Monday , March 4 2024
A surprising different perspective on what causes earthquakes.

Haiti from a Pre-Enlightenment Perspective

Haiti. Earthquake. Huge suffering beyond imagination. I sent money. I continue to send prayers

What causes earthquakes? The scientists say one thing, having to do with tectonic plates and magma. But the scientific worldview is a Western construct based on Cartesian thought (in other words, the ideas of Rene Descartes).

Good ol' Rene destroyed the wisdom of the ancestors, that We Are One. Instead, he replaced it with "modern" thought that everything is separate. Nature is no longer considered our very life itself, but an object to analyze and utilize. Individual separate from community. And the individual, Rene, chopped up into a bunch of different categories — mind apart from spirit apart from body. The body divided into a multitude of systems — nervous, skeletal, digestive, etc.

"Okay," you might be thinking, "You know a fancy word or two. But what does this have to do with Haiti and earthquakes?"

I'm getting to that. Let's take a look at some of the words of wise people in history. Over 700 years ago, Nichiren Daishonin studied extensively and wrote major works about, in part, what causes earthquakes. His point of view has little relation to the scientific worldview based on Cartesian thought that just about everyone nowadays accepts as "reality."

Nichiren Daishonin's words resonate with the Andean cosmovision when he writes, "Life at each moment encompasses the body and mind and the self and environment of all sentient beings … as well as all insentient beings … including plants, sky, earth, and even the minutest particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in all phenomena."

"Cool," you might be thinking, "But what does this have to do with earthquakes?" Patience, my friend. I'm getting to that. I promise.

Okay, we have the idea that We Are One. One Life. Now, this Life is cause and effect. Everything is connected. What we human beings do affects the earth, the Pachamama. How did this wisdom of our ancestors, that We Are One Life, get so lost and distorted?

According to Peter Kropotkin in Mutual Aid (read this book for free online!), all of our ancestors lived with the wisdom of the mystic law, that We Are One. But that wisdom started to get distorted and lost as some people started setting themselves above others in the community. These folks who put themselves higher than the rest were the merchants and the warriors. Today we call these groups the military industrial complex.

Getting back to Nichiren, he went so far as to say that earthquakes are effects of the beliefs that the leaders of the land disseminate. That's right. He didn't say that earthquakes are impersonal acts of nature that have nothing to do with us. In his time and place, 13th century Japan, there were devastating earthquakes, and other disasters. Through researching all of the Buddhist documents and commentaries in his country, he encountered wisdom from a couple of thousand years earlier, saying that when the leaders of the land go against the mystic law of life, then there are disasters and calamities, such as earthquakes. In his era, the leaders (political/military/religious) disseminated the erroneous belief that there wasn't much you could do in this life to change things. The best you could hope for was to practice a religion that promised that when you died you would go to heaven (or in their words, the Pure Land in the West).

Hmm… sounds kind of like the beliefs that some of the missionaries spread in the Andes (and elsewhere), destroying the wisdom of the ancestors.

Who are the modern day leaders of the land? Nowadays "the land" is a global village. The other day, on a TV in a butcher's stall in Bolivia, I saw the sad faces of several U.S. presidents mourning the disaster in Haiti. But were they self-reflecting and saying that from this moment on they will respect that We Are One Life and stop invading countries and killing people? That they will stop their friends who have transnational companies from polluting our planet? That they will close the School of the Americas and stop training terrorists? That they will stop supporting an economic model that is based on oppressing the majority of the people so that a minority can live in material luxury?

From my interpretation of the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, as long as the leaders of the land continue to mislead the people, going against the truth of the mystic law of life — that We Are One — then earthquakes will continue, if not grow worse.

Now is the time to reawaken to the wisdom of our ancestors. I strive to do this by chanting Nam myoho renge kyo with the Soka Gakkai International, playing the panpipes in community, and making music, movies, books, and art to touch your soul and make you think.

About Lynette Yetter

Lynette Yetter is the author of the books "72 Money Saving Tips for the 99%" and "Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace, a novel." Lynette is a permanent resident of Bolivia and a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Reed College.

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