Written by Lindsey Charles Williams

2013.peru.keepers-of-the-flame2Ayni, sacred reciprocity…Love thy neighbor as thy self…The Golden Rule…Walk a mile in his moccasins… Seva (service in Sanskrit).

What is the larger sentiment, here? The self “I” exists only in relation to the “Thou” other. “…relation is reciprocity” Martin Buber (prominent 20th century Jewish philosopher.)

As societies evolved, becoming more populous and complex (band, tribe, chiefdom, nation/state), inhabitants found the need for cooperation with others whom they did not personally know or necessarily trust. A common principle soon developed among peoples that created a working relationship of trust that could grow over time…or quickly dissolve. This trust was based on reciprocity.

It wasn’t a concept that always had credence. The Old Testament of the Bible spoke of an equal justice through retribution …”an eye for an eye”. The Pharisees interpreted this as justification for perpetrating swift revenge against perceived wrongs. Similarly, many ancient practices of shamanism throughout the world, including the Andes and the Amazon, sought revenge on sorcerers or used sorcery to settle matters where injury or illness had befallen a member of the community. (Jean Pierre Chaumeil, PHD, Anthropology, ethnography Shamanism in the Amazon, 1993)

In the New Testament, Christ shows man a new way to exist with sentiments such as forgiveness and forbearance. In the modern world and even in the remote regions of the Andes and Amazon, such sentiments are by no means universally practiced. But they are concepts that now have deep roots within a world that needs cooperation among all its inhabitants to solve our most pressing problems.

Ayni is not just reciprocity. It is sacred reciprocity, worthy of reverence and respect. It calls us to extend to others ‘the better angels of our nature’.

The phrase, Christ Consciousness means different things to different people. In his book Lessons in Courage, don Oscar states that “Christ Consciousness…is the recognition that we carry the divine within us.” And I believe that the spirit of Ayni, so central to the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, is the manifestation of “the divine within us” out into the world.

On many mesas, I have seen Christ on the Cross and/or the Virgin Mary, often in the Misarumi, as is the Cross on don Oscar’s mesa. As a symbol of reconciliation and atonement between God and the world, the cross also represents the axis mundi where the four directions of the Cosmos are bridged together.

It is well recognized that Catholicism was forced onto the Incas during the Spanish Conquest. As a testament to the strength of their traditions, the descendants of this great civilization, in the Andes and the Amazon, have retained much of their ancient spiritualism and wisdom. Over centuries, the urban shamans and the shamans of the forests and mountains in Peru have exchanged wisdom; the urban shamans wanting to maintain tradition; the traditional shamans wanting to learn new ways. The result has been an amalgam of tradition, teaching, healing and cosmology among Peruvian shamans. This transfusion of spiritual and healing practice did not begin with the Spanish Conquest. The Incas had conquered peoples add their traditional deities to the Inca pantheon and allowed them to maintain their spiritual practices while honoring those of the Incas.

Attached, directly below, is an interesting piece about the blending of tradition and even architecture as found at Koricancha, a Dominican convent in Cuzco built on the stark foundation of an Incan Temple. http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/letters/john-stewart-on-the-andean-influence-on-catholicism-in-south-america

After much research, I am amazed at how much of ancient tradition has been maintained and how similar the cosmology, rituals and practices are among Peruvian Shamans, despite the many infusions. We are privileged, indeed, to have such a beautiful, rich, robust practice in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition as brought forth from both the mountains and the jungles of Peru by don Oscar Miro-Quesada.

Perhaps the most intense and freely given example of Ayni is found in a child’s eyes on Christmas morn. Looking into those eyes, a moment of pure Ayni is shared…an unquestioned feeling of trust and love that is truly sacred and where reciprocity comes with a heartfelt hug.

Lighted candles…Quiet solitude…Family celebrations…Giving and getting gifts…Sharing traditions…Singing familiar songs…Enjoying ritual feast…Helping the suffering among us.

The Spirit of Christmas.

The Spirit of Ayni.