all peoples of the Earth or "Elohi". They would teach them how to live the "Way of the Great Spirit". They would tell them of how the world today has turned away from the Great Spirit and that is why our Earth is "Sick".
The "Warriors of the Rainbow" would show the peoples that this "Ancient Being" (the Great Spirit), is full of love and understanding, and teach them how to make the "Earth or Elohi" beautiful again. These Warriors would give the people principles or rules to follow to make their path light with the world. These principles would be those of the Ancient Tribes. The Warriors of the Rainbow would teach the people of the ancient practices of Unity, Love and Understanding. They would teach of Harmony among people in all four corners of the Earth.
Like the Ancient Tribes, they would teach the peoples how to pray to the Great Spirit with love that flows like the beautiful mountain stream, and flows along the path to the ocean of life. Once again, they would be able to feel joy in solitude and in councils. They would be free of petty jealousies and love all mankind as their brothers, regardless of color, race or religion. They would feel happiness enter their hearts, and become as one with the entire human race. Their hearts would be pure and radiate warmth, understanding and respect for all mankind, Nature and the Great Spirit.
They would once again fill their minds, hearts, souls, and deeds with the purest of thoughts. They would seek the beauty of the Master of Life - the Great Spirit! They would find strength and beauty in prayer and the solitude of life.
Their children would once again be able to run free and enjoy the treasures of Nature and Mother Earth. Free from the fears of toxins and destruction, wrought by the Yo-ne-gi and his practices of greed. The rivers would again run clear, the forests be abundant and beautiful, the animals and birds would be replenished. The powers of the plants and animals would again be respected and conservation of all that is beautiful would become a way of life.
The poor, sick and needy would be cared for by their brothers and sisters of the Earth. These practices would again become a part of their daily lives.
The leaders of the people would be chosen in the old way - not by their political party, or who could speak the loudest, boast the most, or by name calling or mud slinging, but by those whose actions spoke the loudest. Those who demonstrated their love, wisdom and courage and those who showed that they could and did work for the good of all, would be chosen as the leaders or Chiefs. They would be chosen by their "quality" and not the amount of money they had obtained. Like the thoughtful and devoted "Ancient Chiefs", they would understand the people with love, and see that their young were educated with the love and wisdom of their surroundings. They would show them that miracles can be accomplished to heal this world of its ills, and restore it to health and beauty.
The tasks of these "Warriors of the Rainbow" are many and great. There will be terrifying mountains of ignorance to conquer and they shall find prejudice and hatred. They must be dedicated, unwavering in their strength, and strong of heart. They will find willing hearts and minds that will follow them on this road of returning "Mother Earth" to beauty and plenty - once more. The day will come, it is not far away.
The day that we shall see how we owe our very existence to the people of all tribes that have maintained their culture and heritage. Those that have kept the rituals, stories, legends and myths alive. It will be with this knowledge, the knowledge that they have preserved, that we shall once again return to "harmony" with Nature, Mother Earth and mankind. It will be with this knowledge that we shall find our "Key to our Survival".
With the disposable plastic feast available to us in stores and on the internet, all cheap crap made to break and be thrown away, we have lost the holiness of what we create and what has been created, those things made specially and adequately enough to survive with a continual purpose – made both by humans and the earth. Some of these things can and should be kept holy. But let’s face it: we are not thrilled with keeping, we are thrilled with receiving. And after the receiving, most things wear out and lose their purpose rather quickly. The new version comes out, so what we so excitedly received soon becomes nothing, trash. So what was really received? A thrill. Yes, the thrill is good, but why?
This thrill mimics holiness because happiness is involved. Happiness is holy! However, if you picture the spectrum of your life (or of life in general) and then place somewhere on the spectrum the obtaining of product X, that moment of obtainment is nothing…an inconsequential blip. The happiness wears off quickly and the holiness of the moment dies. Short-term happiness equals short-term holiness.
Long-term holiness is in the respect we have for ourselves and the things around us: things kept and things shared. Happiness is not in the using…not really. Using something and then tossing it is not respectful – just like with people. When you show respect for an object or a person, you show respect for yourself; you show respect for the planet and beyond. This respectfulness, this holiness, most of us have forgotten. And it’s too bad because that is the real thrill, respecting and sharing our world. We can regain holiness with awareness, but effort will be required.
Why not try this: find something and put it in a place of respect. It is not an object to be worshiped; it is just something with significance to you. I have a knife my great-grandmother gave me after my great-grandfather died in 1980. It is an item I keep close and use very little, although it is there should I need it for a practical purpose. Even more practically, like using the knife for what it was intended, I can also use it to call upon my memory and my respect for my great-grandparents should I need to mimic the strength which got them through the great depression in the 1930s. This knife is medicine. It triggers a natural response in my body called determination. I don’t know if the internal biological response to such an object is called determination in psyche textbooks, but I still know determination exists biologically because I can produce it inside my body. And should I forget how, I know how to remember. I think of my knife. I keep it close at all times.
Think about this and what is holy to you – what you respect – and start with that one thing. Grow holiness from there. Everything starts from a seed; so starts awareness of the holiness in ourselves and in everything around us. Begin there, then get ready for the real thrill ride.
Roar of the Buffalo Horn
A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring.
The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself.
"It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted.
"You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup."
One day the Master announced that a young monk had reached an advanced state of enlightenment. The news caused some stir. Some of the monks went to see the young monk. “We heard you are enlightened. Is that true?” they asked.
“It is,” he replied.
“And how do you feel?”
“As miserable as ever,” said the monk.
When you first arise in the morning, give thanks to the Creator, to the four directions, to Mother Earth, to Father Sky, and to all of our relations, for the life within you and for all life around you.
In the past, warriors were honored when they defended their family and tribe. Today, the new tribal members are planetary citizens, and the threat to the quality of life -- indeed, to its very survival -- goes far beyond the constricted view shaped by military consideration. As the threat changes, so too the qualities we honor in a warrior must change. Guns and swords are ineffective against the complex and varied assults of an environment thrown out of natural balance. A true earth warrior must be imbued with the determination to let nature restore her inherent harmony. Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventiveness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient. The indians talk of "mystic warriors." They would understand what Einstein meant when he said:
"The more knowledge we aquire, the more mystery we find.... A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something seperate from the rest -- a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation of inner security" (Albert Einstein quoted in Center For Respect Of Life And Environment).
Jan Hartke, Environmental Liaison, Earth Day 1990 from the introduction of Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths To Healing Ourselves And Our World, Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, 1990
A religion which promises an eternal hellish nightmare as the result of not patronizing it is, at its very root, extortion. Spirit has no need for religion. Spirit exists within and without us. Religion is manufactured by us. Humans create in religion the illusion of spirit, that which exists naturally, to legitimize its great smoke-and-mirror factory. Spirit, however, is within every human, wholely holy. But religion fools us into believing it has created the only way to access spirituality, that which is already completely accessable at every moment of our being. As religion employs spirit then regulates it, so humans employ religion and then subjugate humans. Why? Ego. Take away ego and there is stillness, spirit. Add ego and now we foolishly believe we have accomplished something: converting, witnessing, preaching, saving, winning over. The one sacrifices for the many and therefore has done something special; good for ego but worthless for spirit. With spirit alone we simply commune. With religion we influence. But why influence what is better shared naturally without an exhaustive list of conventions...if not for ego? Without monopolizing spirit, religion is nothing. With no need for religion whatsoever, spirit is everything.
I like to think that there are connections in time to all that happened at that moment. A senseme is a frozen moment. And that makes me think it is possible to create a universal thought or feeling by using the details and the concrete images of that moment, and yes even the sounds in our individual heads which it just occurred to me are “feelings” that have not been articulated, much like the feelings felt by an infant that burst forth as cries which we learn as caretakers to interpret as hunger, fear, or…calls for attention. The baby is teaching us how to listen and laying the groundwork for their own learning of sounds that become the common language in the house.
Excerpt of Interview conducted by Si Philbrook for the Plebian Rag, 2009
Each religion has its own way of modeling human interaction with spirit and, much like Plato’s allegory of the cave, each religion offers truth about our approach to spirituality from a certain perspective. Yet perspective, by its very nature, has its limits. Thus, each religion has the limits of its perspective and each limit is butted to the next like a shared county line – my town here, your town there – the limit of our perspectives drawn thinly between us.
Thinking about limitations in your own religion is worrisome! It is hard to imagine that what you've been taught is limited; even harder to know where the limit is if you have not thought to look for it. And why look for it? We live where it is safe, established, away from the edge. Even so, now is the time. We must make the trip to the edge of town with openness and trust: with knowing. In this place, each at the limit of his or her unique spiritual perception, we will begin to learn from each other.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
That is certain.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision,--what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them,--will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
True, he said.
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed--whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, Here Plato describes his notion of God in a way that was influence profoundly Christian theologians. and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the conception of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
Whereas our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
To me, this is the greatest miracle: to be in harmony with nature, totally in harmony with nature.
When it is morning, you are with it; when it is evening, you are with it. When it is pleasure, you are with it; when it is pain, you are with it.
You are with it in life, you are with it in death. Not for a single moment on any point do you differ from it.
This total agreement, this absolute agreement, creates the religious [hu]man.
Words from a man of no words, 1984
All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself;
They grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership;
They go through their process, and there is no expectation of a reward for their results.
The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it as an achievement.
Tao Te Ching
I give up several times a day. The days I regroup several times plus one are the good days.
Roar of the Buffalo Horn
From awakening can come knowledge and wisdom for all races to overcome the ignorance, the destructive and wasteful, consuming fears that detour our resources. This morning we began a new day. New knowledge came with this day, as evidenced by the knowledge of the red way that is before us here. ...With spirit and knowledge the world can be made well.
Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, from Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths To Healing Ourselves And Our World
White Buffalo Calf Woman Your Twin Deer Mother
Remember one criterion : anything precious is only that which you know. And there is no way to lose that which you know.
Anything that can be lost, and which you have to cling to, cannot be precious because it can be lost. That shows that this is not your experience.
Words from a man of no words, 1984
Joshu asked Nansen: `What is the path?'In spring, hundreds of flowers; in autumn, a harvest moon;
In the summer, a refreshing breeze; in winter snow will accompany you.
If useless things do not hang in your mind,
Any season is a good season for you.
(Added by Ekai, called Mumon)
I don’t claim any knowledge. No credentials, no deep spiritual journey, no conversion into anything. Just reading, thinking, and experiencing…living on the planet like every being. I follow my heart and my wife; both are the same. No one has convinced me of anything that I haven’t come to know on my own. So I still have a great deal of ignorance and a small modicum of understanding. And that’s a starting point: moving from ignorance to knowing.
To illustrate, here is the boiled-down version of what Ann Kerwin, Marlys Witte and colleagues (Kerwin, 1993; Witte, Kerwin & Witte, 1991) call the “Ignorance Paradigm.” It divides all knowledge that can be ascertained into four categories:
Perhaps what is meant to happen, based on the above, is that we are to move from the bottom right to the top left in our lifetime; that we decrease our ignorance about the world and beyond. To take it one step further, perhaps what we on planet earth are meant to do, and in fact are doing, is move from the darkness of what we don’t know we don’t know and even what we don’t know we know to the light of knowing. Life is movement, and we are all a part of it.
One gains power over an incubus [one's own demon] by addressing it by its real name.... But how can we muster the strength to address the incubus by its right name as long as a ghost lurks inside us -- the 'I' that has been robbed of its actuality [true self]? How can the buried power to relate [to another] be resurrected in a being in which a vigorous ghost appears hourly to stamp down the debris under which this power lies? How is a being to collect itself as long as the mania of his detached I-hood chases it ceaselessly around an empty circle? How is anyone to beholod his freedom if caprice [arbitraryness] is his dwelling place?
I and Thou
“The Beaks of Eagles” 1937
Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)
An eagle's nest on the head of an old redwood on one of the precipice-footed ridges
Above Ventana Creek, that jagged country which nothing but a falling meteor will ever plow; no horseman
Will ever ride there, no hunter cross this ridge but the winged ones, no one will steal the eggs from this fortress.
The she-eagle is old, her mate was shot long ago, she is now mated with a son of hers.
When lightning blasted her nest she built it again on the same tree, in the splinters of the thunderbolt.
The she-eagle is older than I; she was here when the fires of eighty-five raged on these ridges,
She was lately fledged and dared not hunt ahead of them but ate scorched meat. The world has changed in her time;
Humanity has multiplied, but not here; men's hopes and thoughts and customs have changed, their powers are enlarged,
Their powers and their follies have become fantastic,
The unstable animal never has been changed so rapidly. The motor and the plane and the great war gone over him,
And Lenin has lived and Jehovah died: while the mother-eagle
Hunts her same hills, crying the same beautiful and lonely cry and is never tired; dreams the same dreams,
And hears at night the rock slides rattle and thunder in the throats of these living mountains.
It is good for man
To try all changes, progress and corruption, powers, peace and anguish, not to go down the dinosaur's way
Until all his capacities have been explored; and it is good for him
To know that his needs and nature are no more changed in fact in ten thousand years than the beaks of eagles.
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