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For the Ojibwa, beliefs are not opinions, not a set of commandments, not a doctrine, nor a set of principles.
In English the word belief means an opinion or a conviction and, in the context of religion, it refers to a doctrine or theories held by a group.
My Christian neighbours, Muslim business associates, Buddhist acquaintances and Hindu friends have trouble getting their head around the idea that there is no canon of directives that will point an Ojibwa child toward heaven or nirvana.
Christians and Muslims presume that man is created in the likeness of god, but that there is a separation between the two. Not so for the Anishnabe.
The universe in which we live is alive with the spirit of
the Manitou. The Ojibwa don't have a word or concept that separates the animate from the inanimate, that separates man from his
In the traditional culture, Ojibwa believed that everything was part of that spirit and as Anishnabeg (the good beings) we were called to act accordingly. Each individual was expected to live life committed to finally understanding what it means to be a part of Manitou.
For the Ojibwa, belief is a process. Belief is a lifelong commitment to consciously living life in a way that allows the spiritual essence of everything we know and everything we don't know to contribute to our sense of oneness with the mystery that is the universe.
Manitou means mystery. Gitchi Manitou means the great mystery.
In the language of the Ojibwa, belief literally means "the truth that is evident in the way of the action". The word we use is n'debewetawinxxi.
As humans we procrastinate, goof off, make excuses, rationalize and generally avoid the things we know we "should" be doing. Appreciating the nature of human beings, the traditional Ojibwa social structure and value system evolved to guide men and women back to consciousness.
The concept of vision quest was part of that process. By participating in that ritual young men began their lifelong search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment.
But for the Ojibwa, belief that was possible to envision one's life path was only the beginning.
True self-realization was/is only possible through the process of being in action again and again and again, to understand the spiritual truths that are fundamental to being a good person.
But life is short.
We have thoughts but don't think.
It's easier to know we're right than live in the question.
We are self-righteous.
We strive to dominate our relationships. (Think not? See above.)
If we can't dominate we strive to avoid domination.
And on and on.
What are good people like you and me to do?
If we had access to the time-honoured traditional knowledge of the Ojibwa, the universe would conspire to help us in our quest for enlightenment.