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Anthropological literature on religion and magic

Individual Documents

Title: Nat and Nat Kadaw : The Existence of the Local Cult in Myanmar Tradition
Date of publication: 26 July 2015
Description/subject: Introduction: "Myanmar has had the prosperous religion, traditional, and other forms of culture in their ways of life. Regarding of the religion, the long-­‐standing and extensive belief in holy and tutelary spirits (Nat) among Myanmese could be generally cited as the Myanmar’s tradition prior the Theravada. Then Buddhism has become to the official faith since King Anawrahta of Bagan dynasty instituted Theravada– a school of Buddhism– to be the principal religion in 11th century. Like Myanmar, other societies in Southeast-­‐Asia and all where the ancient belief and religion is respected and followed by those local people. Among the several Myanmar primitive cults, this article would like to raise the topic of the existence of colorful ritual which fully contains of high respect; Nat and Nat Kadaw (spirit and spirit medium). Actually, this traditional belief has been gradually illustrated by the scholars in different aspects, the classic one was written by the American anthropologist; Melford E. Spiro (1967). Three decades later, the specifically ritual book about the well-­‐known Myanmar local festival was completed by Yves Rodrigue (1995) and other views such as the intensive of this ritual, spirit and spirit medium have been still described by Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière (2009) and the other authors. This attractive cult, however, has still remained interesting phenomenon because the existence of the local be lief and rite has closely been in Myanmese ways of life from Buddhism belief, strict Buddhists and non-­‐Buddhist alliances. In addition, some interesting aspects are that how the Myanmar’s socio-­‐economic changing into the modern society effects to their local belief and spirit worship, how their social transition would affect to the people appealing, and how the Nat Kadaws play their roles and have relations under this context.".....Paper delivered at the International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015.
Author/creator: Patchareepan Ravangban
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015
Format/size: pdf (184K)
Alternate URLs: http://rcsd.soc.cmu.ac.th/web/Burma/home.php#
Date of entry/update: 21 August 2015


Title: Showing Respect and Bowing Down to Nats: Spirit Worship and Gender in a Village in Upper Burma
Date of publication: 27 December 2014
Description/subject: "Buddhist Bamah living on the plains of the the Ayeyawadi River’s middle reaches formed what can be called the “Burmasphere” through cultural exchanges with other ethnic or religious groups in the surrounding area. In the Burmasphere, people adhere to the absolute superiority of Theravada Buddhism and conduct a variety of religious practices such as spirit worship, Brahmanism, and witchcraft. This paper considers the relationship between gender and religious practices, focusing on spirit worship in the Burmasphere and cases from rural communities in Upper Burma. Regarding spirit worship and gender, Brac de la Perrière showed how the feminine dimensions of spirit mediumship involve not only Burmese gender construction, but also the Burmese construction of difference and how it is encoded in the hierarchical system [Brac de la Perrière 2007]. This article will focus on the spirit ritual for the “Spirits of Tradition” (mizain hpazain nat or miyohpala nat) held in a village in Upper Burma, which is not necessarily needed a help of spirit mediums, as Spiro called a “simple and essentially private ritual”..."
Author/creator: IIKUNI Yukako
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Journal of Sophia Asian Studies, No. 32, 2014... 上智アジア学 第32 号2014 年 目次 ...Burma Studies in Japan: History, Culture and Religion
Format/size: pdf (1MB)
Alternate URLs: http://repository.cc.sophia.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/123456789/36545/1/200000079942_000134000_57.pdf
Date of entry/update: 23 September 2015


Title: Idealism and Pragmatism: A Dilemma in the Current Monastic Education Systems of Burma and Thailand
Date of publication: 23 May 2004
Description/subject: Conclusion: "In both Burma and Thailand the debate is far from over. While both the idealists and the pragmatists agree that the principal aim of the monastic education systems should be to train monks in the Dhamma and Vinaya, the two sides cannot agree whether or not steps should be taken to help fulfil some educational needs of the society by bringing in some secular subjects in monastic schools. Today, in Burma, the curricula for the various monastic examinations focus exclusively, also narrowly, from the very beginning on the study of Pali and the TipiTaka. No English, mathematics, geography, philosophy nor history are included because they are considered secular subjects.[24] As a result, even educated monks find it difficult to relate the dhamma to lay people's lives. In Thailand, too, the main curricula, such as the nak tham and the Pali parian, have remained exclusively religious. Although, since 1970 there has been a new curriculum, called sai saman suksa (lit. general way of education)[25], which combines the religious and the secular, it does seem this curriculum has been forced on the leadership and has not been a well thought through policy. This curriculum has too many subjects at each level means student-monks do not have sufficient time to learn properly either Pali and Buddhism or secular subjects.[26] In addition, this curriculum has been designed neither to replace nor to complement the traditional religious curricula, such as the nak tham and the parian curricula. It has thus the potential to distract, which I think it has done, the young monks from the nak tham and parian curricula. Indeed, its separate existence from the two highly regarded religious curricula, the nak tham and the parian, suggests that the idealists and the pragmatist have yet to work out the objectives of monastic education."... Presented at the conference on "Burmese Buddhism and the Spirit Cult Revisited - Revisiting Buddhism and the spirit cult in Burma [and Thailand]... at Stanford University, USA by Venerable Khammai Dhammasami, Oxford University, UK, 22-23 May 2004
Author/creator: Venerable Khammai Dhammasami
Language: English
Source/publisher: Stanford University, USA
Format/size: pdf (70.9 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.dhammadownload.com/images/Venerable-Dr-Khammai-Dhammasami-Biography.pdf
Date of entry/update: 17 September 2010


Title: Rethinking Daná in Burma:
Date of publication: 23 May 2004
Description/subject: "Previous anthropological literature construes daná (Pali dâna) in Burma rather narrowly, as giving to monks or to the Buddha. However, the detailed data I collected during fieldwork in Burma reveal that the Burmese understand daná more broadly, as 'giving' in which saydana (Pali cetanâ) plays a key role. The paper is a chapter of my PhD dissertation entitled "In the World of Rebirth: Politics, Economy and Society of Burmese Buddhists." By presenting ethnographic data that has not been offered in previous literature, I re-examine the Burmese concept and practice of daná. Daná is closely associated with the Burmese notions of purity, detachment, and nobility, as well as merit. Its idea is deeply grounded in the Burmese language and culture. Some forms of daná are not as conspicuous as giving to the monastic order. They are less identifiable by an outside observer, for they are not always revealed as daná because they occur in the everyday act of giving. Thus, such forms of daná have been largely neglected, or at best treated less seriously. I argue, however, that we cannot fully understand the idea of daná or the mindsets of the Burmese Buddhists without taking these forms of daná into account. A detailed observation of the everyday discourse of daná reveals that daná permeates all kinds of daily transactions, shaping the practice of giving in Burmese society. This understanding of daná may seem at odds with the traditional descriptions of daná in Burma or in other Theravada Buddhist societies. However, I will show that the Burmese understanding of daná in fact resonates with the idea of daná we find in stories of giving in Buddhist cultures. The point of my argument is not to understate the significance of giving to monks or to the Buddha. My intention is to offer a description and analysis that takes into fuller account the subtleties of the practice and language of daná."... Paper from "Burmese Buddhism and the Spirit Cult Revisited - An Interdisciplinary Conference on Religion in Contemporary Myanmar Saturday, May 22-Sunday, May 23, 2004 Hartley Conference Center Mitchell Building Stanford University.
Author/creator: Naoko Kumada
Language: English
Source/publisher: Stanford University
Format/size: pdf (162.86 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.dhammaweb.net/dhammabook/view.php?id=259
Date of entry/update: 08 July 2010