A CHANCE MUSING
We chanced to catch a bit of wonder on the radio yesterday -- a feature narrative about American cowboy singers in a trek with Mongolian nomads. It was filled with humor and pathos based on the wakening of the cowboys to worlds unimagined. There are no fences there; either on the rolling foothills of the Himalayas, or the hearts and souls of those following paths and traditions more than 8,000 years old. Most inspiring is how these nomads LIVE music with a spiritual intensity. Certainly, they have performers for the evening fire, and indigenous instruments, and plaintive songs of lost loves and future dreams. Yet there is more! Children sing to the horses at daybreak to calm them and tell them of the tasks and dangers ahead. A woman milking a yak 'sings the milk down', soothing the shaggy cow and acknowledging "eke^otukan" -- Mother Earth; not in praise or prayer, but as one might chat with a favorite aunt.
I was taken within what I have learned of Mongolian Shamanism, early Turkic cultures, the Alan and more; and pondered why many in our Western culture see so many things spiritual as "either-or." The problem, for me, is that many confuse religious practice with spiritual enlightenment. Indeed, for some, an immersion in ritual, dogma and tradition is essential to their spiritual growth, and there is no doubt about the heightened spiritual energy present in any gathering of earnest congregation. For others, a more solitary course is pursued; with reading, meditation, discussion groups and mystical experience. A few take a "don't tell, don't ask" approach to such things -- and that is OK too. What doesn't make sense is why people called to shift their base of 'religious practice' seem to "throw out the baby with the bath water!" Christians, for example, when changing to say, a more 'earth based' alliance of beliefs, often turn and disavow all of their early conceptions and understandings. Why? Your personal 'understanding' of Deity, your chosen method of prayer and value base for human interaction need not be the same at all. While many might argue that having all three packaged in a pretty box is desirable, it can also be viewed that such dogmatic structures are a denial of personal responsibility and even faith. Of this we can learn much from our Mongolian brothers and sister for they have no discordance in these areas.
Their knowledge of a spiritual link with 'Source' is infinite, inherent and obvious. In their language a question of, "Do you believe in God?" would be semantically equivalent to asking, "Do you know where your elbow is?" Thus, they spend no time pondering or debating the shape, sex, proclivities or foibles of God! They have no need to reshape deity into their own image and to offer sacrifice or supplication. Their faith is absolute. No feeble attempts by man to change God's nature is going to have any effect, so why try?
They also acknowledge the absolute finite limits of 'human life', both in physical realms we can easily perceive, and some 'other kingdoms' or which we know little. They recognize their bond with Mother Earth (that's where the term originated) and their obligations to the existence of all perceived things. They have an elaborate system of explaining 'unknown' things of which Shamanism is a part; which has been defined as a 'religion' by Western scholars, and is the basis of the religious perceptions of many myths and modern religious practices. They believe, for example, in seven different 'souls', each playing a different role in the dispersion of 'spirit' after death. However, none of this has a bearing on their 'belief in God' which is completely separate. Our bodies and minds belong to 'Mother Earth', our spirit is 'of God', and the 'soul' is the seat of balance between the two. This 'soul' is not eternal, but may linger on for an extended period after death because of the love energy it possessed, but again, has nothing to do with where your 'spirit essence' goes. They also 'know' that what one does here during 'life', especially treatment of other persons, animals and Earth itself will have an influence on what happens to your various souls later on. This is a natural cycling of the Earth processes -- both the body and soul will decay and provide nutrients for new life -- as it should be -- but not 'religious' at all.