"The Buddha said that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the real happiness of Nirvana. Instead the Buddha emphasized the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve our spiritual goals. He likened it to a man wanting to cross a river; sitting down and praying will not suffice, but he must make the effort to build a raft or a bridge."(source)
The Buddha was a strong supporter and advocate of the implied intent of the above quote. So am I. However, not all religions, cultures and spiritual beliefs back or practice such a concept in whole or in part --- not even some that fall within the boundries of Buddhism itself.
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.
Although I am an advocate pro-advocate of the above quote I have on occasion run into situations where it just doesn't fit within the boundries of how to accomplish the goals one is trying to accomplish. Typically those occasions fell under the sphere of a tribal culture. For me, most notedly a variety of Native American cultures of the desert southwest.
I have a very long history interacting with Native American spiritual elders starting at a very young age. My first two interactions stemmed from the same incident. I was not very old when my mother died and after a series of events I ended up living with my grandmother for a short time. One day she went to visit her only remaining offspring, my mother's sister. After going shopping all day long in town we returned and pulled up in front of the garage. I got out of the car and opened the two side-by-side wooden garage doors. There right in front of me on the floor of the garage only a few feet away in the glare of the headlights was my aunt's husband, the whole back of his head blown out from the blast of a double barrel shotgun he stuck in his mouth. My aunt, stunned into disbelief at what she saw, with the car still in gear and engine running let her foot slip from the clutch as she apparently tried to step out of the car and run toward her husband. The vehicle lurched forward in one huge leap, crashing into the swung open garage door knocking it and me down and rendering me unconscious.
In the milieu and confusion of it all, after the bump and cut on my head was attended to, I was all but forgotten until I was discovered missing sometime the next day. By then and unknown to all as to where I was, I was found dazed, dehydrated, hungry and in my pajamas wandering barefoot all alone with no identification along a desert road out in the middle of nowhere, so many miles from the location of the suicide the two events couldn't be connected.
The man who found me was an old desert rat of a fellow that was cutting across the desert in his jeep when he just happened upon me. The story as told to me by my grandmother years later was that the old man had no money, so, in those long-before cell phone days, he wasn't able to make a phone call --- nor did he have a phone at his shack. Instead he took me to the house of a woman friend of his even farther out in the desert, also with no phone. Some weeks later, taking me with him, the old man visited the dilapidated mining camp of another grizzly old prospector named Walt Bickel even farther across the desert that out of the blue just happened to know who my father was from his old gold mining days. After the visit, the old man and woman, armed with at least a little background information about me from Bickel, took me into town and left me at the sheriff's office.
When my grandmother came to get me the sheriff said he had personally known the old man and woman for a very long time and that both were fine and good people. The man was a rough and tumble old guy who was known to have been a onetime a muleskinner or swamper for the 20 mule team borax wagons that used to make the trek up and out of Death Valley and across the desert. Now days the sheriff said, the old man spent most of his time in one fashion or the other participating in Native American sweat lodge ceremonies and most likely I did too. The sheriff assured my grandmother there was no need to worry about anything related to my overall well being during the time I was in their company. According to the sheriff the two just didn't experience the passage of time like others seemed to. The period of days or weeks I was with them was really no more than just a matter of them coming into town relative to their needs.
When my grandmother picked me up, strung around my neck was small cloth sack like a Bull Durham tobacco bag filled with 50 or more pieces of buckshot. The sheriff told her that one day when the old man did not return the woman and I went out across the desert looking for him. We didn't find the old man during our search but we did come across a fairly large but barely alive coyote that had been all shot up in the hindquarters and left rear leg by buckshot. We took the wounded coyote, a coyote that was easily twice the size of any normal one, back to the woman's shack. We then spent the rest of night and next day pulling buckshot out of the rear and back leg of the animal, throwing the little lead balls into a pan. The woman patched the coyote up as best she could and nursed him back to health over a couple of days. Then with his regained strength the coyote simply limped off into the sagebrush. However, before she turned the coyote loose she took the buckshot we removed and counted it out into two equal piles, putting one pile into a little cloth bag and the other pile into a second identical cloth bag. Then she put one bag around my neck and the other around the coyote's neck.
Before we left town the sheriff told my grandmother the old man and woman had driven in that day and if she wanted to thank them for caring for me he could take us to see them. The old man was in the jeep on the passenger side alone when we drove up with the woman just coming out of a nearby grocery store. My grandmother said the old man excused himself for not getting out of the jeep during the introduction because he had taken a terrifically bad fall in the desert some days before having scraped up his rear and left leg so badly he could barely move. My grandmother thanked them and we left. She told me before I got home she removed the bag from around my neck because she was afraid because it was filled with buckshot it might upset my aunt considering how her husband died. My grandmother also told me there must be some kind of desert tradition or something because the old man in the jeep had what appeared to be small sack of buckshot tied around his neck just like mine --- a bag that seemed to be an EXACT same duplicate of the one I had tied around my neck.
As an adult, in another situation I had gotten myself into, a Native American spiritual elder stepped forward and told me he recognized me from having attended sweat lodge ceremonies with the old man when I was a young boy and that he himself had personally officiated over the removal of the buckshot from the coyote. So, years before, there I was just a young boy being swept into circumstances well beyond my control that unfolded in such a manner that years later I was interacting with tribal spiritual elders at a fairly deep level without me orchestrating or initiating any of it myself.
In my pre-teens, eight, ten, through to twelve years old, found me mostly under the auspices of my Uncle, an uncle who had long established himself favorably with a variety of Indian cultures and spiritual elders in the desert southwest. The following, which you may have run across elsewhere but I am repeating here as it strengthens my position in what I will present in a minute, is about him from the source so cited:
"Starting just after high school he began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and the Art Student's League in New York City. Then, barely into his 20s, he decided to follow an important and well established artist he met and studied under namedJohn Sloan to New Mexico. Sloan traveled to New Mexico each year for a few months to paint and relax. On my uncle's second or third trip, when Sloan returned to New York, my uncle stayed, having fallen in love with Santa Fe, the culture and the desert southwest. He was, if not more so, still a struggling artist and to stretch his limited funds and maintain his health he began fishing, hunting rabbits, and looking into the potential possibility of edible and medicinal plants indigenous to the desert. In doing so he was soon coming in contact with Native Americans. At first they found the white man foraging in the wilderness one day and painting pictures the next day a bit strange and kept their distance, but after awhile they discovered he was neither there to destroy the environment nor to exploit them. A few Indians, and then soon more and more, began to assist him, and in return he helped them with marketing their wares and making their art more commercially viable. He began looking into local plants, soils and rocks to enhance pigments and dyes. Overcoming many deep rooted apprehensions and suspicions he soon became accepted as one with the Earth and eventually many secrets and rituals that would otherwise not have been revealed were shared with him without concern.
"Back then borders were just lines on paper, if that. As it was, most people didn't even have the paper. Arizona didn't exist as a state until only a few years before. In the desert wilderness traveling from New Mexico into Mexico into Arizona meant nothing. Tribal units pretty much kept to their traditional lands that basically just ran from their central operating core until they faded out with no specifically designated border. Although peoples of one group might interact with peoples of other groups they kept their secrets to themselves. My uncle went between tribal areas and cultures up and down and across the desert interacting and learning different ways and methods of either doing the samething or not doing the samething, giving him a much broader base of understanding. What might be poison to one group another found away around and a use. Where medicinal plants, datura or peyote might be ignored by one group, one, the other, or all might be embraced by another group or clan. Learning and respecting local and traditional curing methods and rituals, over time what my uncle did was refine and synthesize, strengthening here, eliminating there."(source)
I was on my way to Supai Village and beyond when something of an unusual nature happened. Supai Village is the center of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. It is located in the Grand Canyon at the bottom of an offshoot canyon about ten miles from the main canyon rim and one of the most isolated and remote communities in the lower 48 states. The only way into or out of the village is either to hike eight miles to or from the trailhead, ride a mule along the same trail, or take a helicopter --- the helicopter option not even existing back in the days I was hiking the trail.
Before I arrived at the trailhead I stayed the night at the little gambling town of Laughlin along the Colorado River. Leaving early I cut through the mountains and down into Kingman. Continuing eastbound I stopped at the old Route 66 community of Peach Springs, Arizona, for breakfast. When I entered the cafe I noticed three young Native American men in their early to mid twenties sitting at a table together having breakfast.
Shortly after I sat down an older man probably around 50 or so and also a Native American, came into the cafe and immediately went to the table of the three young men. After talking for a few minutes he picked up the bill, walked over to the register and paid the tab. In doing so he went right by my table and as he did we made eye contact. He nodded slightly in a friendly manner and I returned the courtesy. After leaving the register he walked past my table a few steps then stopped and turned around asking me if I was the nephew of the biosearcher (my uncle). When I said yes he turned the empty chair across from me and half-sat as if he was going to leave any second. At the same time he asked about my uncle and if he was nearby. I told him I was traveling alone this time and on my way to the Supai Village and beyond as I had heard there were pictographs, or petroglyphs if you will, in an area of the canyons that have been indentified by some as a Diplodocus, a huge plant eating dinosaur from the Jurassic Period, as well as a depiction of an elephant and several ibex --- and I was hoping to see them for myself. By then the three young men had gathered around my table. Just as they were leaving the older man told me to remember that the wall paintings are located in a area of the Havasupai Reservation that is not accessible to visitors.
My uncle had seen the petroglyphs many years previously after coming across a report that Los Angeles oilman and multi-millionaire Edward L. Doheny had sponsored a scientific expedition into Havasupai Canyon in October and November 1924 to confirm what he had seen as a young prospector in 1879 --- namely some highly unusual petroglyphs on the canyon walls and the remains of an ancient megalithic fortress situated on the edge of a sheer cliff. The expedition formally identified the petroglyphs Doheny had seen as that of a dinosaur, an elephant, and several ibex, an animal that has never been found in America.(see)
It wasn't long after leaving Peach Springs that I reached the trailhead of Havasupai Hilltop and headed down into the canyon. I was two or three miles into the canyon well past the switchbacks, but probably not half-way yet when a series of bright flashes similar to what a signal mirror gives off began hitting my eyes emanating from a spot high up along the rim of the canyon north of me. As I continued down the canyon, for the distance covered I should have easily moved out of any reflected sunlight if it was coming from a stationary object. Instead the flashes continued to follow me with direct hits.
THE CANYON- AS SEEN FROM JUST BELOW THE TRAILHEAD NEAR THE END OF THE
SWITCHBACKS 7 MILES TO SUPAI VILLAGE. FLASHES CAME FROM RIDGE ON LEFT.
Now, I wasn't just born yesterday so I figured it had to be one of two things. First, as a kid I had seen enough cowboy and western movies to know that a glint of sun-flash up in the hills came off either a rifle barrel or the lens of a telescopic sight. Discounting that possibility I moved to the second possibility which was based on a situation that happened in real life to my uncle.
As you may recall from above my uncle had a long standing favorable interaction with a variety of Native Americans throughout the desert southwest. On Monday, July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time, my uncle, who lived in New Mexico, was startled, along with many others no doubt, by a huge flash of light that filled the whole of the pre-dawn night sky in a giant half bubble arc across the desert toward White Sands. Unknown to him at the time, that flash was associated with the first atomic device ever set off on the face of the earth. One month later, August 15-16, 1945 found him well into the rugged terrain on BLM land some 25 miles or so from ground zero and not far from the small New Mexico community of San Antonio doing some research into plants of interest to local Native Americans used as food, medicinal, and ritual purposes that may have been impacted adversely by radioactive fallout.
As the day was edging toward dusk my uncle was jarred from his concentration first by the feeling of an intense blast of heat followed by a deep chest shuddering air-vibration caused by a huge, weird-shaped flying object, seemingly made of metal and whining like a sick vacuum cleaner that streaked in out of the sky almost directly overhead on a slightly down-angle from parallel to the ground. The object, as it crossed out of sight barely maintaining its height advantage above the undulating canyons and rock strewn hills, all the while traveling at an ultra high speed, by the sound of it, slammed hard, and somewhat explosively so, possibly before it even hit, into the rocks and soil some distance away. By the time my uncle reached the crash site it was getting dark so he waited until morning to climb down into the arroyo where the object ended up. The next morning on the way down, in the subdued pre-dawn light, he slipped and got his leg stuck in some rocks. The more he tried to free himself the more wedged it seemed to get. When he stopped to catch his breath and refigure his options after a rather long and intense unsucessful effort to work his foot loose, with the sun beginning to beat down, he noticed that several people had worked their way down to the crash site from the opposite side. He yelled trying to get their attention with no response. He scrounged around in his over shoulder bag and dug out a survival mirror, flashing a signal toward them that got their attention. He waved his arms and yelled again and in doing so one of the men started up the ridge wall toward him. The man moved a few large rocks my uncle was unable to reach and pushed with the full strength of his legs on another and within a few minutes my uncle was freed, albeit with a highly bruised ankle.(see)
Even though it was some distance to the rim and even more up to where the flashes were coming from, taking into consideration the situation that happened to my uncle, just in case, I decided to leave the trail and cross the canyon. By the time I reached the talus slope at the bottom of the canyon walls trying to figure my next move I saw a man some distance off waving to me. As we got close I could easily see he was of Native American descent probably in his mid-30s. We walked back into the trees on the valley floor and sat in the shade basically just talking and sharing water. He told me he had heard I had intentions of seeing the petroglyphs. He also said he would take me to the petroglyphs but as part of our journey, afterwards there was a man, a very important spiritual man, that he was assigned to take me to.
At first we stayed along the canyon wall traveling a rather long distance, then we began to climb. Photographs from the air of the plateau surrounding the the canyon on both sides would seem to indicate there was no way any of it was passable, and most likely for the uninitiated such is the case. However, the Havasupai and the ancients before them have carved out almost invisible trails and paths over some segments of the terrain that looks impossible to tread even a short distance let alone clear to the main canyon rim --- which is where we eventually ended up. It was hot and extremely fatiquing, at least for for me, plus, since I was originally going to Supai Village and the falls beyond I wasn't carrying a lot of water for an extended hike so water was scarce, limiting us to very little along the trail. Every once in awhile we would come across a shaded rain cistern with a handful of water or a hidden water stash that was most certainly known ahead of time to the man I was with. Even though it wasn't very far in air miles to the main Grand Canyon rim overlooking the Colorado River by map, it was very rugged and time consuming territory to traverse so it was nearing sundown before we reached our goal. That goal was on a stubby promontory right on the edge of the rim and what was behind it. What was behind it was a cave of sorts, not a deep cave with a small opening but more long than deep covered overhead by a canopy of rock --- sort of like a cave dwelling without a dwelling, but much smaller, say about 12 feet high, 20 feet deep with a curved toward the back ceiling, and maybe 40 feet long. If you didn't know it was there you would never see it as you had to climb down from the top of the plateau then circle around to it on a foot-wide path that you had to scoot along with your back leaning against the wall and nothing but a straight down drop hundreds of feet into the canyon. The immaculately clean cave was bare of anything except along the edge of the opening, but still just under the canopy, was a stone-ringed fire pit which looked like it hadn't been used in centuries. The overhanging verandah or porch-like rough surfaced promontory in front of the cave ran out front of the fire pit maybe 12 or 15 feet then ended with nothing but an open air drop into the Grand Canyon. Above the top of the canopy the cliff wall rose up 50 to 80 feet before reaching the plateau. That was about it.
The man I was traveling with told me to wait, then left. Not long afterwards a large bundle of sticks and wood tied together with a rope was lowered from above. I untied it, then a few minutes later another bundle was lowered down. Then the rope droped to the promontory floor. By then the sun had completely set and it got so dark it was hard to tell where the promontory porch-like floor ended and the open sky over the canyon started. The man who led me to the cave didn't come back and in the dark, or at least until sunrise, I was trapped there. I put a few sticks into the fire pit and lit a fire, then sat out on the promontory with the fire behind me just gazing out at the stars.
After awhile I kept getting this strange feeling I wasn't alone. Several times I made quick turn around glances into the dim flame-lit cave trying to see if someone was there, but each time nothing. I was sort of dozing when I felt the warmth of the fire on my back had increased substantially and that the light from the fire had increased as well. I turned to see a man, and old man who seemed almost to have come out of the cave wall, standing behind the now nearly man-height flames.
As the flames dropped to a more normal height I could easily see the man was Native American. He motioned me with an outstretched arm and open palm to come sit beside him on his side of the fire pit. He welcomed me, told me I was in a very sacred spot and that to his knowledge no white man had ever set foot on it before. As he spoke I wondered how I could understand and hear so clearly his words and what he was saying. If any of you have ever read The Last American Darshan wherein I as a young boy sat in meditation before the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi at his ashram in Tiruvannamalai, you may recall that according to the scribes that recorded it the Maharshi spoke to me in his native language Tamil and I understood everything he said fully.(see) Now, I don't know why such things happen, but when the circumstances require it, for some reason it just happens. Such is the case with the Native American in the cave. To this day I do not know if he was speaking English or in his native tongue, but every word he said I understood. He told me he knew when I was very young I had been lost in the desert and after being found I had participated in sweat lodge ceremonies. He also knew of my experience with the ethereal woman-like entity at the Sun Dagger site in Chaco Canyon. But most notedly he said that everybody in the desert southwest that operated in the same realm as he did knew as a young boy I was very special in that I had been touched by the Native American spritual deity or Yei he refered to as the White Painted Lady but known as White Painted Woman. As he spoke, using two fingers, he marked my forehead, cheeks, and chin with a red ochre based pigment and under and around my eyes with black. With that he said it was late and that we should get some sleep.
The next morning at sunrise after sleeping on the ground, i.e., the floor of the cave, we went out and sat side-by-side Indian style on the cold stone promontory while he quietly chanted and drummed a small drum. Before we left the cave and sat down he told me there was a good chance we were going to be at the cave location for awhile and that we only had a limited supply of water. Plus, for me it was a long way back. So said, we each could only have a small sip of water (about a teaspoon full) in the morning and one at night.
We sat on the promontory the whole day without moving. From a young boy growing up I had a Vulture as a Totem Animal. The first day on the promontory I saw two to three vultures circling close by, sometimes a few more. The second day the vultures were replaced by two or three of their much larger brethren the condor. Then the distinction between days and time began to fade as I fell deeper into a meditative state that sort of melded together varying aspects of samadhi, nirodha, and shamanic journeying into one stew. When I came out of it the old man was not to be seen nor was there any trace of him. However, right in front of me on the ground was a medium-sized handmade Native American water jar that appeared to be very ancient that had water in it --- the same amount of water that if each day a teaspoon of water was put in it twice a day instead of being drank it would add up to the same amount of water that would have been used in five days.
Although I didn't wear a watch I did have a cheap rubber Casio multi-function calculator watch attached to a little hook in my backpack. Besides being waterproof it had a ton of functional operations such as the day, date, dual time zones, calendar, stopwatch, calculator, backlight, and alarm. The day before I left for the trailhead I was in a restaurant snack bar area of one of the casinos in Laughlin. I was shuffling through my backpack trying to find something when I noticed a boy, probably around 8 years old or so, who seemed fascinated by the watch. I unhooked it and handed it to him while I returned to my shuffling. In the meantime he went about pushing a bunch of buttons and generally screwing with it. When he handed it back I made a quick check of date and time and since everything appeared in order I hooked it back in my backpack.
The next day while traversing the plateau with man that had signaled me and we stopped to rest I heard this slight beep-beep-beep coming from my backpack. It turned out to be the watch alarm. Somehow the boy must have pushed the right sequence of buttons and inturn set the alarm. In shutting it off I noted the day, date, and time, and again everything seemed in order. From that incident I knew what day and date I arrived at the cave. According to the watch, although to me it seemed no more than two days had elapsed at the most, seven days had gone by. During that time as far as I knew I hadn't moved, drank any water, eaten any food, or relived myself.
I looked at the amount of water in the water jar and carefully poured it into my empty canteen. I figured I might just barely have enough water to get back to the main trail to Supai Village if I rationed it, traveled in the early mornings and in the cool of the evening, holing up during the hottest part of the day --- and if lucky, find some of those rain cisterns. I knew I had to leave the cave during daylight hours because scooting around on the one-foot wide ledge leaning against the canyon wall had to be done, at least for me, while I was still light. I took a quick swig of water then headed out on the narrow ledge. I had only gone a short distance, maybe half way when I started to feel whoozy, lightheaded, and dizzy, as if, thinking back, the water was laced with hallucinogens or some sort of native spiritual intoxicants. There was nothing to hold on to and I was leaning back as far as I could to maintain my balance. I was going to have to drop my backpack --- which had the canteen attached to it with all my water --- when, just before I was about to fully pass out somehow I merged into the canyon wall, becoming one with the cliff and stone behind it. Everything got dark.
A couple of days later a group of hikers heading back up the trail spotted me laying buried up to my waist and unconscious in sand, gravel, and rocks of a sandbar down along the edge of the Little Colorado River some distance upstream from it's confluence with the Colorado River AND miles and miles away from where I last remembered being along the one-foot wide ledge high on the canyon wall. When the hikers first found me they would have bet money I was dead. Then, when they pulled me out they thought I had been either badly beaten, had taken a horendous fall, or both, because the red and black color of my skin. Unknown to the hikers, what appeared to be red and black bruises all over my body was actually from what pigment remained on my skin. However, regardless of what I had been through or not been through, except for the fact I was stark naked, had no shoes, and my backpack with my ID and money was missing, I was in remarkably good shape. One of the hikers said it looked like I had been caught in a flash flood. Another said it looked like I was emerging from the Earth. After a brief explanation that I had fallen in the river upstream someone gave me an extra pair of swim trunks to put on. Someone else gave me a pair of shower shoes so the trail wouldn't be so harsh on my feet.
In the group of hikers was a couple who had a pick-up truck that, after their hike, were headed to Mather Campground near Grand Canyon Village. They told me I was welcome to go with them if I was willing to ride in the truck bed. Their truck was one of those jacked-up jobs with huge wheels and a chrome roll bar bolted down in bed with lights all across the top with little wire screens. I squeezed in the back between the role bar and a whole bunch of backpacks, hiking gear, and coolers, wearing only the swim trunks and shower shoes given me and off we went.
After going through the east gate they stopped at Desert View for awhile. In that I wasn't dressed as appropriate as I could be --- even to be hanging out with tourists, I just remained in the back of the truck --- that is until they didn't come right back and the day was closing down toward sunset and I needed to pee. In sort of a low key manner I began scrounging around for an out of the way restroom, finding one between the parking lot and the rim. In the process I saw a hunched over old man, which would be best described as a white haired old Indian walking with a large dog, a dog that was sniffing here and there as dogs often do but somehow more intensely. The thing is, I was sure I had seen the same old man sitting up amongst the rocks off the trail on my way up from the Little Colorado. At first when I looked up off the trail I thought I saw a pile of rocks or rocks that were formed in such a manner that they looked like an old man. When I took a second look they turned out to actually BE an old man.
When I came out of the restroom I headed toward the rim passing the old man and his dog right along my path. The dog, which was huge and much more wolf-like in my estimation than dog-like, had stopped to paw the ground. The dog began tugging on something in the dirt he had push aside. The old man suddenly turned in front of me and holding out his arm after taking something out of the dog's mouth said, "I belive this is yours." It was my backpack.
After a shower and a fair night's sleep at Mather Campground near Grand Canyon Village wrapped snuggly --- and finally warm --- in my G.I., O.D. lightweight combat casualty blanket compliments of my backpack, then picking up a few items of clothing, I approached the English speaking tour guide of a Japanese tour bus that I overheard was was returning to Las Vegas with a stop at Grand Canyon Caverns. I asked if there was any Buddhists among her group. She wasn't totally sure, but pointed out several she thought were, of which at least two could speak English. I showed them my necklace and explained my plight.(see) It wasn't long before I had secured a ride as far as Peach Springs. From there I was able to get to the trailhead at Havasupai Hilltop, get my vehicle and head home.
As you may have noticed, during my experience, nearly every precept put forward in the quote at the top of the page attributed to the Buddha and texts that may have followed, such as sleeping on the ground, the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations have been in one way or the other, violated.
As to the period of time I was on the promontory and didn't move, eat, and apparently didn't drink any water for days --- as the two teaspoons a day were unconsumed and continued to add up in the water jar to such a point that it held the equivalent of at least five days of water --- and what happened during that period that I have described above as a deep meditative state that sort of melded together varying aspects of samadhi, nirodha, and shamanic journeying is, well, a story for another time. I will tell you that the birds continued to get larger, going from vultures the first day to condors the second. Then, as I write above, the distinction between days and time began to fade as I fell deeper into a meditative state. However, during an area of transition between the total completion of the fading into the deep meditative state I remember something that must have been on the third day. On that day, no longer were there vultures or condors, but an enormous bird of even larger size perched on the promontory with it's back toward me and tailfeathers spread in such a fashion that I was able to walk up on it's back and sit. After that, like I say, is a story for another time.
THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
THE BEST OF
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WE DO NOT HAVE SHAMANS
The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures
ON THE RAZOR'S
One day, in a rather obscure off the beaten path café in Taos, New Mexico, circa 1968, a small gathering occurred that included my uncle, myself and a few of his friends. During that gathering I told the following story regarding a man I met and worked for during my first two years of high school, a man I call my Merchant Marine Friend, the story of which briefly goes like:
In the early days of World War II my merchant marine friend was badly burned when the ship he was on was torpedoed by a German submarine. In order to save himself he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil and naphtha burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin as he plunged through and returned for air. Unlike his other surviving shipmates he was NOT found immediately following the attack and presumed dead. Then, weeks, possibly months after his ship was torpedoed he was found strapped by ropes to a piece of debris floating in the middle of the ocean thousands and thousands of miles away from where his ship went down. Except for being unconscious and heavily scared from the burn marks, which had seemingly healed, he was in pretty good shape. Everybody said it was a miracle, that his burns must had healed by the salt water. How he had made it in the open ocean without food or water nobody knew. Most people speculated he had been picked up by a U-boat and ejected at a convenient time so he would be found, although no record has ever shown up to substantiate such an event, nor did he recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise.
I elaborated on the story by including that the former merchant marine felt the results of being found replicated that of the Navy pilot of the PBY floatplane in the book The High Barbaree. Accompanying us at the table that day, and not at all that unusual, was a man known to be a highly regarded and respected tribal spritual elder. The elder listened intently to me telling the story and, although not interested in the specifics because much of it was foreign to his culture, the overall theme of the story he liked.
A few days later he showed up with a truly elderly man. The spiritual elder had been talking to a group of men about my story when a man stepped forward saying he had been a Code Talker in the south Pacific during World War II and knew about PBYs. This inturn put a truly elderly man in the group into some sort of trance. The truly elderly man told the code talker for ME to beware of PBYs. Because of the unusual nature of the warning, PBYs and all, the spiritual elder brought us all together. The truly elderly man was somehow privy to the story that it had been said that as a young boy I had been touched by the White Painted Lady. Because of such, he felt a connection that otherwise might not have been there. Basically, through translators, because the truly elderly man did not have a full command of the english language, he wanted to know if I had access to a PBY. I told him not only had I never been on one or near one, to my knowledge I did not think I had ever even seen one. The old man slumped back almost as though he had fainted. Within minutes he returned to consciousness. He said that if not me someone from my past, possibly a woman, and if not her someone close to her would be impacted adversely in the use of such a craft. He told me to stay away from such aircraft and ensure that any of my friends that might fit the bill stay away from them as well.
Sometime after high school I crewed on a yacht come marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire David J. Halliburton. One day in the marina I came across a former Rose Marie Reid swimsuit model I hadn't seen in years that I knew as Sullivan who had since become the wife of the son of a world renown underwater explorer.
Now, I do not recall if the above incident between the former model and myself occurred before or after the warning by the elderly man, but please note that I say the woman in question was married to the "son of a renowned ocean explorer." However, some years later and well after the code talker incident --- and with me being in absolutely no position to know of such things --- in the mid-1970s, she and her husband bought a PBY. Four years after the purchase her husband was killed piloting the plane during a water landing.
THE LADY ON THE DOCK, THE PBY, AND HIGH BARBAREE
When my uncle was in his early 20s he was traveling with a number of Native Americans around his same age in a then remote part of northeastern New Mexico when he came across a young man age 15 or 16 wandering across the desert. That young man, in later years, turned out to be the author of over a 100 cowboy and western novels, Louis L'Amour.
In 1970 my uncle was in California to visit has ailing brother, my dad, and while in California visited L'Amour to catch up on the old days and discuss things new. In the process of that visit my uncle took me with him. During conversation, knowing L'Amour had been engaged at one time to Margaret Runyan, who eventually married Carlos Castaneda, and both my uncle and I knew Castaneda, I brought it up.
After that, a good portion of what was left of the afternoon either circulated around or drifted back to Castaneda. Until he was told by me and elaborated by my uncle when questioned, L'Amour had no clue, as so many others still have no clue to this day, that my uncle was the Informant that Castaneda and others write about so often as having been the original source for his introductions into the rituals and use of datura.
The most important part of the Castaneda discussion between L'Amour and my uncle was how it impacted L'Amour, or at the very least how it related to two of his major works. L'Amour wrote two books, one published in 1976 the other written in 1977 but not published until ten years later, that were seeped with a heavy mystic quality about them intertwined with Native American spiritual lore and magic. The books, The Californios and The Haunted Mesa, both relied heavily on consultation with my uncle and his indepth strengths in both areas, but most surely so in Native American spiritual lore. A lot of what L'Amour weaved through both stories, but especially so Haunted Mesa which unfolded under the same spiritual blanket that covered my experience, was drawn from the kind of knowledge that my uncle was familiar with and that encompassed what happened to me. L'Amour writes in The Haunted Mesa:
"The Indians the white man met were no more original inhabitants of the country than the Normans and Saxons the original inhabitants of England. Other peoples had come and gone before, leaving only shadows upon the land. Yet some had gone into limbo leaving not only physical artifacts but spiritual ones as well. Often encroaching tribes borrowed from those who proceded them, accepting their values as a way of maintaining harmony with the natural world.
"There were ancient mysteries, old gods, who retired into canyons to await new believers who would bring them to life once more.
"Who has walked the empty canyons of the lonely land above the timber and not felt himself watched? Watched by what ghosts from a nameless past? From out of what pit or horror and fear?
"The Indian had always known he was not alone. He knew there were others, things that observed. When a man looked quickly up, was it movement he saw or only his imagination?"
THE HAUNTED MESA
In The Boy and the Giant Feather I tell of being given a feather by a Native American tribal elder that was as long as I, a ten year old boy, was tall. From that I have been questioned by readers if I have seen or come into contact with a bird of such large size that it would require a feather as big as the one I mention. I then go on to say I cannot answer with all certainty. Part of that uncertainty stems to this day from how, as a grown man at the cave, on the third day I faded into a deep meditative state but just as I did I recall seeing a bird on the promontory of an extremely large size. The following may add some insight to that uncertainty:
THE GIANT BIRD, EXPERIENCE ONE: Lost in the Desert
When I was a young boy I stumbled on the body of an uncle, the man who was married to my mother's sister, who just moments before committed suicide. I had only got out of a car driven by my aunt to open the garage doors when I saw him a couple of feet away on the dirt floor in a widening pool of soaked blood, dead. My aunt let slip her foot from the clutch to run toward her husband and with the motor still running the car jumped forward in one huge leap hitting the garage door, knocking it and me down and rendering me unconscious.
Although I woke up a short time later after being attended to, seeing my uncle with the whole top of his head blown off and splattered all over the garage then being knocked unconscious apparently caused me to lose or cover over a good part of my memory. It was months, even years before I began to recall anything that transpired even well before the time I was knocked unconscious and I eventually came out of it --- and then at first, only a smattering of coming-and-going fleeting glimpses.
Sometime after being hit by the garage door and/or car or both and ending up unconscious, an old prospector type guy found me wandering all alone, and nobody knows how I got there, out in the middle of the desert a hundred miles or more away from my aunt's house, with no identification, no shoes, or knowing who I was. Months later somehow a local sheriff was able to connect me up with my grandmother.
Again, how I ended up in the middle of the desert is not clear. However, there is one thing my grandmother said I told her right after she picked me up from the sheriff, and of which other than her telling me, I don't remember. She said when she asked how in the world I ever ended up so far out in the middle of the desert, especially all alone, I told her I got out of bed while it was still dark, and all by myself, walked up to the hill behind my aunt's house. There I climbed up to the top of the highest boulder I could find and stood there. I told her while standing on the boulder a huge bird as dark as the night sky and as big as I was or bigger, landed on the rock just opposite me. I got scared and turned to leave. Just as I began to move the bird swooped down and picked me up.
My grandmother scoffed at the story figuring it was either the run-away imagination and ramblings of a little kid or I was recalling some sort of dream or hallucination. However, I told her one more thing as part of the story. Before I got up and left my aunt's house I had been put into the room of one of my cousins. Following the events of that night my girl cousin would not leave the side of her mother so, unconscious as I was I was put into her room. Her bed was covered with stuffed animals and dolls of which there was a matched set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. When I left her room in the middle of the night I apparently took the Andy doll with me, something my cousin noticed missing almost right away when things for her returned closer to some sort of normalcy. Of course no one knew what happened to it and in all the searching nobody was able to find it no matter where they looked. My grandmother, after learning I carried the doll with me when I left my cousin's room asked what I had done with it. I told her I had dropped it on the mountain (i.e., the boulders up and behind my aunt's house) when the bird took me.
While it may be quite reasonable for any person to identify totally with my grandmother's feelings that what I recounted regarding a giant bird was either the run-away imagination and ramblings of a little kid or I was recalling some sort of dream or hallucination, it should be noted what happened many, many months later when my boy cousin was playing, as he often did, in a fort he had built in the same rocks and boulders up behind his house. In the process of his playing, way down between the crevasse of some of the boulders, he found the long missing Andy doll of my girl cousin. The exact same Andy doll that I told my grandmother I had with me and dropped the night I wandered away from the house.
It should be recalled, if nothing else, when I was found it was the next day and I was out in the middle of the desert well over 100 miles away from the location of my aunt's house in the mountains. A full account of the story can be found in The Last American Darshan.
THE GIANT BIRD, EXPERIENCE TWO: Lost in the Desert
Long before the incident at Supai, as a very young boy, but somewhat older than the experience described above, I wandered off into the desert unescorted. When my uncle found me missing he went searching for me. Years later he told 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