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Book Review: Summoned by the Earth: Becoming a Holy Vessel for Healing Our World

Prospecta Press published Summoned by the Earth: Becoming a Holy Vessel for Healing Our World by Cynthia Jurs, in March 2024. This volume features forwards and endorsements by some Buddhist heavyweights: Lama Tsultrim Allione, Robert A. F. Thurman, Joanna Macy, Roshi Joan Halifax, and Jack Kornfield, with blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself.

A former San Francisco counterculture wild-child in the 1960s, a Dharma teacher since 1994, and an honorary lama since 2018 for her dedication to the Earth Treasure Vase practice, Cynthia embodies her 30-year pilgrimage, which has taken her to some remarkable places, and to some of the darkest, in her mission to heal the feminine, honor indigenous cultures, foster a collective awakening, and serve Gaia, humanity’s home.

As the author explains, the Earth, suffering from severe exploitation, resonates with pain that is felt by those who empathize with Her plight. Master Thich Nhat Hanh taught that salvation lies in heeding the Earth’s lament, and it was this sentiment that propelled Cynthia on a transformative journey to the Himalayas, culminating in a life-altering encounter with a sage who bestowed on her a formidable task.

From eastonstudiopress.com

On one hand, this book is the journal of a woman’s (not always easy) life journey, physically and spiritually. It is also a book about a journey that has expanded to touch countless lives, transcending individual experiences to become a shared human story, one of which we are all a part.

It is the story of a woman’s mission and the travels that would take her from her crumbling but familiar life in the United States to the caves of Nepal. From northern Alaska to the pyramids of Giza. From the warm embrace of the Aboriginals of Australia to the cries for peace in the hell realms of the Congo. This leviathan of an undertaking required absolute clarity of purpose—not always evident, especially during those early steps—and faith in the universe’s guidance. Despite numerous trials and the relinquishment of cherished possessions, Cynthia learned to attune not only to inner knowing and whispers from beyond the veil, but also to the wisdom of the land and its inhabitants. And during this journey that spanned the globe, Cynthia learned to embrace her role as a peacemaker and healer, under the guidance of the Earth Herself. It is a story that fills the pages of this book with insights both deep and wide.

We are launched into a real-time journey  with Cynthia trekking up mountains. At first glance, it is all too easy to imagine the scene: a young, eager, and naive Western woman ascends the mountain to seek answers to her existential questions about the state of the world from a robe-clad, wise old man in a cave. He conjures an impressive-sounding task out of thin air: “Get some terracotta vases made, fill them with trinkets and flowers and such, then bury them all over the world, especially in dangerous places.” He then sends her on her way, leaving him to resume his day of cushion-sitting, while she embarks on a treacherous path that will change her life. 

As I read and briefly pondered my private and peculiarly British dark sense of humor, my three-year-old granddaughter wanted her tummy tickled. I obliged, and, as she rolled around with unapologetic belly giggles, I was snapped back to the reality that the world needs humans who will help save us from those who have lost their humanity, however surreal the endeavor may seem. We need it for ourselves, for our Earth home, and for the generations of belly giggles to come. I read on and rejoined Cynthia on her ascent, already a decade into her Buddhist studies by this point, yet she also had as much curiosity over this strange and movie-like opportunity and task ahead as any of us would have.

The Earth Treasure Vase practice has been known for many hundreds of years, and has been quietly implemented across all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, despite not being extensively spoken about. These vases were traditionally created and filled with precious offerings, be they sacred relics or flowers and stones, filled with prayers, blessed, and disseminated annually in ancient Tibet, as the terma of Padmasambhava requested for these degenerate times. Like a pebble dropped in water, they would radiate healing-like ripples of energetic influence. 

Many have said that there will always be a chasm between religion and science, with a cynical argument that religion often relies on fantastical acts that are but figments of the mind, even if those acts have a pleasant placebo effect. While it is true that the creative act is a purpose in itself—which can be substantiated by neuroscience, in that the act of creating or even of ritual, sends signals around the brain and into the body that have physiological and emotional effects—it’s at the quantum level where science has shown that there is no physicality and that everything we consider solid is in fact just energy at a specific frequency. Observation, and even intention, may not be contained within an individual’s cranium; there’s a growing body of science that suggests that these intentions can have a direct effect on the “behavior” of quantum particles, which form the foundation of everything we experience as solid and tangible. And while this field of study is ongoing, it helps to remove a mystical language for those cynical folk among us when explaining how an inert object may be considered “sacred.”

The Earth Treasure Vases of Cynthia’s journey, some buried in haste and secrecy, others with more elaborate ceremony, transcend their physical form. Beyond their energetic ripple effect, and regardless of how they found their way into the earth, many vases would turn out to do something just as profound. They became powerful symbols that helped bring communities together, bringing awareness to the issues of the area—symbols that shone the light of wisdom on what people really want. A resolution to the impediments of a good life, they became totems of hope.

For it is hope that many people risk losing, as Cynthia points out. Be it the loss of hope for peace at the end of too many brutal days, the loss of hope for a safe home for our children, or for the state of the planet. Hope is corrupted and consumed by the cancer of ignorance, insatiable greed, and wanton power and cruelty. The truth can be difficult to hear, but Cynthia’s words don’t shy away from the realities against which many of us would rather bury our heads in the sand of naiveté than face. And with that in mind, readers should note that there is content within that some may find triggering.

But healing is possible—individually and globally—and Cynthia highlights not only her own healing but that of some remarkable men and women she’s met along her way. But as women, there’s also the pain of relentless suppression of our nameless sisters, daughters, aunts, and mothers; the cruel injustice of biology. Yet, as Cynthia shares, the initiation of change through non-violence brings with it hope for equanimity.

It’s a sad reflection of the world and the Buddhist community that when imagining the Buddha as female (for reasons explained in her book) the author still felt the need to preface her thoughts with what appeared to me to be diplomatically worded arguments. But I do understand why. That said, as far as I’m concerned, gendering wisdom or enlightenment is as daft as gendering a kettle. 

Of course, we filter everything through the cultural context of an unbalanced society with roots dating back 3,000 years or so. However, while men have an inherent unconscious drive to provide and protect, this was taken to extremes. What we know culturally today and the undercurrents of sexism, some argue, date back to something as simple as the agricultural revolution and ownership over stocks of grains. This led to male insecurities of lack (combined with the drive of testosterone) to procure more grain, garner more land, more power and governance, and more subjugation and suppression. 

This is the second book I’ve reviewed in as many months that discusses the sexism that still festers in the underbelly of Buddhism. Yet reading Cynthia’s retelling of Gautama’s story as though it was Gotami whose indelible legacy made the annals of history was a triggering reminder of the infiltrating power of storytelling and what it does to the collective unconscious. And of how these stories become such an unconscious trope that women will literally subjugate themselves while thinking that it’s all perfectly normal. How many stories—in literature and film—still have a male protagonist and a majority of male characters accompanied by a couple of female caricatures (stereotypes that fulfill certain storyline criteria), and we don’t even notice? Just how much of our attitudes are still based on men’s concern of not having enough grain to keep the tribe fed?   

It’s time we moved on and realized that we are all of us in this together.

Cynthia Jurs. From youtube.com

The reality is that this book is far more than one woman’s journey. It is a sharing of reasons why certain places were chosen to bury vases for healing, and the often-harrowing history behind those reasons. It gives voice to the unheard, plays witness to the unseen, and gives the “what” and the “why” the vases contain what they did. It’s an education and it’s also an invitation. An invitation to hope, to love, to think, to awaken . . . 

As I continued reading through Cynthia’s experiences, reading her biography, her journal of extraordinary events, and eavesdropping on sacred moments, the end pages really started talking to me directly. I felt waves wash over me of being held in Indra’s Net, and of the global family who are committed to awakening our vibrant grace beyond these long days of Kali Yuga. Cynthia’s words remind us that, however small we feel our contribution may be, we are, in fact, integral to the net, to the whole.

This is a book that unexpectedly sat with me long after I turned the last page—the real-life stories within the adventure, Cynthia’s remarkable endeavors, and the ripple effect that continues to work its “magic” to this day. The suffering, the healing, the mountains, the water, the trees, the wise folk, the craft-folk, the guides and dakinis, the myths, the history, the future and present, all whirring around in my mind. It has me sharing a similar question to that posed by Cynthia. 

What impossible ripple can you and I start today to heal our world and to return us to a paradise where all our three-year-olds can belly-giggle in safety and grow in vibrant grace for generations to come?

As I conclude this review, there is a remarkable astrological event taking place that some suggest is perfectly timed for this question of what we want to birth, both personally and globally.

As a footnote, thoughts about how often the term White came up—as it so often does these days—had the historian in me wanting to share her halfpenny’s worth. We all know what it means and refers to, but it’s an easy trope that too often villainizes all white people for all the terrible things that have ever happened. Still, while Cynthia addresses many dreadful historical happenings, and, of course, I understand the privilege that’s referenced, I feel that we do an injustice to all the white tribes who have not participated in the colonization and subjugation of others. The Irish and the Sami for starters. I just want to acknowledge you. 

See more

Summoned By The Earth: Becoming a Holy Vessel for Healing Our World (Prospecta Press)

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