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Can A Shaman Have The Buddha Nature?

The word shaman, used internationally, has its origin in manchú-tangu and has reached the ethnologic vocabulary through Russian. The word originated from saman (xaman), derived from the verb scha-, "to know", so shaman means someone who knows, is wise, a sage. Further ethnologic investigations shows that the true origin for the word Shaman can be tracked from the Sanskrit initially, then through Chinese-Buddhist mediation to the manchú-tangu, indicating a much deeper but now overlooked connection between early Buddhism and Shamanism generally. In Pali it is schamana, in Sanskrit sramana translated to something like "buddhist monk, ascetic". The intermediate Chinese term is scha-men. (source)

NOTE: Even though this web page is a complete site unto itself, if you have just surfed on, it is actually the third and final page in a series called ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds. Here we follow the path of the Wanderling as a young boy going toward the Zen side of things to an encounter years later with a mysterious Shaman man of spells known as an Obeah late one night high in the rugged Blue Mountains of Jamaica. (see also: ENLIGHTENMENT: Is It For You and Can You Do It?)

The Artist:

When I was around ten years old or so my father remarried, my mother having died some years earlier. My new mother, or Stepmother as the case may be, having noticed a propensity toward art on my part, encouraged my Uncle, a fairly well established artist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to leave Santa Fe by commissioning him to come to the west coast and tutor me. She set him up in a fully equipped artist's studio and covered all expenses, including models. All he had to do was have me as a protege', develop my budding talents, and arrange for me to have as many art experiences as possible.

My uncle knew and worked side-by-side with Jackson Pollock on the WPA and studied under John Sloan of the "Ashcan School." He also knew Albert Einstein, the two having met in February or March of 1931 in Pasadena, California, while both were visiting the west coast. Other artists and scientists on his roster of friends included the prominent New Mexico meteor hunter and astronomer Dr. Lincoln La Paz and the Arizona based meteor hunter Dr. H.H. Nininger as well as the great New Mexico and southwestern artist Peter Hurd. In a nearly totally opposite vein, he knew as well the curandera Maria Sabina. In later years, because of that association and my uncle's knowledge of Sacred Datura and Peyote as well as other halluciogens, he was interviewed by Carlos Castaneda, apparently on a Road Trip in the process of gathering information for future use in his series of books on the powerful shaman-sorcerer he eventually apprenticed under, Don Juan Matus. In 1960 or so Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA collecting information and specimens of medicinal type plants used by the Indians in the desert southwest when he and my uncle crossed paths. My uncle had field searched thousands and thousands of plants, herbs, and mushrooms, even to having had several previously undiscovered species named after him. As a boy I had even joined him on a bio-search trip to the sacred Native American astronomical site called Fajada Butte where the then secret sun dagger was eventually "discovered." Because the butte has it's own micro-climate there are a variety of plants used by the indigenous population for traditional and ruitual purposes that are not found on the surrounding plain. Special plants also are said to grow on the mounds thought to be the one-time homes of the ancient astronomers. Although others felt that the plants were equally powerful wherever they grew my uncle thought that the power of the plants was increased by being on the butte, the basic reason we went. On another occasion we were traveling together and he was called in to give his opinion regarding the scorched plants along the suspected flight trajectory of the mysterious downed object related to the Roswell Incident.

My uncle died years later after being medi-vacked back to the United States following a personal expedition trip to explore the Vortexes at Machu Picchu high in the Andes of South America. Afterwards he had gone over to the Brazilian side to bio-search the banisteriopsis caapi vine associated with the Ayahuasca Sorcerer's Brew along the upper reaches of the Amazon when he broke his leg. Weak from the complications of that break, with age and his body defenses down, cancer took over and he died two years later at age eighty-six. (see)

It was largely because of studying under Sloan that my uncle eventually became an expert in halluciogens in the first place, having followed the east coast artist to the Santa Fe, Taos, New Mexico area in the 1920s in order to continue working with him. When Sloan returned east my uncle remained, developing in the process an unquenchable thirst for the desert southwest occult and shamanism, especially Don Juan type Shamanic Journeying. (see)

It was under his auspices that at the tender age of ten or so I was first introduced to the desert southwest occult and things shaman. It was also the first time I heard of Leonardo DaVinci.

Human-powered Flight:

At the time my older brother loved to build model airplanes and continued to build bigger and better models until eventually he was constructing huge gas engine powered remote control six-foot wingspan B-24 Liberators. He was also the apple of my father's eye. My uncle, noticing the situation, decided I too could impress my dad, only through art.

The seed for impressing my dad sprange from an obsession with the artist Leonardo Da Vinci combined with a scene I saw in the 1947 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress wherein the ape-man's son Boy builds a glider-type plane capable of flying while carrying him. Before Boy has a chance to test it, their chimp Cheetah, apparently seeing the glider's potential, steals it. Hanging on for dear life Cheetah jumps off some rocks covering quite some distance through the air before eventually crashing into the trees and falling to the ground.

Under my uncle's guidance and my stepmom's money I researched and studied everything I could find on Leonardo and his flying machines. Then, gathering all the info we put about building our own machine by combining our 1948 ideas with Leonardo's fifteenth century ideas and Otto Lilienthal's 1894 ideas of some four-hundred years later.

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My uncle drew a life size outline of the craft on the floor of the studio and from that the machine grew into a twenty-two foot wingspan glider capable of supporting a man like Lilienthal's, or a ten year old boy like myself, in flight. I am not sure what his exact plan for the machine was, but one day without my uncle's knowledge a friend of mine and I hauled it out of the studio and up to the top of the second story apartments across the compound, and hanging on for dear life, launched it.

Initially the flight played out fairly well, picking up wind under the wings and maintaining the same two story height advantage for some distance. Halfway across busy Arlington Street though, the craft began slowing and losing forward momentum. It began dropping altitude rapidly, eventually crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house across the way. Other than a few bruises and a wrecked machine, nothing was broken, although as it turned out, my dad wasn't nearly as proud of me as intended. I never forgot the thrill of that flight and carried that thrill and Leonardo's dreams into my adulthood.

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Except for the Howard Hughes Flying Boat my Zen mentor had not stepped foot inside an airplane of any kind since landing his last biplane, a Sopwith Camel in WWI. He seldom rode in private vehicles and never rode on or in anything that depended on a beast of burden to provide motive power. He did, however, keep the same strong positive feeling about flying from his youth throughout his years, a feeling Maugham reproduced quite well when he wrote:

"I loved flying. I couldn't describe the feeling it gave me, I only knew I felt proud and happy. In the air I felt that I was part of something very great and beautiful. I didn't know what it was all about, I only knew that I wasn't alone any more, but that I belonged. I felt that I was at home with the infinitude."

Although I never attempted another similar human-powered flight after that, my mentor loved the story, and I think it was an early key to our initial philosophical bond.(see)

The strength of that philosophical bond unfolded in a karmic fashion. The whole Da Vinci and flying thing was a huge metaphor for things to come, of which I get into somewhat more throughly in Codex Atlanticus. As it was, my Mentor, either before or after his stay at the ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and I believe it was before even though it is not mentioned by Maugham, traveled to Bijapur to meet with another Indian holy man, Siddharameshwar Maharaj. The Maharaj taught that the only way one can reach Final Reality is through what he called Vihangam Marg, the bird's way. For me, at the time, of course, I knew nothing of such things. I only know who the holy man is now because I was able to put together bits and pieces of information such as time and place with such clues as "the bird's way." The holy man had related to my Mentor that only by hearing and practising from the teachings of the Master and thinking over it, just like the bird flies from one tree to another, can one attain Awakening very fast. This is the shortest way to achieve the Final Reality. In that initially I had made little or no progress toward Enlightenment my mentor told me of Siddharameshwer's method.

The Shaman:

Fast forward now some three decades later, to the year 1978. That year found me nearing 40 years old and living on the island of Jamaica, high in the Blue Mountains above the island's capitol city, Kingston. One day a young girl living in a small village nearby got hit by a car on the mountain road, the vehicle taking off and leaving her laying in a ditch beside the road. The girl's parents, like most of the locals, were poor, and not being able to afford a regular doctor, opted for a less expensive, local solution. That solution included me and another village member making a sling hammock suspended between two poles and carrying her high into the mountains in search of a nearly hermit man of spells called an Obeah.

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Once In a Blue Moon:

The term "Once in a Blue Moon" refers to the time when two full moons occur during one monthly period. The opposite of that, and unnamed to me, is when two new moons occur in a one month period. To most people neither occurrence means much, but to the occult, voodoo and such types it can carry some significance. It means POWER in the hands to those who can so channel it, COSMIC POWER. Any event perpetrated during such a narrow band or limited time period carries a destiny with it that similar events at another time won't or can't. During the year 1978 a two new moon occurrence transpired and it just so happened to occur in October, the second of the new moons on, of all things, Halloween night, October 31st, a major convergence of conditions and coincidences. That same night was the same night that Karma and conditions just happened to place me high in the mountains of Jamaica in the presence of the highly revered Obeahman, a shaman, being a sort of cross between a voodoo witchdoctor, medicine man, root doctor, and Teaching of Don Juan occult spiritualist. Under the influence of the darkened second new moon and some sort of concoction conjured up by the Obeah, I experienced an interesting if not deepening semi-spiritual transformation, much different, but adding to my earlier Zen experience. After that, for months as the experience ripened into my everyday being, I was much different.

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

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

The Obeah poured a warm tea-like broth into two small bowl-shaped cups without handles. He took one and gave me the other, gulping down the liquid while motioning me to do the same. (see)

He asked me what I liked about Jamaica. I told him things like the weather and the people. Then he asked again what I liked about Jamaica. But now I wasn't able to answer. It was like my mind had grown so huge that trying to focus on something as minuscule as a few words to string together into a sentence had become an impossible hardship. As I struggled to form something at least semi-comprehensible the Obeah asked, "What about the old man in a far away place a long time ago that constructed bird-like contraptions in order to fly even as you did as a child?" Da Vinci was the answer, but I couldn't form the words. Finally I told him about my Totem Animal, the huge wingspan condor-like vultures the Jamaicans call John Crows, that glide and soar for hours, riding the thermals and never flapping their wings.

The Zen-man flies:

That the Obeah seemed to like. Soon a cool breeze fell across my face even though it came from a direction from across the fire. The Obeahman took a vessel of water and tossed it onto the flames. A huge cloud of steam burst forth followed by a thick cloud of smoke. I jumped back and turned away, stumbling to the ground while covering my face and eyes. Then it got cold, very cold. The breeze began to blow harder and I could no longer feel the ground underneath me. It felt as though I was moving very fast, yet as far as I knew I was still on the ground by the fire. I moved my arm away from my face just barely squinting my eyes open. For an instant I was still in the billowing white smoke, then suddenly I broke through to clean, fresh air. The smoke was no longer smoke, but clouds high in the night sky. I wasn't on the ground, but hundreds of feet in the air, soaring through the night, arms along my side, wind in my face, stars over my head.

With absolutely no effort I was able to swoop down the darkened mountain gullies and high into the air, eventually passing above Bamboo Lodge recognizable along the mountain road even in the dark because of a large empty swimming pool. Then, just barely above the treetops I picked up speed and headed toward the lighted streets and tall buildings of New Kingston. Soon I was even higher in the air over Port Royal, Lime Cay, and the Caribbean. Then somehow the exhilaration began to fade. I turned back toward the mountains as a creeping apprehension seeped into my thoughts. Then nothing.

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Around ten the next morning a couple of Jamaican kids found me unconscious in a ravine about a mile from Bamboo Lodge and miles from the Obeah's hut, naked, all scratched up, and in the bushes, as though I had crashed through the trees or something. The kids apparently went to their parents or adults and told them there was a naked white man in the gully all beat up. Since I was one of the few white men in the area the adults must have assumed it was me and told Benji, the Bamboo Lodge groundskeeper. After discovering for sure who it was, he brought some shoes and clothes and took me home. Everybody in the village area knew what had happened. (see)

As for me, I just wanted to know for sure. A couple of days later when I was able to walk and was much less sore I hiked back up the winding mountain trail to the Obeah's place. When I got to the clearing where his hut should have been, and had been a few nights before, nothing was there. No hut, no fire pit, no nothing. Not only that, to me, it looked as though nothing had ever been there.

It wasn't until I caught Dengue Fever months later that I saw the Obeahman again, the interesting outcome with me teetering on the edge of death, solved through the casting of bones and of which can be found at Divination. Returning to the states many months after that, I sought out my Zen-mentor as was usual, only to discover he had passed away during my absence. As near as I was able to discern he died that exact same night and time as the trance-induced flight that befell me under the Power of the Shaman.

People, always searching for or looking for more and better understanding, clarification, or loopholes in, of or about the Journey invariably want to know how the Obeah, not knowing me, nor for the most part, ever having left his mountain lair, know such things as Leonardo Da Vinci and his impact on my childhood, thus then, leading to my adulthood. In such cases I usually offer the following:

A couple from Peru was visiting the ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi one day and he was enquiring about their day-to-day life, and their talk turned to Peru. The couple began picturing the landscape of their homeland and were describing the sea-coast and the beach of their own town. Just then Maharshi remarked: "Is not the beach of your town paved with marble slabs, and are not coconut palms planted in between? Are there not marble benches in rows facing the sea there and did you not often sit on the fifth of those with your wife?" The remarks of Sri Maharshi created astonishment in the couple. How could Sri Bhagavan, who had never been out of Tiruvannamalai since a boy, know so intimately such minute details about their own place? Sri Maharshi only smiled and said:

"It does not matter how I can tell. Enough if you know that abiding IN the SELF there is no Space-Time." (source)




See also: Shamanic Journeying

As well as:The Vulture As Totem

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.



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