Red Path Zen
Grandfather Duncan Sings-Alone teaching
Rev. Grandfather Duncan Sings-Alone with Roshi Paul Genki Kahn
RED PATH ZEN PRACTICE PATH
Red Path Zen is an integration of Native American spiritual traditions and practices with Zen Buddhism, carefully respecting the integrity of each tradition. Red Path Zen flows from the Lakota phrase, Mitakuye Oyas’in which means “All My Relations.” We are One with all creation:stones, trees, winged ones, four leggeds and two leggeds of all races. As a practice path within Zen Garland, we draw heavily on the spiritual principles of our Native American brothers and sisters. The head of our practice path is Grandfather Duncan Sings-Alone, an enrolled Cherokee, who studied with Cherokee’Shoshone Medicine Man, Rolling Thunder, and spent 7 years of intensive training with Monacan-Lakota Medicine Man, George Whitewolf. For thirty years he was the medicine teacher for a large inter-tribal comunity in Maryland, and smaller communities in Massachusetts and Michigan.
In March 2009 the Spirits pulled him from the sweatlodge and instructed him to teach Native American Spirituality outside traditional communities. Agreeing to that mandate, he asked the Spirits to open a door for him. Within a week, he was introduced to Roshi Paul Genki Kahn, the spiritual head of Zen Garland. Red Path Zen has grown from that first meeting.
Developing a Red Path Zen practice path has presented certain problems. Most importantly, there are more than 500 federally recognized tribes, each with its own culture and sacred rituals. While their overall beliefs regarding the earth and oneness with all things are similar, the way those ideas are expressed differ. Native American Zen is not Cherokee or Lakota or any of the multitude of tribes. We do not claim nor attempt to form a tribal community. Rather, we bring certain Native concepts, emphases, and practices into zen and give them a distinctive zen expression.
One of our core practices is Chanupa, the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. We use the Pipestone Pipe as our way of connecting with all things, for the Pipe represents the whole creation (animal, vegetable and mineral). While we use it for prayer, meditation and connection, we do not use it in the same way that a particular tribe like the Crow, Cherokee or Lakota use it.
The Zen Red Path proceeds in the following way: Individuals come to the Sangha for meditation and a sense of community. After a period of time they may decide to Take Refuge in the Three Treasures and the Precepts. They will attend a precepts class and sew a rakasu. Only after formally connecting with Zen, may they choose to enter the Red Path.
The first step in entering the Red Path is to take classes in our way of relating to the Creation and to the meaning of the Stone Pipe. These classes include lessons on Native beliefs, stories, songs, rituals and lore. Upon finishing those classes and with the agreement of the Sangha Pipe person, they may purchase or make their own Pipe. They will use this Pipe in a personal way for prayer and oneness. During meditation, they may hold the Pipe bowl in their hand, leaving the stem lying on the Pipe bag at their knees. There will be other ways to use the Pipe which will be taught at appropriate times.
The Red Path is always first a Zen path and only after being grounded in Zen, may the individual proceed on the Red Path itself.
Mitakuye Oyasin is a Lakota Sioux prayer. The phrase translates as “all my relations.” It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin….All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life with me today. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge you in this prayer….
To the Creator, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.
To the mineral nation that has built and maintained my bones and all foundations of life experience, I thank you.
To the plant nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me healing herbs for sickness, I thank you.
To the animal nation that feeds me from your own flesh and offers your loyal companionship in this walk of life, I thank you.
To the human nation that shares my path as a soul upon the sacred wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.
To the Spirit nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life and for carrying the torch of light through the Ages. I thank you.
To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.
You are all my relations, my relatives, without whom I would not live. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destiny. One, not more important than the other. One nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.
Thank you for this Life.
• Sprinting Backwards to God by Grandfather Duncan Sings-Alone (Can get signed copies from www.TwoCanoesPress.com)
• Circle of Life by James Audlin
• The Pipe and Christ: A Christian-Sioux Dialogue by W. Stolzman, SJ (This is a very interesting dialogue between traditional medicine men and Catholic Priests on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation
• Black Elk’s Religion by C. Holler
• Fools Crow by Thomas Mails
• The Sacred Pipe by Black Elk
• I Send a Voice by Elizabeth Eaton
• Native American Sweatlodge by Joseph Bruchac
• Winona’s Web by Priscilla Cogan (this is especially useful for helping women understand moon customs and the meaning of the Pipe. There are two subsequent books in the trilogy: Compass of the Heart, and Crack at Dusk:Crook of Dawn, all dealing thoughtfully with the interaction of Lakota and modern Western beliefs)