Erenlai - A Spiritual Treasure Map 給心靈的藏寶圖
A Spiritual Treasure Map 給心靈的藏寶圖

A Spiritual Treasure Map 給心靈的藏寶圖


The rich wisdom found in Chinese religious and spiritual traditions is not just a treasure of the past. Let us re-discover and illuminate what China has to offer to the global spiritual quest of the modern world.




Friday, 01 September 2006

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

A Liangshan Yi Religious Classic

The Liangshan Yi (Nuosu) people, in Sichuan, keep a rich corpus of religious classics that are used in various rituals. The one reproduced here (in Chinese and Nuosu writing) has been translated under the auspices of the Taipei Ricci Institute by Ma Erzi and Motsi Cyhox. The introduction was written by Bamo Qubumo, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The "Classic for the Redemption of the Soul", a text widely used during Nuosu funeral rituals, is available as an ebook in our webstore.

Sunday, 27 August 2006

The Bi-mox in The Liangshan Yi Society

Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture lies in the Southwest of Sichuan Province, China. To the North of it flows Dadu River, and south, Jinsha River (the upper section of the Yangtze River). Its 60,000 km 2 territory is the home of 1,610,000 Yi people in Liangshan, the single largest Yi community in China.

The ethnonym of the Yi in Liangshan is Nuosu. Until the democratic reform in 1956, no united regiment had evolved and the Yi community split itself into numerous patrilineal lineages. The estate-and-slave system with lineal descents and personal dependence as characteristics constituted the traditional Yi social institution. With high mountains and deep valleys as natural barriers and hostile relations to other communities around, especially to those of the Han, the traditional Liangshan Yi society developed a unique culture, including religious belief, in its own way. Believing in gods and ghosts, worshipping ancestors and a mixture of witchcraft with sacrificing ceremonies constituted the man content of traditional Yi belief.

I. Bi-mox, Religious practitioner mediating the Relations between Human and Spirits by Reciting Scriptures

To approach the nature and function of bi-mox in Liangshan Yi social-cultural context, we can start with the connotation of bi-mox as a word. This word, in turn, is closely related to su-nyit, another kind of religious practitioners in Yi society. As two kinds of religious practitioners Liangshan, the names bi-mox and su-nyit are divided by the characters of their activities. In the Yi, bi in bi-mox means to recite. It indicates how a bi-mox acts in a ceremony. This bi can be extended to refer to all the activities characterized by scripture-chanting in ceremonies, such as ge-fei-yi-tsi-bi, a ceremony to invite the spirit for birth; ma-du-bi, a ceremony to pacify the spirit (of the dead): ni-mu-tsuo-bi see the spirit off. So, bi-mox refers to a man who engages in the religious activities by reciting scriptures.

Meanwhile, the su in su-nyit means a person and sanyit means shaking while dancing and beating a drum. That is the act of su-nyit in religious ceremonies. Broadly speaking sv-nyit is very much similar to shaman a religious practitioner who in ceremonies beats drums and shakes while dancing.

Thus in religious practice, the function of a bi-mox is different from that of a su-nyits. The action of a bi-mox is more tranquil and quiet he just recites with mouth. In contrast, a su-nyit employs more body language. He beats drum and shakes in a crazy and violent manner, as if a spirit has possessed him. The etymological comparison between bi-mox and su-nyit reveals that a bi-mox is characterized by chanting scriptures. Thus, we can say bi-mox as a term refers to those religious practitioners who communicate with gods and ghosts by means of reciting scriptures.

From the "Bi-mox Scripture for Offering Sacrifice to Ancestors", we know that in the origin and early stage of development, bi-mox had no written scriptures. Their chanting was handed down by word-of-mouth. It was not until the time of Qiongbu. A legendary figure in the Yi tradition, that bi-mox began to document their scriptures down in black and white, and the history of bi-mox entered the period of literature from that- of the oral. From then on, scriptures became the groundwork of the performance of bi-mox. according to a Yis saying, there are 120 scriptures for incantation and 48 scriptures for sacrifice offering. Therefore, being literate, together with mastering written scriptures and being excellent in all the oral ones, has become a pre-requisite for a bi-mox to carry out his work and to comminicate with gods, ghosts, and ancestors.

A bi-mox communicates with gods, ghosts, and ancestors by reciting scriptures. But he is much more than a mere mouthpiece or a media between people and the supernatural spirits. Rather, he is an effective mediator, an arbitrator h the conflicting relations between people, gods, ghosts, and ancestral spirits.

It is a deep rooted Yi belief that ancestors, gods and ghosts are able to influence the thriving of population, the bumper harvest, the multiplication of cattle, the prosperity of lineage, etc. If the relationship between mankind and gods, ghosts, and ancestors breaks or becomes unbalanced, it will not only endanger the people’s belief and mentality, but also effect their material production and daily life. Gods, ghosts, and ancestral spirits are manifolds. They are good and evil. They can bless or curse people; it all depends on time and occasion. So, people praise spirits, appreciate they hate ghosts and fear gods and ancestors. In the interaction between human and various spirits, the latter do influence the life of the former. However, it is more important that the former can control the latter through the mediation of bi-mox that can dispel disasters, invite fortunes, and turn disasters into fortunes.

A bi-mox is able to predict the intention of gods and ghosts and, is familiar with ancestor’s desires. Through scripture-chanting and with the magic power of language reinforced by rites of sacrifice-offering and witchcraft with strong symbolic connotations, bi-moxes mediate the relationship between people end supernatural spirits by means of praising, appreciating, persuading, or warning, cursing, etc. Just as Chubi Somo, a famous bi-mox in Meigu county said: we bi-moxes are just like ndep-ggu, judges in the Yi folk society. The difference is that- a ndep-ggu mediates between people and/or between lineage, while a bi-moxes mediates between human and supernatural spirits. But the function is the same. The purpose of a bi-mox mediation is to serve the people. The aim of his mediation is not only to promote people’s reconciling with their faith, but also to detach people’s bonds to the supernatural spirits, including that of their ancestors’, so that they will not interact with each other.

Bi-mox has derived from Yi society since very early time end evolved into a separate order of religious practitioner. This is reflected both in the bi-mox genealogy and the standardization end normalization of the bi-mox reward as an institution. Before democratic reforms, besides cash in the form of silver, the kind in the form of animals, grain and cloth, and Yi services such as labor, such items as guns, slaves, land and even opium had entered the inventory of bi-mox’s income. A Yi saying indicates that: tiger and a leopard may fail in food-hunting, but a bi-mox and a su-nyit never returns with empty hand after performing a ceremony Up to now, reward for ritual activities still contribute total or part of a bi-mox’s livelihood in Liangshan.

In brief, bi-moxes in the Yi society are a class of people specializes in religious activities dealing with people’s faith-pertaining affairs. They mediate the relations between human and supernatural beings including their ancestral spirits by reciting scriptures. For this service, they earn payment as total or partial resources of their life.

II. The Special Bi-mox Faith relating to Their Professional Activities

Believing in supernatural spirits is common to all the Yi as an ethnic group. But on top of this, bi-moxes have their own faith. Since the formation and development of bi-mox as a religious profession, the ideology of bi-mox has gradually established and some special supernatural spirits emerged to suit the needs of the profession and to protect bi-mox activities and interests. These spirits are the objects of bi-mox’s adoration. They can be roughly classified into the bi-mox gods, the guardian gods and the souls of the bi-mox instruments and scriptures.

The common Yi name of bi-mox gods is bilu. It refers to all the spirits of bi-mox ancestor’s traceable back in the genealogy. Traditional Yi society recognized only a small number of lineage that has ever engaged in the bi-mox practice, such as the lineage of Jike, Shama, Jili, Di-re, etc. These lineages, each having whose first ancestor engaged in the practice, are called bi-mox lineages. Bi-mox lineages have the tradition of inheriting the practice of their forebears. They have carried on the career from generation to generation. The bi-mox gods include all the first ancestors in those lineages, who in their lifetime had tutored their children end grandchildren of the performance. Their souls are respected as gods and worshipped by their descendants. They are thought, on one hand, to bless their descendants multiplying and prosperous: on the other hand, to be guardians to ensure the success of their offsprings ceremonial performance. In short, the bilu have double characters: the ancestral gods and profession guardians.

As Yi society attaches great importance to consanguineous lines and blood inheritance, it is natural that each lineage has it’s own bilu. This is demonstrated clearly in bi-ci-e-yi-mu, a Yi scripture meaning The scripture of bi-mox genealogy. It is essential for every bi-mox lineage. The scripture begins with the first bi-mox ancestor of the lineage. In the form of chain-of- names between master and disciple (usually father end son, occasionally, uncle and nephew), it enlists all the bi-moxes in the lineage, down to the one who possesses and uses it today. This scripture, on one hand, is the certificate of a bi-mox’s lineage background that provides him with credit. On the other hand, it enables a bi-mox, by means of its reading or chanting, to recruit whatever reinforcement from their bi-mox ancestors to bless the success of a ceremony.

The belief of bilu (bi-mox gods) emphasizes consanguineous heredity and continuity, and stresses on believing n the ancestors to whom the bi-mox has blood ties with. This is obviously the combination of the Yi ancestral spirit belief with the bi-mox religious profession. It functions to identify and strengthen consanguineous relations between father and son, to guarantee tile heredity and continuity of bi-moxe religious status and identity.

Besides the ancestral bilu who has blood relation with them, bi-moxes also share a common belief of that famous bilu in history and widely celebrated in the Yi community. This kind of bilu usually made special contribution to their career in their lifetime. They all have the outstanding achievements, super power, profound knowledge, and lofty morals in the Yi folklore. For example, Tibi Zhamu and Haibi Shizu contributed especially the establishment of ceremonial rules. Bia Sula standardized writings and sorting out the religious scriptures. Age Emo brought a high mountain down by chanting incantation. However, from different lineages, these bilu are regarded as heroes and spiritual leaders by all the bi-moxes in Liangshan, especially the younger generation. For this reason, whenever a ceremony is held, bi-moxes would recite bi-bu-te-yi (Bi-mox Sacrifice-offering Scripture), and invite these bilu to enjoy the offerings and to ensure the success of bi-mox performance.

The Common faith to these famous bilu is a special type of belief among bi- moxes. It transcends the consanguineous limitation of lineage. In stead, it bases on personal achievement and religious practice. We can say it is a combination of hero-worshipping and professional identity. It functions to stimulate and intensify bi-mox dedication to their profession, and to encourage them following the their heroic forebearers’ example, improving themselves in knowledge and practice.

The guardian gods refers to spirits who help bi-moxes when they during their performance. In the Yi, it is called mulu musi, meaning all the spirits in nature, including the god of the sky, of the earth, of mountains, wind, rock, thunder, tree, eagle, etc. Originally, they are the natural gods commonly believed by Yi people, each for its own divine duties. But bi-moxes integrate them into a belief end respect them as guardian gods. In each ceremony, bi-moxes establish divine seats by erecting magic branches, inviting gods to come and help. As for whom and how many to be invited, it is determined by the nature and scale of ceremony, or kind and amount of the sacrifices. For example, xuo-bur, a counter incantation, is but a small one in which only a cock is sacrificed; thus only some mountain gods nearby are invited. If the occasion is big, such as co-ssy (evil cursing) on which cattles and goats are sacrificed, the god of sky, earth, rock and tree would be invited to share the offerings and help the performance.

Still another special bi-mox belief is tile belief in spirits of instruments and scriptures. Instruments and scriptures are means and bedrock of bi-mox performances. According to a Yi scripture, in the remote times of Nuili, Shisou, Momu, Ge-e, bi-moxes had come into being. But they did not have such instruments as golden water drum, divination bone, cedar container of divine slips, divine bamboo fan, divine bamboo hat, divine bell, etc., so they could not expel ghosts, bring fortunes end heal patients. Not until the time of Qiongbu when bi-moxes were equipped with all the instruments and scriptures. From then on, bi-moxes became omnipotent.

It is a bi-mox understanding that the magical power of the instruments and scriptures do not lie merely in their forms. In stead, a lively soul is embodied in each of them. If the soul is lost or polluted, the power will vanish, or weaken down. Ceremonies as sacrifice offering to the souls of instruments and scriptures con invite the souls back and have them purified. The same belief is expressed in the rules and taboos for making, using, collecting and keeping the instruments, and in duplicating and circulating of the scriptures.

In summary, it is a peculiar bi-mex belief in bilu, guardian god, and the souls of bi-mox instruments and scriptures. All bi-moxes must observe it. It gives religious power to bi-moxes for carrying out their religious activities and a spiritual support for bi-moxes to exist and develop.

III. A Set of Special Institutions for Bi-moxes to Share

In the long periods of religious practice, a set of special religious institutions have evolved gradually for the sake of sustaining the bi-moxes community and conducting their religious activities. We can classify the conventions into two kinds: the customary rules and “the bi-mox rituals.

The bi-mox customary rules include all the conventional regulations that define bi-mox themselves and their activities. My tentative research witnesses that following conventions concerning the bi-moxship inheritance, initiation (bi-jjie), renouncing (bi-cip), and practicing bi in tour (bi-ji) are strictly observed by all the bi-moxes in Liangshan.

The inheritance of bi-moxship comprises the passing down of both status and identity of a bi-mox. When a bi-mox is old and become feeble. He will yield his bi-moxship to a young one in the lineage. Then, who has the qualification and thus will inherit the status and identity from him? There are some special principles in this relevance:

1. Only a male descendant can inherit bi-moxship. This is in strict accordance with the patrilineal nature of Yi society. The profession of bi-moxes is soared and highly respected. The lineage wants to keep this status and honor within itself. Therefore, it should only to be inherited by a male descendant in the lineage. A female can not inherit it. When a girl reaches seventeen, she is -thought no longer a member of tile lineage whether she is married or not.

2. The family of bi-mox enjoys the primary position. This is the dominant form of bi-moxship inheritance. It can guarantee the lineage of bi-mox to possess the privilege of the profession.

3. Inheriting by a non-bi-mox lineage is subsidiary. Under certain circumstances, a person from a non-bi-moxlineage can learn the craft from a bi-mox. In the Yi, this is zzyt-bi, which means inauthentic bi-mox. The status of a Zzyt-bi in Liangshan is much lower, for he has no assistance from his patrilineal bi-mox ancestors, no ancestrally inherited scriptures, so his power is inferior. He is not able to carry out such major ceremonies as sacrifice offering to ancestors, cursing evil people and ghosts, and inviting spirits. Moreover, a zzyt-bi can not pass his status and identity to his descendants. For this reason, his lineage can never become that of a bi-mox. These principles reveal that the dominance ideology behind bi-moxship transfer is the discourse of consanguinity and professional privilege. It is different from the professional identity in modern society.

The conventions of bi-jjie and bi-cip refer to the starting or ending of bias a profession. The profession of bi-mox is a holy one that communicates with spirits for human. For this reason, it can not be entered and pitted at one’s will. Special conventions with certain ceremonies have to be involved for its entrance and quitting.

Long and special education is required before bi-jjie, the initiation to the profession. During tis period, the apprentice learns the moral norms of bi-mox, as well as knowledge and skill. This is to ensure their consciousness of the role. Only when the master thinks his apprentice can carry out religious rites independently, can the latter become a novice bi-mox, after a ceremony called bi-jjie-bi-hlo (sacrifice offering to gods at bi-jjie). All the bi-moxes, relatives and friends near and far are invited. In the ceremony, the new identity and status of the novice is announced publicly. The master hands over bi-mox instruments and scriptures to the novice, and entrust bilu, the guardian gods, and the souls of the instruments and scripture to bless his disciple in his religious performance. Acknowledged by the mater, the gods and society, the novice is recruited and the team of bi-mox is reinforced.

On the contrary to bi-jjie, bi-cip means to end or give up bi as a career. Bi-mox is a lifelong profession, but two situations will lead to the halt of it:

1. A bi-mox’s soul cannot get along well with bilu, guardian gods and the souls of his, instruments, scriptures, and thus he cannot perform bi successfully. Such a failing bi will not bring safety and luck to the client Moreover; it will invite disaster to the bi-mox himself or his family. In this ease, the bi-mox must halt his career of bi, though his offspring can succeed his profession.

2. Due to any reason, the bi-mox lineage has no descendant to inherit his profession for three generations. In this case, a bi-cip ceremony must be held by the lineage to declare quitting the status and privilege of bi-mox for good. A bi-sha ceremony is added to bi-cip for sending all the gods that have helped the bi-mox away. A bi-sha has to be presiding over by another bi-mox. The function of it is to extricate the relations of S bi-mox with all the gods and spirits to announce the ending of a bi-mox, and to get its approval from bi-moxs, gods and society. After an offering of sacrifices, the divine branches standing for all kinds of gods, together with the bi- mox instruments and scriptures will be sent to a remote mountain, and thus the career of the bi-mox comes to an end.

The function of bi-ji (customary rules concerning practicing him tour) is to adjust the relations between bi-mox and between a bi-mox and other social organizations. As we know, a bi-mox religious practice is independent, mobile, and extensive. A bi-mox roams about from village to village, to perform A at the call of his clients. It is usual for him to stay away home for several months. When he is away from his lineage context, how can he coordinate the relations between different territories and lineages? Can a bi-mox depending on one lineage lord visit -territories under the control of another, even a hostile lineage of his? All these have been arranged conventionally in the Yi society.

If bi-mox A is invited to perform religion rites temporarily in the house where bi-mox B acts as bi-si (the regular family bi-mox), he has to yield part of his rewards in kind or cash to B according to the rules of bi-ji (a reward convention). However, if he does this regularly and gradually replaced B h the house, he and the client family must pay some compensation to B.

In Greater and Lesser Liangshan area, Yi people settlement clustered according to lineage. Each nuohuo (black Yi) and zimo (chieftain) lineage has its own domain. Usually, every bi-mox lineage depends on one of them. A few bi-mox lineages are responsible to perform religion rites for every lineage and family all over Liangshan. According to the bi-ji rules, a bi-mox is entitled carry out religion rites in every village end lineage in the Yi area. So long as they wear or carry on his shoulder a divine bamboo hat, hold a divine fan, carry a bag of scriptures; no one should interfere or prevent him. Anyone dares to interfere a bi-mox performances or injure him personally will be punished severely. In extreme cases, all bi-mox lineages will unite to curse the enemy with reliable means until the death of the offender and his people. Therefore, a bi-mox can safely tour in the Yi area. They and their activities are respected and protected all over the society.

The bi-mox rituals, (addressed as bi-je-mop-jie in bi-mox terminology), refer to all the procedures and rules a bi-mox must observe whenever he carries out his activities. It is the standard procedures of ceremony and rules of bi-mox activities. In history, the procedure of Yi religious ceremonies is well known to be complicated, mystical and over-elaborate. In the long period of practices, bi-moxes have established a standard for various performances, and thus formulated a set of stable procedures and norms. As for as procedures are concerned, the following items are more or less universal:

1. Mu-gu-cyt, welcoming the assistance from gods by lighting fire;

2. Lur-ca-su, the rites of purification;

3. Yie-lyt, prologuizing or delivering opening speech;

4. Te, the rites of reconciling different gods and spirits;

5. Mux-lup-mu-se-bi, inviting gods for help;

6. Sacrifices-offering in the form of live animals or birds;

7. Chanting scriptures and perform crafts;

8. Sacrifices-offering in the form of killing on the spot but uncooked;

9. Chanting scriptures and perform crafts;

10. Sacrifices-offering in the form of cooked (boiled or roasted);

11. Comforting gods and spirits and seeing them off;

12. Ka-bba-qip, paying bi-mox in the name of reword.

There are other strict conventional rules for ceremonies, such as the requiry of selecting the date and choosing the form of sacrifices. Major ceremonies not only involve date selecting, but also the hour, the month and the year. The sex, color, age, quality, and kind are all-important and have specific regulations. The ways of animal sacrificing includes that- of the alive, the uncooked, the cooked, the blood, and the horn, etc. Many ceremonies require a ground for performance that is fenced by erecting branches. In the respect, different ceremonies require different kinds, quantities, and ways of erecting the branches for different symbolic connotations.

The bi-rewarding institution is also important. There are three ways to acknowledge the religious performances: cash, kind and service. The ways and quantities vary.
These conventions about bi-moxship inheritance, initiation, renounce, touring service, procedures and reward regulate the bi-mox behaviors and activities in a united, standard, ordered, and identical way. They are essential to guarantee the existence and sustaining of bi-moxship as a religious practice.

IV. Professional Ethics of Religion Observed by Bi-mox as a Class

Besides the conventions and rituals, the bi-mox community norm is also reflected in the form of bi-mox moral or ethics. By nature, the bi-mox moral is the moral of religious practitioners. In their professional activities, a bi-mox contact with other bi-moxes, as well as with gods, ghosts and humans. We can say that three relations are essential to the normal practice of a bi-mox: with god and ghost, with vi-si (clients), and with other bi-moxes. In order to adjust all these relations for protecting the reputation and dignity of religious practitioner, a set of morals has gradually evolved to adjust, conduct, and restrain bi-mox professional behaviors.

It is a known fact that Yi religious belief has a strongly connotation of utilitarianism. People worship their ancestors, believe in gods, ghosts and spirits for safety and happiness. As a religious practitioner, a bi-mox task and mission is not to help people extricate themselves, save their souls, ensure them to go to a paradise after death. Rather, he is to fulfill people’s actual needs, such as avoiding disaster, approaching fortune and luck, ensure the harvest of crops, prosperity of animals, end to demonstrate the power and strength of their lineage, etc. In short, he is responsible for providing people with spiritual support and satisfaction for their existence and development. As bi saying goes: The fortune and peace of a client should be revealed in three days of the ceremony. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that bi-mox is responsible for human and work his clients, rather than for gods, ghosts and spirits of any sort.

The bi-mox ethics is constructed on the basis of the professional duties. It is interrelated closely with the nature and characters of the profession. It includes the following contains:

1. Dedication to the profession and faithfulness onte the duty. As said, bi-mox performance is the spiritual pillar of people’s physical existence and development. It requires all bi-moxes to have a full recognition of the profession and its social values. Bi-moxes must keep on strengthening his love to the profession, and continuously develop his sense of professional honor and firm aspiration. A bi-mox must take the matters of his clients as his own, and always eager to help his clients and be mindful of their interests. They we to be conscientious, dutiful, and considerate in their activities. Even a minor error due to the bi-mox’s carelessness and negligence will bring misfortune and disaster to his client, and consequently to the bi-mox himself. As bi saying goes as follows: “Inadequate scripture-chanting harms bi-mox, while insufficient divine-branches harms client”. Therefore, it is basic for a bi-mox to love and dedicate to his religious practice.

2. Treating all clients equally. Every estate, lineage, family and person in the traditional Yi society needs the service of bi-mox. The requirement is widespread. A client can select a bi-mox with high power and moral performance. Nevertheless, a bi-mox is not allowed to select rite or client.

3. Acting in good honor of his promise. This is determined by the nature of bi-mox profession, as well as minimum demands by the society. The Date of a Yi religious rite must be calculated and arranged several days or more in advance, and is forwarded to bi-mox by the client or his trustee. When time comes, the bi-mox brings scriptures and instruments to perform crafts. His activities are considered to resolve problems and dispel worries for people. For this reason, he must come on time regardless of road, weather conditions, and family duties. A bi-mox must keep his words. It is a shame to break a promise.

4. Respecting colleagues and learning from each other. This is the norm of relations between bi-moxes. In congregation, they are encouraged to learn from each other to make up deficiencies. Many bi-moxes roam around Liangshan several, or even dozen times in their lifetime for visiting famous bi-moxes, collecting scriptures, and obtaining knowledge extensively from others.

5. Proper and solemn behaviors. This is moral requirement concerning the language, diet, and sex of a bi-mox. Bi-moxes as intermediate between human and spirit enjoys some divinity. They must show refined characters in their behaviors and speeches in daily life. This is helpful to establish their divinity and gain approval from spirit and trust from people. Therefore, a bi-mox must avoid stirring things up, pronounce obscenities, aid gossip. During major ceremonies, such as soul escorting and sacrifice offering to ancestors, a bi-mox should quit sexual intercourse. Otherwise, the ancestral spirit will be contaminated and can not find their way to homeland. Excessive alcohol drinking is also forbidden, because a drunken bi-mox tends to be irresponsible.

6. Working hard end enduring hardships. The profession of bi-mox is a hard one. Touring far from home and try to be punctuate means a bi-mox has to endure sleeping or eating in tough places, or travel day and night. It is a matter of course to travel two or three days to get the client’s home for a ceremony. I have personally followed a bi-mox to perform the practice in tour. The all daylong walking or riding and exhausted me. When dismounted from horseback, I could hardly walk with numb limbs. A major ceremony tends to last several or more than ten days without an interval. The bi-mox has to stay up night after night to endure the torture of sleeplessness. Some apprentices giving up bi-learning simply because they cannot endure hardship. A qualified bi-mox must have a strong will and lofty character.

7. Not be greedy for money. Tradition says that in early times, bi-mox performance is voluntary and no reward is involved. Nevertheless, along with development of society and formation of bi performance as an occupation, bi-moxes gradually earns his income as, or partly as resources to sustain their lives. The quantity and form of the reward is subject to conventions. A quarrel over rewords with client is a taboo. It is forbidden for a bi-mox to extract excessive rewards. A bi-moxes must fulfill his duty in religious rite even he knows the client can not afford payment.

The bi-mox ethics is based on their religious profession. It is a special requirement to whoever engaged in the trade. In the long practice of moralities, a stable religious psychology and collective personality characterized by peacefulness, dignity, sympathy, and sense of responsibility are formed in bi-mox as a community of religious practitioners.

V. The Bi-mox Group Identity and Sense of Belonging

The traditional Yi society is interwoven with consanguineous ties of lineage. The fundamental group identity is that of lineage. On top of this, the bi-mox offers an overarching cultural identity. This is due to the fact that bi-mox as a person finds his sense of belonging to his lineage as a social group, but as a religious practitioner, he transcends the consanguineous boundary and finds his identity in the religious profession, which in turn is an integral part of the Yi culture. At the same time, they identify themselves with the community of religious practitioners.

We know the two identities are different. The latter is the extension of the former. In other words, the existence of bi-mox lineage is the basic carrier of bi-mox as a social class. The overall bi-mox group identity is rooted in the bi-mox lineage identity. Here, the two identities, the social and the religious one, find agreement mutually to some degree.

The basis of bi-mox identity as a group is their professional knowledge and practice. This is by nature a professional identity. As we said before, bi-moxes engage in the same religious practice. In a long and identical religious practice, common bi-mox values are also formulated in the form of professional conventions, moral norms, and ritual behaviors.

Owing to this, the traditional Yi society has another special taxonomy to identify people in a dichotomy: the bi-mox and the dzop-dzop. All the other people beside bi-moxes are dzop-dzop, no matter to which class or estate they belong. As said, both of qualification and identity of a bi-mox is approved by spirits, society, and other bi-moxes. Hence, the line of demarcation between bi-mox and dzop-dzop is distinctive and unmistakable. The whole society, including the supernatural beings, knows well in such matters as which lineage is a bi-mox one, which is not, who is a bi-mox, and who is not. In religious life, bi-mox and dzop-dzop have different status, responsibilities, and obligations. A bi-mox sustains his status and life by communicating with supernatural beings for the interests of clients. In providing dzop-dzop with the required happiness, a bi-mox gets his rewards.

The identity of bi-moxes is expressed in their mutual support and aid as well. Bi-mox is a class and a professional group with special knowledge and skills. However, they have no defined religious place, no special institution, or structured organization. Their religious practice is characterized by mobility and, independence and wide spreading. They do have regular interactions and contacts, such as in training apprentice, helping each other in ceremony, exchanging skills and scriptures, and visiting famous bi-mox afar. Because of this, their group identity is developed and consolidated.

For the sake of defending their status and benefits, bi-moxes have united themselves to a certain degree. The emergence of vut-tu mo-mgep, the congregation for bi-mox mutual help, is a good example. Vut-tu in the Yi refers to the container of divine slips of bamboo, a bi-mox hallmark and instrument in ceremony. Mo-mgep means conference or meeting. The combination of the two words means the conference of bi-moxes.
In 1921, Tier Wuzi, Chunuo bi-mox in Mude Apu village, Yimu district, Butuo County found his Han salve girl was kidnapped and sold. He sent out an invitation for a vut-tu-mo-mgep at once. Over 100 bi-moxes came from different lineage all over Butuo County for the congregation. It was presided over by a bi-mox with higher prestige. Besides the collective rite of incarnation to curse the suspected, the participants also wrote the name of slave girl, the time and place of the accident on tso-ssy-tep-yypa, a cursing notebook. The notebook is copied and circulated to every participant. Later, when the bi-moxes perform religion rites in any house, they must curse the kidnapper according to the notebook. This was carried on and on until the kidnapper was believed died.

Concluding Remarks:

1. Bi-moxes have a common belief relating to their religious activities. The belief is consisted of bilu, guardian gods, and the spirit of bi-mox instruments and scripture. It is observed by all bi-moxes and it provides spiritual support to bi-moxes in their religious practices.

2. There exists a set of special conventions to regulate bi-moxship inheritance, initiation, and renounce, perform bi in tour and ritual practices. These conventions are strictly respected by all the bi-moxes.

3. There is such a set of ethic codes, as all bi-moxses must obey. The codes ensure the standard of bi-moxship and its reputation.

4. Members of bi-mox community have a common professional identity reflecting the self-consciousness of bi-mox as a class. The identity is the moral force and psychological ties for bi-mox solidarity and cohesion.

Sunday, 27 August 2006



改革開放以來,隨著政治環境的寬鬆、經濟的搞活,民族傳統文化開始走向復興的道路,一度被抑制和削弱了的彝族傳統宗教也在不同程度上以傳統文化的、旅游的、民族民俗的種種形式逐漸得以恢復和回升。在彝族居住的腹心地區甚至具有反彈、發展的勢頭,僅以美姑縣為例,據1996年統計,全縣彝族宗教職業者畢摩 (僅限男性擔任)6850人,佔全縣總人口的4%,佔全縣男性總人口的8%,儀式活動頻繁多樣,約有各種大大小小的宗教儀式200餘種,宗教儀式經書115千卷,目前涼山彝族畢摩活動在形式和內容上出現了如下特點︰其一,畢摩活動的範圍從農村進入了城市,「魂兮歸來」的招魂之聲和打牲驅鬼除邪的儀式在城市裡,在機關幹部、商人、老師、工人的家中也能耳聞目睹;其二,農村興起「畢育」學畢熱,世襲畢摩村寨的兒童和年輕人學畢習畢積極踴躍;在繼承祖業的名義下,夾雜著追求經濟收入、地位名聲,學習傳統文化的多重目的;其三,畢摩活動內容和事項增加了許多現代生活的內容。如祈求升官升學,行商發財,防咒「吸毒」、「鼠疫」,消除「車禍」,「盜災」也被納入其中,其四,畢摩從畢的收入「畢摩卡巴」遠遠高於從事種養業的收入,畢摩職業化程度有所提高,一般畢摩家庭的生活水平高於從事農牧生產的農戶的生活水平。



為了了解畢摩的性質,我們不妨從考察畢摩一詞的詞義入手。畢摩和蘇尼作為涼山彝族社會兩種主要的宗教神職人員,其名稱均來源於各自主持儀式活動的特點。「畢摩」。(bi-mox )的「畢」意為念誦,得名於畢摩做儀式的方式「畢」,即念誦經文,「畢」也引申為以念經為特點的儀式活動,如「格非依此畢」招生育魂儀式,「馬度畢」安靈儀式,「尼木撮畢」送靈儀式;而「摩」(mox)為構詞C詞綴,相當於漢語「者」意。「畢摩」,就是指從事念誦經文之儀式活動的人。「蘇尼」(su-nyit)的「蘇」意為人,「尼」意為抖動,也得名於蘇尼做儀式的方式「尼」,即擊鼓抖動舞蹈,「尼」引申為以擊鼓抖動舞蹈為特點的儀式活動。「蘇尼」類似薩滿,是專事擊鼓抖動舞蹈之儀式活動的人。「畢摩」與「蘇尼」做儀式的特點不同,畢摩的儀式多動嘴即念經,用語言、文雅平和;而蘇尼的儀式多用身體即擊鼓舞蹈,神靈附體,熱烈顛狂。難怪彝族人在解釋他們的畢摩和蘇尼時。會形象地說畢摩是文的,蘇尼是武的;畢摩是念經的,蘇尼是擊鼓的。畢摩和蘇尼詞義語源的比較表明畢摩的主要特點即是念誦經文、「畢摩」是以念誦經文的形式與神鬼交通的神職人員的統稱。從彝族畢摩文獻《畢補額依瑪》(即《畢摩獻祖經》)中我們看到,在彝族畢摩產生和發展的早期,畢摩念誦的經文是口誦經文,尚無文字與書面經書。到了「邛布」時代,畢摩開始使用筆墨紙張書寫經文,念誦形成了書面文字的經文。從此畢摩的歷史從口誦時期進入了文字時期,經書成了畢摩儀式活動的主要依據,「『的偉』哈尼則,『夥偉』爾策黑」意即咒經百二十,(種),祭經四十八(種),掌握文字,精通經書以及熟悉各種口誦之經文一起成了畢摩從事神職工作的必要前提,也是畢摩與神鬼祖先交通的主要形式。

















畢摩儀軌是指畢摩從事各種儀式活動必須遵循的儀式程式和規定的總和,畢摩稱之為「畢階莫階」(bi-jie-mop-jie),意思是做法的規矩或儀式的原則。彝族宗教儀式複雜多樣,儀式程序神秘繁瑣。在長期的的儀式生活中。畢摩們的各種儀式活動和行為逐漸劃一,形成較為固定的程式和規範。從儀式程序來看,各種儀式大致包括以下項目:(1)「木古此」(mu-gu-cyt)點煙火迎神助;(2)「爾擦蘇」(lur-ca-su)清潔禮;(3)「燕爾」(yie-lyt)開場白;(4)「特」(te)調和神靈禮;(5)「木爾木色畢」(mux-lup-mu-se-bi)請神助法;(6)獻牲(活獻);(7)念經做法;(8)獻牲(打牲生獻);(9)念經做法;(10)獻牲(熟獻包括燒獻和煮獻):(11)安神送神;(12)「卡巴切」(ka-bba-qip) 付畢摩報酬。從儀式的各種不成文的規定來看,比如儀式擇日擇牲就有嚴格的講究,大型儀式不僅要擇日,還要擇月、擇年、擇時辰。儀式犧牲則講究公母、毛色、年齡、質量、種類。祭牲方式有活獻、生獻、熟獻、血祭、角祭等等。再如,各種儀式以樹枝插成儀式場,不同的儀式所需樹枝種類不同、數量不同、插法不同、象徵的內容不同。畢酬制度也是一項重要的儀式儀軌。畢酬有勞務、實物、貨幣三類,付給畢摩報酬是對畢摩神職活動的承認與報答。但所給畢摩報酬的種類、數量,要依據儀式的性質規模,用牲的多少甚至畢摩與主人的關係而定,有一定的習慣規定,畢摩不能漫天要價胡亂索取。畢摩報酬制度的形成是畢摩宗教活動職業化的反映。



















Sunday, 27 August 2006



一、 道法自然的原則













例如,以研究環境問題而聞名於世的羅馬俱樂部主席奧爾利歐.佩奇(Aurelio Peccei)認為。人們在陶醉於自已的能力和眼前成績時,並未意識到在許多情況下,明天將為今天的收益償付重大的代價。此外,他們從各個方面使用科學論證的同時,郤疏忽了唯一能夠不斷起到協調作用的哲學、論理和信仰,其中最重要的一點就是當代人已經丟失了的整體感,這是一種嚴重的倒退…現代社會應該恢復這種觀念。他繼而預言;「未來將是一次偉大的文化復興的發展」。(1)展望未來,這種新型的發展觀,不再單純是強調科技文明,而追求人類心靈文化的重生。而他所說的「整體觀」無疑使人一看就聯想到了老子。另一位比利時著名的科學家普里高津說:「中國文明對人類、社會和自然之間的關係,有著深刻的理解,中國的思想對於那些想擴大西方科學範圍和意義的哲學家和科學家來說,始終是個啟迪的源泉」。(2)人文主義物理學家卡普拉指出「在偉大的諸傳統中,據我看,道家提供了最深刻並且最完美的生態智慧,它強調在自然的循環中,令人和社會的一切現象和潛在兩者的基本一致」。(3)英國科學家李約瑟亦高度評價了道家哲學包含的人文主義精神,他說:「遠在我們這個時代以前,中國思想已經前進到科學人文主義的地位。其特點就是:「它從來不把人和自然分開。他還預測說:「想來沒有比歐美和中國文明的合流更偉大的。依我的感覺,我們愈是研究它們兩方面,愈覺得他們像由兩個不同的作曲家所作的兩章不同的交響樂,其主調本是一樣的」。(4)


















































顯然,道教的這些思想主張、是與現代生態倫理學的觀點不謀而合的。現代生態倫理學最初是由法國哲學家、1952年諾貝爾和平獎獲得者施書玆(Albert Schweitzer)和美國生態學家萊奧波爾德(Aldo Lecpole)分別在本世紀30年代和40年代提出來的。





Sunday, 27 August 2006

Taoism and Ecology

Nature is a whole, and humankind is only a part of it. Among others, Gregory Bateson has emphasized the interactive process between humankind and what, in Nature, is not humankind, as well as the necessity to find an equilibrium within this interactive process for ensuring our survival.

Nature is the everlasting Master of Humankind

After a few centuries of subjectivism we are finally starting again to know ourselves through the prism of Nature. Man’s existence on earth depends very much on accident and specific conditions, and the limits on our survival coincide with the necessity to respect our natural milieu.

This calls for a change in our ethical views, learning form the language of each part of Nature, and recapturing the wisdom about Nature accumulated during ancient times, in particular in the Taoist tradition.

In this tradition, the universe is filled with life, all the elements exchanging information and influences; the universe appears as an organic whole of relationships.

The Way, in Laozi, is the creative force, the origin of life. “The great Dao flows everywhere, to the left and to the right. The ten thousand things depend upon it. It holds nothing back. It fulfills its purpose silently and makes no claim. It nourishes the ten thousand things, and yet is not their lord. It has no aim. It is very small. The ten thousand things return to it. Yet it is not their lord. It is very great. It does not show greatness and is therefore truly great.” (Laozi, Chapter 34) Dao is like a mother who nurtures all kinds of life, and all kinds of life depend upon it.

Later writings in the Taoist canon stress that the Dao nurtures and transforms all beings but does not position itself as Master, it rather penetrates everything thanks to its smallness like water and air – actually, it cannot be described as being small or big.

The Dao is immense and humble, it retains nothing for itself, it provides an ethical model that man has to continuously study.

‘Heaven and Earth come to existence along with me”

There is a story in the Zhuangzi that runs as follows. In the beginning, there was the Nothing, there was no Being, and from this state of things originated the primitive Oneness. There was Oneness but no forms. Beings originated from the Oneness without shape, and this is what is called {original} Virtue. Beings had a Principle, its flow gave birth to material beings {wu}, which had forms, forms protecting spirit, each form provided with its own laws, which is called “one’s nature.” When men apply themselves to the nurturing of one’s own nature, they can come back to the realm of {original} Virtue. The nurturing of Virtue can bring one back to the great Unity of the beginnings. In the “emptiness’ of the Unity all languages merge into one, they merge into Heaven and Earth. Such Unity is without interstices, without knowledge, it amounts to perfect union with Nature.

In the chapter 22 of Zhunagzi, Confucius asks Laozi about the Way. Laozi answers by saying: Fast, cleanse your heart and mind, brush away your know-how! The Dao is too subtle for words!(…) The brightest of the bright is begotten from the darkest of the dark. The qualified is begotten of the shapeless (…) Everything in creation begets itself of different forms. Those with nine orifices are born from a womb, and those with eight orifices from an egg. The Dao comes without traces. For it, there is no door, no abode; it penetrates everywhere. For those who obey it, the four limbs become strong, thought penetrating, ears and eyes keen… Without the Dao, Heaven would not be lofty nor Earth broad, sun and moon would not move nor creation prosper. (…) Discussion of Dao does not mean that one understands (…) Dao may be compared to the ocean, its peaks have no beginning and no end (…)

In the same chapter, there is another story. Dong Guo asks Zhuangzi where is the Dao. “Everywhere!” “For instance?” “In ants” “lower?” “ In weeds… in tiles… in excrements…” Dong Kuo says no more. Zhuangzi says: “your question does not get to the essence of the problem. There is nothing that escapes the Dao. What has made all things shares no confines with them, but there is a confining for things, and that’s Dao. (…)”

There are other similar stories in the Zhuangzi, expressing the solidarity between Heaven, Earth and the sentient beings. But Zhuangzi does not negate the oppositions and even contradictions between man and things or among things. They are separate but they “appear to existence simultaneously.”

According to the second chapter of Zhuangzi, “distinctions” are the problem. It is hard to distinguish between what belongs specifically to man, earth or heaven. The true knowledge of the “true man” knows how to become “companion of Heaven” in quietness and “companion of men” in action.

In chapter 17 of Zhuangzi, it is said that ” buffaloes and horses having four feet is nature. Bridling a horse’s head and piercing a buffalo’s nose is man. The natural is not to be destroyed by the artificial. Fate is not to be destroyed by deliberation, and native excellence is not to be sacrificed to opinion. Observe this, this is what is meant by returning to the True.”

The union between Man and Heaven is the reason for treating Nature with kindness. In the beginnings, man was acting according to an attitude of “non action”. As he was not harming animals and Nature, animals and Nature were letting him dwelling peacefully among them. For Zhuangzi, the progress in society goes along the decline of True Virtue. Zhuangzi propones a doctrine of “non action” as a way to come back to the “unpolished”, as a way to come back to a state of harmony between Man and Nature.

Furthermore, Zhuangzi stresses the fact that each material being has its own nature and potential. The various species succeed one another as in a kind of ring {of transformations} and this is what is called “equality.”

He also puts forwards a concept of “function” (ji). The function of each being is similar to its movement, its transformation, which will allow for the transformation of all the beings with which it is linked. A Chinese philosopher has said that Zhuangzi propones a conception “very much akin to evolutionism.”

It is only by following Nature that all sentient beings enter and know the movement of the Dao. Heaven and Earth nurture all beings with equanimity, without making any kind of discrimination.

Dao is not only the origin of things, it is also the standpoint from which to observe all beings. Entering the Way is merging with Nature and returning to the original standpoint.

This world-view, initiated by Laozi and Zhuangzi, became the basic standpoint of the Taoist tradition. For instance, in the Huainanzi, the harmony within the Whole is emphasized. Dao is seen as an “ancestor” at the origins of the myriad transformations. Material beings exist only through their relationships and mutual transformations. This is in the line of the chapter 2 of Laozi (“Being and Nothingness arise together… as do difficult and easy, long and short, high and low…”). It is only through the movement of transforming themselves that all beings can perpetually be brought to life. This endless continuation expresses the perfect movement of completion proper to the Dao.

A Deep, Admirable Ecological Wisdom

This conception of “becoming the companion of Heaven” has influenced not only Chinese philosophy, it has influenced modern Western philosophy as well. An American philosopher writing about Nietzsche and the Taoist tradition has emphasized that Taoism provides Western philosophy with a perspective from which to explore anew its own tradition.

Capra traces back the roots of the crisis between man and nature to Cartesian and Newtonian thought. The remedy lies in the alliance between the new model of natural sciences and “Eastern mysticism”, including Taoism.

An historian stresses the “motherhood of Nature” and thinks that we should inspire ourselves from ”Eastern polytheism.” Recognizing a spirit in the natural elements will inspire us reverence vis-a-vis the biosphere.

Likewise, an English scientist sees our biosphere as a living creature of its own right. According to him, in the evolutionary process we are now moving from “the sphere of humankind” to the “sphere of Gaia”, a very risky process, which requires a radical change of our world-view.

Many contemporary scientists give more and more attention to the way ancient populations have been living with Nature and to Eastern traditional thought. They might not consider that they will find in this the cure for all our ecological ills, but they think that this historical investigation will provide them with valuable insights. We need a post-modernist stance in order to confront a post-industrial society. Taoist thought provides us with a conception of “the mystery within the mystery” (Laozi, chapter one) of universal value. Humankind needs to dialogue with its predecessors in order to receive wisdom and strength for confronting its future.

(English Summary of the paper delivered at the conference on “environmental protection and development”, Qingchengshan, July 2-6, 2000, Ricci Institute, Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences)
© copyright 2000 by Taipei Ricci Institute

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