Weekend events put focus on the shamanistic views
Professor, author and Buddhist Dr. Reggie Ray will lecture tonight and lead a workshop Saturday at the Aspen Community Church.
Ray, a practicing Buddhist of 30 years in the Tibetan tradition and chairman of the religious studies department at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, will discuss Buddhism, meditation and shamanism.
The lecture will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for students. Following the lecture, attendees will be able to meet with Ray in an informal setting. Saturday’s workshop will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a cost of $100 per person. Both events are sponsored by the School of Continuing Education at The Naropa Institute.
“We’re going to be talking about Buddhist meditation, which is a way of quieting the mind, slowing down the thought process, coming back to the body and getting in touch with oneself,” Ray said. “The second thing we’re going to talk about is the whole shamanic dimension of spirituality.”
Shamanistic religions, Ray explained, is a term that has been given to designate all the indigenous spiritual traditions in the world that were formerly known as native religions or primitive religions.
“These traditions are very different from the high religions, like Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and others that are all based on texts,” Ray said. “None of the high religions are more than a few thousand years old and then you’ve got to ask, `What were people doing before that?’ and it was shamanic religions.”
Ray explained that for more than 99 percent of human history, before the advent of high religions, people participated in shamanistic religions. “So everything we are as humans has been developed out of these shamanic traditions,” he said.
Each shamanistic religion of Africa, South America, North America and elsewhere is very unique, Ray said, but there are commonalities linking the various traditions.
“They all say human life is only viable when it’s in lived in relation to the rest of the natural world,” said Ray. “When the natural environment that we live in is respected as an equal partner in the relationship, that’s a commonality. They all reject the mechanistic view of the universe – that it’s dead, lifeless and without meaning. For them, every tree has its own animating spirit. And to live in the world, we have to be aware of this presence and we have to live with it and not exploit it. We all see where the exploitation has taken us, and many people simply aren’t happy with that.”
Ray said shamanistic traditions are becoming increasing popular today for a variety of reasons.
“The problems of the world – social dislocation, economic repression, and most of all, the destruction of the natural world – many people feel these problems are best addressed by looking back and drawing on the resources of these ancient shamanic religions, because they are the basis of humanity,” he said.
Ray said through meditation and other exercises, people are able to better view the world as someone of a shamanistic tradition would.
“In the Western world, because we live in such a rapid, entertainment-based culture, most people don’t have the openness and awareness and sensitivity to really do authentic shamanic work,” Ray said. “That’s where meditation steps in, it gives us tools and techniques to do this work within the culture we live in.
“I’m going to try to lead people through the process of meditation to develop the openness we’re talking about, and then I’m going to lead them through a couple shamanic practices, enabling them to connect with the spiritual presence of the environment, of the world,” he said.
To register for the workshop and/or for further information call 1-800-603-3117 or 923-4090.
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