“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth. We learn to do what only the student of nature ever learns, and that is to feel beauty.
We never rail at the storms, the furious winds, the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensifies human futility, so whatever comes we should adjust ourselves by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint. Bright days and dark days are both expressions of the Great Mystery, and the Indian reveled in being close the the Great Holiness.”
-Chief Luther Standing Bear, Ogala Sioux 1868-1937
Today the West is on fire and I am afraid and sad. But also, I’ve been struck by the similarities of Buddhist and Native American wisdom lately. For me, this is because my own Buddhist path is interlaced with the natural world and its lessons. The Buddhist practice of mindfulness, of interdependence of all beings, and the mystery of reality is the Native American practice as well.
“We are part fire, and part dream. We are the physical mirroring of Miaheyyum, the Total Universe, upon this earth our Mother...” —Fire Dog, Cheyenne
Today the West is on fire. A lightning strike ignited the parched trees. Nature, we know, is responding to our hundreds of years of abuse. The earth responds to cause and effect as do humans. Buddha called this phenomena karma. Native Americans knew our karma would result in nature’s pained response.
Today the West is on fire and the power that fuels it is largely beyond our control. In large part the firefighters and residents must simply wait fo the power to expend itself. Some despair, or rail against that power, the waiting.
Perhaps the Buddhist and Native American would say do not ” intensify human futility.” Fist, face ourselves, our terrified minds. See and accept that we are all on fire from our harm-doing, and that our harm-doing is born of ignorance and arrogance.
But we can learn. The lessons are in the words and examples of Buddha and the Native American prophets like Luther Standing Bear, who advises us that in the face of great winds, great fires and storms that we “… should adjust ourselves by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint. ” Buddha would advise the same; there is no power in the type of fear-based opposition that only increases our belief in duality and separation from all of nature.
One lesson in these times of our great burning is not to fan the flames of fear, arrogance and desire. Fear fans the fires and commands we control nature as white people have for centuries. Arrogance that scoffs at “Great Mystery” and the “Great Holiness.” as ineffectual, as illusion. This arrogance is unwilling to open or examine its mind; it reveres only the mind and its concepts that solidify so easily into beliefs cast in iron .
When temptation comes, I don’t say “yes,” and I don’t say, “No.” I say “Later.” I just keep walking the Red Road–down the middle. When you’re in the middle, you don’t go to either extreme. You allow both sides to exist. —Dr. A. C. Ross (Ehanamani), Lakota
Today the West is on fire and we cannot but walk the middle way, as the Lakota taught , as the Buddha taught. Before his awakening Buddha went to extremes of every kind, primarily following the example of those that were starving their physical bodies to find peace of mind. At last he took the “middle way” in all things. The middle way that is a wider path that allows a large view and a calm heart.
Training began with children who were taught to sit still and enjoy it. They were taught to use their organs of smell, to look when there was apparently nothing to see, to listen intently when all seemingly was quiet. A child that cannot sit still is a half-developed child. –Luther Standing Bear
Today the West is on fire. Our ways, our materialistic, grasping ways are fuel for the fire that is everywhere, most especially in our feverish minds.
But we can learn. There is much to learn. I believe we might learn.
- ‘Native Voices’ Helps Promote Native American Playwrights (losangeles.cbslocal.com)
- Sacred water, new mine: A Michigan tribe battles a global corporation (climate-connections.org)
- Native Resistance Network: NYC Events This Weekend (occupywallst.org)