Where's Your Mountain?
His name is Ray. On his father’s farm in Maine, there was a cabin rented out to an American Indian. Quite elderly, he was called “Old Indian”. One day Ray’s mother cautioned him, “Don’t call him Old Indian anymore. Call him Grandfather and go learn from him.” For an eight-year-old, you can imagine the thrill he felt.
He rushed out into the woods and gathered some branches to make a bow and arrow. Not knowing quite how to do it, he traipsed over to the cabin, “Grandfather, would you please show me how to make it and shoot it?” Grandfather welcomed him and tears began to flow because five years earlier he had a vision. An unknown boy came to him wanting to make a bow and arrow. He knew that this one was his last chance. So the lad became his apprentice.
One day Grandfather, who was quite elderly, said, “Today I’m going to teach you how to run.” Of course at fourteen you think you can easily handle any old man. They trotted for six hours. The teen was exhausted. Grandfather hardly had a sweat. Not bad for ninety, eh?
Ray grew up and fell in love with the forest kingdom. He learned to stalk, fish, and read tracks, interpret sounds, sleep and eat from the bountiful land in all seasons. Mostly he learned how to appreciate its majesty. Later, he began giving outdoor seminars around the country and designated an area near Princeton, MN as a special region.
Ray told me the following episode. When Grandfather was in his fifties, a terrible sorrow overcame him. Nobody wanted to learn. The Indians could care less; whitey wasn’t interested. He thought his whole life was a waste of time. Some of us have been there. So full of all this proven knowledge and nobody wants to harvest it.
He went through this turmoil for days. He was on the brink of such despondency of not knowing what to do. In desperation, he went for a walk. After three days in the Maine woods, he suddenly came upon an unfamiliar sight. It struck him that he had never known that a cabin was in this region. There it loomed. Smoke rose out of the chimney so he figured somebody’s home. Knocking on the door, a voice said, “Come on in.” He stood astonished. There reclined Grandfather’s teacher. The only catch: his teacher had died thirty-five years earlier. Here he was in his recognizable human body.
Grandfather stayed for two days. They talked about a lot of things. He finally broached the real issue, the meaning of life for him at this stage. The elder told him, “I can’t give you that answer. It’s inside you. You have to find it. But I will tell you one thing. Climb the mountain again.” Grandfather nodded and sensed it was time to leave, so he thanked his teacher once again. He was so thrilled to see him in bodily form once more, as he walked off.
After about an hour, suddenly his whole problem crushed down upon him like a heavy rain. “This ain’t gonna work, I’ve tried.”
At that instance, the forest illuminated and words rose up in his inner awareness. “No, I’m not here to save the world. The elders will bring to me those who need to learn. Don’t worry about numbers.” The vexing pity crumpled. “Yeh, just do the best you can” as the voice kept energizing him. “Don’t worry about attracting crowds. That’s not the issue. Those who are meant to come will arrive. Meet them where they’re at.”
All the heaviness and anxiety gone. He felt so elated he decided to go back and rethanked his teacher. He turned and rapidly walked another hour. When he reached the area, only a peaceful silence greeted him. There was no cabin.
Ray, himself, was drafted into the military in the Viet Nam era. When the Army found out here was a man who could live independently in the woods, they put him in a special reconnaissance group which would scatter into the jungle for months at a time. Each was on his own and had their own rules. They were to reconnoiter and spy on the Vietcong. One morning as he was making his way through the under-brush he came upon a clearing not on his map. An entire village was standing there with smiles on their faces. He walked up to them, “We’ve been waiting for you.” “You have?” “Yes, come on in.”
This indigenous tribe was the last remnant of its kind in Vietnam. Even the government didn’t know they still existed. Ray spent a whole year with them. They trained him. They poured everything they loved about Nature into him. Toward the end of the twelfth month, one of the elders approached, “Ray, we are going to be assassinated soon. The Vietcong are going to wipe us out. We know it's coming. You have a choice. You can stay with us but you will be killed or you can go back home and take what you’ve learned and bring it to your people.” He hid out and witnessed the slaughter.
With his discharge, Ray resolved for the rest of his life to evoke the significance of Nature for human development.
Some years ago---and it wasn’t the only time---I came upon Swami Rama alone walking down the hall one night shaking his head with a certain anguished muttering in his voice, “There’s nobody for the truth---nobody really wants to learn and practice it. I can’t just give it out like an information sheet. You’ve got to do it in order to make it come alive.”
Any takers for the mountain…again.