Friday, 21 September 2012

The Darlong Philosophy and the Christian Values

By Jeremiah Darlong

It is often assumed and asserted that the Darlong people, currently scattered within the present political map of Tripura, embraced Christianity 'en masse' in less than
half a century essentially due to the fact that they were backward in every aspect including intellectually and spiritually and have nothing better to choose. This article argues that this assumption may not be fully correct for the simple reason that these people did have own their philosophy or ideas of God, life ,death, life after death and some highly valued social norms some of which are quiet akin to Christian values and teachings. Hence the higher level of acceptability of Christianity to the people.
Two months ago, one evening I was seated by the side of my Boss(Ex Boss) and were talking on the point of conflict between different religions. After a while our topic got little diverted and my Boss started asking me about the early religions of Darlongs. One of his sentence that really pierced my thought was that, ‘If the Darlongs have had proper religion, they would not have embraced Christianity en masse as they did today’. I found that his observation was quiet sharp but did not react to it as these could be how outsiders perceived the transformation of the Darlong society. The issue however lingered on my mind for all over the month. In one sense, I tend to agree that if the Darlong people had been deeply engrossed in the religious teachings of Islam or for that matter in the clutches of Hinduism or Buddhism with the entire attendant practices, Christianity could not made much headway as it has been doing as of today. But it may not be fully correct to assume and assert that their conversion to Christianity was wholly due to this factor. There were certain other factors as well. Amongst them was the then existing beliefs and practices of the people during the pre-Christianity period which is broadly being termed as the ‘Darlong Philosophy ’for the purpose of this article.
Concept of God:
It is admitted fact that the Darlongs worshipped anumber of Gods or deities. What they did may not really be termed as ‘worship’ which signifies more of the ‘adoration and honor’ to the object. It was more of appeasement acts to various evil spirits whom they attributed to be causes of their illnesses and ill lucks. Once the sacrifices were performed with or without the expected positive outcome they were ignored. The priest determined the nature of sacrifice and the right animal to be offered to the deity. Some of these spirits do not have even name and often referred to as ‘Ramhuai’ 'Khawhri' Tarpa, Rikul khawbawl, Bungzut Ripui, Khuachultenu(Zingngawrtenu), Lasi, Khawbiak, Lungtan Pathian, Hrawlsenahel or any other awesome reference. They were attributed with all kinds of shapes and sizes who may prank or harass the people but not necessarily expecting any offering.
God as Human Being:
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’7 The Darlong people did not have problem with this Bible’s commandment as well. God, having a son may be an issue for many other people since God is believed to be spirit and he should not and can not have a son. However, the Darlong people have not questioned this miraculous verse of the Bible. This is again due to their philosophical background of the concept of God. For them God can do anything including having a son, however awkward it may appear to be in human terms. Therefore, God having a son or Gods son becoming a human was neither questioned by the people nor was the idea strange or repulsive to them. Similarly to believe in the son and having eternal life at the simplistic level was so not a questionable proposition to the people. The difficulty possibly could come for them only when it says that, ‘I am the way,the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me”. It implies that one should have full faith only in Jesus, surrender everything to him and live your life according to his desire and commandments. Here, people started doubting and reportedly asked the missionaries. ‘Will your Jesus be able to defeat all these numerous evil spirits if we only trust in him?’ ‘Can he really protect us from all these harassments and evil designs? In fact, because of this point of faith, many people started doubting the ability of the new Christian faith to take care of their future interest in this life. It was widely claimed that those families who fully converted themselves into Christianity did paid the price in some forms from the evil spirit such as serious illnesses in the family or even death. Many of them went back to the pre-Christian practices though those who did not give up apparently did not face extraordinary sufferings as expected of them by the people.
Social norms and Values:
In the Bible, particularly Gospel books of the New Testament record a numbers of incidents and stories wherein Jesus scorned upon the hypocrisy and the arrogance of the Jews people particularly the upper class such the Pharisees and Sadducees. His main thrust of the missionary work was humility combined with a strong sense of social service. A number of incidents were there where the arrogance of the rich people was thrown to the dustbin and the lowly sincere attitude of the ordinary persons was emulated by Jesus. His social service attitude is best exemplified by the story of the good Samaritan helping the poor victims of robbery on the roadside. The thrust of the social values largely embodied in the Bible is quiet receptive to the Darlong people. Since time immemorial, they have had certain ethical social codes. These have been well emulated all along by various groups of the Darlong people. Humility, sincerity, respects for elders, concern for others particularly the widows and other weaker sections of society and courtesy in speech and behavior were very much part of the cultural ethos of the Darlong people. However, on the positive side what stands prominently is ’Tlawmingaina’. This connotes and implies uprightness, courage and self sacrifice. It also symbolized courstey, humility and modesty. Its essence is consideration for what is good and pleasing for others and for society. respect for parents and older people and ready to help for the needy.
The philosophy of the Darlong people may be Rudimentary compare to that of the Greeks or the Romans or the Chinese. But they did have their own concept of God, life, death, life after death and other social norms. These ideas and values were largely uninfluenced by the surrounding civilizations and religious thoughts such as Buddhism in the east, the Islam in the South and west and the Hinduism in the North and North West. Their ideas and thoughts remained pristine, unpolluted by these larger and more influential thoughts. When Christianity arrived in their part of the world, though quiet late due to the physical distances and poor communications, they found many of own in tune with that of Christian concepts and values. This undeniably helped them to be more responsive to the teachings of
Christianity and its values. It is therefore not wholly correct to attribute their backwardness and absence of organized religion for rapid Christianization of the Darlongs.

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