Champions of Buddhism, III.2


III.2 (7).

Healing through Weikza : Therapeutic Cults in the Arakanese Context

Ce'line Coderey


p. 164 Arakan and its Natha deities

"Arakan is located in northwest Burma. Before ... 1784, it was an independent kingdom highly influenced by India. ...

As an aspect of their their religion, they pay homage to local spirits called

nat ... .

{Skt. /natha/ 'refuge' : cf. "I seek refuge in >al-Lahh from >ibliys" (Qur>an).} {"Natha" heroes are particularly venerated in Yoga cults of modern Bharata-vars.a.}

In the Thandwe area {southern Arakan}, two kinds of nat are particularly respected : the nat watching over natural spaces (mountains, trees, rivers, and the sea) and those watching over social spaces (homes, villages, and towns). However, the cult of the Thirty-Seven nat ... which is highly popular in central and lower Burma is almost unknown in [Arakan]." [p. 186, n. 2 : "See Brac de la Perrie`re (1989)."]

Brac de la Perrie`re 1989 = Be'ne'dicte Brac de la Perrie`re : Les rituels de possession en Birmanie : du culte d'etat aux ce're'monies prive'es. Paris : Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, ADPF.

p. 166 causation of sicknesses

"there are two kinds of sickness : ordinary (yawga) and non-ordinary (payawga).

The first are mainly provoked by ... the contemporary planetary conditions, which are generally considered to ... act as ultimate causes. ...

Moreover, karma is supposed to be the primary factor responsible for congenital sickness (... malformations, etc.) ... .

Non-ordinary sicknesses are supposed to be caused by ... vindictive spirits (nat, tahsay, thaye, peikta)."

pp. 166-7 sorcerer & witch

p. 166

"The sorcerer ... has learned from a master or by reading books, while the witch possesses an innate skill ... . ... While

the master of the lower path (auk-lan hsaya),

{In Siberia, a master of the lower path is a shaman who, in dreams, ventureth into the Netherworld in order to retrieve lost human souls, redeeming them from the clutches of Netherworld deity-rulers, thus thereby curing ailments.}

who is always a man, ... has been trained by a master, the son, generally a woman, sonma, corresponds to

p. 167

both of them ... : her knowledge is

sometimes innate,

{Innate power would be that of a natural sensitive, whether psychic or pneumatic (as distinguished from an ordinary person, a hylic).}

sometimes learned."

"Witches cause ... simply by reciting spells ... with ... introducing ... the witch's soul (or at least part of it) ... .

Masters of the lower path induce ... mainly by ... pieces or paper or metal sheets {/lamina/ (singular /lamen/)} inscribed with esoteric diagrams ... or by ordering ... spirits ... ."

p. 168 conventional translation of terminology

Burmese term

conventional translation thereof

baydin hsaya




nat hsaya

natha medium

ahtetlan hsaya

upper-path master

taing-yin hsay hsaya

indigenous-medicine specialist

p. 168 litteral translation of terminology, reflecting knowledge, and mastery, of the Veda

Burmese term

litteral translation thereof

baydin pyinnya


baydin hsaya


pp. 169, 187 combination of s`amatha with occultism

p. 169

"weikza (or bodaw) are people who, by combining thamahta (P. samatha, "concentration") meditation ... on one hand, with alchemy, remedies, esoteric diagrams or mantras, on the other, obtain extraordinary powers (theikdi) : extending their lifespan, becoming invisible and invulnerable".

p. 187, n. 7

"Diagrams and mantra exist in all Theravada societies. They have been studied by Franc,ois Bizot (1981) and Olivier de Bernon (1998) in particular. See also Thomas Patton ([2014,] Chapter 6)."

Bizot 1981 = Franc,ois Bizot : "Notes sur les yantra bouddhiques d'Indochine". In :- Michel Strickman (ed.) : Tantric and Taoist Studies in Honour of R. A. Stein. Bruxelles : Institut Belge des Hautes E'tudes Chinoises. Vol. 1, pp. 151-91.

de Bernon 1998 = Olivier de Bernon : Yantra et mantra. Phnom-Penh : Centre Culturel Franc,ais.

Patton 2014 = Thomas Patton : Bearers of Wisdom, Sources of Power : Sorcerer-Saints and Burmese Buddhism. PhD diss, Cornell Univ.

pp. 170-1 divination performed through dead vidya-dhara-s

p. 170

"Weikza are no longer ordinary humans, nor are they enlightened beings (yahanda) or Buddha[-]s.

They are more similar to deities (daywa, P. deva) ... .

{Genuine vidya-dhara-s may, howbeit, in all cases be a defunct's saint's spirit-guide (of the type otherwise known as "guardian angel", "fravas^i" in Persian of the Zarathustrian), who functioned as the spirit-guide of the defunct when the defunct was as yet alive.}

Deities are often invoked by people looking for protection ... . ... the weikza, however, ... can contact humans mentally, by possessing them, or even by

appearing in the flesh.

{Such "flesh", however, is not the flesh of a material body, but, rather, that of an "aitheric double" (sometimes described as a powerful ghost).}

They can also permanently invest the body of a human."

{This status would be analogous to that of a "walk-in" (more often mentioned in contexts of occupation of bodies of living humans by extraterrestrials).}

p. 171

"The skill to perform divination through weikza or daywa results from election by one of them through dreams or visions.

{This is likewise the usual method for one's becoming a shaman -- whether in Siberia, in the Americas, or elsewhere.}

There are two reasons (that are not mutually exclusive) leading to election. A person can be elected thanks to

the amount of virtues (parami, P. parami) {but only if 'transcendental'}

{This phrase /amount of virtues/ is usually translated 'stock-of-merit', in Skt /kus`ala-mula/ (litterally, 'benevolence-root'); /pun.ya/ is 'merit' and /as`aya/ is 'stock' or 'balance of deposits' (S-ED).}

he or she has accumulated in past lives and because he or she has already encountered the weikza (pahtan hset, "to be in contact through successive existences"). This election often takes place in childhood and often touches people of low social and economical condition ... . The second reason is mental purity and stability obtained through an intense practice of thamahta {s`amatha} meditation ... . This method gives access to ... extraordinary powers ..., including those of

hearing voices,

{namely, voices of deities}

seeing invisible things,

{that is, invisible to persons lacking the "powers", which are furnished to the "elect" by deities}

reading other peoples' minds,

{this being done for the human "reader" by deities}

foreseeing the future, and

{also done for the human "foresee-er" by deities}

communicating with superior beings (daywa and weikza). ...

(i.e., not only hearing the voices of deities, but also having one's own voice heard by those deities)

Even though only one weikza is the elector, the person will later be able to contact several (generally two or three) weikza."


pp. 172-3 contrast between overshadowing ("divination-session") by dead vidya-dhara, and that by deva : "electric" current (tingling?) in the case of by [the spirit-guide of a] dead wizard, but vibration ("shaking") in the case of deva

p. 172

"Concerning the weikza, most healers speak of dat si. Dat {Skt /dhatu/} means "elements" or "energy," si means "flow" ... . Thus, dat si means "the element / the energy flows" ..., a very common term in ... weikza cults. ... [A certain practitioner] argues that at the time he gets in contact with the weikza, he feels a sort of electric shock inside the body : "it is like an electric shock, when we are in contact ... in unison.""

p. 173

"The contact with a deity (daywa) ... is similar ... . ... At the the time the deity comes into mental contact, she [a certain practitioneress] experiences slight shaking in her body and hands. Inspired by the deity, she poses questions to the client. She first replies in

a language she says to be Pali,

{but perhaps, instead, actually one of the "unknown tongues, of angels"?}

and then translates into Burmese.

She claims to not remember a single word after the session."

{thus indicating that not only was a deity speaking in tongues through her mouth, but was also interpreting the angelic language for her}

pp. 173 & 187 natha's temporarily supplanting of the spirit-medium's butterfly-soul

"When a medium of a nat ... is possessed by the nat ... the nat, in its spiritual form, goes inside the medium's body taking, for a while, the place of this soul, called leikpya "butterfly."

The entry is marked by a soft shaking of the medium's body and hands. The main manifestion of possession is dance, but in divinatory sessions it does not take place. The nat just speaks through the medium's mouth. Once the nat has left, the medium does not remember what the nat has said."

p. 187, n. 10 Arakanese dream experience of one's own becoming a butterfly

"According to the Arakanese people, every person has a soul,

{It would be more natural to say that one's self "is" a soul, but "hath" (or "occupieth") a body.}

which is supposed {"supposed"?!} to leave the body {that is the 'material body', /deha/}

{In which dream one's cosciousness not experienced as located in the material body, but instead in a dream-body -- this being actual experience, not a mere "supposition"!}

when the person sleeps, when he takes a great fright, and, finally, at death."

{This curious sort of dream, that of one's own becoming a butterfly, is mentioned in the antient Taoist scripture by C^uan C^ou (Zhuan Zhou).}

p. 173 sacred-thread & yadaya

"if the diviner sees the person's karmic and planetary situation are unfavorable, he gives him a consecrated thread or prescribes a yadaya, an act or an offer allowing to avoid or attenuate bad luck. The thread is supposed to transfer the power of the spell used to consecrate it as well as to fix the soul to the body in such a way that it will not leave." [p. 187, n. 11 : "For yadaya, see ... Rozenberg (2007), and Coderey (2010, 2011)."]

Rozenberg 2007 = Guillaume Rozenberg : "Le saint qui ne voulait pas mourir". L'HOMME 182.2:97-130.

Coderey 2010 = Ce'line Coderey : "Du karma aux plane`tes : les the'rapeutes arakanais ...". MOUSSONS : RECHERCHES ... SUR L'ASIE DU SUD-EST 15:29-53.

Coderey 2011 = Ce'line Coderey : Les mai^tres du 'reste' ... en Arakan (Burma). PhD diss, Universite' de Provence.

pp. 174-5 natha-s are useful for diagnosis of ailments and for lovemaking

p. 174

"As Ma Tan Gyi, a ... medium living in Thandwe{,} explained to me, "Nat make it possible to diagnose and solve problems linked with nat and other spirits, but not tose concerning witches and masters of the lower path." On the other hand, because of ... their possession of supernatural powers, weikza ... are able to diagnose and cure a higher number of sicknesses (including those provoked by karma, ... witches, etc.)."

p. 175

"To become a medium, one must be elected by a nat. ... . ... in order to explain their election, mediums use the same explanatory model {as that} used by diviners : accumulation of virtues, contact with a nat in the past life {or sometimes, in a long sequence of past lives}, mental purity. {Likewise,} in central and southern Burma, ...

nat fall in love with mediums because of their beautiful soul

{Divine entities fall in love with the beautifully pious and ethically perfect souls of mortals of opposite sex, the same souls wherewith they have fallen in love for the same reason in praevious lives of the same mortals. This is a frequent motif in Siberian shamanry.}

and give them troubles which are overcome only through marriage with the nat.

{Because of being speciously attracted by delusions of the material world, mortal humans who are prospective candidates for practicing mediumship are usually at first reluctant, and need to be cajoled by means of hardships into accepting mediumship as a vocation; but afterwards they are always glad that they did so accept. Marriage to a spirit-guide is often experienced in dreaming by practitioners in Siberian tribes, e.g., the Goldi.}

The higher ... respectability of divination through weikza explains, at least in part, a hierarchical phenomenon between {among} the different practices widespread among diviners."

{It is considered more respectable to venerate dead saints than to worship immortal deities in Burma, just as veneration of dead saints is more encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church in western Europe than are devotions to immortal angels. The 9 orders of angels are more highly regarded, however, in Eastern Orthodox religious devotions.}

pp. 175-6 instance of how a divinatory session is conducted by a female diviner for a client

p. 175

"She [Ma Shan Aye] says, "I don't know, the bodaw (weikza) know." ... . ... then she invokes the "eighty thousand weikza" and asks them to give her the "power and heat to hear and to see" ... . She goes on reciting a formula, but occasionally stops in order to ask

p. 176

the client questions or to report the weikza's answers. By giving her predictions ... after communicating with the bodaw, she gives ... the information ... from them ... ."

"To solve easy cases, mediums consult the nat, but for difficult cases, they prefer appealing to a weikza."

pp. 176-7 typically, divineresses (female diviners) pray to medaw (female custodians of relics of the dead saints), not to bodaw (male custodians of relics of the dead saints)

p. 176

"Win Win Moe, another diviner, argues : "I only contact bodaw ..., I do not contact medaw, like Thuyathadi, as Ma Lon does, because she {viz., Thuyathadi} is a nat ... ." As for her, Ma Lon claims to contact only Thuyathadi Medaw.

p. 177

She says that since she is a woman, it would not be suitable for her to contact bodaw."

{This is because for a living woman to pray to a living man could imply that she is wishing to have sexual relations with him.}

p. 177 absence of the esoteric in the practice of diviner and divineresses

"Although the diviners have been trained through dreams and/or visions, the esoteric is almost absent from their practices."

{Perhaps this is because such practices always involve being a reader-and-adviser for paying clients, and it would be deemed unseemly both to share esoteric information with casual clients, and also to charge any definite fee for esoteric information.}

p. 177 masters of the upper path

"The master of the upper path ... prevents and cures any kind of aggression with the help of weikza and deities. He uses consecrated water {holy water} and esoteric techniques (esoteric diagrams, in particular).

Most of the masters have acquired their knowledge through an initiation into a congregation (gaing)".

{That is so say, they have not acquired power directly from mighty deities encountred in power-containing otherworldly "dreams and/or visions", as is the usual case in Siberian (and in AmerIndian) shamanry.}

{The "upper path" is mere delusion, derived from the affairs of the delusive material universe, whereas the "lower path" is that of ultimate reality, transcendent wisdom from divinely immaterial planes-of-existence.}

pp. 178-9 gain {more-of-less aequivalent to Skt /parampara/ (lineage of transmission of lore)}

p. 178

"The gaing is a group originally founded by one or more weikza. The weikza's knowledge and especially ... thamahta meditation and respect ... are transmitted to new generations through a line {parampara} of masters {guru-s}. ... Depending on the gaing, initiation can take from a few hours to several years. The initiation is structured into levels. Most congregations have nine. ... many congregations are also open to women ... . ... For instance, with the first two or three levels, he is able ... to cure snake and/or poisonous insect bites. Only if he {or she} attains the last level will he {or she} be able to fight against ... the

"12 threads witches" ... .

{threads of Wyrd (i.e., of the Weird Sistren, the Nornir)?}

Attaining the last level enables the person to become a master {or mistress}, with the capacity to initiate people. For the initiation, the neophyte is required to take a vow before a cup of water, promising that he {or she} will respect ... the gaing.

After he {or she} has taken his {or her} vow, the neophyte drinks the cup of water.

{"The Ebionites (deserving poor) an ancient Jewish Christian sect closely associated with Jesus' brother James who was the first bishop of Jerusalem interpreted the Eucharist as a memorial of Jesus, substituting a chalice of water for the chalice of blood [viz., of wine]. ... Irenaeus observed that ... "they deny the ... wine and wish to know nought but the water ..." (Ranke-Heinemann 1992 173, Wilson I 154, Grollier)." ["TWY&D"]}

His respect ... {for the gain} guarantees the efficacy of the tattoos and the esoteric diagrams he receives during initiation as well as of those he will learn to draw himself. Depending on the congregation, tattoos can be of two kinds. The first offers protective power

p. 179

and consists of simple spots -- visible or invisible -- on various parts of the body : hands, face,


{the figure of Scarab-god [H^PR] graven (according to Herodotos) on the tongue of Bull-god Apis?}

head, etc. The other kind of tattoos, esoteric diagrams or gaing logos, gives power while marking the gaing membership and the acquired level."

Ranke-Heinemann 1992 = Ranke-Heinmann, Uta 1992 Putting Away Childish Things, Harper, San Francisco.

"TWY&D" = "Treading the Winepress : Yeshua and Dionysius".

"(The Ebionites were also known by the name Aquarii, since they had ... water {of sobriety} as the source of life.)" (The Catholics, on the contrary, have -- via plagiary from the Dionusiac cult -- idolatrous worship of blood-of-inebriation as source-of-death in their blasphemously false eucharist. [The only genuinely legitimate eucharist would be a psychedelic herb/drug.])

pp. 179 & 29 ingestion of esoteric diagrams {cf. Christian (including layfolk's -- except for the in Coptic Church, wherein this solid is, alike unto to the liquid, eucharist, confined to the clergy only) ingestion of bread-eucharist sacramentally marked with sigils}

p. 179

"In the gaing ..., progression from one level to the next implies the inges{ta}tion of esoteric diagrams (in and sama) ... . .... They consist of inscriptions of letters or numbers ... . ... The inges{ta}tion of in and sama is supposed to increase the disciple's power in order to make him immune to all kinds of attacks.

In some congregations where disciples have the double aim of becoming a weikza and helping followers solve mundane problems, this inges{ta}tion of esoteric diagrams contributes to both aims simultaneously as

it increase the protective and exorcistic power of the person while transforming his body till perfection.

[p. 187, n. 15 : "Mendelson (1963b:798) argues that the "bodily assimilation of a substance ... normally intervenes to transform the weikza into a weikzado.""]

In this case, rather than ending with the accomplishment of initiation, inges{ta}tion goes on lifelong."

p. 29, n. 1:53

"The use of runes {bija mantra-s 'seed spells'} (in {Skt. IM}, aing {Skt. AIM}, sama {Skt. s`ama}) as medicines and devices of protection likewise has close parallels in Daoist ... practices. Strickmann 2002:123-32, 170-9; Bokenkamp 1997:253n20. Frances Garrett (2009:107-8) posits a Chinese origin for the similar "edible letter" (za yig) tradittion found in Tibetan Buddhism."

Mendelson 1963b = E. Michael Mendelson : "Observations on a Tour in the Region of Mount Popa, Central Burma". FRANCE-ASIE 19 (179):780-807.

Strickmann 2002 = Michel Strickmann : Chinese Magical Medicine. Stanford Univ Pr.

Bokenkamp 1997 = Stephen R. Bokenkamp : Early Daoist Scriptures. Berkeley : Univ of CA Pr.

Garrett 2009 = Frances Garrett : "Eating Letters in the Tibetan Treasure Tradition". J OF THE INTERNAT ASSN OF BUDDHIST STUDIES 32.1-2:85-114.

p. 180 silkworm's extruded thread for surrounding itself therewithal, thus constructing a coccoon, through with the afterward-metamorphosed caterpillar (silk-moth Bombyx mori) must burst

"If the person's planetary influence is unfavorable, healers ... can also give him an enchanted thread (chi-man, "thread charged through the recitation of payeik," leikpya gyo, "butterfly soul's thread") which will act as a protective barrier {against hostile mulberry-spirits?} and will fix the soul to the body {to the extent that the body, wherein the soul is residing in like manner as a silkworm within its cocoon, can be likened to a cocoon} preventing it from leaving {act as hindrance obstructing it from entring deleterious varieties of dream-worlds}."

{When such sacred-thread be worn baldrick-wise, it can disguise the wearer as a cocooned silk-caterpillar in the process of undergoing metamorphosis. On account of Chinese mythic horse-pelt which as transformed into the silkworm cocoon, such that "the silkworm (its head looks like a horse's head) is transformed from a girl wrapped in a horsehide" (HChM, s.v. "Leizu", p. 164) : this would, furthermore put the enchanter of the "enchanted thread" under the protection of equine deities.}

{To disguise a client as a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis would put such client under protection of the Butterfly-goddess who is the supreme deity of the various Miao tribes; Aztecbutterfly- goddess Itz-papalotl is similar. This could furthermore liken the client's waking life to the antara-bhava status of a divinity in afterlife the path for souls of the dead (such a caterpillar-deity being likewise known in the Sandwich-islander account of the afterdeath-travel of souls), thus obliging Netherworld-deities to participate in protection of the client.}

{The specific equine deities alluded-to could include the Chinese mythic so-called "dragon-horse" (lon-ma -- ridden by king Mu, EI:KL, p. 11), regarded covered with green reptilian scales, whose anthropoid guise would be S^u-kingdom green-silkworm-god Can-con who "always wore green clothes, thus he was also called "Green God" or "God in Green Clothes."" (HChM, s.v. "Cancong", p. 83) This is in addition to the "nine-colored dragon horse" ("GESCh") ridden by Tai-mu, cave-dwelling goddess of of the Yue nation : corresponding to the "rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald" (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 4:3). } {But where Can-con "made thousands of golden silkworms and gave every family one golden silkworm" (HChM, s.v. "Cancong", p. 83), this would referr to the "golden cord" connecting the mental-body (manas-maya-kos`a) with the astral-body whence it is extruded if the soul of the dead be entring the mental-plane (Heaven) instead of being immediately redincarnated.}

EI:KL = Ishida Eiichiro : The Kappa Legend.

HChM = Lihui Yang & Deming An : Handbook of Chinese Mythology. ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara (CA), 2005.

"GESCh" = "Goddesses for Every Star Over China".

Apokalupsis of Ioannes

pp. 180-3 monopoly on exorcism

p. 180

"diviners contact supernatural beings ... . ... Some healers are also

able to create and use esoteric diagrams because they have learned them ... from a weikza who contacted them in dreams.

{This would, indeed, be the principal, if not the only, way of assuring empowerment of diagrams. Some AmerIndian memebership secret-societies for women are based on women's dreaming of designs which they thereupon stitch into apparel.}

Drawn on silver plates and rolled around {by} a thread, they are given to the patient to be worn as amulets, called lethpwe."

p. 181

"Monks focus on wipathana meditation to reach nirvana, whereas

masters practice thamahta meditation in order to heal by appealing to bodaw (weikza)."

p. 182

"When a person consults a master ..., the master first pays homage to ... the deities (daywa) and the weikza, by lighting some candles and incense sticks on the altar dedicated to these superior beings. For the diagnosis, most of the masters make mental contact with the weikza and deities. Some ... state that they keep tis contact throughout the whole session; their acts are thus guided by the weikza. ... If the patient shakes, it is because he has been "caught." ... .

p. 183

... a terrible heat will force the evil to leave the patient's body ... . ... Finally, to protect the patient from any future aggressions, the healer gives him a protection, generally an amulet (lethpwe), sometimes a remedy ... . Remedies are roots or a combination of powders from various plants. The power they have is not intrinsic but acquired because the master ... asks the weikza to transmit their power."

pp. 184-5 "lower path"

p. 184

"Indeed, the masters of the lower path ...

make tattoos and

{as a sign to the Otherworld-divinities depicted that their beneficial services are freely available to those in need of such charitable services}

practice meditation in graveyards,

{performed in order to offer services to divinities guiding souls of the dead}

and they have a tattoo representing the Buddha under their feet,

{possibly alluding to a dhyani-buddha's travel via, and making use of, stepping from one divine waterlily to another in the Pure Lands}

and they call on ... ogres (bilu) to watch over esoteric triagrams."

{to protect such benevolent emblems from being interfered-with by blasphemous greed-maddened atheist-materialists who are abetted by diabolic fiends}

p. 185

"others, like the abbot of the Shway Lay monastery, argue these opposite paths are learned successively : one must learn the lower path first and the upper later". {This is because the "lower path" is one of great politeness and appeasement, of learning how to please even hostile praeternatural entities; whereas the upper path is more difficult, finding ways to force obstinate mortals to cease from their self-destructive bad habits.}

{According to the Tuvinian system, the "lower path" of "black magic" consisteth of wending one's way (in shamanic dreaming) into the Netherworld of disease fiends in order to appease those fiends, thereby curing ailments afflicting medical patients (in the waking-world); whereas the "upper path" of "white magic" consisteth of wending one way (likewise in shamanic dreaming) into the Heaven in order to receive instructions there concerning how to remedy social conditions (likewise in the waking-world).}

"the term hmaw hsaya, "master of magic," {/hmaw/ 'magic' + /hsaya/ 'expert'} ... designates a person who knows both white and black magic".


Be'ne'dicte Brac de la Perrie`re; Guillaume Rozenberg; and Alice Turner (edd.) : Champions of Buddhism : Weikza Cults in Contemporary Burma. NUS Pr, Singapore, 2014.