Once after a program in Indiana we were driving Swamiji back to our home in the forest of southern Indiana. Swamiji sometimes call our group the Forest People because we lived just inside a hardwood forest in a house made from logs and big timbers. One hundred and seventy years ago the entire state was a rich, hardwood forest inhabited by the original Native American Indians.
As we were driving back we came to a place where a branch of the White River cut through a wooded area. The Native Americans that once lived here and had named the waters, White River, because the water was so clean and clear you could see all the way to the bottom. Of course now the river was anything but clear. The run off form the city and soil erosion from the deforested land has turned the waters brown and murky.
As we crossed White River, Swamiji ask: “What happened to the original people that lived here?” I explained to Swamiji that Indiana was so named because of the many Indians tribes who once populated the area. But these Native Americans had been expelled and forced to walk out of Indiana and across the United States long ago during the "Indian Removal" period that ended in the 1830s. Most died along the way of their journey.
Swamiji then somberly replied: “Yes and the people that drove them away had guns but all the original people had were spears and arrows to protect themselves.” The seriousness of his comment silenced the rest ride back home as we contemplated the great tragedy inflicted on the original inhabitants by the well armed military troops charged with removing the natives and protecting land hungry European settlers.
Immediately upon returning home, I showed Swamiji a stone arrowhead we had found close by that once was used by the Native Americans living here. Swamiji took the arrow head in his hand and with unexpected swiftness and power he threw the arrowhead directly at the house. It hit the house and made an impossibly loud “Crack” that still reverberates in me to this day. ~ D
Q. Swamiji why do people in India worship so gods and we have so few gods in the Western tradition?
A. In the past, maybe a few centuries ago, there were many people here and many gods. You people drove them away. You people have changed a lot. India and America were one and the same. America had the same Sanskrit culture but slowly you changed. Kings brought about that change, unlike in India where people did not change even though their kings changed. In Indian the people maintained their own traditions separately from their rulers. If people wanted to meditate, they meditated.
Q. Is India the heart of the world?
A. It’s not that India is the heart. It’s that in India, the culture of the rishis (ancient yogis) has been preserved. There were saints and rishis elsewhere throughout the world, but the politicians killed them. They also killed them in India but the rishis kept going. Different kinds of rulers came, but they were destroyed. The land of India was established by the maharishis (ancient great yogis). Even America five hundred years ago was like that. If you study the Native Americans of five hundred years ago, you would see a close relationship with India.
Death of Chief Tecumseh at Tippecanoe, Indiana 1811
Chief Tecumseh said:
"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand
that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, and beautify all
things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service
of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home." - Chief Tecumseh