Sample from the Summer 2007 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.
The Fire of Wisdom in
Native American and Tibetan Traditions
An Interview with Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo
The teachings of Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo incorporate the streams of three ancient spiritual lineages. In this article, she discusses some of the inner mysteries of the Native American religion, their relationship with Tibetan Buddhist teachings and her vision for those on the spiritual path, whom she calls, “the ancestors of those yet to be born.”
Integral Yoga Magazine: What is the relationship between teacher and student in your tradition?
Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo: The Guru, the spiritual teacher, the initiator, is one who sparks the fire of wisdom that is already within. In Cherokee tradition, there is importance placed upon verbal transmission of direct insight, of song and method.The teacher reveals what is there, points the way and shows the student a roadmap of the mind.
IYM: Is there a process?
DY: Yes. In the preparatory stage, one gives up attachment to certain things. You might fast or, if you have certain foods you like you may even refrain from eating those for a year before participating in ceremonies. That way, the attachment to self-satisfaction is lessened. The act of preparation readies the body and mind to recognize the light, its natural state. In Cherokee ceremony, there is giving up of attachment, sacrificing and making offerings. During this time, one is examining the mind— how the mind grasps, how the mind lets go—until one sees the mind as dancing with the elements.
Then there is purification when practices like stomach cleansing and sweating are done. The idea is to purify the body so that concepts may dissolve into the state of awareness in which attachment to a particular view is released. Then, a new sense of dedication will be revealed that will bring benefit to you and to other beings. What is actually transmitted is direct insight, which can be felt as warmth, cold, heat or total dissolution of physical sensation and attachment. Multiple universes become apparent. Then, there is the process of integrating that into skillful action so you may be of benefit to family, clan, nations and all beings.
IYM: Your center, Sunray, is dedicated to the study and practice of the Green Mountain Aniyunwiwa and the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma and Drikung Kagyu schools. How do you see the relationship between these paths?
DY: There is a deep relationship between Mahamudra Dzogchen and Aniyunwiwa. Most clear is the recognition of compassion, loving kindness and the understanding that what the mind and body create returns (we can call it karma) and that our natural state is luminosity, which we call Orineida, in Cherokee. This connection was first revealed to me through meditation, and then I actually met them over time. It was a profound connection because we met first in the light. Through meditation, I made a direct connection with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and, over time, the Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche and Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche. And I was also fortunate enough to recognize and revive a deep connection with His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and Kenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche. I said in meditation, “If they are real, show me.” Then, in 1977, a monk appeared at my door. He appeared as Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal. It was not easy to get to my door! [laughs] There was the doorman, security to pass through at the apartment building and the elevator man, but the monk made it to my door. It was in 1986, that His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche came to this area, after many divinations, seeking H. E. Changlochen Rinpoche, a high lama of the Drikung Kagyu school, who was reborn in my family.
IYM: Wasn’t your son recognized as this Rinpoche and was that a shock?
DY: It was pretty intense! While I was pregnant with my son, I could hear singing all the time, and others could hear this too. There was a certain bounce or lightness to my step during the pregnancy. As a young child, there were many extraordinary things about him. He makes a practice of being ordinary. Most revered Native teachers and most realized yogis don’t call themselves anything—they just are and express kindness.
IYM: What other common threads do you find between Native and Buddhist traditions?
DY: The connection is in the observation of nature, of mind, and taking care with our thought, word and action. It is in the understanding that our voice impacts multiple generations of beings. Now we know it as “resonance coupling.” If we toss a pebble into the water and observe the ripples, we can also recognize the ripples of our minds and how this impacts the environment and one another. We describe a mind wave as nuwati—the medicine that permeates all things. It is the underlying, cohesive potential from which all projections of the mind arise.