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Home arrow Culture (Taj lux taj laj) arrow RELIGION(ศาสนา)
 
RELIGION(ศาสนา) พิมพ์ ส่งเมล
ImageTHEIR NATIONAL RELIGION AND THEIR GOD TRADITIONS.
The Karens are remarkable for believing in one eternal God, Creator of all things, “who is like the air, and lives in the sky, as does the wind, and like the wind goes everywhere.”  



       On the other hand, the Karen looks upon God as having long since deserted him on account of his sins, and left him to the persecution of demons, which cause sickness, death, and all the ills of life. He insists that the demons are so near and God so far away that he is in no way disloyal to God when he sacrifices to demons. He merely temporizes with them till God’s promised return. To the   Karen, “the world is filled with invisible spirits. Every living being, be it man or beast or creeping thing, has its La (spirit); and every mountain peak, tree, cataract, and river has its lord, and every lord a number of attendants, agents to carry out his will, who are the La of those who have died violent deaths. These lords reside near the physical object which they protect, seated on the mossy crag, under the forest tree, or in the forming torrent.
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The demons are supposed to cause sickness by stealing away the protecting La or spirit from the sick man. The first thing done when any one falls ill is to attempt by some slight to propitiate the demon, and induce him to return the stolen La. The first offering is generally made at the crossing of two roads at evening time by some relation of the sick man.
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The Red Karens keep the month of Tagoo(April) absolutely sacred to the worship of the one God. During that month demon sacrifices are strictly prohibited.
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The following hymn is one of their ancient hymns handed down by their bards from generation to generation.
The translation is true to the original both in words and metre.
“ Father God is very near,
Lives He now amongst us here;
God is not far off, we know—
Dwells He in our midst below.
“’Tis because men are not true
That He is not seen to you ;
‘Tis because men turned to sin
Now no longer God is seen.
“ All upon the earth below
Is but God’s foot-rest, we know ;
Heaven in the heights above
Is God’s seat of truth and love.”
       
It is interesting to note in these verses a peculiarity common also in Hebrew poetry—parallelisms. The thought of the first couplet is followed by a repetition in the next in a slightly varied form.
          
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        When, nearly sixty years ago, the attention of the American missionaries was first drawn to the Karens, they found them in possession of a remarkable set of traditions, both in prose and poetry, exactly corresponding with the history of the creation and the fall of man as told in the Bible. Many of the national  traditions vary in details locally’ but these God-traditions, as they are called, are found to be absolutely identical everywhere, from Mergui to Toungoo, and from cape Negraes to far east of Zimmay, in Siam. They tell how, after the fall, God gave the Bible to the Karens first, as
the elder branch of the race; that neglected it, and that God in anger took it away from them and gave it to their younger brother, the white man, who, however, was placed under obligations to restore the Word to the Karens, and teach them the true religion after their sins had been sufficiently atoned for by long subjugation to other races.
        ImageIt has been suggested by some that these traditions may be only the echo of the preaching of Percoto, the great Italian missionary, who visited Burma about the year 1740. But there are two circumstances which completely bar such a supposition. The Italian missionaries did not penetrate far into the country of the Karens. They found them savage and inaccessible, and did not attempt to teach them. And, even of they had preached to them the story of the creation and the relation of God to man, there was not time between Percoto’s visit and the advent of the American missionaries in 1828 for the story to become a national bard tradition. It must be remembered that all the Karen traditions are sung or recited from memory; none of them are written, for there was no written language. The period which elapsed between Percoto and the American missionaries was not long enough to allow of the whole story becoming part of the traditions of the clans. It appears most probable that their origin dates from the time when the Karens had not yet entered Burma, and that they were derived from the colony of Nestorian Jews who made their way by land from Armenia to China in the early Middle Ages, and whose track the Karens must have crossed in their journey southwards. This supposition is strengthened by the remarkable similarity between portions of the moral code of the Karens and the Law as expounded in the Old Testament, by the resemblance of some of their sacrifices to the Jewish rites, and by the belief which is universal among them that they once received a roll of parchment  containing the Law from God. During all these hundreds of years, the Karens, holding fast to what had been delivered to them, have been looking steadily for the advent of the   fulfillment of the prophecy of restoration.
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The Karen-ness, or Red Karens, claim superiority over the other tribes from their possession of metal plates, which they declare to be part of the original written Word given to them by God. They say that, although they sinned equally with the rest in losing the knowledge of reading and writing, they have shown so much reverence for these plates that God will be far more merciful to them than to the other tribes. They proudly attribute their independence to the special favour thus shown them. These plates are looked upon as the palladium of the clan, and are guarded with jealous care. Copies of them have been taken and shown to European and Oriental scholars, but, so far as is known, they have not yet been deciphered.
(From the Loyal Karens of Burma)
     
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