“There is no ‘I’ existing as some substantial thing; there is only the ceaseless flow. This is true not only of me, but of all things.” — Kosho Uchiyama, “Opening the Hand of Thought”
Listening to so much Bob Marley over the past few days has renewed my interest in the philosophy, faith and beliefs of the Rastafarians. As someone perpetually interested in what goes on in the world and why, the Rastafari movement was one that I found interesting as soon as I came into contact with it many many years ago.
The Rastafari movement is not called “Rastafarianism”. The “ism” is somewhat offensive for quite a few reasons, mostly to do with Babylon things.
They especially reject the word “Rastafarianism”, because they see themselves as “having transcended -isms and schisms.” This has created conflict between some Rastas and some members of the academic community studying Rastafari, who insist on calling this faith “Rastafarianism” in spite of the disapproval this generates within the Rastafari movement. Nevertheless, the practice continues among scholars, though there are also instances of the study of Rastafari using its own terms.
from Rastafari movement
There is a well developed religious philosophy and several major sects within Rastafari. For a brief time there was a Black Supremacy aspect to some of the Rastafari philosophy. This tended to coincide with civil rights issues in other places at the time. However after a speech in 1963 by Haile Selassie Emperor of Ethiopia (who is considered to be the second coming of the Christ by the Rastafarians) at the United Nations in which he said:
“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil….
We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”
much of the issue was reoriented away from dominance thinking back to a more egalitarian viewpoint.
I won’t go into all of that but one thing that really strikes me, as a Buddhist, is the concept behind Iyaric or particular vocabulary used in Rastafari.
I&I (or I and I or InI)
I&I signifies I&I unity with JAH the Most High. As in I and I God, it is also used to signify I&I Rastafari bredren and sistren, also signifying I&I unity with the Most I. So it can mean I or we or even you, although now more I’s would say “the I” for you.
The dictionary definition below is from the Rasta Patois Dictionary
“I and I, I&I:
I, me, you and me, we (1)Rastafari speech eliminates you, me we, they, etc., as divisive and replaces same with communal I and I. I and I embraces the congregation in unity with the Most I (high) in an endless circle of inity (unity).”
I replaces “me”, which is much more commonly used in Jamaican English than in the more conventional forms. Me is felt to turn the person into an object whereas I emphasises the subjectivity of an individual.
I and I is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. Rastafari scholar E. E. Cashmore: “I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we’re one people in fact. The bond of Ras Tafari is the bond of God, of man. But man itself needs a head and the head of man is His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I (always pronounced as the letter ‘I,’ never as the number one or ‘the first’) of Ethiopia.” The term is often used in place of “you and I” or “we” among Rastafari, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.
The recognition of the oneness and unity of people, people with their god concept and people as equal expressions of a god or as maintaining a “sameness within difference” has appeared in many religions. Hinduism is the example that first comes to mind.
Within monotheistic traditions one might mark the differences between the god concept as either “transcendent” or “immanent”. Transcendent gods are differentiated from people and unreachable. Immanent gods dwell within or can be reached by human beings. Sufism, gnostic traditions within Christianity and Judaism all have the element of the immanent which sets them apart from the mainstream which views a god as something “other” or “out there” somewhere.
With traditions that don’t maintain such god concepts there is still this sense of unity. Buddhism exhibits that.
The I&I expression strikes me as quite similar to a lot of Buddhist concepts.
Interdependence (another I word) in the English language doesn’t go far enough to really capture how we are all in this together.
Intermersion if there is such a word might be more apt.
There is no end of one I and beginning of another.
I and I.
A little history and background of the Rastafari movement
Musical Interlude-Niyabinghi chants
Reggae music is not the only music associated with the Rastas. Burra style drumming, which influenced Hip-Hop appears. Of more central importance in the expression of the Rasta beliefs are Niyabinghi chants. Niyabinghi is also the name of one of the major “houses” or “mansions” (groups) of Rastafari.
are played at worship ceremonies called grounations, that include drumming, chanting and dancing, along with prayer and ritual smoking of cannabis. The name Nyabinghi comes from an East African movement from the 1850s to the 1950s that was led by people who militarily opposed European imperialism.
Here is a grounation in South Africa which includes Niyabinghi chants, preaching, worshipful dancing and group walking chants in circumambulation.
And here is a much larger grounation with onlookers in Jamaica.
Someone in YouTube comments has written down some of the words for this latter video.
Them gi wi basket fi go carry water. Them gi wi basket fi go carry water. Ohhhh Jah Rastafari rule this land. Ethiopia land, Waa go home a Ethiopia land . Waa go home a Ethipian lan land oooh. Jah Rastafari rule the land. Repartriate, Go get a dread mek wi repartriate whaooo, Jah Rastafari rule the land…..