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Fire on the Mountain:

A Gathering of Shamans

A film by David Cherniack Productions in association with Global Vision Corporation and Mystic Fire Video

 

    INTRODUCTION (from Fire on the Mountain webpage: http://www.global-vision.org/karma.html )

Fire on the Mountain: A Gathering of Shamans is a documentary about the connection between consciouness and nature, as embodied in the spiritual traditions of Indigenous Peoples, whose ecological metaphors of the sacred are so relevant to the modern world. We shot the project in 1997 at an historic 10-day gathering of shamans from five continents, who travelled to Karma Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat centre in the Val Saint Hugon in Savoy, in the French Alps, to discuss their concerns with H.H. the Dalai Lama and high-level representatives of the world's religions. This documentary embodies the wish of these Indigenous People - all traditional wisdom-keepers, shamans and medicine-women - who requested us to communicate their message to the world.

The film was co-executive produced by Michael O'Callaghan, President of Global Vision Corporation in London, and Sheldon Rochlin, President of Mystic Fire Video in New York. It was produced and directed by the award-winning filmmaker David Cherniack in Toronto, Canada. A producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) since 1980, his many documentaries include "Heart of Tibet: An Intimate Portrait of the Dalai Lama", and "Four Noble Truths" (narrated by Richard Gere). The video can be purchased by online mailorder from Mystic Fire Video at www.mysticfire.com .

 
HOW THIS PROJECT CAME ABOUT
 
 
The Karma Ling retreat centre in the French Alps
 The project began when Lama Denys Teundroup, the spiritual director of Karma Ling and Honorary President of the European Buddhist Union was travelling in Ecuador to give some Buddhist teachings. It was there that the author and poet Alexis Naranjo invited him to join him on a trip into the jungle to visit the Shuar. Along with their kinsfolk, the Ashuar (collectively known to outsiders as "Jivaros") they inhabit the sacred waterfalls where the Andes plunge thousands of feet into the green depths of the Amazon rainforest. The Shuar are famous as the proud tribal people who, when gold-greedy Conquistadors built a town there in the sixteenth century, killed every last Spaniard in combat, except the Governor who expired after having been made to gulp a drink wich they prepared especially for him: a goblet of the precious metal he craved so much, in liquid form! The Shuar have enjoyed the traditional lifestyle since then, until Big Oil recently began prospecting in their jungle sanctuary.
 
It was in the rainforest that Lama Denys met Don Hilario Chiriap, a Shuar shaman and a spokesperson of his people. The two men soon became fast friends. While comparing their spiritual beliefs, Lama Denys was impressed by the profound reverence for nature - implicit in the Shuar cosmology - and its similarity to the Buddhist regard for the welfare of all sentient beings. Like most Indigenous Peoples, the Shuar worldview does not feature a split between the creator and the creation, spirit and matter, or mind and nature. Because the whole of nature is sacred in their way of seeing, their position on the front lines of tropical deforestation is also a spiritual stance. Don Hilario voiced his concern about the impact of deforestation and oil and mineral exploration on the rainforest, and expressed his wish for an international gathering where Indigenous shamans, traditional wisdom-keepers and medicine men and women from around the world could meet each other, and then present their united message to high level representatives of the world's organised religions, so as to challenge the latter to take up the environmental cause on spiritual grounds. Don Hilario's hope is to enroll the South American Christian Churches on the side of Indigenous People and the rainforest.

Lama Denys agreed, quickly realising that because the spiritual traditions of Indigenous Peoples are so intimately related to the places where they live, their holistic and ecological vision of the universe - transmitted down through the generations from very ancient times - has tremendous inspirational value for the development of the new way of thinking which is so urgently needed to correct the social and environmental imbalance which now threaten our planet. He sent out the first invitations six months later for an Interfaith Gathering "to explore the common themes of peace, compassion, and solidarity which underlie the world's faiths, and to draw attention to the endangered spiritual traditions of Indigenous Peoples, whose holistic ecological wisdom and social insights have so much to offer the modern world."

One of the first to accept the invitation was H.H. the Dalai Lama, who is very keen to promote interfaith dialogue. He expressed this at Assisi in 1986, in the Dordogne in 1991, and at Lourdes in 1993:

"From my personal experience, I believe such a gathering should have two major objectives. The first is that the world's principal traditions consider how to participate in the improvement of the world and of Humankind as a whole, by promoting fundamental human values such as compassion and ethics. The second objective is that each of these major traditions consider how to contribute to the preservation of different ancient traditions which are working for the well-being and survival of their own communities."

 

Karma Ling itself also has a long tradition of interfaith dialogue, going back to its roots in Tibet in the 19th century. The brochure for the Gathering stated the following:

"The 21 st century will be one of dialogue. The monotheistic religions descended from Abraham, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, together with Hinduism and Buddhism, now communicate with each other through a deepening interfaith dialogue that is actively engaged in the development of peace and the promotion of universal values. If these religious traditions, through some of their representatives - in their differences, oppositions, or rivalries - become factors of war, then their dialogue in respect of the difference of each one, is on the contrary the true source of a profound peace."

The gathering - offically held as part of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Peoples (1995 - 2004) - was scheduled for April 26th to May 2, 1997. With only three weeks to go, Lama Denys asked Global Vision if we would like to produce a documentary about the event. This was extremely short notice, but because of the historic nature of the project and of the Dalai Lama's personal involvement, we were able to secure a distribution deal with Mystic Fire Video, and raise the funds for David Cherniack - one of the world's leading documentary filmmakers, to fly to Karma Ling along with a three-camera crew from Canada and New York, in time for the gathering. We shot 60 hours of footage at Karma Ling, and more footage on location afterewards with the Mohawks in Canada.

 

THE INTERFAITH GATHERING AT KARMA LING

 

We shot the film at Karma Ling during the Interfaith Gathering, which was organised by Val Saint Hugon - Dalai Lama France 97, in co-operation with the Tibetan Buddhist Federation (Dachang Rime Congregation) and the Karma Ling Institute. Karma Ling is located in what is left of a former Carthusian monastery, in an isolated side valley above the Val d'Isère.

The Indigenous shamans and wisdom-keepers spent ten days of interfaith dialogue, religious ceremonies, and ancient shamanic rituals never before seen by the public. The gathering took place in the private and intimate setting of a beautiful circular tent with an opening at the top to allow for a bonfire.

The ceremonies included Buddhist and Bön rituals from Tibet, a tree blessing by a shaman from Tuva and a healing ceremony by a woman shaman from the Buryat Republic in Siberia, a Voudoun ceremony from Benin (Africa), shamanic rituals by a Shuar (Jivaro) shaman from the Amazon rainforest, prayer rituals by the elder wisdom-keeper of the endangered Rendille nomads of Kenya, a night-time celebration where a Purupecha medicine man of the Native American Church performed the Ceremony of the Four Colours, and other ceremonies performed by representatives of the North American Tlingit, Onondaga, Apache, Mohawk and Cherokee tribes.

This private part of the gathering was followed on May 1st. by a public event where H.H. the Dalai Lama and the shamans shared their conclusions with high-level representatives of the world's organised religions, in front of an audience of five thousand people who had spent the previous four days listening to the Dalai Lama's teachings on the Four Noble Truths. The official photographer was Henri Cartier-Bresson.

During the gathering the Indigenous representatives formed the United Traditions Organisation which has since posted its own web site at www.unitedtraditions.org currently only available in French.

A book about the Interfaith Gathering, Le Cercle des Anciens by Patrice Van Eersel and Alain Grosrey, has been published in French by Albin Michel. (ISBN: 2-226-10021-0).

 


PARTICIPANTS

There were 40 representatives of various faiths and traditions, approximately half of whom were from Indigenous cultures. The latter were accompanied by intepreters and anthropologists to help translate and explain their traditions and rituals. Each of the principal delegates performed a sacred ritual or ceremony which we were invited to film.

 

A. INDIGENOUS TRADITIONS:


ASIA


Lopoeun Trinley Nyima Rimpoche

Chief Instructor, Menri Monastery (Bön tradition), Dolangi, Himachal Pradesh, India.


Yeche Namgyal Nyima Rimpoche

Official translator of Bön manuscripts, Menri Monastery, Dolangi, Himachal Pradesh, India.


Bernard Freon

A Bön specialist, official representative of Menri Monastery in France.

 


NORTH AMERICA:


Aurelio Diaz Tekpankalli

Purepecha, Spiritual Chief of the Native American Church of Itzachilatlan.
President of the Condor and Eagle Confederation.


Chief Jeffrey Hubbel

Onondaga Nation.


Grandmother Anna Haala

Tlingit Nation. President of the Alaska Native Cultural Heritage Association.


Sparky Shooting Star

Cherokee Nation.


Morgan Eagle Bear

Apache Nation.


Grandmother Sarah Smith

Mohawk Nation.

 


SOUTH AMERICA:


Hilario Chiriap

Shuar shaman of the Upper Amazon tropical rainforest, from Ecuador.


Alexis Naranjo

Interpreter. Ecuadorian author and poet. Shuar expert.


Phillippe Descola

Ethnologist. Student of Levi-Strauss. Spent three years living with the Shuar.
Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études et Sciences Sociales (Paris).
Author, "Les Lances du Crépuscule".

 


AUSTRALIA:


Dick Leichlener

President of the Papunya Council.


Tim Johnson

Translator, conceptual artist.

 


EUROPE:


Fallyk Kantchyyr-Ool

President, Tuva Society of Shamans.


Albert Kouvezine

Harmonic chord singer.


Ekaterina Krynkina

Interpreter from the Republic of Tuva.


Nadia Stepanova

Shaman from the Buryat Republic.
President, Siberian Shamans Association

 


AFRICA:


Monte Wambile

Of royal lineage, faith-keeper of the Rendille camel-herding pastoralists
in the Kaisut Desert in Kenya, said to be the "Holders of the Stick of God".


Orotare Wambile

Interpreter for Monte Wambile.


Mrs. Roumeguere-Eberhard

Honorary Research Director,
Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris.
Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. Majeobaje African Chief in 1996.
Initiated into the Tsonga girls in Khomba and with the Venda Princesses at Domba in South Africa.
Rendille specialist.


Daagbo Hounoun Houna

Supreme Chief of the Voudon tradition, from Benin.


Christian Hounoun

Assistant to Daagbo Hounoun Houna.


B. WORLD FAITHS


CATHOLIC CHURCH:


Father Baudin

Member of the General Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference,
Representing Monsignor Bille, President of the Episcopal Conference.


Father de Béthune

Secretary General of the Commission on Inter-Religious Monastic Dialogue,
Consultant to the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, the Vatican.

 


PROTESTANT CHURCH:


Pastor Hans Ucko

Executive Secretary of the Bureau of Inter-religious relations, World Council of Churches.
Representing Pastor Konrad Raiser, President, World Council of Churches.


Pastor Jacky Argaud.

 


ORTHODOX CHURCH:


Monsignor Damaskinas


Father Leloup.

 


JUDAISM:


Because the gathering took place during the Jewish feast of Passover, no representative attend.
However, a message of solidarity was read by Professor Marco Diani.

 


ISLAM:


His Excellency Sheikh Boubakeur

Rector of the Muslim Institute of the Mosque of Paris, France.


Sheikh Bentounes

Master of the Al Alawi Brotherhood and heir of an uninterrupted line of Sufi Masters.


Faouzi Skali

Professor, École Nationale Superieure, Fez, Morocco.
Doctor of Anthropology, Ethnology and Religious Science, University of Paris.

 


HINDUISM:


Sri Ashoke Chaterjee

Disciple of Satya Charan Lahiri, who asked him to transmit the Sadhana of Kriya Yoga. Successor of Swami Brahmananda.

 


BUDDHISM:


H.H. the XIVth. Dalai Lama

Nobel Peace Laurate. Spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.


Lama Denys Teundroup

President, the European Buddhist Union.
Spiritual Director, Karma Ling Institute, Val Saint Hugon, France.

 

* This video can be purchased online from http://www.mysticfire.com/ They also have many different videos of a similar nature to this one as well as Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth" series *

** To find out more about Global Vision and the film they are currently producing (that is "an impressionistic musical feature film conceived as a Collective Self-Portrait of Humankind and the Biosphere - a concept without precedent in art or motion picture history"), please visit: http://www.global-vision.org/ **