A study of tantric healing in Nepal would appear timely, constituting an appropriate response to a widespread disenchantment with technologically- based 'miracle curse'. This serves to endow a religious perspective which views supernatural or mind-created phenomena to lie at the root of mental or physical afflictions with greater rationality.
The present work presents a comprehensive overview of tantric healing modes, together with a socio-cultural survey of people's experiences of healers and of those supernatural forces commonly believed to exist in Nepal- spirits, witches and deities. The healers in question are notably not the shamans known as dhamis and jhankris usually associated with traditional healing in Nepal. They are instead known by their main tantric healing technique, that of Jhar-phuk, sweeping away the negative forces believed to account for ill health or misfortune, and blowing on the positive, regenerative forces in their place. Though spanning most of the ethnic groups residing in the Kathamandu valley, this tradition is more strongly entrenched amongst the Valley's original inhabitants, the Newars.
Shamans in Nepal are normally thought of as residing in the hilly and mountainous regions, though they are also numerous in the (mostly flat) southern Terai belt. Their practices differ from those of tantric healers in that shamans invariably offer blood sacrifice to appease the angered spirits, deities or witches considered responsible for their clients calamity. Furthermore, their client's troubles are frequently believed to derive from "soul loss" so that it becomes the shamans' task to retrieve their clients' souls. The tantric healers, for their part, rely predominantly on mantras as their main (spiritual) healing technique and are thus an integral part of the Hindu and Buddhist "Great Tradition" of Tantra characteristic of Kathmandu Valley culture and religion.
Back of the Book
A comparative study of Hindu and Buddhist spiritual healing traditions in urban Nepalese society, the book encompasses a full catalogue of methods and materials employed by Kathmandu Valley healers, while including a survey of those frequenting a healer's practice, the complaints by the majority of a witchcraft and which possession, especially as related to the status of Nepalese women. Finally, it explores the contemporary relevance of tantra in today's Nepal and features, in addition, valuable suggestions regarding self-healing from the perspective of indigenous practitioners.
The author, Angela Dietrich, presents a veritable gold mine of information collected about tantric healing modes and materials. In the process, she rebuts the thesis that in the face of modernization and westernization tantric beliefs and practices are on the decline. On the contrary, she claims that due to the steady stream of migrants from rural areas bringing with them their own indigenous culture, coupled with the endurance of the Newar culture of the Valley, these beliefs and practices continue mostly unabated. The continuation of tantric healing is being, in addition, facilitated through the steady deterioration of living conditions due to the continuous increase in pollution and environmental degradation producing symptoms not amenable to normal medical treatment. Other pressures stem from the unprecedented and relentless stream of migrants into the Valley, and the widening gap between rich and poor, the latter being in the vast majority and comprising the main clientele of a healer. Thus, it is hardly surprising that, as her data stands, she has been able to demonstrate the continued prevalence of beliefs regarding witchcraft and the equally wide currency of spiritual healing practices cutting across such variables as caste, class, gender, ethnicity and education.
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