Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Tibet-Pueblo [American Indian] Connection

Xochitl, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Tricycle Magazine (
The world's largest and most famous pueblo: Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet (Adam Lai/flickr)
Tibet's Potala Palacet under construction? No, this is the side of a Zuni pueblo complex in New Mexico, which serves as home and ceremonial center (Timothy H. O'Sullivan/GEH).

From the Roof of the World to the Land of Enchantment: The Tibet-Pueblo Connection
We look nothing like our brothers and sisters in the USA...except for many obvious signs
“When the iron bird flies,
the Dharma will come to the land of the red man.”
-Ninth-century prophecy by Guru Rinpoche

They look nothing like us (Elk Foot)
In the incongruous atmosphere of the Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, an extraordinary encounter took place in 1979. During the Dalai Lama’s first visit to North America, he met with three Hopi elders. 
The spiritual leaders spoke in their native languages. Delegation head Grandfather David’s first words to the Dalai Lama were: “Welcome home.”
The Dalai Lama laughed, noting the striking resemblance of the turquoise around Grandfather David’s neck to that of his homeland. He replied: “And where did you get your turquoise?”
Hopi Kachina artifacts (
Since that initial meeting, the Dalai Lama has visited Santa Fe to meet with Pueblo leaders, Tibetan lamas have engaged in numerous dialogues with Hopis and other Southwestern Indians, and now, through a special resettlement program to bring Tibetan refugees to the United States, New Mexico has become a central home for relocated Tibetan families.
As exchanges become increasingly common between Native Americans and Tibetans, a sense of kinship and solidarity has developed between the cultures. While displacement and invasion have forced Tibetans to reach out to the global community in search of allies, the Hopi and other Southwestern Native Americans have sought an audience for their message of world peace and harmony with the Earth.

Thangka of Six Realms of 31 in the Wheel of Samsara, the cycle of rebirth and death
Vajrayana, Hopi? There's a relation (
These encounters have created a context for the activities of writers and activists who are trying to bridge the two cultures. A flurry of books and articles have been published, arguing that Tibetans and Native Americans may share a common ancestry.
The perception of similarity between Native Americans of the southwest and the Tibetans is undeniably striking. Beyond a common physicality and the wearing of turquoise jewelry, parallels include the abundant use of silver and coral, the colors and patterns of textiles, and long, braided hair, sometimes decorated, worn by both men and women.
Book of the Hopi (Frank Waters/
When William Pacheco, a Pueblo student, visited a Tibetan refugee camp in India, people often spoke Tibetan to him, assuming that he was one of them. “Tibetans and Native American Pueblo people share a fondness for chile, though Tibetans claim Pueblo chile is too mild,” says Pacheco.
Even before most Westerners knew where Tibet was, much less the extent of its people’s suffering, and almost 20 years before the advent of the Tibetan diaspora, cultural affinities between these two people were noted by Frank Waters in his landmark work Book of the Hopi (1963).
Waters’ analysis went below the surface, citing corresponding systems of chakras, or [subtle] energy spots [wheels] within the body meridians, that were used to cultivate cosmic awareness. 
Native American dancers, New Mexico
In The Masked Gods, a book about Pueblo and Navajo ceremonialism published in 1950, Waters observed that the Zuni Shalako dance symbolically mirrored the Tibetan journey of the dead
“To understand [the Zuni Indian Shalako dance’s] meaning, we must bear in mind all that we have learned of Pueblo and Navaho [sic] eschatology and its parallels found in the Bardo Thodal, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, in The Secret of the Golden Flower, the Chinese Book of Life, and in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.”

The Tibetan Book of the Dead (HB)
Many Earth-based cultures steeped in a shamanic tradition share spiritual motifs (hence the broad comparison made by Waters).
This could account for some similarities, such as Navajo and Tibetan sand painting, and cosmic themes found in Tibetan and traditional Pueblo dances. More

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