Jeffrey Scott, Guest
People. Law. Government. These three elements have been at the center of the human story since recorded history and the subject of dreamers and despots alike. How shall people live in a society? Who decides “rights” and whether they are granted or a natural birthright? Are governments created to serve the people or do the people serve government? History is replete with hundreds of unsuccessful experiments, ranging from monarchy to democracy, and from anarchism to plutocracy. And if law is the interface between the people and a government, how are “fairness” and “justice” decided?
Surveying the globe at this point in the 21st Century, much of humanity still lives under a system predicated upon the concept of “The Divine Right of Kings” – a political and religious doctrine that asserts the monarch is subject to God only and no earthly authority. Further, most advanced “First World” nations have developed systems of laws, rules, regulations, statutes, ordinances, codes and policies that are so complex, so byzantine, that they defy most reasonable attempts at comprehension.
With humanity at a crossroads and current political and economic institutions failing, many are seeking a more heart-centered way of living wherein people are honored above material acquisition. But where shall we look? What noteworthy examples from history might light the way? Perhaps we need only look back little more than 500 years to Peru for part of the answer.
In January 2013, I found myself standing at the train station, alone, in the small mountain town of Aguas Calientes in Peru. Most people will know this name as the “starting point” for anyone wishing to ascend the formidable heights to reach the citadel of Machu Picchu. While I always held a deep fascination with this mysterious city, it wasn’t until 2012 that the call to visit became inexorable and underscored by a most mysterious, chance meeting with a Mayan shaman in Guatemala a month prior who, despite not knowing me, told me: “You have to go to Machu Picchu”. I listened.
So, in the pre-dawn hours of January 14th, I met my local quechua guide who would accompany me up the steep switch-back mountain road to the sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Without her guidance, this would have been an amazing experience in its own right, but far less profound. Although I had seen many photographs of Machu Picchu over the years, nothing prepares you for the experience of actually walking through these incredible ruins, seeing and touching the incomprehensible stonework, witnessing the design and architecture of the city, and in fact, feeling the nearly palpable energy of this sacred site. My experience came to life through the eyes and words of my guide and her profound understanding of these people, her ancestors, and how they lived.
As Esmeralda guided me though the often narrow passages of the stone dwellings, she shared what she knew about life and society in Machu Picchu. While there is much that is still not known about the purpose of this magical but enigmatic city, I was not at all surprised to learn that they did have a king and a royal family or royal class of sorts, as this was common during that time and culture. However, their society and economy was based on barter rather than money. Yes, it was a “money-less” society. But what I was quite shocked to learn was that they only had 3 laws! Indeed, one has to really stretch the imagination to conceptualize how a complex, educated society could function with only 3 laws and no jails or prisons that anyone can identify. How could any culture devise 3 laws that could apply to or even attempt to govern the vast range of human behaviors? One can almost hear the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe echoing on the breezes: “The best government is that which teaches us to govern ourselves.”
As we paused to talk, Esmeralda explained the nature of these 3 laws and their meaning, and I could immediately sense the profound but simple beauty encoded in what she was sharing. Sitting there on a wooden bench under a leaking tarp in the misty rain, a dizzying 1800 feet above the Urubamba River, I hastily scribbled my notes. I now understood why the Mayan shaman I met in Guatemala just a month earlier told me what she did. My sudden realization of having a responsibility to share this message with all who would listen became instantly clear, and it is the reason why I wrote a small ebook entitled Wisdom from Machu Picchu: 3 Words to Change Your Life. For while this Andean wisdom pre-dates the Inca civilization, truth is timeless. Perhaps it is now our time to relearn these truths and take them to heart.
The first Law is Munay. Munay is quechua word, and it teaches “In everything you do, do it with love and love each other”. Love is a cornerstone of every major religion and spiritual practice. And while the concept of love has many meanings, the love referred to here is not the romantic form. Rather, it refers to that deep, non-personal love that radiates from the heart to all people and all things and is known and expressed through it’s many attributes, such as kindness, compassion, respect, and caring. It can be demonstrated through our behavior and our attitude even when we don’t “feel” the feeling. It is an acknowledgement of the sacredness of all things and of all life and expects nothing in return. Munay is a way of being. And it is a way of seeing other people, events and the world. It is so simple it can be taught to a child. Munay is the quintessential antidote to both fear and greed, the unfortunate attributes endemic in many modern societies. Munay provides the foundation that allows both respect and trust to flourish, as the foundation for a healthy, sane society.
How might a society of people be transformed is they adopted just this first law from Machu Picchu? How would it alter our inter-personal relationships, our family dynamics, and our commercial dealings? How would it alter our presumed need to be governed if we are, in fact, governing ourselves?
Munay is the first Law from the people living at Machu Picchu, and it serves as the critical foundation for the Second and Third Law which compliment and expand upon this cornerstone. “In everything you do, do it with love and love each other.”
In future articles, I will continue by discussing the Second Law and Third Laws, Yachay and Llancay, and how they may inspire us today.
About the Author
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