© 2019 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Native Americans, Tibetan Buddhists, and the Ultimate Enlightenment of One


Yesterday, while perusing my emails, I received these remarkable 19th century sepia-tinted pictures by Timothy O'Sullivan showing the American West (thanks Baruch!), as it was charted for the first time. I began to look for places that I had been and found a few – rafting and kayaking down the Green and Yampa rivers, the scent and feel of the White House, an ancestral Pueblo Native American Anasazi cliff dwelling in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, and luxuriating in Pagosa Hot Springs, Colorado. Fascinating as each picture was, I was extremely intrigued by the photographs of Native Americans. I couldn’t shake the impression that they looked like rock bands, with a kind of collective style, but sporting individual ambiance and flare, predestined to go out of history in a blaze of glory. The most amazing thing, though, was that even with the sepia-tint pictures, I could see these wonderful human souls shining through. They were a people, living within the (then) present and obviously, totally connected to their world.

I learned (in about 7 years of art history classes while attending university… oy) that across the North American Continent, throughout the majority of Native American tribes, worship of The Great Spirit, or One God, was practiced. This God was above all the others who were considered kind of demigods or messengers. Funny, this same idea came up in a book I have been reading about Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama called The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz. It was written about one of my old Rabbis, from Boulder, Colorado, and a whole contingent of other rabbis from Reconstruction, Reform, Orthodoxy, Conservative, and some Secular Historians, and Israelis as well that were part and parcel of a delegation to Dharamsala... to share and receive wisdom with the Dalai Lama. There are ‘huge’ parallels between Buddhism and Judaism; and each respective belief system embracing reincarnation is only the tip of the spiritual-food pyramid iceberg 
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I am going to try to go and hear the Dalai Lama speak in India sometime this year, but we shall see. Back to the West Indians: Native Americans were completely interconnected to the seasons, the travels of the moon, and north-south, east-west orientation within their social fabric and their society. It has always struck me that we can see some amazing parallels with Native Americans, in general, and the Jewish tribes of old. As I walked past a good friend of mine’s house, on the way home from work the other day, I stopped in to hang out a bit and hear some old tales. My friend, Moshe, was a doctor in the American Air Force and a Flight Surgeon. He is from Texas and is just about the only Jew I know that has a southern drawl. We started to talk about how he was a physician to some Native Americans, back in the day, and how they were really broken as a people, so much so that these really wonderful and intelligent fellows ended up complete drunks, abandoning, not only their families, but themselves and their culture in the bargain 
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Well, come to think of it, maybe they abandoned their culture a long time before that, when they allowed Anglos like me to pen them into cages with fences and borders. They were people that lived with nature, relied on it, trusted it, were One with it, and we came into their temple and desecrated it, destroying it, utterly, and called it our own. We hear all the time that the Native Americans just didn’t have any tolerances, physically, to alcohol and that is the reason that they are known to get so drunk and destitute. Well, that may be the case; however, we should look at it from another angle as well. We know that Native Americans were extremely spiritual and emphasized that everything, from a tree, to a rock, to an animal, to a man has a spirit or soul. This is another commonality with Judaism (you didn’t know that, did you?). Yes, even a rock has a rudimentary form of a soul. Remember when Jacob went to sleep with a pile of rocks as a pillow and woke up with only one…? According to Judaism, all of physicality, in all of its varied forms, has a kind of soul or spirit.

This alcohol thing is something we need to explore further, don't we? Wine, (יין) in Hebrew, is the numeric equivalent of 70. If we look into the number 70 a little deeper, we see that there are numerous correlations, including the 70 nations, 70 paths to enlightenment or Torah, 70 judges on the Sanhedrin, 70 times the Torah was written for the 70 nations, 70 names of God, and so on and so forth. The bottom line here is that alcohol is the only known substance that has both physical and spiritual properties. The word 'sod' or secret is also equal to 70. A secret, however, is not what you think. A secret is not something that only one or two people share. A secret is something that is utterly unattainable, completely outside the ability to put into words. A secret lives in a different plane of reality.

The Spiritual World is a secret, for instance. Most of us know on the inside that there is more than just this world; we just can't explain it and when we try, we sound insane. This brings us to this week's parsha, Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), which states, "Now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you? Only to be in awe of the Lord, your God, to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut. 10:12). Did you ever wonder how to do that, to be in awe (or fear) of God, to follow His ways, to Love Him, even though you can't see Him, the Infinite, all knowing Being that He is?

The Native Americans knew who The Great Spirit was, but they were gutted spiritually as a nation. Once the Anglos ripped their soul out, one by one, they replaced it with the western (Ancient Greek and Latin inspired) dogma of material wealth is the new god (owners of land, stuff, and all things in the physical world) and spiritual Oneness is for later, after you move out of the realm of 'so called' reality. Native Americans used peyote, magic mushrooms, and marihuana to facilitate spiritual enlightenment. If you think about it, any Native American living in that tragic time really had no choice in the matter. They were introduced to alcohol, but the philosophy that accompanied it was to party hard, not seek spiritual enlightenment, not to seek a true Oneness with the real world, the Spiritual World nested into the Physical World, like a horse and rider.

We are living in a world of sod (secret) and we will never be successful as a race, the Human race, if we don't act as One. The sooner we get our collective ego out of the way, the sooner we can know what it is to be One with the Universe, to be One with The Great Spirit, to be One with Sunyata, and in our Anglo speak: to be One with God.

And now it's time for day 7 to commence!

Shabbat Shalom le kulam!!

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