Religion and Beliefs
For Buddhist communities living in central Rakhine State, life is greatly shaped by planetary forces, which, in the local understanding, are a mirror of one person’s karmic condition. Health in particular, is seen as depending on these forces. It is the karma, reflected in the planets, which determines the general state of health, the nature of a disorder, and the probability of recover. Now, these forces, karma and planets, are made known, visible, predictable and can even be manipulated, through astrology and its derived practices. In order to prevent from misfortune and nurture one’s well-being, people rely on astrological calculations to make sure that their actions are in tune with the laws of the cosmos.
Representing a map of and for the cosmos, astrology is ubiquitous among traditional healers. Regardless of their main specialisation, astrologers, diviners, specialists of traditional medicine, exorcists, monks, all use astrology in articulation to other practices.
And yet, despite this central role, the resort to astrology is often denied or masked by clients and healers alike under the explanation that “astrology has nothing to do with Buddhism”. Buddhism, or rather, a purified vision of it promoted by the state, is the main criteria people use to judge the respectability of practices.
My paper will examine this tension between the centrality vs marginalization of astrology with the intent to unpack its roots, meanings, and implications in terms of social positioning of different healers, adaptive practices, and logics of therapeutic efficacy.