by Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, honoring Onondaga Faithkeeper Chief Oren Lyon's 80iest birthday

chief_orenlyonsDuring my first encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in October 1973 immediately after the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war, I reflected that I had had studied and had felt deep concern for the plight of the Tibetan people. But that this concern had never robbed me from sleep while I had spent now sleepless nights because Israel was in danger.

Redemption from war and oppression could only be achieved when we could feel the suffering of the other far away, as intense as the suffering our own flesh and blood. But how to realize this ultimate empathy? Now almost 40 years later I have come to the conclusion that the path towards this full inclusiveness to the other is paved by the exemplary life of modern prophets like the Dalai Lama and my dear, dear friend Chief Oren Lyons whom I want to honor today.

From the first moment I had the privilege to meet this gentle and forceful leader I felt drawn to him as a true brother and thus was brought to the inner circle of his people. At the meeting of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival in Moscow in 1990 I listened for the first time to his roaring warning not to continue to wage war against nature –because nature would always be stronger in the end with fatal consequences.

With his prayer of gratitude to the forces of the Ancestors to all the corners of the earth he consecrated time and space for all of us. And he made me listen deeper and deeper to the indigenous wisdom to be humble and to balance our actions today, in harmony with the right of the seventh generation to live on a blessed earth in complete dignity.

At a Thanks Giving celebration by Native Americans in St. John’s Cathedral I was struck by the similarity in which Native Americans commemorated Wounded Knee and the inner way as the Jewish people remember the exodus from Egypt in reliving history of the past as our personal experience.

We from the different spiritual traditions share the existential notion that we as a world community are one body and that when one part of the body aches we all feel the pain. It is Oren Lyons who takes us with his heart, mind, feet and hands on an inner journey towards wholeness where selfish frontiers dissolve and the flow of living water is unstoppable.

The Soetendorp Institute


Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values
Van Wijngaerdenstraat 21
2596 TW The Hague
The Netherlands