An Evening With Benki Piyako

Benki at his home in the state of Acre, Brazil.

It is with pride that I write to you about a man who means so much, to so many. A man who heals. A man who leads. A man who is totally committed to each and every endeavor. A man named Benki.

It is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to describe him within a few short pages. Words themselves, no matter the arrangement, seem to fall short of capturing his essence. Some words that can begin to describe him are: Ashaninka, shaman, leader, healer, father, son, brother, husband, and teacher.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Benki is his conviction and his passion for his cause. And his cause isn’t just ‘his’, because it is actually for everyone and all the living creatures on our Earth. His cause is that of planetary one-ness, a realization of all beings living in harmony. I suspect that his conviction is rooted in his knowing that this is possible. He sincerely believes that, by uniting and working together, we can achieve a healthy and sustainable future. He knows the risks and that failing will result in the further demise and destruction of our planet and, with it, the human race.

For over 25 years he has been studying and practicing healing and spiritual journeying by using natural plant medicines of the Amazon. Ayahuasca is certainly his principle partner in healing and spirit work, but his knowledge of other medicinal plants is as seemingly endless as the forest itself.

Through this work, and the people he encounters, he constantly sees the ill effects of our current paradigm. The toxicity of the planet, both physical and mental, is growing rapidly. Disease, depression, addiction, pain, and suffering, are all too common symptoms people acquire by simply trying to live life. When Benki works with someone he can literally feel their pain, he takes it on when he heals them of their addictions, fears, illnesses.

While some may perceive the role of a shaman as a sort of a glorified guru-rockstar who travels the world for vast sums of money in exchange for psychedelic kicks — -this couldn’t be further from the truth. The work they do can be brutal and unimaginably taxing. There is most definitely love and light, illumination and enlightenment, but there is a lot of darkness to be dealt with and the hard, hard work is never-ending.

Regardless of the darkness, there is still hope. In Benki’s endless work, both at home and abroad, he also sees the desire for change and he can feel the energy moving towards it. As a leader of the Ashaninka (and now, as a teacher of many people from around the world) he knows his mission is a serious one. He knows that this is why he is on this Earth — -to heal everyone he can so that we can unite the planet as a powerful tribe and bring about the change Gaia deserves.

True leaders are a rare thing in this world and now, more than ever, we need the pajés to help us navigate these strange times. Almost the only other people I can compare Benki to are other indigenous leaders or perhaps the Dalai Lama. Leaders who remain true to their people and are untainted by the trappings of power.

To truly get their message and power, you must see them and hear them speak. Fortunately there is an opportunity: September 26th at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. There will be a lecture and visual presentation, followed by a Q&A, starting at 7pm at the Naropa Performing Arts Center at 2130 Arapahoe Ave.