by Nalanda Institute
In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, we offer you this impactful teaching from the late Anishinaabe Elder Dr. Dave Courchene—our guest during our 11th online Offerings for Uncertain Times. Elder Courchene was an esteemed and internationally-known teacher, who shared his vision for the care of Mother Earth and all of her children—a vision resonant with the Tibetan Buddhist Kalachakra prophecy of the earth as a Medicine Planet. He founded the Turtle Lodge Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Education and Wellness in southern Manitoba as a gathering place to exchange intergenerational knowledge, revitalize language, train youth leaders, and find environmental solutions to climate change.
We hope this video provides inspiration and hope to see each other, Mother Earth, our friends and foes alike, as kin—spiritually connected to each other in this great web of life.
We are living in an unprecedented time. As humanity, we continue to struggle in finding our true identity.
After much reflection in witnessing what is happening in our world, it has become quite clear that humanity is suffering from the mindset of domination that originated from the idea that we can control and dominate nature.
The land is the foundation of life and must be treated with absolute respect. To do anything else, we harm not only the earth but ourselves. The role of our dilemma, which has created symptoms, such as climate change, violence, mental illness, and racism, is a severing of our relationship with our source of life, the earth.
When we lose touch with the earth, we lose our connection to our true spiritual identity and a true understanding of our uniqueness, our purpose of humanity, our original instructions in our duties and responsibilities.
When we go to the root, our solutions lie in reestablishing our sacred connection and relationship with the earth.
Our health and well-being as human beings is directly connected to the health and well-being of Mother Earth.
We have made the land sick. How we conduct ourselves in relationship to the land and to other members of creation directly affects the balance of life.
What we do to the land, we do to ourselves; the earth operates on the principle of balance. If we comply with these natural laws, we can restore the balance of our source of life.
— Elder Dr. Dave Courchene, “Envisioning the Medicine Planet”
by Joe Loizzo
As the devastating tide of violence and loss, terror and rage in the Middle East keeps rising day by day, our hearts break for all the lives already lost, for all those in harm’s way, and for all those whose lives have been irrevocably scarred by the collective trauma unfolding there. The fact that this tragedy is taking place at the heart of what half of humanity calls the Holy Land, between communities who share a common spiritual legacy as well as a common ancestry, is a painful reminder of how far we still have to go as a global community to own our shared humanity deeply enough to fully reconcile our differences and flourish together as the family we are.
Adding to our heartbreak is the cutting awareness that the trauma unfolding before our eyes is fueling the very intergenerational cycle of traumatic reenactment that caused it, and so burdens future generations and puts them at greater risk. More salt in the wound is the harsh reality that this conflict is entangled with countless other conflicts around the world—from the wars in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Yemen and Ethiopia to the internal conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the United States—all of which compound our collective suffering and add to the work of healing that lies ahead.
What can we do to avoid adding in any way to the legacy of collective trauma each of us has inherited in different ways, and to advance the inner and outer work of healing and reconciliation we and our world so desperately need today? Fortunately, alongside our shared legacy of trauma, we also share the legacy of humanity’s sage leaders of non-violence, deep healing and reconciliation. As a community that seeks refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha and his tradition, I believe we are called by our predicament today to contemplate his teaching that only love and compassion can break the cycle of violence and hatred. If he were here now, no doubt he would guide us to do everything we can to bring love and care to stop harm, alleviate pain and end suffering, wherever it lives, whatever shape it takes. And I expect he would also remind us to bring that same love and care to our own traumatic fear, rage, and bias, so that we can help break the cycle of reactivity and ongoing harm that would cause us and all those we touch, future pain and suffering.
In the midst of our heartbreak, now is the time to let our hearts break open, to renew our commitment, to look beneath our biases and reactive emotions, to own and deepen our shared humanity, so that we can be one small beat in the global movement it will take to bring healing, reconciliation, love and compassion to our our whole human family, and to all life on earth, once and for all.
Within the Nalanda Tradition, we practice embodying the spirit of resolve to transform ourselves and our world through prayer and invocation of mentors. The prayer for peace below ends with invoking the Archetypal Buddha of wise compassion, Avalokiteshvara, and reciting his world-making vow, Om Mani Padme Hum Hree, May My Mind Be the Jewel and the Flower of Compassion, and by invoking the Archetypal Buddha of Compassionate Wisdom, Manjushri, and reciting his world-making vow, Om Ara Pachana Dhee, May I and All Beings Quickly Awaken.
May all wars and conflicts quickly cease.
May all those wounded, held hostage, caught in the crossfire or traumatized by violence and loss be well cared for, released, kept safe, healed and reunited with loved ones.
May all the legacies of harm, bias and trauma dividing our human family be reconciled and healed soon.
May all beings know the joy that transcends grief and loss.
May all beings learn to live in equanimity, undisturbed by bias, fear, anger, and sorrow.
OM MANI PADME HUM HREE
OM ARA PACHANA DHEE
By Joe Loizzo, MD, PhD
I write this sickened by what has come to feel like a new normal: each week another outbreak of the epidemic of gut-wrenching violence that has been eating away at our body politic, increasingly in recent years. The latest blow: thirty one innocent people killed in El Paso and Dayton—including the people of color, women and Mexican nationals targeted—by two young white men infected with the violent ideologies of white nationalism and toxic masculinity. How can such tragedies happen here and now? How can families back-to-school shopping and couples on date nights be unsafe in twenty-first century America? While the voices of white blindness point the finger at mental illness or video games, mental health professionals, women, gender non-conforming individuals and people of color—for very different reasons—know better. This kind of violence is directed every minute every day at people with black or brown skin, couples of mixed race, all women, the LGBTQA+ community, refugees, immigrants and at those who practice non-Christian faiths such as Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.