India’s Faith and Indonesia’s Faith

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I watched Around the World in 80 Faiths: India and Nepal . Around the World in 80 Faiths is documentary series by BBC executed by the Church of England Vicar, Pete Own-Jones, who travels far and wide to many continents such as North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. I live in North America specifically in New York City, US (United States of America).

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So I wanted to watch an episode that I knew little about and will feel the most interested in, so I chose India. Coincidentally, India is also my name but that is not entirely why I chose to watch this particular country. The reason is that I had always come across Indian people who have migrated from there to the USA and when I asked what is India like, they always say that it is one of the most beautiful places to visit, its full of many types of beautiful people, culture, understanding, and peace, and their culture is ancient and like no other. So I can see for myself if any of the things I heard were true.

In the show Around the World in 80 Faiths, episode six: India and Nepal discussed ten faiths found in India: Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism: Muktinath, Hindu/Buddhist, Hinduism: The Durga Puja, Hindu Aghoris, The Bishnoi, Nath Fire Walkers, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Hindu Gorehabba ritual. What was most interesting to me was the Hindu and Buddhist’s child blessing. This blessing was performed by the goddess grandmother, who was also the midwife (a trained professional who can deliver babies), which we have as well in the USA. The child blessing was similar to a Christening, a child blessing ceremony or ritual found in the religion Christianity. Christianity and Catholicism is the religion (Catholicism is a specific type of Christianity) I was raised in. Christianity is the belief in one God through teachings and beliefs of Jesus Christ. However the Hindu/Buddhist’s child blessing in Kathmandu, Nepal did things much differently during the ceremony. First, the midwife massages the newborn while they’re fully naked with mustard oil, to welcome the new life to the world. The newborn baby is then provided with two names, a secret name that only God and the child’s soul knows, which is given to protect them from evil.

The next name is the name that his family and the world will know and call them by. During the ceremony, the midwife meditates, and pray over the child with a lit candle and rubs oil on the child’s forehead and the mother. The mother of the child then squeezes her breast milk on the small lit candle, as an offering to the Gods which is passed over the newborn during the ceremony. This is a very sacred ritual for good karma for their newborn. In Hinduism/Buddhism you have what is known as good and bad karma, meaning the good deeds you do and good spirit you have will lead to a life and afterlife of good and vice versa for bad. This can also lead to reincarnation, it is after you die you will be reborn but as something or someone else. For example, I am a human woman, when I did I can be reincarnated to a male horse. Therefore, the newborn will go through many experiences before he is reborn in the afterlife but the baby must devote their life to the Gods who will determine whether their path gave them good or bad karma. This is interesting because of it the complete opposite of how I grew up in a Christian home. For Christians, a child blessing is known as a Christening.

In a Christening, the ceremony is conducted in a Christian Church by a pastor or a priest (Catholic), who reads a bible scripture. The bible scripture reading is used to welcome the baby to the world and Christianity and in a way, this is similar to Hindu/Buddhist where this can be a sign of giving the child giving good karma. These bible readings are to help instill good life and guidance. During the ceremony, the pastor will be reading the bible while he is the parents of the child will hold the baby while both sides of the parents will have two people besides them called Godparents to witness the child’s blessing and provide that they accept the responsibility as a Godparent. These are people who will care and have guardianship to the child if the parents die, there. But, unlike massaging the mustard oil all over their body, the baby is instead dressed formally in white like a white gown for a girl or a white suit for a boy and after the bible reading the oil or holy water is rubbed or poured on the head of the newborn.

In addition, in order to receive good karma, one has to go to the temple and pray to the god while also performing various meditation rituals. One major reason for this process is because in their religion they do believe in the afterlife also known in the Muslim community as Akhirah, this belief is that after death the Atman (soul) of a person passes into a new body and life. This new life depends on how the person lived their previous life. This belief was a complete opposite to my culture Christian’s believe when they die our soul is now sent to heaven with God. Another difference to the Christian faith is the belief in one true God while Hindu/ Buddhist believe in many Gods because each God represents something different, there is no all in one God like in Christianity. For instance, throughout the documentary Vicar, Pete Own-Jones was very active in the Hindu/Buddhist practices such as The Tara ritual at the Kutsab Ternga monastery ,this was apart of the Tibetan Buddhism. The Tara is a very important figure in Buddhism because she is known as the mother of liberation. Moreover, there are several types of religion and denomination around the world, as mentioned so I decided to take a deeper look but on another religion known as “Manpru ” religion. This is a religion practiced by Indonesian people specifically those in the island of Sumba. They are considered the last Indonesian who follows an ancestral faith.

In order to get a close look at I watched a documentary directed and produced by Laura Scheerer and Janet Hoskins in the year 1988 titled The Feast in Dream Village . The film focused on how the ancestors’ spirits restore fertility after their village was destroyed by fire. The religious practices are lead by the head priest along with a second in command known as the archer as well as the sponsor. In this religion, the archer is the one who recites the history of the village so the Indonesian people can prepare an offering known as the feast to the ancestors. This feast preparation took twelve years to prepare. According to the head priest, when the fire took place the souls and spirits got lost .The feast will allow them to restore the souls to their rightful place and which they can ask the ancestors for favors like for of their crops to be of abundance and longevity for their lives. The feast is performed in their village with many guests such as government officials and local villagers. Also, there is a two seven day period before the ritual specifically prepared and performed by the head priest and the archer by inviting the spirits to a scared space this is known as “Palau Marque.” This is where the archer makes an offer to the spirit in order to complete the invitation.

Along with the request is a performance of ancestral dances with instruments such as the drums and also their spears (their weapons). The second ritual is performed every day for seven days. It is their main offering, the buffalo. They would slash open the buffalo to ensure the liver is good which is a sign that the offerings were accepted by the spirits. All and all, these rituals are very scared and important to their culture because this is the highest form of respect to the spirit which allows them to revive favor for their troubles. Many ancestors before them performed these same rituals and since then has too had much success according to an elderly villager, the rituals are their way of connecting to the spirits and god in the heavens.

In conclusion both documentaries showed religions that I have never encountered personally and they both had similar traits such as them both are religions that believe in a higher being such as spirits or gods however the Indonesian faith focuses only on the soul and spirits of their ancestor and do believe in heaven but not an afterlife and many gods that are not ancestors as the Hindu/Buddhist believes in. They both also believe that no one should be above or comes before their deity and to always keep their faith in them no matter where they go.

The Hinduism and Buddhism has several elements to their faith and rituals, they believed in reincarnation and the afterlife, good karma (deemed by how you lived in your previous life depicts if you will return as a better version or worst they believe if you pray and mediated and live by the word of budda better is in store in a next life). Both documentaries highlighted major rituals of the natives and allows the viewers to see real-life culture first hand. Ironically both religions and their native were geographically located in Asia; both faiths had leaders who lead in religious practices such as head priest for Manpru and puja for the Hindu. They were religions that I think culture wise was different from mine but similar as they all believe in higher purpose and good and bad (good vs. evil), showing all religions may be different but all have a common goal, by giving them more purpose in life.

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