"You don’t have to be a philosopher; you just have to want to know who you are."
― Padmasambhava, The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Iron Bird Mission (more or less)
"To provide access to timeless practices and insights, messaged for current times, to empower individuals to parse the world efficiently, to shift and uplift their awareness, and to more consciously experience the inherent fullness of their nature and being."
Iron Bird Story
(short and sweet version, because everybody’s busy)
There’s a wealth of self-help information out there, itself helpful (or not) to widely varying degrees. That helpfulness depends largely on our own personal needs, of course, but also on the legitimacy of the sources, and the ease of access to distilled kernels of well, truth. That’s basically it.
The raw data needs to be accurate, and to have stood the test of time. But it also needs to be readily consumable, or it’ll just be overlooked. We simply don’t have the time to process all of that ourselves – too many other demands and distractions.
So, then what to do? Nothing? Give up before we start? Add it to next year’s resolution list? Squeeze it in between pandemics and more mundane daily demands?
Or, what if we took historically tested golden nuggets from ancient and wise sages, and tried to translate them into the vernacular of the current day. Make them more approachable, and so also adoptable. Just as healthy food does you no good if you can’t afford it, or don’t have time to shop for it, prepare it, and then eat it, similarly, the wisdom of the ages doesn’t do you any good if it’s always many random Google searches away, or demands a lifetime of study in a life that’s already spoken for.
Green Drinks and Supplements (literal and figurative, the Cliff Notes to higher consciousness) – to the rescue! Find a trusted source. Consume in healthy, bite-sized and on-the-run doses. Repeat. Watch things change.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Iron Bird Story, Reprised
(the long version, but still not that long, really)
In essence, our story is already well over a thousand years old. It was then, about 1200 years ago or so, when King Trisong Detsen of Tibet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trisong_Detsen) heard of the exploits of a renowned Vajrayana master and Tantrika, known as Padmasambhava
The King sent several of his ministers to India to summon Padmasambhava to Tibet, in order to both avail himself of the master's wisdom and to enlist his support in dealing with some of the exoteric and esoteric problems in the Kingdom.
Padmasambhava, later also coming to be known by the name Guru Rinpoche (Precious Teacher) by the Tibetans, accepted the offer, and traveled to Tibet to be of service, with the Dharma safely in tow. He spent most of the rest of his life there, traveling to every nook and cranny, every corner of the Land of the Snows, as well as to other countries on the roof of the world, such as Nepal and Bhutan.
According to historical sources, Guru Rinpoche himself prophesied that at a time in the future, in an age when the average lifespan of humans approached one hundred years, and "when the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world, and the Dharma will come to the Land of the Red Man."
With the invasion of Tibet in the 1950's by the Chinese Communists and the subsequent diaspora of many of the Tibetan people, leaders, and clergy, this prophecy has come to pass. This is both a tragedy for the Tibetan people, and a blessing for the rest of the world, as Tibetan culture and Buddhist teachings are propagated and eagerly embraced.
The Dharma has truly spread the world over, to the great benefit of all of humanity. But… what is Dharma? What does that mean in this day and age?
HH the Dalai Lama himself has said that if you ask the average Tibetan, they would have a hard time distinguishing Tibetan culture from Buddhism - the two are that closely intertwined. Yet while they are that closely connected, Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism doesn't resemble the Hinayana Buddhism of India and other South Asian countries, or even to some degree the Mahayana Buddhism of Zen.
Buddhism, or let's call it Dharma for now, morphed, magically incorporating the culture and traditions, including indigenous Bon, of its new host and homeland. Something at its core though remains unchanged and untainted, even while adopting the nuances of the new vessel - like the proverbial water in a vase. The core Truth remains, but is reflected in the new container, comfortably, and completely.
So ok then, what does ancient Tibet have to do with us here today? Well, Guru Rinpoche said that the Dharma would go to the west, and that appears to have happened, or be in the process of happening. But...now what? And what is this Dharma? Is it Tibetan Buddhism, as it evolved over the centuries in Tibet? Or is it the water in the vase? And if so, can we discern the pure water itself? And what does the vase look like now, or what might it look like over time?
So it seems the task at hand is to consider that if Vajrayana Buddhism could go to Tibet and incorporate local Bon deity practices, then maybe it's capable of being dropped into literally any environment - assuming of course that this core somehow is preserved. That means then it's a viable proposition to drop it into current day America (or other western cultures), just as it has been adopted by other diverse cultures in the past, and see what happens.
The Dharma itself seems to present as tenacious and eager, willful and gently persistent - like dandelions rising through asphalt. The obstacles to taking root and growth ultimately seem to be no match to its progression - if the underlying health, purity, and strength of the message are all sustained and preserved. And that's a big "if", of course.
As Buddhism, Dharma, took on the timbre of its surroundings repeatedly over the course of its history, it will necessarily have to do that once again in this current age, and in its new container, the west.
And if it could take on and adopt Tibetan cultural icons, why couldn't it take equally foreign concepts such as modern technology, business and capitalism, rock-n-roll, and all the other facets and energies of the emerging Aquarian age as well? Wouldn't it actually have to?
(Spoiler alert: Yeah well, of course it would...)
So, back to Iron Bird Dharma, and our story - making it current. It remains to be seen how western culture and modern era lifestyles and technology will affect how the Dharma evolves in the West. But there is no question that all of that will have an effect, or at least to varying degrees.
We have no choice but to accept that the influencers are there surrounding us, constantly. Our job is not to keep those influences out - we can't. Our job is to understand the best we can what the core Dharma is, what the essence is, and then how best to preserve that, while allowing for the fact that influence will certainly happen.
If history is any example, then the western Dharma of the future will be flavored by all that surrounds and touches it, culturally, politically, economically, socially. There will be countless influences that will sort out over time, but the Dharma itself will always remain fluid and pristine, as has Tibetan Buddhism, while it has continued to evolve and flourish over the many centuries since Guru Rinpoche himself.
Iron Bird Dharma aspires to be just one of hopefully countless positive and inevitable coming influences on those timeless Truths, the blessings passed down to us today through the many sacred lineages.
Over time, these blessings and teachings will do what they do – take root, revealing their treasures to receptive hearts and minds. But they will also take on a new flavor, influenced by those same receptive vessels, and by the other societal and cultural containers which hold them.