Meeting the Buddha in Redface

By Melissa Moore

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In Spring 2021, a colleague and dear friend from Naropa University, Janneli Chapin, insisted I read The Buddha in Redface by Eduardo Duran. She said, “This is what I care about right now,” as she handed me the brightly red-covered book. I took it home and opened the book immediately because Janneli is someone who has realized her Buddha activity, meaning she embodies wisdom, compassion, and kindness. Also, we’ve shared a spiritual path since we were in our 20s at Naropa Institute in the early 80s, and I listen to her leads.

The Redface Buddha is an epic tale of compassion and wisdom—a testament to humanity’s brilliant sanity. I found the book a page-turner of a read! The Buddha in Redface illuminates Padmasambhava’s famous prophecy: When the iron birds fly in the sky, and when the iron horse moves across the land, the Buddha will be in the land of Redface. Padmasambhava was the Indian saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet.

Eduardo, a cognitive behaviorally trained therapist (Eduardo is also Jungian trained) consulting psychologically with Native tribes in New Mexico, was finding little success with Western methodologies for indigenous populations. Along the way, he meets a simple yet profound, paralyzed native man named Terrance in the mountains near Los Alamos, NM. Terrance is a complex character to describe, so I won’t do him an injustice by trying.

Terrance plans to hold healing ceremonies on the Los Alamos land to invigorate the Dreamtime. Los Alamos was the site where scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and staff initiated the secret Manhattan Project. This group was responsible for developing and testing the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

Terrance trained Eduardo in ceremonies in the Dreamtime; Terrance tells Eduardo, “Dreaming—that is our way. Everything comes from the dream. All of our medicine comes in from the dream. All teachings, the Buddha, and God, all are the dream. Our relatives from the north call this the ‘eye of awareness,’ and Our Tibetan cousins call this the ‘big mind’ or ‘the awareness.” (p. 25 The Buddha in Redface )

Upon completing the Buddha in Redface, I asked Janneli for Eduardo’s email and reached out. He was responsive, and we quickly met online. Ed is humorous, humble, and wise. He’s also wrathfully honest, which I greatly appreciate.

In Spring 2019, Karuna Training, as an organization, embarked on a decolonizing journey.
I had no idea what that meant then, and I’m still tentatively figuring out a definition as it applies to an organization like Karuna Training. However, it has something to do with the embedded unconscious biases arising from the historical dynamics of slavery, genocide, and the colonizing of indigenous land and peoples, which plays out blindly through habits of control over, and appropriation of people, places, and or systems.

Karuna established a new Board last year with a few folks I recruited for their decolonizing experience. We’ve been undergoing a slow and provocative process of investigating how our unconscious mental conditioning impacts curriculum and systems of operations. As a steward of Karuna, I have read many articles, attended multiple anti-racism, and decolonizing seminars since embarking on this journey. Still, I make countless social blunders from what I understand to be unconscious ‘settlers' guilt.’ from living in a white body.

I struggle with uncomfortable feelings of hopelessness around what I don’t know, can’t see, and still don’t understand about my racism and unconscious biases. I see how Buddhism, specifically America Buddhism, has been individualized and whitewashed. Encountering Eduardo and his writings has illuminated many blind spots—at times, it's heartbreaking to undertake the task of decolonizing myself, nevertheless, an organization.

My respect for Ed deepened when I read his second book, Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and Other Native People. This book catalogs the fruition of Eduardo’s ceremonies and instruction from Terrance. In this book, Eduardo illustrates a skillful means of providing trauma-informed counseling to Native Peoples in a decolonized manner.

The book provides simple yet profound clinical translations that offer culturally specific methods that make sense to Native peoples. Here, Eduardo delivers a compassionate and relational approach toward one’s illness, whether physical or mental; for example, having a ‘naming ceremony’ to help hold and relate to any specific trauma versus receiving a clinical diagnosis, which can be traumatizing. Eduardo generously includes instructions for non-American Indian counselors to grasp and use the concepts he presents in culturally competent ways.

Eduardo's approach is deeply aligned with the compassionate exchange work of Karuna Training, continually working from a non-pathological view and trusting in another’s basic sanity. Only he dives deeper to address indigenous peoples’ generational trauma, how the perpetrator’s aggressions arise in the victim and the perpetuation of an epidemic societal soul wound. I found Healing the Soul Wound to be a revolutionary contribution to the practice of clinical mental health. I only wish I had come across it while working on renovating the broken community-based mental health care system in my career.

Reading that book, I aspired to invite Eduardo to a Karuna Live program, where he and I could dialog about the healing needed for the troubled times in which we live. I chose the Thanksgiving weekend because I wanted to contemplate the path we could envision for healing our greater societal soul wound, which we all carry, and mostly continue to perpetuate unless we initiate and partake in healing ceremonies.

Join us for the Karuna Live Saturday, November 26th at 10 AM MT for a conversation with Eduardo Duran and meet the Buddha in Redface. We will offer a smoke ceremony together for Turtle Island and have an eye-opening discussion about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. In an email, Eduardo remarked, “I believe that the original primordial knowing has been retained in the plant world, and when released with the element of fire, the smoke resonates with the elemental knowing in our DNA. There is the knowledge of our original face, as the Zen people talk about.”

Learn more about Karuna Live! Offering Gratitude to Turtle Island and Her Original Inhabitants here.

Article written by Melissa Moore

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