Saturday, August 29, 2009
I write about this only because I've been thinking lately about the free market of spiritual goods. I looked at a website about a famous "visionary and spiritual leader" who doesn't acknowledge no other teacher than his own experience even though his ideas are obviously borrowed from Buddhist teachings. He is received by his followers as an original and he is now a brand name.( or at least for the moment until the next one teacher appears).
One of my students asked the question: if I want to follow the Buddhist path, do I need to find an Asian teacher or seek to practice in an Asian sangha? If Buddhism has evolved to produce "American Buddhism" is there still a need for lineage and transmission from teacher to pupil as is done in the more traditional Buddhist paths? What is the rationale for a meditation center to call itself anything but a Buddhist center even though its teacher was once a serious Zen student? And what if after Zen, one dabbles in other spiritual practices, making one's experiences more eclectic and syncretistic, what happens to the tradition then? These are questions that make for good quinoa salad dinner conversation in my home.
This is also related to a question I get asked often these days? Who is a Babaylan? What is a Babaylan? In conversations, I hear about someone's Lola or Lolo as an indigenous healer and they are convinced that somehow they have inherited this gift but has never acknowledged it. There is no tradition they know of (having grown up in the US), no name to their experiences. Most of them keep it a secret in the family. Now that there are at least fragments of historical knowledge that we know about the tradition and we have a limited (primary or secondary) access to living Babaylans in the Philippines (so we know that the practice is still alive), is it now okay to come out of the closet as a Babaylan?
When I asked Grace Nono if she is a Babaylan, she said that in order to honor the primary Babaylans who have taught her for the last 15 years, she will not claim to be a Babaylan. However, she is willing to acknowledge that she has become a "gateway to the babaylan." Sister Mary John Mananzan said that she is inspired by the spirit of the Babaylan.
So whether it's questioning the Colorado professors who wanted to get the patent rights to quinoa that is owned by indigenous peoples in the Andes or whether it is a questioning of how to be a Buddhist in America or questioning whether to call one's self a babaylan or not, it is always better to do so at the dinner table where we are (hopefully) more consciously aware that it is the Land that feeds our bodies, minds, and spirit. The rest is only discourse.
We Filipinos like to joke about our eating habits. I suspect that we laugh because we know deep inside that eating is sacred because it connects the Land to our body and our Kapwa.. Eating as ritual in praise of the gift-giver...
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
and this, too:
What kind of dialogue can emerge between the urban or avant-garde artist and the babaylan--with her traditions and healing rituals, her community, and her deep relation to the earth and the body? Are there rifts and fissures between the two? In what ways can the two modes inform and heal each other?
in another conversation with a friend, these questions are relevant to the above: what of the land-nation/nationalism-body connection? in what ways does the writer embody the land? how does the indigenous writer straddle the notion of nation - this artificial construction of empire? how does she use language to work through the disembodiment engendered by nation and empire?
our conversation meandered and we never arrived at an answer. but this story brought tears to her eyes:
she learned how to use her body to embrace the land when an Aeta elder took her by the hand and led her inside the circle of dance among her people. just follow the dance, she told her. as her mind let go and her body obeyed, she entered another world and when she re-emerged she was no longer her former self. the dance had transformed her forever. now as she sits across from me and i'm trying to coax her into an articulate rendering of this dance, she begs off:
there is no language for this, Auntie, she tells me.
oh surely we need to language this, i insist.
but i sense that she is right. it is my inarticulate body that yearns to dance.
until then, i can play with syntax until i learn to overthrow the teleological order that enthrones it.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The unique beauty that we humans have to give comes either from our opposable thumbs or the complexity of our voices sung with speech intended as a gift. This is what is meant by ritual and is an innate part of our nature. But for humans with intact souls, true ritual is not for human benefit, but a way for them to use their innate natural capacity for ecstatic blessing by making beauty to feed the Holy in Nature. We need to give beautiful gifts to what both feeds and amazes us. Even our failures, cultural stupidities, losses, confusions and clumsiness for having never been shown, can be metabolized into a compost from which to sprout the best gifts of all to feed the Flowering Earth, animals, plants, stars, ocean and air.
— All Blessings -- Martín