Tag Archives: Buddha

The Buddha At The Gate

Essay Eleven: The Buddha at the Gate. 

Let me tell you a story. There was a young monk who was sent by his Abbot to beg for food in a nearby town.  The town had a wall around it, with a main gate placed at each cardinal direction.  The young monk was a little nervous during his first alms round but the townspeople were very generous and quickly filled his bowl.  Late that morning he decided to leave by the North Gate.  Sitting to one side of the gate was a bedraggled, dirty old beggar who stirred himself at the sight of the young monk and started to spit and curse at him.  The monk jumped to one side in alarm and quickly passed through the gate as fast as he could.  As he walked away he could still hear the beggar’s curses ringing in his ears.

On the next day once his bowl was full he decided to leave by the West Gate to avoid the dreadful old beggar.  But the beggar was there, spitting and cursing at him once again.  The young monk was angry this time and shouted at the old beggar “Don’t you know who I am?  I am a student of the Buddha!”  At which point the beggar picked up some dirt and threw it into the bowl, spoiling the monk’s collection of food.  Angrily the young monk walked back to the monastery, knowing he would have to endure an enforced fast, wondering why he should be treated in this way.  So he made up his mind to breathe and calm himself and to totally ignore the beggar if they should meet again.

As he left by the South Gate next day he met the old beggar, still cursing and spitting at him.  He protected his food with part of his robe and kept his head down as he endured the abuse from the old beggar once more.  His heart was in turmoil, his mind in so much distress that he could eat nothing from his bowl once he reached the monastery.  Next day he left by the East Gate and to his dismay the same old beggar was waiting for him.  As he heard the curses and endured the spitting, the young monk raised his walking staff to strike the old beggar, who just cackled in glee at the young monk’s discomfort.  With a moment’s pause the monk stayed his hand and walked quickly through the East Gate.

He was deeply ashamed at how close he had come to violence.  He felt he was a wretched student of the Buddha and totally confused as to why all this abuse was happening to him.  He suffered so much from the anger and violence inside himself that he knew he needed his Master’s guidance.  He sought out the Abbot and asked for forgiveness and guidance after he told the story of his past four days.  The Abbot listened deeply to the young monk then smiled very gently with understanding.

“My child, you have met the Buddha at the Gate.  He is asking you to look deeply into the depths of your reactions and anger.  He is asking you to listen instead to the deep source of Love and Compassion in your heart.  He is asking you not to lose your Joy and Equanimity.  He encourages you to develop your Equanimity so it is solid and strong, not easily moved.  These are the Buddha’s teachings on Love and you must meditate deeply on these teachings.”

The Abbot instructed him on the Buddha’s Teachings on Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity; the Four Immeasurable Minds.  Also known as the Four Brahmaviharas, these teachings were first given by the Buddha to a Hindu gentleman who wished to find the way to be with Brahma, the Universal God.  The young monk was instructed to deepen his practice, to listen deeply to his heart and always to stop and look deeply into the causes and conditions of his reactions, anger and violence.  The young monk bowed in gratitude to his Abbot and diligently practiced meditating on the Buddha’s teachings, immediately putting them into daily practice.  This enabled him to pass by the beggar without reaction, until one day no beggar was to be found at any of the four gates.

This simple teaching is something we can all put into practice and not activate the demons in our own mind. A better world is the end result.

 

Taking Refuge in The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Incense Offering by Carolyn                      

 The Fall Study Session at Pine Gate on Thursday September 4, 2014 begins with a Recitation Ceremony of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Where did they come from?  They had to come from somewhere.  There are three major causes and conditions that permitted their emergence.  The first is the awakened mind of the Buddha; the second is the great skill of the Buddha as a teacher; the third is Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful rewording of the Five Wonderful Precepts of the Buddha.  In a language that would appeal to the consciousness of the 21st century, the Buddha’s mindfulness trainings were renewed, in tune with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments.  So when we study and penetrate deeply into the mindfulness trainings we touch all three conditions, in particular the awakened mind of the Buddha.  At the same time we also touch our potential to be similarly awakened.

 

With the Five Mindfulness Trainings the Buddha communicated in a very precise way the ethical and moral basis of practice; of how to be with ourselves, with others and with the planet and society at large.  To be in touch with the Buddha’s awakened mind enables us to take refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha – in a very deep way, so that something deep and very wholesome stirs in our hearts. 

 

Taking refuge allows us to transport our everyday reality with its disasters, joys, ups and downs, into the loving embrace of teachers such as the Buddha and Jesus.  Their teachings provide instruments for practitioners to travel from the Historical dimension of daily life and be refreshed by touching deeply the Ultimate dimension of the awakened mind of the Buddha and other fully enlightened beings. 

 

Taking refuge in the Dharma, practices, sutras and trainings brings to mind the pivotal exchange between Ananda and the Buddha.  As the Buddha was preparing for his bodily death his faithful attendant Ananda put a number of questions to the Buddha on behalf of the monastic community.  The Buddha had repeatedly encouraged his disciples not to take refuge in the person of the Buddha, but in the island of mindfulness within the self where the diligent practice of the mindfulness trainings would reveal their Buddha nature.  Still Ananda had to ask: “Who will our teacher be when you are gone?” to which the Buddha replied “The Mindfulness Trainings,” adding “They are your teacher even while I am alive.”

 

Taking refuge in the Sangha brings the Buddha and the Dharma to life.  Without the Sangha, the Buddha and Dharma cannot evolve to be relevant to the suffering of our times, which is quite different from the times of the Buddha.  In the latter part of his ministry the Buddha took great care to reconstitute himself in terms of the sangha, so that if you wanted to truly touch the Buddha and Dharma you had to do so in the Sangha.    Thich Nhat Hanh has repeatedly referred to sangha building as the noblest profession in the 21st century.

 

Ordinees

 

I am convinced more than ever before that the world needs a universal code of ethics.  The Five Mindfulness Trainings fill this void.  For me they are a guide and protector in moments of doubt, so that I see clearly and can take care of my own internal garbage.  This is the only way to deal with the potential terrorist that lurks deep within everyone’s consciousness.  To unravel the insidious internal knots caused by generations of ancestral habits, created from ignorance, vengeance and separation – this is the work of the new revolutionary of the 21st century, transforming terror and violence first within themselves and then within the world.  It is not a political or intellectual exercise, nor a matter of compromised treaties or ceasefires.  It is an internal transformation of consciousness at the very core of our being.  It takes mindfulness to do this and the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide the starting gate, a guidance system and a deep well of internal ethics to live by.  This is why I do my very best to live by these trainings.

 

 

TRAILING SKY SIX FEATHERS: NOW AVAILABLE

My 2008 book Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves was dedicated to Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a South West Native American medicine woman from the 18th century. My new book is her story and how her life and mine interconnect in the 21st century through a journey that spans four centuries. The collision of past with present lives creates a radical new compass to guide me through the difficult times we live in.

I am grateful to the many hearts and minds that helped me complete this lifework. Trailing Sky Six Feathers illuminates issues that will affect our world for generations to come. This hero’s journey is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy; shining light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own.
For Autographed Version GO TO: http://www.ianprattis.com/TrailingSky.html Click on ORDER BOOK. Check out Overview, The Author, Chapter Summaries, Chapter Three, Testimonials and Blog. You can also Order Book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Xlibris for Hardcover, Softcover and E-Book.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Option B: From the Publisher
XLIBRIS: For Hardcover, Softcover and E-Book
http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000915195/TRAILING-SKY-SIX-FEATHERS.aspx
Option C: From Amazon and Barnes & Noble
AMAZON: Hardcover and Softcover
http://www.amazon.com/Trailing-Sky-Six-Feathers-Journey/dp/1493196790/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400002916&sr=1-2&keywords=TRAILING+SKY+SIX+FEATHERS
KINDLE E Book: http://www.amazon.com/TRAILING-SKY-SIX-FEATHERS-Journey-ebook/dp/B00JV06FFY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400087917&sr=1-1&keywords=TRAILING+SKY+SIX+FEATHERS
BARNES AND NOBLE: Hardcover and Softcover
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trailing-sky-six-feathers-ian-prattis/1119281452?ean=9781493196791
NOOK E Book: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/trailing-sky-six-feathers-ian-prattis/1119281452?ean=9781493196777

Here is the publisher’s Overview:
The author is a Zen teacher, Poet, Professor Emeritus, Founder of Friends for Peace, Spiritual Warrior for Planetary Care and Social Justice. In this book he navigates past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century. These screenplay epics weave together to create inspiration for a wide range of spiritual seekers, environmentalists, educators, Generation X and Y, feminists, students and academics alike.

We are staring into the abyss: climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, nuclear breakdown, terrorism and anarchy. Instead of being eaten up by the abyss “Awaken Spiritually” for that transforms everything. Our world has become an unpredictable beast. We fail to work with it intelligently. We must take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter.

An exciting Hero’s Journey, as we follow his journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming his karma. The story has the author stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in his own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, he goes to extraordinary lengths to transform four centuries of karma.
Readers will travel the pages with Ian as he learns to embrace The Muse – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – his South Western Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms he died in 1777. Trailing Sky Six Feathers vows to find Ian (then known as Eagle Speaker) in a future time, to help him complete his purpose despite resistance from Ian’s intellectual and logical mind to remember that pledge in this lifetime.

Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhance his process of remembering, while Trailing Sky waits patiently from the distant past. Ian learns how to reconfigure his understanding of time, place, consciousness and even Carl Jung’s psychology, where he chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in his deep unconscious.
Readers will be inspired as they watch Ian’s intention and strength of purpose transcend the patterns he had carried since childhood. Past life memories finally collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, who refused to give up. Karma is reversed and the internal battles are over, as Ian begins to live his life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing of this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to Ian, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers caps the author’s long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion he has taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. He is a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. Ian’s story is offered as a gift to our planet, as his purpose in life is to share his wealth of experience on how to live in harmony not just with ourselves but with the place we call home… earth.

In 2010, after an intense internal dialogue with his Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, Ian asked her if he should write her story. There was a long silence that stretched into infinity until he finally heard her affirmation. Ian stood up and reached for his backpack and took out a writing pad. There was a gold plated fountain pen in the pack, though he used it rarely. This story had to be hand written. He inserted an ink cartridge into the pen and sat in a chair overlooking the sea and mountains on the west coast of British Columbia. Putting his pen to paper he started to write the first line of this book:
“Put down your weapons, my husband,” she said quietly with steely insistence.

Vesak Day Celebration in Ottawa

The Ottawa Vesak Day and Asian Heritage Month celebrations and ceremony, will be attended by Thailand’s Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Pisan Manawapat, the Hon. Senator Vernon White, the Hon. MP Royal Galipeau, the Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Labour, MPP, Jack MacLaren, MPP, Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa City Councillors Shad Qudri and Marianne Wilkinson and various diplomatic dignitaries on Sunday, May 4th at Ottawa City Hall. Event highlights include messages from the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Premier of Ontario. There will also be speeches by the Ambassador of Thailand, Mayor Jim Watson and the Founder of Vesak Day in Ottawa and Sirin Chairman, Visita Leelaratna. Through the efforts and collaboration of various inter-cultural groups, the Vesak and Asian Heritage Month festivities will also be attended by the Ottawa community at large. The celebrations will also feature Sanga chanting for World Peace, cultural performances and art displays from Ottawa’s diverse Asian communities.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the festivities at Jean Pigott Place, City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West from 13:00 to 16:30. Admission is free.

This is a unique opportunity for Ottawa to participate in the multi-cultural celebrations of Asian Heritage and mark Vesak Day which commemorates the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing. In addition, the occasion will be used for an inspirational talk on cyber-bullying by Carleton Professor Emeritus Dr. Ian Prattis, the Zen teacher at Pine Gate. The delivery of the official proclamation of “Vesak Day” by Mayor Jim Watson will be at 14:00. There will be a number of performances at the festivities. The Thai Dance Troupe of Ottawa (TDO), and People’s Choice Awards Winner 2009 sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy will present the Homage to Lord Buddha, a fifteen minute journey through time, music, and dance which celebrates the Birth of Lord Buddha. Sri Lankan Hevisi drummers will lead the Sanga procession. Seniors from the Chinese Senior Support Centre in Kanata will perform a dance called Happy Together and a Vietnamese Buddhist youth group in Ottawa will perform the Lion Dance.

Thai Dancers

Light refreshments will follow the performance portion and from 15:30 to 16:30 attendees will be free to visit and enjoy the booths and beautiful art displays. A highlight of this special day will be the display of seven of the world’s most beautiful statues of the Awakened One: the Buddha, celebrating his message of peace. The day’s activities will wind down with “a day of compassion” which will encourage people to reaffirm their determination to practice loving-kindness.
Program: Ottawa City Hall, May 4, 1.00pm – 4.30pm
1:00 pm: Visiting Booths and Art Display
1:25 pm: Sangha Procession into the hall with Sri Lankan Temple Drums
1:30 pm: Canadian National Anthem
1:35 pm: MC Acknowledgements for Vesak and Asian Heritage
1:40 pm: Sangha Chanting for World Peace
2:00 pm: VIP Messages from:
1. Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston: Hon Senator Vernon White
2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Hon MP Royal Galipeau
3. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: Hon MPP Yasir Naqvi
Speeches:
1. Thailand Ambassador to Canada, Pisan Manawapat ;
2. Founder of Sirin and Vesak in Ottawa, Visita Leelaratna,
3. “Vesak Day” Proclamation by Mayor Jim Watson
2:20 pm: Vietnamese Youth Group Dance
2:30 pm: Inspirational Talk on “Can We Stop Cyberbullying?” By Dr. Ian Prattis
2:45 pm: “Homage to Lord Buddha” Thai dance troupe
3:00 pm: Chinese dance group
3:15 pm: Lion Dance by Vietnamese Youth group
3:30 pm: THANK YOU – MC’s final statements
Refreshment and Visiting Booths and Beautiful Art Display until 4:30 pm
4:30 pm: End of Program
http://www.VesakinOttawa.com

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – worked together to bring about the Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival had the good fortune to receive guidance from three spiritual advisors: Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa for the Vesak Festival in Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place, on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. There are an estimated 550 million people in the world who identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life. While most live in Asia, Buddhism is recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies.
Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.
Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhist practitioners are encouraged to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace of mind to themselves and peace to the world. This is done by “going for refuge” in the Buddha (the human being, who through right effort, is able to free him/herself), the Dharma (the teachings the Buddha left for us), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monastics and lay practitioners, which has continued, unbroken, for 2,600 years).

Buddha Picture

In the West, the coming together of various cultures fosters ecumenism, which is one characteristic of the new Buddhism taking root here. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.

Mountain Wedding

Mountain Wedding

Extract from Chapter 8 of Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. It is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy as we follow one man’s journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming his karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. An exciting Hero’s Journey, this special and unique adventure shines light on some of the darkest elements of the human condition, including the author’s.

 DCF 1.0

I had flown into the small airport of Castlegar in the Kootenay Mountains of BC for my son Iain’s wedding in the summer of 2009.  The short hop over the Rockies in a small Dash 8 aircraft from Calgary was spectacular – especially the flight into Castlegar airport.  The wingtips seemed to touch the valley’s mountains, as the aircraft swerved sharply into the river fringed village of Castlegar.  My son, his bride to be – Nancy – and my grandson Callun were there to meet me. The wedding ceremony was next day in the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa.  I was expected to wear my Buddhist duds as I was there not only as a Dad but also apparently as a Zen teacher. That evening I had an unforgettable dream, vivid in every detail.

“I was in a river running kayak, sitting quietly in a pool outside the swift eddies that raced to the edge of a waterfall that was huge, sheer, with a vertical drop of 1,000 feet.  The kayak was bright yellow.  The short stubby craft was an extension of my body.  My wetsuit was black and I wore a red lifejacket tightly fastened.  My helmet was also red.  The shaft of the paddle was black and the twin blades a dancing red.  I looked around at the high mountains and forest, noted the mist rising from the swift flowing river before pushing out into the racing eddies straight to the edge of the waterfall.  As I went over the edge I raised the paddle high over my head and leaned back into the kayak.  I did nothing to steer or guide it. The descent seemed forever though timeless.  Yet in a moment my craft had submerged into the river below and then I was bobbing on the surface paddling downstream. A first thought in the dream as I manoeuvred in the middle of the river was “That was a really bad run.  I didn’t do anything.”  Then moments later in the dream I stopped the thinking, realizing that it was the perfect run, precisely because I did not do anything. My lack of insight while dreaming was that I missed my surrender to the fierce current of the waterfall, to the awesome power of the stream of consciousness. Then with lucidity I managed to grasp that reality just before waking up.”

I shared this dream with Iain and Nancy next morning, so they could perhaps see for themselves the surrender to the other necessary for their marriage to work well.  I believe they understood.  Their dharma and mountain friends enjoyed an incredible wedding in the Tibetan Gompa.  Although there was a mountain of alcohol at the reception and dance afterwards, hardly anyone drank it, as the “high” was the quality of celebration and surrender in the wedding ceremony. I thought about this dream a great deal and the reflections were intensely revealing. The guidance in the dream was about surrendering to the stream of consciousness – provided by going over the waterfall without resistance. My long internal journey had obviously done its job, bringing me to the point where transformation and awakening are now internalized and owned. I was no longer a wave in life washing up on some seashore or riverbank and dying without anyone noticing. I had pushed out from the safety of the shore into the middle of the river heading for the waterfall and letting go of all that I grasped onto and liberated myself by choosing to stay in the middle of the river and never return to the safety of the bank, where I would no doubt cling and attach. Instead I chose freedom. The deep water of universal consciousness now carried me through thanks to the changes wrought through my trust in Trailing Sky’s guidance and presence within me.

 

Reflecting back on these adventures made me aware that the daily, intense dialogues with Trailing Sky were creating far reaching effects on my consciousness. They were changing me radically in the direction of transformation. This is not a matter of belief but my experiencing the pragmatic implementation of compassion, mindfulness and wisdom in everyday life. The noise and traffic jams in my mind receded. The self-correcting navigation compass provided by Trailing Sky continued to astonish me. To say that Trailing Sky Six Feathers became my internal discernment misses the point. The indescribable, palpable truth is that this deep source of feminine wisdom was not only lodged in my mind, it was integrated with my total being. My conversations with Trailing Sky opened up the past for my understanding.

The daily sessions with Trailing Sky expanded my mind beyond its logical limitations. There were certainly times that I did not understand, but never, ever was Trailing Sky incorrect. There was something primordial about her all seeing wisdom that was now infusing me, so that I could live and love better. A radical reminder for me was provided in 2013 when I took part in a medicine wheel ceremony in Sedona with a group of writer friends. Our group had a day on the land with a gifted guide, Clint Frakes, visiting ancient rock dwellings and vortexes before he guided us through a medicine wheel experience. I had been to this particular wheel before with my wife Carolyn in 2007, when we both drew the Deer Card. I recognized the scrubland where it was located, marked by a white domed building nearby with the canyon edifices looming in the background, shadowed by the evening sun.

Clint asked me to lead my writer friends into the medicine wheel through the East door. I smudged myself with the burning sage, took off my shoes to walk barefoot, feeling the earth and small stones throbbing into every step. I walked slowly clockwise round the interior of this graceful architecture of universal power. I could smell the burning sage as other friends smudged themselves and followed to find their place within the four quadrants of the medicine wheel. I was slowly pulled to the North cardinal rock, holding in my hand the sacred tobacco. Then did something I had never before contemplated in medicine wheel ceremonies. I walked slowly to the centre ring of stones and stepped into it, turning to face the West. The centre was already occupied by the energy of Trailing Sky Six Feathers and the resonance of her presence pulled me into the mystery and fusion at the centre. I stood there, very still, bringing my hands up to my heart. My new friends were finding their place – two of the women stepped into the centre to share it with me, which was perfectly OK. Pauline from Boston and EagleSpirit from New Brunswick were also drawn to the centre – though both graciously stepped out to give me my space. Our guide on the land, Clint, passed a rattle so each one of us could state our heart intention while inside the medicine wheel. With great dignity and reverence my family of writers created a mosaic of prayer. When the rattle passed to me in the centre circle of stones, the tears poured down my face. I had experienced deep fusion with the living mystery of all things and sang the most sacred chant I knew – the Gayatri Mantra from my guru training in India. I was overwhelmed by the softness, clarity and steely discernment imparted.

I felt the past of 1777 and Trailing Sky’s fusion with me on Rainbow Bridge in 2007 rushing in. She had travelled through dimensions, time and space to become one unified being with me. On this day the dimensions did not have to move or open – everything was already in place. In occupying the centre of the wheel, I felt the deepest stillness and silence, remaining quiet about what was happening within me. The connection in my heart grew ever deeper. There are no words to express the gratitude about bringing alive the Muse patiently waiting for me at the centre of the medicine wheel. This was why I had come to Sedona.  The fusion from the central circle of rocks unleashed from the depths of the earth, energy of a limitless upwards trajectory. This became a foundation point for everything I may say, do or create from this moment on. Awakening, I realized, is a mere road sign for the way forward. It is how such states are applied and used in the world that matters for our times. New levels of deep knowing, essential for survival arose. Not mine – everyone’s, the planet and just perhaps the entire cosmos.

The eruption of energy where I stood at the centre of the wheel was met by the cooling shafts of energy from the divine realms. The two way traffic enveloped me in the forceful energy. To keep me going forward with courage, discernment and fearlessness on behalf of the Earth Mother and to acknowledge this marker for further transition. All that I am describing was captured by the camera of EagleSpirit, an intuitive shaman from New Brunswick in Canada. After we had all moved out of the medicine wheel she took photographs of this stone architecture, now empty of everything except a column of light stretching from the centre circle of stones right up into the sky. The column of light was right where I had been standing at the centre of the medicine wheel.

Light Beam at the centre of the Medicine Wheel

 

Death of Eagle Speaker

Death of Eagle Speaker                                                                                           Ian Prattis

Excerpt from Chapter Three of my forthcoming book Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse” It is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy as we follow one man’s journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming his karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. An exciting Hero’s Journey, this special and unique adventure through four centuries of my consciousness shines light on some of the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This clip is set in 18th century Arizona.

 DCF 1.0

The landscape they travelled through that night had a rare beauty and stillness. It felt as though time itself had stopped. A portent of things to come, a foreboding rebuke to the crisis they already knew they were to face together. By daybreak they found Eagle Speaker, near to death with fever and very cold underneath the weeping willow tree, whose branches touched lightly onto the river’s surface.  Trailing Sky knew what to do with the fever to prevent it penetrating her and The People.  She asked Rising Moon to fetch water from the river so her medicines could be prepared. She noticed that there was an ancient medicine wheel on a high bluff overlooking the canyon to the east, just above the weeping willow tree where they had found Eagle Speaker.  She knew instantly that this was where she must take him. Help was immediately at hand as the Clan Chiefs with twenty warriors arrived. They had carefully followed the tracks left by the three women. Long Willow had clearly marked the trail they took so the Clan Chiefs could follow. Trailing Sky asked the Clan Chiefs to carry her husband to the medicine wheel on a hastily built carrying frame, which Long Willow and Rising Moon had constructed. That was the place where she could summon the Sky People to help her.  The Clan Chiefs gently laid the frame down in the medicine wheel so that Eagle Speaker’s head was in the west, his heart in the centre and his feet pointing to the eastern door of the medicine wheel. The eastern door was where the Sky People could enter. She mixed her medicines with appropriate prayers, yet Trailing Sky knew by this time that even her medicine powers were insufficient.

She called in the Sky People to save her husband, as they had long been her mentors in medicine power. They came as requested. Their light could be seen along the canyon to the east and it spread up to the medicine wheel into which Eagle Speaker had been placed. But Eagle Speaker was too far gone for even their extraordinary powers.  Trailing Sky felt a momentary rush of rage at the inability of the Sky People to help her save Eagle Speaker.  But she knew that her rage was a product of her grief and deep sorrow.  She abandoned it immediately and asked forgiveness from her mentors, requesting the Sky People to help her through the ordeal of her husband’s death that she was facing.  She then lit four fires of sacred herbs within each quadrant of the medicine wheel to purify him for his journey across time and space. She had herbs and medicine prepared long ago for such an instance.  With some water from the river, brought up by Rising Moon, she held his head so he could drink it. Eagle Speaker came back to her for a moment and smiled. A beautiful smile that enveloped her with so much love that Trailing Sky almost broke down completely. She instantly remembered their first meeting – the silent young man offering her a bundle of feathers at a trading parley between her people and Eagle Speaker’s people. He did not speak and did not smile on that occasion – yet here he was dying in her arms with a smile of such gratitude and beauty.  It was almost too much for her and she had to hang on grimly to what she knew as a medicine woman and what she now had to do. Eagle Speaker knew it was his time and had no fear, just as his grandfather had known at his time of death.  Eagle Speaker felt all the joy from the life he had spent with her. Trailing Sky’s heart was breaking, for she did not want to let him go. Yet the depth of wisdom within her knew that she could not keep him any longer. The grief and deep sorrow abated as Trailing Sky summoned all her internal strength and love to assist the journey from his body across time and space.  She beseeched the Sky People to enable her to stay steady and for Eagle Speaker to journey safely.

Light Beam at the centre of the Medicine Wheel

By this time family groups from the village had arrived until there was over one thousand of The People gathered at the high bluff where their leader now lay in the centre of the medicine wheel. The Clan Chiefs had alerted all the families and they came en masse, leaving only the elderly and sufficient caretakers of their village behind. The families were quiet, knowing that this was not a usual death, but something very different. The Clan Chiefs, Long Willow and Rising Moon stood in silence round the medicine wheel. They were instilled with Trailing Sky’s calm and fortitude.  Only she knew of her inward struggle and sorrow. She surmounted both successfully and then began to chant the sacred songs of her people. Trailing Sky knew not to vent her grief at this moment of Eagle Speaker’s traversing. As she sang, Eagle Speaker looked up at her with amazement as he had done so often before during their life together.  Just before he drew his last breath, she cradled his head in her arms, leaned over and whispered softly in his ear, so that no-one would hear her:

“I will find you, my husband. I will find you”

As Eagle Speaker began to travel on universal waves, Trailing Sky chanted the sacred song of the Sky People – the secret chant that saved their lives in that first terrible raid. She chanted their journey to the cave, to their care for the Earth Mother and for The People. Sharing at last in her husband’s smile she cried tears of pure joy to accompany the chant.  She continued chanting throughout the night to prevent her grief from overwhelming her. The Clan Chiefs and family groups stayed close to her, as they knew this powerful woman would bring them all through to a different realization. On the dawn of the second day, Rising Moon, who had sat quietly outside the medicine wheel, approached her mother. She gently took her mother’s arm and whispered:

“It is time mother.”

Rising Moon had expected her mother to be gaunt and drained by grief, instead she gasped in surprise at the radiance of her mother’s face, framed as it now was by long white hair. The ordeal of her husband’s transition had turned Trailing Sky’s long black tresses to snow. She looked majestic and powerful, as she gently laid her husband’s head down from the cradle of her arms.   Trailing Sky stood up and looked around at The People gathered on this high bluff above the gentle river.  She lifted her arms to the sky as if she were holding him still. Long Willow stood beside her and did the same. All the People raised their arms at the same time – to the sky and to the universe. Then they heard Trailing Sky’s strong voice:

“We will prepare my husband’s body in the old way, for all our relations and the Earth Mother.”

She asked the Clan Chiefs to build a platform for Eagle Speaker’s body, so that his body could be offered to the elements in the same way as his grandfather before him. The burial platform was constructed swiftly with vines strung across to carry the weight of Eagle Speaker’s body and the weight of their collective grief. The platform was placed next to the medicine wheel on the West side, following Trailing Sky’s instructions. Crow Feather, chief of the North Clan, had brought with him a freshly cured bear skin and he brought this to Trailing Sky, knowing that it would be needed. She thanked Crow Feather for his gift and gently wrapped her husband’s body with the bear skin, remembering that this was what Eagle Speaker’s grandfather had done when he met his death. Very tenderly the Clan Chiefs carried Eagle Speaker’s body to the platform that they had erected. The outline against the sky was stark at the top of the high bluff above the weeping willow tree and river, with the dark canyon stretching to the east. The fingers of the dawn had drawn daylight awake so everyone could see. The medicine women had strung vines of forest flowers, herbs and grasses around the four strong posts. Trailing Sky climbed the notched pole that was the ladder to where her beloved lay. She was humming a chant to herself as she lovingly laid his favorite bow, arrow and spear by his side. She placed her medicine pouch in his hands clasped in front of his body, so that he would have sustenance for his next journey.

DCF 1.0

When she descended the notched pole and asked the chiefs to remove it, Trailing Sky requested that they return in six months to take the platform down and render to ashes anything that was left of Eagle Speaker. The ash was to be scattered to the four directions, into the river and into the sky. Then she stood in front of the funeral place of her husband and faced The People.  She stood tall, magnificent and very powerful before the thousand members of The People who had followed the path to this moment. She was calm and serene. All those gathered sensed her extraordinary medicine power.  In a steady measure she began to chant the life story of her beloved Eagle Speaker, from what she remembered him speaking of and from what she knew of him. Her voice was strong and melodious and it carried directly to every listener. The People swayed backwards and forwards in a spontaneous dance that had its own unison. They clasped arms around shoulders that shook with grief as they danced forward and backward to the mesmerizing chant Trailing Sky offered to them. She chanted the circumstances of Eagle Speaker’s birth and his naming after the great eagle by his grandfather. Her voice carried the story of Eagle Speaker’s training with his grandfather in the mountains, desert and forests of their region and how Eagle Speaker came to live his life as constant prayer. She sang blessings for his mother and father and for all who nurtured him. She sang the story of her first meeting with this handsome young man who moved with the grace of a mountain lion, of how he named her with his gift of six feathers, of how their eyes had connected that first time as if drawn together by the threads of time.

Strong warriors bowed their heads and wept openly as her vibrant voice shook everyone to their core.  Other warriors fell to their knees, overwhelmed by the burden of loss. Long Willow was deeply distraught and leaned on her protégé among the women warriors – Dancing Mountain Lion – who stood strong while the tears coursed down her cheeks. The People were then uplifted from their sorrow when the chant from Trailing Sky carried everyone to remember all that Eagle Speaker had put in place for The People and the legacy left that they must cherish and build on. Trailing Sky chanted about the first deadly raid on their summer settlement and their retreat to the cave in the sacred canyon. She continued with the story of his wise preparation for the second raid, of how Eagle Speaker had orchestrated the changes that built The People stronger. She sang his wisdom and patience that wove a tapestry of co-operation between clans and peoples. She chanted of their child Rising Moon, the exquisite bond between daughter and father, and the tenderness he always showed to both of them. Then Trailing Sky’s voice fell silent for a moment. After a time that stretched painfully into infinity she announced to all with a voice that now had a deeper timbre and a source of power they were not expecting:

“I am Trailing Sky Six Feathers. I ask you all to be a witness of my last words to my husband, Eagle Speaker, before he died in this medicine wheel on the high bluff above the river.” It was as though every one of The People took a deep breath at the same time, waiting for Trailing Sky’s next words:

“As he smiled to me and took his last breath, I said to Eagle Speaker – I will find you my husband, I will find you.”

The ensuing silence cut through everyone’s tension, fear and grief. The words that had been heard by Eagle Speaker, now voiced by Trailing Sky for The People, was taken by a whisper of wind into every heart. The trees heard her words and told the animals and birds. The clouds heard her words and extended them to the Sky People. Across the forests, grasslands and mountains – her words echoed, growing stronger and more penetrating so that the universe itself paused to listen.  Such was the power emanating from Trailing Sky.  On hearing her mother’s words Rising Moon gasped out loud in pain and tears poured down her face. She was very still, swaying like a sapling in the morning breeze. She cried out:

“Mother, will I find him too?”

Trailing Sky gently took her beautiful daughter’s tear streaked face in her two hands and said:

“Yes my daughter. Eagle Speaker has traveled safely. We will both find him.”

On Being Splendid

Carolyn and Ian at the transmission ceremony

On Being Splendid – Fish Lake, Orlando, December 2012                                                           Ian Prattis

When a friend asks “How are you?” we tend to automatically reach for a standard descriptor such as “Fine”; “Not too bad” or “Could be worse.” Our automatic pilot rarely delvers uplifting, generous responses. Something is in the way of replying “Splendid” or “Absolutely Marvellous. If we should make such a response, we would not really believe it. Let me begin by breaking “Fine” down into an acronym.

F – Freaked out

I – Insecure

N – Neurotic

E – Elsewhere.

It is possible to choose other somewhat depressing words, though I choose the Buddha’s Four Clay Pots metaphor as a starting point for this investigation.

The Buddha categorized his listeners into four different kinds of clay vessels. The first clay pot has holes at the bottom, so whatever is poured into it goes right through. No matter what wise skilful teaching or practice is offered to clay pot person number one, absolutely nothing is retained. The second clay pot is one that has many cracks in it. If water is poured in, it all eventually seeps out. The teachings may be retained for a short while, yet sooner or later they are completely forgotten. The third clay pot is one that is completely full. Water cannot be poured into it because it is already full to the brim. A person with characteristics of this vessel is so full of views, self-righteousness and wrong perceptions that they cannot be taught anything about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then there is the fourth clay pot – an empty vessel without holes or cracks, empty of views and attitudes. At different times we occupy the first three pots and strive to move to pot number four. How can we do this?

To be completely empty, as the fourth clay pot, is what our mindfulness practice leads to- ie being empty of a separate self. On the way there we are bound to have views and attitudes, but may be significantly empty to take in the teachings and practices that can move us along the path of awakening. Step by step we let go of clinging and attachment to views and re-build our minds so that equanimity and peacefulness arise. We discover that the art of Being Present is what all of the Buddha’s teachings, practices and trainings lead to. From this vast tool kit of transformation we then use intelligent awareness to work with strong emotions and let go of all clinging and their damaging consequences. The trio of Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight becomes our best friend as we step into freedom from brainwashing.

What does it take before we can relax into our inherent goodness and be authentically “Splendid”? In the teachings brought to the west by Chogyam Trungpa there is a strong emphasis on Shambhala warrior training. The fifth and final level is the sense of splendidness. It is preceded by four interconnected levels:

  1. Being free of deception by recognizing afflictive emotions and discerning habit energies.
  2. Truly entering the freedom of being present in each moment.
  3. Embracing the vision of sacredness of ourselves and the world.
  4. Bringing mind and body together because we are grounded and in harmony with the world around us. (Sakyong Mipham 2011, Shambhala Sun November 2011)

In the fifth level, building on these prior steps, we attain confidence in our inherent goodness and simply radiate the energy of splendidness. The visceral sense of unyielding trust in our inherent goodness, of being splendid enables us to become spiritual hubs and beacons of an extraordinary nature. All the great spiritual masters emanate this sense and shared it without deception or ego. All of this power of transformation from a place of steady well-being, strength and confidence in our ability to be brilliant and to shine in the face of any adversity. A lack of splendidness simply attracts sorry-ass individuals to be complicit with our hiding patterns. It makes better sense to have the lucidity to train ourselves to be splendid rather than close down and hide.

Ian Prattis is the dhamacharya (teacher) at Pine Gate Sangha in the west end of Ottawa. Teachings every Thursday and First Saturday of each month. www.ianprattis.com/pinegate.htm