Saturday, October 03, 2009

Tibetan Prophecy, Hopi Prophecy Revisited

As I believe I have already mentioned in a previous post, one of the more remarkable documents of post-invasion Tibetan Buddhism is to be found in the stream of consciousness study of interdependence written by Hetty Maclise, entitled "Namtar of the Wee Lama Boy," from which I am about to quote at length. However, do not let that deter you from clicking the link to the original, and reading the whole story. It is a story you will not forget.

For our immediate purpose, I am here concerned only with that aspect of the story dealing with Hopi Prophecy vis-a-vis Tibetan Prophecy  and what one often hears about His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa's role in the matter. I fancy the Southwestern United States, where they think about such things. Mayum Hetty (her youngest son is a tulku, recognized by the Karmapa) is able to comment with considerable authority on the affair, because she was -- in a very singular manner of speaking -- a "bridge" in the events as they unfolded.

Her story begins with her visit to the Hopi tribal lands:
 Dan Kachungva, another Hopi, who's supposed to have been 133 at that time, took me out into the desert and things got rather peculiar. I began to be a little afraid. They asked me several times where was my other son. I had taken my only child, Jason, with me. I kept telling them there was no other son and they were looking rather perplexed. Then they started off about this Hopi prophecy about the purifier. They showed him to me on the rock, amongst these petroglyphs. It shows a line going all the way around the rock, which is huge, and that's the path of the Great spirit, which goes on and on. Another line comes up from the bottom of the rock, which has a circle with a cross on the top side of it. It's got a slash through it, to say "You don't take anything from this man who comes with the cross. You don't take his women, his water or his words." And there's the Great spirit, a stick figure holding two long poles.
Above it is a box with three wheels on top and they say these are the three great rumblings on the earth. After the box comes a crooked line going up and that marks Purification. The Great spirit appears again, with two poles. And there's a figure, the Purifier, with a kind of mushroom shaped hat on his head , with his hands out, holding what looks like rough diamond. maybe a dorje, above and below each hand. The hat was the vague shape of Gampopa's meditation hat. It shows him with the Great spirit and a water bowl which has rain clouds painted on it, and a corn plant; meaning peace and plenty.
They said that the path of the Purifier was identical with the path of the Great spirit, and the Purifier would come wearing a red hat, a red cloak, bringing a red God and that he would make rain. They said they would try to trick him to find out if he was the Purifier. They would tell him that they hadn't had any rain. They never have any rain. And he would make rain because he felt sorry for them. They said he would come from either east or the west. Now, this is what confused me completely. If he came from the west he would be merciful. If he came from the east, "get up on you houses for he would have mercy for no one." Well, when Karmapa arrived ten years later, he came from the west. He approached the mesa from Tuba city. That's all the west and the east business meant. With the Hopi, it's all right next door, right on front of them. They didn't mean from China or Russia. I thought they meant the Communists were coming, with all this red and east and west, and they mentioned something about me joining his tribe. I thought that was very unlikely, i would never become a communist, although stranger things have happened.
She continues:
They told me that there would be some space of time between our arrival and the arrival of the Purifier and then another somewhat equal space of time between the time of the Purifier arriving and the day of Purification. They said if you followed the path of the Purifier, which was the same as the Great spirit, you would be okay on the day of Purification. Otherwise, you might not be and it rather looked like the way this line was carved, all zig-zags ending nowhere, quite a nasty mess. I thought hopefully I might be connected up, it didn't sound like bad thing. I forgot all about it, it was tucked away in the niches of my mind along with all the other memorabilia, but never brought to the surface until ten years later.
During that ten year interval, Hetty gave birth to the son who would ultimately be recognized by the Karmapa. The recognition itself came as an outgrowth of a letter Hetty sent to the Karmapa referencing his experiences with the Hopi in 1974. Hetty concludes her memoir of the affair with the following:
 I got a letter from Sister Palmo who was a Western woman who acted as Karmapa's secretary. She said Karmapa never talked about the things that he had done, but I'm his secretary and I was also there and I can answer your questions about the Hopi. He did make rain, he gave the Red Chenrezi and he sat on top of the Kiva and made some Dewachen prayers and great clouds formed and then, as he pured from the Bhunpa vase and gave the Red Chenrezig initiation. The rain fell in great torrents, which it never does, for 48 hours. They had asked him to make rain. So, I thought, Okay, there's the Purifier and of course, I had joined his tribe.
This is the real deal. There is even video footage of the rainstorm available here. The Sister Palmo she refers to is, of course, Freda Bedi, of whom we have written elsewhere. You can click the link and watch the video, following on with other video available at that link, or just watch it here:

This is one of those "often heard about, seldom seen" sort of things, made a bit more complicated by the famous Tibetan "when the iron bird flies" aspect of the story. Scholars will tell you, if you ask them, that the original citation for the oft-quoted "iron bird" prophecy is nowhere to be found. I always thought it was in Yeshe Tsogyal's writings, attributed to Padmasambhava, but apparently that is not so?

Like many other people, I have thoroughly convinced myself that American Indians are descended from ancient Central Asian wanderers. That there are inescapably significant parallels -- way beyond animist coincidence -- between the pre-Buddhist belief systems of what is now Tibet and the Native American belief systems, cannot be denied.

Well, you can say that about shamans all over the world, can't you?

I am in the far hills thinking about these things, and even though I really should know better, I've taken the laptop along with me. Into the nearest village for supplies, I pause by a wifi hotspot pointed out by a helpful local rustic, and upload this little snippet of my wasted time so that you can waste yours.

Best wishes for your own October.

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4 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

The "Iron Bird" prophecy is found, at least, in the 'legend of the Great Stupa', translated by Keith Dowman. The full text used to be on his website, but I haven't checked lately.

To get some inside info on what's happening these days vis a vis the Tibetan-Hopi cultural and prophetic interface, Google "Kymberlee Ruff" and read whatever she's posted online. Very interesting stuff.

Editor said...

The full text of muchod. chhen. po. bya. rung. kha. sor. gyi. lo. rgyus. thos.pas. grol. ba. bshugs. so is online, but I am sorry, I do not see that "iron bird" anywhere in the text. See here:

Anonymous said...

I remembered seeing that quote in The Legend of the Great Stupa, too, but had to think for a while to remember exactly where it was. As I now recall, it was not in the text itself, but set apart on one of the introductory pages. I was taking a weekend seminar at the Nyingma Institute, in Berkeley, when the book came out, and I remember how happy Tarthang Rinpoche was about it. (He called it "the Great Legend Stupa.") Ah, the old days ...

R. Finney

Kymberlee Ruff,MFT said...

I was taught by the Venerable Lama Lhanang Rinpoche that the Tibetan Prophecy states:

"When the Iron Eagle Flies in the sky
and Stone Bridges cover Rivers.
Horses with Wheels will run on roads.
East Will Meet West.
Red People will meet Red People.
At that time my teachings will benefit the world."
-Padmasambhava 7th c.

may all beings benefit,
Kymberlee Ruff,MFT