This year I had the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion on “reconciliation and healing” for the Oklahoma Sovereignty Symposium; an annual gathering of representatives from all the American Indian tribes in Oklahoma. I was asked to share the Buddhist perspective on this very important topic.

After the panel presenters finished, we had Q & A with the audience and welcomed comments from everyone. One young Indian man, who appeared to be in his early thirties, expressed his deep sadness for what had happened to his tradition through the years. He did not see the denigration of the Native Way as a matter of simply losing Indian culture – but instead, ignoring it. Once awakened to this perspective, he acknowledged, and accepted responsibility to breathe life into his own tradition once more. His thoughts came from a true appreciation of his heritage and the respect he had seen given to other tribes and their practices, even if the tribes were not particularly on good terms with each other. He gave an example of one tribe waiting until another had finished a spiritual ceremony before they engaged. He made a very strong point. I also received good food for thought in relation to my communication with others.

When it comes to showing respect he stated, “No Indian tribe ever tried to convince members from another tribe, to abandon their Ways and join a different tribe. They never said other tribes were not as good. They recognized and respected the ceremonies and traditions of others. They knew there were many ways to express gratitude for our connection to the physical and spiritual worlds.”

I have noticed in this day and age, it is sadly common to hear people say, “Oh that religion is no good, you need to come and join mine – we are the true believers.” This is such a stark contrast to the young man’s tribal experience. It made me reflect on the importance of having awareness in how we approach each other when we reach out to make a connection, to dialogue, and to eventually work together for the betterment of our families, communities, countries, and the world.

The strong foundations we are capable of building together, when we genuinely acknowledge each other and show respect for each other, are fundamental to healing past hurts and creating a lasting bridge that will improve opportunities for the generations to come.

Please remember to consider your words carefully in all situations. Our practice of Right Speech lends itself to better interaction and a more joyful life in harmony with the Buddha Dharma.

Gassho

Rev Kris Ladusau