Indigenous Interlude

A very long time ago there was a young man who was very interested in a beautiful young woman. He was always trying to get her attention, but she never seemed to notice him. Whenever she was present he would ride his horse proudly, but nothing he did seemed to attract her. One day when the women were down by the river getting water, the young man began diving off rocks and swimming across the river, to show her his skill. But, again, she paid him no mind.

Dejected, the man walked into the nearby old growth forest and sat down at the base of a long dead cedar tree. As he sat there thinking about his beloved, a woodpecker landed on a hollowed limb that was over his head. The limb had been hollowed over time from the wind and weather. The woodpecker began to peck holes….tap, tap, tap……… along the length of this hollowed limb…….. tap. tap, tap……. As the woodpecker pecked, the limb broke off and fell next to the young man. As the wind blew over this hollow limb with the holes in it, he heard musical voices rising on the wind.

He picked up the branch and found when he blew into it and covered the holes, he could make beautiful, mournful music to match the feelings in his heart. He sat there for a time making up haunting melodies. The woman heard this music coming from the old growth forest, and it was such a soulful sound that it captured her heart. She followed the sound of music into the woods, where she saw him sitting there at the base of this cedar tree playing this first flute that was given to him by the woodpecker.  As she listened, she fell in love with his music and fell in love with him.

This wonderful Lakota story about the origins of the flute reminds me of the way our Varjrayana Buddhist tradition sometimes expresses teaching stories. If I were to have a go at it, the story might read:

The dakinis of earth and wind got together to teach humans about love. They invited the woodpecker to create a flute and the bird pecked holes in a hollow limb. The bird then dropped it near a human being who was pining for love. The person picked it up and blew, discovering the music of the heart—beyond words, beyond ego, beyond anything but the ephemeral dance of earth and wind. When it was played, the melody called everyone to remember the love to which they were born. And everyone fell in love.

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