Buddhism and spirit cult in a multi-ethnic village in Southern Laos
Tomoko Nakata (Kobe City University of Foreign Studies)
Paper short abstract:
This study, based on ethnographical material collected by fieldwork, examines complex relationships between Buddhism and a spirit cult in a relocated village settled by ethnic minorities in Southern Laos.
Paper long abstract:
Although Laos is regarded as a Buddhist country, most of its ethnic minorities have traditionally worshiped various spirits and conducted diverse rituals related to them. However, as they move to the lowlands where the ethnic Lao is the majority, their religious practices tend to be transformed. Several families from the Ngae, a Mon-Khmer group, fled from the battlefields during the Vietnam War, and settled in the present site in Champasak Province, Southern Laos. The village has been populated since 1970s by different groups including the Lao. In the circumstance where Ngae villagers have established daily contact with Buddhists, the influence of Buddhism is progressively apparent in many respects. However, the religious practices of Buddhist Lao do not remain intact either. Not only is the change in religion not rare among the villagers for the reasons of intermarriage between different groups or the intention of escaping from the heavy burden of animal sacrifice, but the boundary between the two religions is vague and blurred. Some Buddhists come to conduct an animal sacrifice which they have not done, and similarly some spirit worshipers participate in Buddhist festivals. The influence of the other religion are thus exercised bilaterally. In analyzing the statements and discoursed of the villagers from the perspective of language game by Wittgenstein, this study intends to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of religious complexities.
Religious practices in transition: ethnographical and theoretical studies of religions in multiethnic and/or multicultural situations