DEATH HAD A FACE


THE SPECTER OF DEATH IN SHAMANISM AND ZEN



PRESENTED BY:
the Wanderlng




"Now my body is dead. They will carry this body, motionless, to the cremation ground and burn it. But do I really die with this body? Am I merely this body? My body is now motionless. But still I know my name. I remember my parents, uncles, brothers, friends and all others. It means that I have a knowledge of my individuality. If so, the "I" in me is not merely my body; it is a deathless spirit."

The Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, "Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence"



"Shaman-sorcerers have the upper hand; as beings on their way to dying, they have someone whispering in their ear that everything is ephemeral. The whisperer is Death, the infallible advisor, the only one who won't ever tell you a lie."

Don Juan Matus to Carlos Castaneda, "The Active Side of Infinity"



"Loss of both ego and fear is surmised stemming from the experience in which I was in a totally unflawed flatlined state (or non-state) for close to thirty full minutes, and, except for maybe not being totally zipped up, put into a body bag in a near Nirodha like state even longer and stacked in a row along with other corpses.

"A onetime bottom-of-the-line GI everybody called 'the Cat,' who went on eventually to receive a bronze star, was a former or to-be 1st Air Cav medic on TDY doing routine corpse duty when he came across my partially unzipped body bag. In the process of closing the bag we BOTH somehow discovered I most likely no longer fell into the specifically dead catagory."

the Wanderling, "ALFRED PULYAN: Richard Rose, My Mentor, and Me"



DEATH OF THE EGO

Most people do not realize the overall importance of the role of death and its relationship to the Awakekning process.

However, death, the Death of the Ego, the Near Death Experience (NDE), or the Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) very often has a major role in various accounts of Awakening experiences. Although seemingly discounted on the surface in the majority of Enlightenment traditions, it is not totally overlooked either...it is just not emphasized as a key proponent. Even so, blatent as it may be in some experiences such as that of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in the quote below, on a more quiet level, the concept is still weaved throughout the works of many, just carried quietly with more of an innate, non-syntax, gut-level grasp than anything else.

Usually a man wins God realization by performing tapas for years and years, without food and sleep, often subjecting the body to great suffering as the coming Buddha encountered battling the powers of Mara. But, the young, then unknown and unhearlded boy from India as alluded to in the opening quote at the top of the page, won the highest knowledge without all these. Out of the blue, in 1886 at age 17, the Fear of Death left him. The young boy, named Venkataraman at birth, became the the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

In 1912, at age 32, fifteen years after Sri Ramana's initial death experience, he was once again confronted by Death, of which the following discribes the incident:


"I could distinctly feel his (that is, Death's) clasp and his shivering and hear his words of lamentation and understand their meaning. I also saw the discoloration of my skin and felt the stoppage of my circulation and breathing and the increased chilliness of the extremities of my body. My usual current of awareness still continued in that state also. I was not in the least afraid and felt no sadness at the condition of the body. I had sat down near the rock in my usual posture and closed my eyes and was not leaning against the rock. The body, left without circulation or respiration, still maintained that position. This state continued for some ten or fifteen minutes. Then a shock passed suddenly through the body and circulation revived with enormous force, and breathing also, and the body perspired from every pore. The colour of life reappeared on the skin."

SRI RAMANA'S SECOND DEATH EXPERIENCE, by Arthur Osborne


There was an old woman, said by Ramana and others to have been a "spirit" of the mountain, who somehow knew or sensed the Bhagavan had "died" twice before, having had, as mentioned above, a major death experience in 1896 at age 17 that transformed his Awareness to the Abosolute. He then had his second, much deeper death experience in 1912. Sometime afterwards Ramana was roaming around OFF the trails of the holy mountain Arunachala as he often did in those days when the old woman he passed asked him point blank why he wandered so and not just sit quiet. In that he was dead, she implies, why was he not put on the funeral pyre! From that day forward Sri Bhagavan gave up roaming the hillside, limiting his walks to Pradakshina, circumambulation of the holy hill, or climbing to the summit.


NIRODHA

In Section IV below from "Zen, the Buddha, and Shamanism" in a conversation between the Shaman man of spells called an Obeahman and the Wanderling, the Obeah recognizes in the eyes of the Wanderling, as the Obeahman refers to it, "the vision of having seen the Face of Death." That occurrence is basically brushed off as far as having any further integral part of the offerings is concerned, mainly as to not confuse the reader. Briefly, however, the incident occured while in the Military and the physical pain that had been inflicted was so intense and severe that while still in a sort of removed, but still semi-conscience state, a decision was made to just give up, that is, let go of the life force. Three days later the Wanderling woke up in an Army hospital with tubes stuck in his nose and IV tubes in his arms, but still alive. Although the occurence was indeed a profound Near Death Experience, or even an Actual Death Experience having flatlined, there was NO Out-of-Body Experience. No visions of glowing white, no tunnels or tunnels with lights at the end, no observing the goings on from above, no meeting or seeing of God or other spiritual entities. Nothing like that. After an excessive loss of blood and the fleeting of the life force, just plain dead. Then, after being found three or so days later in a body bag stacked amongst other bodies in body bags, out of nowhere eyes opened, with only a lingering wisp of a now basically dissipated or weakened ego. In the incident recorded below by the Obeah, refering to the same Near Death Experience, and after asking why HE, that is, Death, did not "take YOU with him," looking deeply into the Wanderling's eyes said "...there are other things planned for you."

As to the above near-death incident, from a previously unpublished account the Wanderling writes:


"When I was a young boy I used to visit my grandmother at her house almost every chance I got. Her home was one of those older clapboard single level houses that had heavy to-the-floor curtains on both side edges of the windows. Covering the window as well was an inner curtain made from a gauze-like material that allowed a sort of diffused sunlight to enter the various rooms in a muted haze. The windows also had opaque yet translucent yellow-brown pull-down spring operated roller shades that worked by pulling a piece of cord hooked to a circular ring that you stuck your finger through. In either pulling the shade up or the shade down it would snap back and flap around and around, over and over unmercifully until it stopped if the ring slipped from your finger. That shade is the same vision that always comes to mind when I conjure of thoughts of what it was like that day so many years ago in the military when I made the conscious decision to let go of my life force...it flapped around and around unmercifully over and over until it ran out of power and just stopped"



The following, which equates closely in parallel to the Wanderling's Zen background, is from Baba Faqir Chand, one of the greatest practitioners of Surat Shabd Yoga, a meditative method that leads to extraordinary experiences (according to reported accounts Faqir could almost daily leave his body at will and experience exalted states of awareness):


"For instance, when one undergoes a Near Death Experience and beholds a Jesus or a Nanak or an Angel in the middle of the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, it is NOT the esteemed figure who is himself orchestrating the encounter. Rather it is the neophyte who is projecting the sacred personage on to the light from his/her own biological and cultural history.

"The light may well indeed be a transcultural phenomenon, part and parcel of a higher order of awareness or merely a neurological event, but the interpretation of who resides in that light (Is it Jesus? Is it Nanak? Is it my uncle Joe?) is entirely a personal affair, shaded by the nuances of an individual's sojourn for tens of years on a planet we call Earth."


John Wren-Lewis, who I met some years before he reportedly had a full-on trancendance experience following what resembled a Near Death Experience, comes to a conclusion similar to both mine and Baba Faqir Chand in his article Dazzling Dark:


"What happened in 1983 could be classified technically as a Near-Death Experience (NDE), though it lacked any of the dramatic visionary features that tend to dominate both journalistic and scholarly NDE accounts.(3) As I lay in a hospital bed in Thailand, after eating a poisoned candy given me by a would-be thief on a long-distance bus, there were some hours when the medical staff thought I'd gone beyond recall. But I had no out-of-body vision of what was going on, no review of my life, no passage down a dark tunnel to a heavenly light or landscape, and no encounter with celestial beings or deceased relatives telling me to go back because my work on earth was not yet done. And although I'd lost all fear of death when eventually resuscitated, this had (and has) nothing to do with believing I have an immortal soul that will survive death."


The near death stage described by the Wanderling was closer to what is called in Sanskrit NIRODHA than say, a New Age type Near Death Experience or Out-of-Body Experience. It could be the experience unfolded in a more matter of fact fashion, that is, as stated above "with no visions of glowing white, tunnels or tunnels with lights at the end, no observing the goings on from above, no meeting or seeing of God or other spiritual entities" because, like Baba Chand says, it is entirely a personal affair. Although still many months shy of the so-called Twelve-year Rule, at the time of the above mentioned occurrence the Wanderling had already completed many, many rather extensive years of study-practice in Zen under his Mentor as well as the venerated Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi. Although untrained in such things at the time, all of those experiences were preceded by a possible near or actual Kensho like experience by the Wanderling as a young boy upon meeting Franklin Merrell-Wolff high in the Sierras.



FLATLINING OF EEG (ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAM) SIGNAL
A flat EEG signal denotes nonfunction of the cerebral cortex.



In the Wanderling's case, except for the Flatline of the EEG Signals which was duly noted by a number of outside observers and medical attendants and pronounced clinically dead, for him, IF the less than gossamer-thin membrane between the still alive and the that which becomes the now-not-alive was actually crossed or breached, it is not known because no difference was remembered if detected. In what would appear to be an almost diametric opposition to such a scenario, any previous or residual "fear of death" after being brought back or coming back as the case may be, seemingly dissipated along with the ego --- loss of both ego and fear stemming, it is guessed, from the experience --- in which "I" was in a totally unflawed flatlined state (or non-state) for close to thirty full minutes, and, except for maybe not being totally zipped up, put into a body bag even longer and stacked in a row along with other corpses.(see)

Taking the following quote from the above paragraph:


"In the Wanderling's case, except for the Flatline of the EEG Signals which was duly noted by a number of outside observers and medical attendants, for him, IF the less than gossamer-thin membrane between the still alive and the that which becomes the now-not-alive was actually crossed or breached, it is not known because no difference was remembered if detected."


In the quote, the concept behind the specific line that reads, "IF the less than gossamer-thin membrane between the still alive and the that which becomes the now-not-alive was actually crossed or breached," is a concept that is difficult to comprehend --- especially so in the pondering of the one side of the gossamer-thin membrane there is that which is alive while, ever so thin or not at all, there is somehow suddenly that which is not alive. In the non-meditative meditative state called Niroda, discussed below, the practioner floats barely above that surface, as it states: "During, heartbeat and metabolism continue to slow and practically cease, sometimes continuing below the threshold of preception at a risidual level." The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw explores the phenomenon from the meditators perspective:


"A meditator (yogi) also perceives in like manner that "material element has no faculty of knowing." Logs and pillars, bricks and stones and lumps of earth are a mass of matter; they do not possess any faculty of knowing. It is the same case with material elements consisting in a living body; they have no faculty of knowing. The material elements in a dead body are like those,of a living body; they are without the faculty of knowing. But, irrespective of the fact whether the material elements are in a dead or a living body, people have a general idea that a living body of those same material elements has the faculty of knowing an object wherein the dead body does not."(source)


The Sanskrit word NIRODHA, usually discribed as cessation, actually carries with it a more indepth meaning. In the index of the Visuddi Magga, for example, there are over twenty-five references that need to be read in context inorder to cull out a fuller more concise meaning. Briefly, like Deep Samadhi, it is a very, very high degree non-meditative meditative state. During Nirodha there is no time squence whether a couple hours pass or seven days, as the immediate moment preceding and immediately following seem as though in rapid succession, start and finish compressed wafer thin. During, heartbeat and metabolism continue to slow and practically cease, sometimes continuing below the threshold of preception at a risidual level. Previosly stored body energy that would typically be consumed in a couple of hours if not replenished can last days with very little need for renewal. The Visuddhi Magga cites several instances where villagers came across a bhikkhu in such a state and following the traditions of Sarira, built a funeral pyre for him, even to the point of lighting it. During low-level residual states the body temperature drops well below the 98.6 degree point. If suddenly jarred to consciousness body metabolism is slower to regain it's normal temperature, and inturn, that is recorded by the quicker to return cognative senses as "being cold."

Thousands of people observed the great Indian holy man Swami Trailanga floating on the Ganges for days on end, sitting on top of the water or remaining hidden for long periods under the waves. A common sight at Manikarnika Ghat was the Swami's motionless body on the blistering stone slabs, wholly exposed to the merciless Indian sun.

Whether the great master was above water or under it, and whether or not his body challenged the fierce solar rays, Trailanga sought to teach men that human life need not depend on oxygen or on certain conditions and precautions. (source)



'Now my body is dead. They will carry this body, motionless, to the cremation ground and burn it. But do I really die with this body? Am I merely this body? My body is now motionless. But still I know my name. I remember my parents, uncles, brothers, friends and all others. It means that I have a knowledge of my individuality. If so, the "I" in me is not merely my body; it is a deathless spirit.'

Thus, as in a flash, a new realization came to Venkataramana. Usually a man wins God realization by performing tapas for years and years, without food and sleep; he subjects the body to great suffering. But Venkataramana won the highest knowledge without all these. The Fear of Death left him. Venkataramana became the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.



Valerie Vener in an interview discussing her Near Death Experience and it's relationship to HER Awakening experience, relates in her answer something probably more closer in words to the Wanderlings experience than has ever been recorded. Although Verner's Awakening experience happened ten years after her Near Death Experience and the Wanderling's was somewhere around four years following, the impact and similarities are uncanny. Valerie goes on to say:


"...if I were to say when my actual Awakening Experience occurred, it was not until ten years after the fire. In the fire there was a very dramatic understanding of my brain-core in relation to how it perceives energy, how it interprets energy, how it relates to energy and how it contracts upon energy and locks itself in place. That occurred in the fire, and then from that point on my experience of self was very, very different."




SECTION I: From the review of The Razor's Edge:


The reader meets Lawrence Darrell (the name Maugham used in his novel for the same person that was the Wanderling's Zen mentor) shortly after the end of World War I. Although different facets of his life and character are revealed slowly, one thing we learn immediately is that he is a source of frustration to his elders because he does not want to embark on a career. Other biographical facts include the fact that he's engaged to Isabel Bradley, his childhood sweetheart, he was a pilot in the war, and he is very reticent about his wartime experiences. In fact, many of the characters comment about how changed Larry seems to be since his return from the war. His most shattering wartime experience is finally related near the end of Chapter One, when he tells Isabel, "I don't think I shall ever find peace till I make up my mind about things,...'Wouldn't it be better to follow the beaten track and let what's coming to you come?' And then you think of a fellow who an hour before was full of life and fun, and he's lying dead; it's all so cruel and so meaningless. It's hard not to ask yourself what life is all about and whether there's any sense to it or whether it's all a tragic blunder of fate."

The pivotal event Larry is referring to is when a combat buddy of his loses his life, partly because he had come to Larry's rescue. Suddenly for Larry, Death had a Face; the reality of death had become personified in the loss of his friend. Larry Darrell's confession to Isabel illustrates how many people feel after witnessing the death of someone close to them. Death is such a mystery, so inexorable, and can seem so senseless as Larry points out, that experiencing it directly tends to deepen one's understanding of the real priorities in life and open one up to question the ultimate meaning of such a seemingly temporal existence as ours. This seems to be what happened to Larry. The death of his friend is the climactic event that prompts Larry to begin a quest for answers. He tells Isabel, "I want to make up my mind whether God is or God is not. I want to find out why evil exists. I want to know whether I have an immortal soul or whether when I die it is the end." (source)



SECTION II: From Lafayette Flying Corps:


(Larry's) best friend was an Irishman called Patsy. Patsy taught him everything he needed to know and how to survive. Inturn, in the end, it was Patsy that Larry saw die...after saving his life. The following is Maugham's discription of what happened as he listens to Larry tell the story:

"The day we were to go on leave (to Paris) we were sent up to fly over the enemy lines and bring back reports of what we saw. Suddenly we came bang up against some German planes, and before we knew where we were we were in the middle of a dogfight. One of them came after me, but I got in first. I took a look to see if he was going to crash and then out of the corner of my eye I saw another plane on my tail. I dived to get away from him, but he was on to me like a flash and I thought I was done for; then I saw Patsy come down on him like a streak of lightning and give him all he'd got. They'd had enough and sheered off and we made for home. My machine had got pretty well knocked about and I only just made it. Patsy got in before me. When I got out of my plane they'd just got him out of his. He was lying on the ground and they were waiting for the ambulance to come up. When he saw me he grinned."

"I got the blighter who was on your tail," he said.
"What's the matter, Patsy?" I asked.
"Oh, it's nothing. He winged me."

"He was looking deathly white. Suddenly a strange look came over his face. It had just come to him that he was dying, and the possibility of death had never so much as crossed his mind. Before they could stop him he sat up and gave a laugh."

"Well I'm jiggered," he said.

"He fell back dead. He was twenty-two. He was going to marry a girl in Ireland after the war." (source)


SECTION III: Chosen By A Shaman


One does not chose to become a shaman, but "chosen." Of the four steps usually associated in the process of becoming a shaman one is the invitation or the selection out by a shaman, another is the initiation by a shaman, while another is the Symbolic Death of the Shaman. The fourth is generally considered to be a "rebuilding" of the shaman's energy system from where it is derived, the Power of the Shaman.

The following is presented as the first of two offered in relation to the invitation or selection out process, the second of which more closely revolves around the Symbolic Death of the Shaman:



THE BOY AND THE GIANT FEATHER


THE WANDERLING'S JOURNEY

(please click)


My Father's brother, my Uncle, spent nearly sixty of his eighty-four years in the desert southwest, having moved to the Taos, Santa Fe, New Mexico area sometime in his twentys. I was quite young when my mother died and when my Father remarried my new mother, or Stepmother as the case may be, brought my Uncle in to "oversee" me. My Uncle had been married at one time as well, but, although he maintained a loosly related association with his wife, he was for all practical purposes, divorced. The woman he was separated from was a Native American of the Little Shell Plains Ojibwe and a fourth level Midewiwin, a super-secret Ojibwe Medicine Society. I had met her in passing and for the most part she never payed much attention to me one way or the other, although I sensed something very "different" about her. She reminded me of a lightning or thunderstorm raging in the distant mountains. You only felt safe because you weren't there, although you knew if you were, the storm had the power to wash you away or destroy you by the might of it all.

One day, when I was around ten years old or so, I went for a hike deep into the desert unescorted. When my Uncle discovered I was gone he went looking for me. During my walk I happened across the carcass of a dead rabbit and was fascinated by it for some reason. When my Uncle found me after cresting a small hill he saw me squatted down with the carcass. Joining me quite comfortably in a circle with the rabbit were three what were, because of this incident, to eventually become my Totem Animal --- VULTURES. From what he was able to discern from his initial vantage point I was neither afraid of them nor were they remotely afraid of me. As well, and he swore this to be true --- although I have absolutely no recollection of it and construe it as a possible total misinterpretation of facts --- that the vultures and I were sharing meat from the carcass between us. (see)

When my Uncle told his estranged wife about the incident she suddenly was very interested in me. You see, for some reason, in today's neo-Shaman environment there has been a stress placed on finding one's "power animal." The contempory neo-Shaman workshops have a tendencey to blind people to the fact that real animals are also spirit and power, and every bit as important, or even more so, than than a spirit guide that appears in some vision. The Medicine Woman. In workshops, the totem-animal-visions of participants are never frogs, gophers or garden slugs, they are always wolves, bears, eagles, and falcons. If it were only so.


During those years my Uncle spent a lot of time traveling in and about some very isolated sections of the desert and interacting with the indigenous populations thereof because of various, as he called them, "art" related ties he had with them. During many of those travels I went along. It was on one of those trips, at the suggestion of his wife, as a very young boy, I was introduced to things Shaman:

We were on one of our excursions deep into a remote part of the southern New Mexico desert to visit a very strange man my Uncle was somehow associated with. After arrival the two sat together in the shade outside the man's shack and talked for a good part of the day while I either played with the dogs or sat in the cab of the truck fiddling with the radio.


Just as we were leaving the man came up to me and handed me a huge long black with white feather, the biggest, longest feather I had ever seen.


It was nearly as wide as the span of my hand and it's length was as long as I, a ten year old boy, was tall. Tied to the quill shaft, which was much, much bigger around than any piece of schoolroom chalk, was a small, double strand of leather string with ten colored beads attached, one for each of my years he said.


He told me the feather once belonged to a very magnificent bird that was very important to his culture and the desert's well being, but now it belonged to me.


Soon my Uncle and I were on the long dusty road back, and, as kids are wont to do on occasion, I was leaning out the window, flowing the feather in the wind as we sped along. Suddenly the feather was whipped out of my hand and I watched it as it blew high into the sky, caught first in the turbulance from the truck, then by the desert breeze itself, only to disappear from sight altogether. True, it was only a feather, but for some reason it's loss affected me in a deep, sad sort of way.

The next morning my Uncle and I got up and went out to the truck to do a few errands. Laying alone in middle of the pick-up bed near the back of the cab in a very fine smooth layer of dust was a long black with white feather, with a small, double strand leather string with ten colored beads tied to it's quill. Left in the dust also, were what appeared to be several very large, clear footprints of a huge bird along with scratches and talon marks on the tailgate as though, if even for a short time, a giant avian had roosted or landed there.(see)


A couple of quick comments regarding the feather prior to moving on. When it was first given to me, even though it was of a huge size, I, as a young boy with a vivid imagination, did not fully grasp the ramifications of it all. For me at the time, it did not seem impossible that a bird could not be of any size, so a feather as long as I was tall did not seem at all that improbable. It was only into high school and beyond that it came to me that I had been in the presence of something truly remarkable. I never saw the bird the feather came from, nor have I ever seen a second or other feathers of such large size, but for a bird to have required such an enormous feather in the first place, it would have to had been truly a giant creature. For the Shaman to have imparted something so rare, meaningful, and valuable to me, a mere ten year old boy with then no history or background, speaks volumes. Please see Footnote [1].

For those who would question the validity of the existance of a feather of such size in the first place, as stated in the closing sentence of the Legend of the Giant Bird:


The loss of the Buffalo would have a devastating effect on the migratory habits of birds of such size. Not everybody makes the connection, but it is pretty simple stuff, without the herds, migration became very difficult and many of the young birds as well as some of the adults died on their way south. We are talking twenty-five foot wingspan Teratorn type birds, animals so huge they couldn't hunt in woodlands or heavy foilage. They needed large open area suchs as the Great Plains or the Argentine Pampas to navigate and hunt.


To learn the fate of what happened to the giant feather go to Meditation Along Meteor Crater Rim. See also: Wing of the Giant Bird. See as well Don Juan Matus, the shaman-sorcerer said to have studied under a Diablero and that Carlos Castaneda reportedly apprenticed under. Don Juan is vaguely hinted at in some circles, as is Don Juan's teacher, Julian Osorio, as possibly being the very strange man in the above section. Equally of interest may be The Road Trip and information on the quasi or semi organaform-being known as:

THE DEATH DEFIER





Some would argue that as a selection or invitation process, the above regarding the shaman giving the feather to the Wanderling wouldn't count because the Wanderling was only a ten year old boy at the time. Personally I would question as to what age has to do with it. It is my opinion the Shaman that presented the feather, as well as the Midewiwin medicine woman, sensed "something" even though as a young boy the Wanderling didn't. However, the following, which found the Wanderling as an adult, is presented as well:


For those of you that may be familiar with the Wanderling and his interactions with the shaman man of spells called Obeahman high in the mountains of Jamaica you may recall that when a young girl from the village was hit by a car, the parents, who could not afford a regular medical doctor, opted to have their daughter taken to the Obeah. The Wanderling and another village member carried the girl in a sling-like hammock slung between two long wooden poles up the hazardous mountain trail to the Obeahman's abode. During that several hour period, although breathing, the girl never regained consciousness. The Wanderling was not allowed to go into the Obeah's hut bcause he was white, nor were any of the rituals performed observed, that is, if any at all were performed. The next morning the Wanderling ended up clear down the mountain and didn't exactly see what happened to the girl. About two weeks later she was seen to be playing with other village childern as though nothing had ever happened. No marks, scars, scraches, casts or anything else. Many months later the Wanderling contracted Dengue Fever and laid in his bed sweating in pools of water, delirious with a high fever, not eating, and basically unable to move. A villager happened by and reported how sick he was to a village elder. He inturn passed word to the Obeah. Under NO circumstances had the Obeah ever been known to leave his mountain lair, everyone in need of his services ALWAYS had to go to him no matter how serious the situation. However, much to the suprise of everyone in the village and others for miles and miles around, within a few hours of hearing of the Wanderling's condition he showed up on the veranda. He would not enter his house, again because the Wanderling was a white man, but he did remove spiritual items and herbs from his Medicine Bag called an Oanga Bag and perform a set of rituals that included spreading sand and ashes in a Shaman's Circle, sitting Buddha-like doing some chanting and using smoke that waifted throughout the house while Casting Bones into that same circle. The next day the Wanderling was up and around, sore, and except for a substantial loss of weight and weak from having not eaten, OK. The Obeah was gone.

The day after the Obeah departed and following a night of heavy wind and rain, the Wanderling, conscious but racked with pain, for the first time in days was able to move and hobbled himself out onto the veranda. Barely able to stay upright he stood before the circle, and despite the storm of the night before, the circle was still in place just as it had been left by the man of spells. An ever so slight breeze came up and spread across the veranda floor twisting itself into a small dust-devil-like Vortex encompassing the Wanderling's bare feet and legs with the ash and sand of the circle. As the twisting breeze climbed his body the pain dissipated eventually disappearing altogether along with the wind.(source)


SECTION IV: The Symbolic Death of a Shaman


Some things I recall seem as though they just happened, others are blurred and long lost. One thing I remember for sure about that night was, even though I helped carry an injured girl up perilous trails high into the mountains, because I was a whiteman, the Obeah would not let me enter his hut...and at first refused to have anything to do with me. I sat outside in the dark basically just poking the fire with a stick and watching the light flicker amongst the trees. As the night wore on something in the light off my eyes must have caught his attention because I felt him staring at me. Eventually he came over and tipped my chin up looking into my eyes glowing dimmly in the flame-lit darkness. Mimicking almost the exact same thing that happend to me as a ten year-old boy at Pendejo Cave, the Obeah squated down without changing eye contact, peering at me with an astounding set of eyes that seemed to shine deeply from within with a mysterious, intense light of their own, and said, in his heavy Jamaican patois, "You have felt the breath of the Dark One." "Yes, once," I said, "many years ago," refering to an incident in the military when I literally felt the Shadow of Death brush across my soul. "Why didn't he take you with him," the Obeah asked? "I don't know," I responded, shrugging my shoulders. Then the Obeah said:


"In ancient times far away a young maiden came upon a starving prince sitting beneath a tree. Bringing him gruel, he lived. You see what he sees. There are other things planned for you."(source)


SECTION V: From The Cumaean Sibyl


Charon, in Greek mythology, is the ferryman of the dead. The souls of the deceased are brought to him by Hermes, and Charon ferries them across the river Acheron. He only accepts the dead which are buried or burned with the proper rites, and if they pay him an obolus (coin) for their passage.

Those who cannot afford the passage, or are NOT admitted by Charon, are doomed to wander on the banks of the Styx for hundreds of years. Living persons who wish to go to the underworld need a golden bough obtained from the Cumaean Sibyl.


"Charon was receiving passengers of all kinds into his boat. Magnanimous heroes, boys and unmarried girls, as numerous as the leaves that fall at autumn, or the flocks that fly southward at the approach of winter. They stood pressing for a passage and longing to touch the opposite shore. But the stern ferryman took in only such as he chose, driving the rest back. Aeneas, wondering at the sight, asked the Sibyl, 'Why this discrimination?' She answered, 'Those who are taken on board the bark are the souls of those who have received due burial rites; the host of others who have remained unburied are not permitted to pass the flood, but wander for hundreds of years, and flit to and fro about the shore, till at last they are taken over.' Aeneas, displaying the sacred golden bough given him by the Sibyl, persuades Charon to make an exception and allow him, one of the living, to cross into the realm of the dead in order to bury a fallen comrade and see his father." (from Dante's Inferno, 1300AD).(source)



SECTION VI: From The Vulture As Totem


The vulture is a very powerful totem.  Its cycle of power is year-round.  The scientific name for the Turkey Vulture is CATHARTES AURA which means GOLDEN PURIFIER because as it goes about it's lifetime business it purifies the landscape and environment in it's own natural way, ensuring the continued health and life of other living things. The Vulture is a promise that all hardship was temporary and necessary for a higher purpose.  Once a Vulture enters your life as a totem or guide, it will remain with you for life.

In Greek mythology, the Vulture is the descendant of the Griffin.  It was a very Buddhist-like, Zen-like symbol of the non-dual oneness of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, good and evil, guardian and avenger.  The Vulture is the avenger of nature spirits.    Ancient Assyrians believed the Vulture was, like Nagarjuna's middle way, Sunyata, the encompassing overall non-separated union between the day and night. Ironically, regardless of the less than good image the vulture is typically granted by most, think about it:

Unlike the needs of nearly all other living creatures, vultures do not kill.
Their prey either dies or something else kills it.

Herodorus Ponticus relates that great men of legend were always very joyful when a vulture appeared upon any action. For it is a creature the least hurtful of any, pernicious neither to corn, fruit-tree, nor cattle; it preys only upon carrion, and never kills or hurts any living thing; and as for birds, it touches not them, though they are dead, as being of its own species, whereas eagles, owls, and hawks mangle and kill their own fellow-creatures.

The noted Athenian writer Aeschylus (c. 525 BC-456 BC) says,- - "What bird is clean that preys on fellow bird? - Besides, all other birds are, so to say, never out of our eyes; they let themselves be seen of us continually; but a vulture is a very rare sight, and you can seldom meet with a man that has seen their young; their rarity and infrequency has raised a strange opinion in some, that they come to us from some other world; as soothsayers ascribe a divine origination to all things not produced either of nature or of themselves." (source)


In Buddhism the Golden Purifier is COMPASSION, Karuna in Sanskrit. Compassion works for us in allowing us to perceive the pain, anguish, affliction, agony, torment and distress of others clearly, through allowing it into our experience also. It is then something that has moved further out of the realm of the ignored or the unconscious into the realm of the included, the accepted, the conscious. Compassion is spacious, allowing the way things are to exist, to change, and to end. Particularly it allows pain to end. This means that it must be patient, not in any hurry to force pain to end or to try officiously to get rid of pain. It is the active side of wisdom and is the Buddha's supreme or GOLDEN PURIFIER. The Buddha's compassion allowed him to realize that there is still something that can be done by a fully Enlightened being. It was compassion that motivated him to teach "for the benefit of those with dust in their eyes." (source)



From the Zen point of view, nothing can separate one from death, for death is not "anywhere" other than oneself. There is no space to travel, nor is there time. One is one's death, just as one is one's life. Death is what one has always been. Even Rebirth has no meaning for Zen. He who can say that he is already dead as he is already alive undergoes not a "rebirth," but a "breakthrough"...a "breakthrough" beyond the dichotomous matrix of ego-consciousness and the life-death polarities that are inclusive in that matrix. In this "breakthrough" there is no need to worry about death, for death is not something that will come, but what one has been all along, that is, dead only in the sense that one has always been alive. As D.T. Suzuki explains, "he who transcends the dualistic idea of life and death goes on living, in the genuine sense of the term. When there is the thought either of life or of death, negatively or positively, this will surely prove to be a stumbling block in the way of life."(source)


As far as death, a brush with death, out of body experiences, flatlining, or any other similar experience or thing...they are, as with anything else, NOT important to the Awakening experience. Like I wrote in the opening paragraph above: "That occurrence is basically brushed off as far as having any further integral part of the offerings is concerned, mainly as to not confuse the reader." Why? Because, as has been passed down from the sayings of the Buddha and I agree:

"The Buddha said that neither the repetition of scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring the real happiness of Nirvana. Instead the Buddha emphasized the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve spiritual goals."(source)


It should be noted not all religions, cultures and spiritual beliefs buy into, back, or practice such a concept as found in the quote, in whole or in part --- not even some that fall within the boundries of Buddhism itself. Although the start or end point along the edges of mainstream Buddhism may not be clearly delineated like an escarpment rising up out of a sea of non-believers, adherents that fall under the established spectrum of Buddhism run the gamut from the Parivrajaka to the fully entrenched ritual and robe laden, with monasteries, hierarchy, and little hats. To wit:


"One of the problems faced by organized religions, or cultures that hold deep traditional beliefs that fall into the realm of things spiritual, is that they have to give the people something. People raised in that something or new people transitioning into that something, expect from that something some sort of positive spiritual results. Usually those spiritual results are motivated by some sort of trappings. If they do get positive results, at least as perceived in the mind of the devotee, parishioner, or follower, then, for them it's working. If it doesn't work then the devotee is pointed to others that it did work for. If that doesn't solve the dilemma they are encouraged to work harder."


The above quote from:


INCIDENT AT SUPAI
A SHAMANIC JOURNEY OUTSIDE THE TRADITION



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WE DO NOT HAVE SHAMANS
The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures


SHAMANISM WEB CIRCLE



Smashing The Black Lacquer Barrel



E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

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DREAM
CATCHER

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GASSHO
















FLATLINE:

Outside the world of things academic, religious, and philosophical, three clinical tests commonly determine brain death and, thus then, death:

  • First, a standard electroencephalogram, or EEG, measures brain-wave activity. A flat EEG denotes nonfunction of the cerebral cortex - the outer shell of the cerebrum.

  • Second, auditory evoked potentials such as clicks elicited by ear speakers measure brain-stem viability. Absence of these potentials indicates nonfunction of the brain stem.

  • Third, documentation of no blood flow to the brain is a marker for a generalized absence of brain function.


FEAR IN ENLIGHTENMENT AND ZEN


DEATH OF THE EGO






















My uncle's wife was a powerful curandera in the tradition of 'la Catalina,' and like 'la Catalina,' held in awe by most that came within her presence. Tall and straight-backed, with perfect posture and beautiful skin, instead of taking steps she appeared to almost glide when she walked. In restaurants and public places people were reluctant to sit near her table and the help was afraid to serve her. Some have said they had seen a glass of water slide across the table to her hand without her even moving her arm.

Upon hearing the story regarding myself and the vultures she was certain, at least as she viewed it from her own perspective, that if my uncle had not come across the the circle when he did I would have flown off with them, or, if not then, the six-foot wingspan raptors would have carried me off with them as if I was one of their own (again, her perspective).

Years later my uncle told me something he had never told his wife nor discussed with me. The distance I traveled that day, from the point I started to the location he found me, was way to far for me to have covered given the time, especially considering the level of my own abilities, the terrain, heat of the day, etc. He told me he had tracked me some distance quite clearly, then my tracks suddenly just ended as though I had disappeared into thin air. Knowing I didn't have a large supply of water or any at all he continued to look in areas he thought I might seek out and just happened across me --- many, many miles from where he had last seen my tracks. How I got there he couldn't say with any amount of certainty. However, he told me, and he kept it a secret from his wife even to the point of burning my shirt, that my shirt below both shoulders as well as part way down the back and along my sleeves were punctured in spots and appeared to have what he called grip marks on them. So too, my skin had red abrasions almost like minor scratches as though my arms had been clutched by something. He told me he was sure I had been carried off and if he hadn't happened across me I may had been carried off even further, maybe even never to be found.

In that my uncle was not able to get me to tell him verbally --- OR I was unable or unwilling to put into words my experience of what happened that day --- my uncle suggested I sit down and draw whatever pictures came to mind that related to the event. All of those drawings are long gone as are any finite memories of same, except for one. I remember it clearly as if only yesterday because of the striking comparison my uncle made between one of my drawings and an ink and watercolor drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci. They were nearly identical, desert landscape and all. The major exception was that where Leonardo's drawing depicted a lake with a shape similar to a bird, my drawing, although having a similar shape, was instead, a SHADOW of a giant bird.


Leonardo Da Vinci: Bird's-Eye View of a Landscape. 1502.
Pen, ink and watercolor on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK


TALON AND SCRATCH MARKS FROM THE GIANT BIRD














I was found by a onetime bottom-of-the-line GI everybody called "the Cat" (a play on his name). The Cat, who went on eventually to receive a bronze star, was a former or to-be 1st Air Cav medic on TDY doing routine corpse duty when he came across my partially unzipped body bag. In the process of closing the bag we BOTH somehow discovered I most likely no longer fell into the specifically dead catagory. Months later he told me that sometimes shift workers, when they find that a person has died on their shift, will put the body in the shower and let hot or warm water run on them --- sometimes for hours --- then, just before they go off shift, put the body back where it belonged for the next shift to find and deal with. The only thing is, in my case, this time the GIs who did it were caught. Even though my body had dropped quite a bit less than normal temperature, if not "warm" (because of the hot running water of the shower), my body was still at least supple. In the fact that I had absolutely no vital signs that anybody could tell --- and it had been previously noted that I flatlined --- I was hastily stuffed into the body bag without further checking. Hours later the Cat came across me no longer DOA and helped me out of the bag. (source)

the Wanderling

the Cat



THE SAIGON TEA GIRL




















When the Cat and I crossed paths for the very the first time he was a fresh-faced GI just turned 19 or so with a medic MOS. I think he was OJT with no real assignment, hence the TDY corpse duty. I was several years older than him and had been around for awhile. Because of the unusual nature of our first meeting we kept in contact in the early days, enough so that he followed me to college, attending the same university. In those days we took several classes on and off together and hung out, but as time went on we diverged in interests and went our separate ways. I've only seen him once in maybe 40 years, catching up with him for a few days in some isolated old mining town in Arizona where he ended up living. I Google him every once in awhile. He still seems to be around, but thats about it.

WAR MEDICS