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.




Thursday, 22 February 2007



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Thursday, 22 February 2007




Saturday, 10 February 2007










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Saturday, 10 February 2007











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Sunday, 04 February 2007

Nuosu Religion: Rituals, Agents and Beliefs

Religion can be approached and defined from a variety of standpoints. I choose here to pragmatically study Nuosu religion as a complex of rituals; the agents that participate in them; and set of beliefs that somehow underline these rituals while their maintenance is supported by this very performance. In one approach, Nuoso religion can thus be described as a set of rituals proper to the Nusou people living on the Liangshan territory.

- A - Rituals

Although all Nuosu rituals conform to some patterns and sequences that identify them indeed as rituals, they are also characterized by their variety, a variety that answers to the diversity of the situations that require their performance. It is not enough to say that rituals in Liangshan are performed first and foremost when death and illness occur. Their particular configuration will depend on the cause of death and the situation of the deceased at the time he/she leaves this world and on still other considerations when rites are performed years after the death for ensuring his/her incorporation into the ancestors’ world. Likewise, rituals will vary according to the nature of illness and the rituals’ sequence will further unfold when the cause of illness is ritualistically determined. Not only are rituals diverse and numerous, they also organize themselves into sequences determined by the situations to which they respond.

Besides birth, death and illness, there is an indefinite number of situations that might call for a ritual. New Year (in November) and the Torch Festival (in July) are two obvious occurrences. Cleansing rituals (xuox-burr) regularly occur on a basis that varies according to families and districts. Other ritual occurrences might include: curses enacted as a vengeance; determination of a culprit’s identity, attempts at reconciliation between spouses; inauguration of a new house… In recent times, small-scale rituals are occasionally performed for ensuring success at exams or the safety of a car and its driver for instance.

Rituals can be summarily divided into two kinds: “below the road” rituals include all rituals that deal with death and the well-being of the ancestors. “Above the road” rituals include all other rituals. From this perspective, it can be said that rituals provide at the same time for the long-term sustenance of the community of the living and of the dead from which the living derive their existence and identity, and for flexible answers to a variety of existential and social situations, susceptible to be redefined according to circumstances.

- B - Agents

The most revered religious agent in Yi religion is called bi-mox. His importance is attested by the fact that Nuosu religion is sometimes called “bi-mox religion”, in the same way as Naxi religion is called “dongba religion.” The chanting of written scriptures is usually described as being the main characteristics of bi-mox’s activity. One becomes a bi-mox by virtue of patrilineal descent. Though necessary, this condition is not sufficient. A long apprenticeship under the guidance of the father or another member of the father’s clan is also required. Summing up, bi-mox mediate between the human and the supernatural world thanks to (a) their lineage, (b) their knowledge and chanting of written, fixed scriptures, (c) the efficacy of these scriptures themselves and of the ritual instruments that the bi-mox possess and use, (d) personal skills, that vary from one practitioner to another.

Bi-mox are usually contrasted with su-nyit. Both can perform similar deeds, with the fundamental restriction that rituals linked to death and to the subsequent destiny of the soul are strictly reserved to bi-mox. If lineage and knowledge of scriptures are the mediations that bi-mox make use of, su-nyit work through a process of “immediacy.” That is to say, the direct election that protecting spirits (wa-sa) make of them allow them to enter into a direct battle with malignant ghosts. Su-nyit, it is usually said, do not rely on a lineage but on election. They do not chase the ghosts by the power of the scriptures (as a rule they are illiterate), but by “seeing” them and beating the drum.

Such opposition has to be qualified. Though bi-mox are literate, the chanting of the scriptures rely above all on memorization. Similarly, the language and formulas used by the su-nyit is very similar to the ones of the bi-mox, as it also relies on a socialization process. It is very frequent to meet with su-nyit whose family has been in the trade for a number of generations, though election takes place for each member of the lineage. Even when this is not the case, su-nyit place themselves within a “guild” genealogy that they chant at the beginning of the ritual. Finally, meeting with people who can perform in quality of bi-mox and su-nyit (ni-bi-zhz) is not rare, which indicates that the distinction is far from being absolute.

Besides bi-mox and su-nyit, non-“qualified” religious intermediaries play a role in performing rituals. As a matter of fact, each family chief performs on various occasions, the Yi New Year and Torch Festival being the most conspicuous ones. The form taken by these ceremonies, that include chanting and sacrifices, do qualify them as full-fledged religious rituals. On an even simpler basis, everyone can perform a basic ritual with a few words, an egg or a glass of alcohol, if something specific frightens him, for instance. This kind of simple practice is called yy-hox-pyt. Finally, some elders or people with special skills are able to perform a large number of rituals, for instance those commonly grouped together under the term of va-xi. Performing a va-xi requires some skills (the ceremony lasts around two hours, the killing of a rooster is involved as well as various offerings and the use of “hot stones” for cleansing) but va-xi practitioners do not benefit from the help of protecting spirits as is the case for bi-mox and su-nyit. Vaxi is performed if bad words and curses against a family have been overheard, if one has reason to fear the approach of illness, if one has had bad dreams, if some troubling event has occurred, such as the sow eating the piglets, the hen attacking its eggs or a dog climbing on the roof of the house. Other types of va-xi rituals are meant to solve quarrels and disagreements. Religious specialists also include people able to find lost things through various divinatory skills.

- C - Beliefs

Nuosu religion thus appears as an integrated whole of practices giving its structure and meaning to the time-space of human existence. At the same time, it is not so easy to identify the set of beliefs that informs this structure of meaningful practices. Looking at the beliefs explicitly or implicitly stated in bi-mox writings is a necessary task (which is far from being complete) but not a sufficient one. There is a gap between the corpus of creeds and myths proper to a given place and the more systematic outlook expressed by the ritualistic writings. Such a gap is somehow harder to perceive in areas that are bi-mox strongholds (this is markedly the case in Meigu county), but can be very visible in areas where contacts and traditions are more diversified. Answers as to the nature (and number) of the human soul as its degree of immortality, the place of rest of the ancestors, the nature of ghosts and spirits vary to a much greater extent than usually recorded. What remains constant is that the stress is indeed on the ancestors (the only kind of spirits that can be truly known or identified) and on ghosts. The latter can be seen as “counter-ancestors” in the sense that, even if it is said that not all ghosts are souls unable to enter into the ancestors world, the other types of ghosts usually recorded are those of animals whose “blood lineages’ belong to the same class as human beings (cats and horses most notably)

Although there are differences in rituals and beliefs from one place to another, one can identify a “world-vision” that is proper to Nuosu religion. The plasticity proper to any “world-vision” makes it for me a more appropriate term than the one of “set of beliefs.” A good starting point for entering into this world vision might be the following: after a person has died, rites are meant to help him/her not to be devoured, nor to be devourer. To devour or to be devoured are actually the two sides of the same coin: the “devoured” spirit is the one which has fallen prey to the ghosts and becomes itself a ravenous ghost, as it tries to compensate for what has been preyed upon it. The ritual of cremation and the making of a “bamboo soul” are meant to spare the soul such a destiny. The large-scale rites for the final sending-off to the ancestors’ world will eventually allow the soul to access a place where it can find a plentiful supply of food without having to prey upon the world of the living. Once at its resting place, the ancestor can ensure peace to his/her descendants.

In contrast, a ghost is a glutton. (And a glutton is especially at risk to become a ghost.) The gluttony of the ghosts is the reason that makes people ill, and people must avoid at any price to become themselves hungry ghosts. Consequently, the healing process is communitarian in nature. By attending the healing ritual, the family and the neighbors call back the sick from the world where the ghosts are leading him towards the human universe, where meals are taken together. Togetherness is part of the ritual efficacy. Broadly speaking, to heal the social body and to heal the sick body are to be seen as joint operations, as ghosts are the powers that break living connections, be it within the flesh or within the community. They break living bodies into pieces. The goal of the ritual is always to reassemble what has been driven apart. Most notably, by ensuring the proper “consumption” of the deceased (as long as the circumstances of his/her death allow it) through the cremation process and the rites that follow during the years, one allows him/her to join a new community. From there, the deceased can protect the community of the living from the improper gluttonous behavior of the ghosts – those who have not been properly “consumed.”

Summing up, meal can be the ultimate metaphor for ordering Nuosu religious rituals, agents and world vision into a whole. Meals are about the survival, cohesiveness and prosperity of the community. The performing of a ritual is like the preparation and enactment of a meal that will restore physical and social forces against divisive agents. Finally, the passage that leads from this world to the afterlife can be adequately represented by the cooking and consumption process.

Monday, 22 January 2007

To Live is to Give

“Network”, it can be said, is a loosely used word that refers to loosely structured ways of exchanging information, supporting each other and/or leading common actions. It links people and groups at various levels, local or global, sometimes for their own mutual benefit, sometimes in the interest of a cause that transcends and unites the members of the network.

The reach and efficiency of networks has been greatly enhanced by the Internet. This might be partly because the Internet allows for horizontal relationships, and that horizontal relationships are very much at the core of networking, distinguishing networks from other organizational structures.

Exchange of knowledge is another characteristic of networks. This is already true of “social networks”, exemplified by the Old Boys associations. For sure, social networks primarily provide emotional and cultural support, but they constitute also the port through which information that might help one to change one’s career path or get valuable tips on the stock market are exchanged. Information becomes even more central when we come to what can be labeled as “knowledge networks”: this kind of networks is basically a space for discussion that helps to determine research directions (for an academic community) or action strategies (for an association of people and groups committed to a social or environmental cause for instance.) For putting it another way, it is only within knowledge networks that “information” truly becomes “knowledge”, i.e. is crystallized into a body of consistent and mutually reinforcing assumptions. It is also within knowledge networks that knowledge receives a meaning that leads a group to enact value judgments and maybe to decide on a course of action.

The need to connect together scientific assessments, policymaking and grassroots activism explains the spread of knowledge networks. Also, the globalization of issues such as environment, violence, international trade and workers’ rights induces people to connect to groups that share similar concerns in various cultural and political contexts. International networks are partly a product of the eroding power of the Nation-State, and partly a response to the increased influence of other players, such as multinational companies.

Willemijn Verkoren has identified a few conditions under which knowledge networks can function correctly (International Journal of Peace Studies, 11-2, 2006). I rephrase here in my own way those that seem to me more important:
1) The network does not exist in isolation; exchanges going through the network and real life activities are linked in a sustainable way.
2) The purpose of networking is clear, as are the possibilities offered by the network and the limits of what it can achieve.
3) Capacity for learning, room for discussion, and openness in membership, discussion and sharing are requisites for the efficacy of the network.
4) While being able to operate autonomously, the network must be linked to a wider environment, to enable it to give and to receive.
5) Results of the interaction have to be visible at some stage.
6) To facilitate and moderate a network requires time and expertise.
7) Finally, the flexibility of the network helps it to facilitate exchanges, action and empowerment without trespassing over its boundaries, rather than aiming to become an all-encompassing knowledge system.

In the field of social action, there might be not stronger incentive to the spreading of the knowledge network model than the concerns raised around the sustainability of our economies and the current world governance system. The debate on climatic change shows that scientific conclusions are themselves reached through the nurturing of a permanent network of information and debate. The policy debate is nurtured by different (and often diverging) networks of citizens, experts and companies. Interconnection between these groups helps to go from traditional lobbying to innovative networking, and the growing debate on facts and values is conducive of such interconnections. Technical expertise is not sufficient for tackling such a broadly-shaped issue, and groups of citizens will continue to debate on consumption models, the resurgence of values such as frugality and solidarity, hopefully advancing towards formulations and insights that will develop a cultural model in line with the technical imperatives linked to the issue at stake. The mobilization of cultural resources for nurturing sustainable development - a mobilization achieved through a dialogue on core values, sharing of success stories and exchange of strategic analyses - is exactly what a knowledge network might want to achieve.

Maybe it would be useful for all of us to reflect on the following questions:
- What are the knowledge networks that I am presently engaged into?
- Are these networks akin to my real interests and current concerns, or should I try to engage into new ones?
- May I possibly be active in a web of relationships that could happily develop into a real knowledge network, sharing information among its members and with other networks, provided that I encourage the group to take the necessary steps for becoming more reflexive and participatory?
- What kind of knowledge networks does my environment need, and may I be instrumental in fostering such alliances?

May our online interactions and our real life activities follow more and more the model sketched here, so as to overcome the feeling of impotence that often overwhelms all of us. Our participation in some kind of knowledge networks should encourage us to become active citizens of a world whose destiny will finally be determined by the quality of the networking we enter into and the course of actions that naturally follows.
International Institute for Sustainable Development: about knowledge networks

Friday, 22 December 2006


氣息稀少 抽空 無法潛移
窒息脅迫 吼叫 遠離
空取得生命 化為濕潤的大地

Le temps se serre
Le temps se serre contre lui-même
comprime l’espace

Le souffle circule difficilement
se raréfie et s’appauvrit

L’étoffement menace
gronde et s’éloigne

Le va et vient se balance
le vide prend vie et devient terre humide


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Thursday, 14 December 2006




Les ramillles s’étirent
la peur décoiffée transparaît
l’encre colorée l’illumine



la poussée du bois
la danse de l’eau
réveil des formes




l’âme trouve sa consistance
dans les traces du corps

transparence du temps

【圖 笨篤】

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Saturday, 02 December 2006

Samsara...along the Gange River

Attached media :
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Friday, 24 November 2006




Friday, 24 November 2006

流转 在恒河上

叶姿吟 撰文 摄影



这圣城啊!人多(吐痰多),狗多(所以狗屎多),牛多(所以牛屎多);车多、船多、三轮车多、乞丐多 、朝圣者多、污染多、噪音多、旅行者多、小混混多、店多、小贩多、买卖多、法会多、音乐多, 人声,从不间断。

最后才发现唯一可以片刻安宁的是逃上小船,请船夫驶向恒河的中心。在那里,终于,可以安静地 看著恒河岸的云云众生。终于,没有任何噪音地能看著岸上的人们....沐浴的沐浴、洗衣的洗衣、练瑜珈的练瑜珈、理发的理发、喝茶的喝茶、算命的算命、按摩的按摩、骚扰游客的骚扰游客、画画的画画、卖花生的卖花生、弄蛇的弄蛇、叫卖的叫卖、拍照的拍照、行乞的行乞、恋爱的恋爱、失恋的失恋、灵修的灵修、吟唱的吟唱、过世的等火化、火化的化成灰烬。



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Friday, 24 November 2006

流轉 在恆河上



這聖城啊!人多(吐痰多),狗多(所以狗屎多),牛多(所以牛屎多);車多、船多、三輪車多、乞丐多 、朝聖者多、污染多、噪音多、旅行者多、小混混多、店多、小販多、買賣多、法會多、音樂多, 人聲,從不間斷。

最後才發現唯一可以片刻安寧的是逃上小船,請船夫駛向恆河的中心。在那裡,終於,可以安靜地 看著恆河岸的云云眾生。終於,沒有任何噪音地能看著岸上的人們....沐浴的沐浴、洗衣的洗衣、練瑜珈的練瑜珈、理髮的理髮、喝茶的喝茶、算命的算命、按摩的按摩、騷擾遊客的騷擾遊客、畫畫的畫畫、賣花生的賣花生、弄蛇的弄蛇、叫賣的叫賣、拍照的拍照、行乞的行乞、戀愛的戀愛、失戀的失戀、靈修的靈修、吟唱的吟唱、過世的等火化、火化的化成灰燼。



葉姿吟 撰文 攝影


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