Мышлявцев Борис Александрович: другие произведения.

The Traveller and the Path: Destiny Concept in the Tuvan Culture

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  • Аннотация:
    The paper deals with Destiny Concept in the Tuvan culture (one of the big Siberian people). The theme has never been investigated by anthropologists. In this article the main principles and structure of the Concept are given first. Much attention is given to how the Concept affects to human behaviour in the modern Tuva. The paper is mainly based on the field data of the author, the interviews both with the shamans and the "ordinary" Tuvan people.

  Boris Myshlyavtsev
  The Traveller and the Path: Destiny Concept in the Tuvan culture
  Dedicated to the memory of Dr. R. Feinman, who dreamed of Tuva
  1.1 The Tuvan people lives mostly in Tuva Republic, Russia, close to Russian-Mongolian border line. Their language is Turkish, but the culture was strongly influenced by Mongolia, Tibet, China and after all Russia (as the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation).
  1.2 This work is devoted to the Tuvan"s concept of Destiny or Fate and how the concept affects everyday human behavior in Tuva. (In the article we use mostly the term "destiny", not "fate"). The work is mainly based on the author"s field works (interviews and participant observations) in Tuva Republic (1998 - 2002, 2007 - 2017). Large part of the data is based on the statements of Tuvan experts, both shamans and "ordinary" people.
  As the dictionaries tell us, there are a lot of words for the English "destiny" or the Russian "sudba" in the Tuvan language. However, the author has no doubt that almost every of this terms are the "small self-contained concepts". All together they constitute an integral system, the Tuvan Destiny Concept.
  1.3. Destiny concept affects human behavior and forms a specific attitude to life. Also it forms some typical models of social interaction, as in traditional, as well in "modern" societies.
  A number of key issues arise from the statements.
  - Fistly, what are the main elements of the Tuvan Destiny Concept and what is structure of it?
  - Secondly, how the Destiny Concept affects the everyday life of the modern Tuvans?
  - Finally, is the Destiny Concept adaptive or disadaptive for the Tuvan society and the individ"s behavior now?
  (And, after all, would the Tuvans agree with Shakespear"s statement that "it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves"?)
  These themes have never been investigated by anthropologists.
  2.1 Let us start by considering the main Tuvan terms connected the theme.
  - "Salym-chol", the human"s "general path", the "frame" of human life.
  - "Salym-chayan", or just "chayan", the talents and abilities of a person received from gods or karma or from the ancestors.
  - "Salym-huu", personal fate or behaviour on the intended path.
  - and last but not least, the littlest element of the system: "tavarylga" ("case" or "occasional case" or "situation").
  One should note here that in tuvan-russian-tuvan dictionaries the three "big" terms are indicated as synonyms ("sudba" in Russian, that can means in English "destiny", "fate", or "fatum"). The author hold the view that it is not correct and the terms are not synonyms in real practice. It should be emphasized that my experts are convinced with the author in that.
  2.2 "Tavarylga" - "[occasional] case" or "situation", the part of the Destiny Concept.
  "It is a brick in the building of our destiny and life", as one Tuvan shaman said to the author. "The raven croaked, and it is a very important sign. But sometimes the croak is just the croak", she said.
  Tuvan experts:
  "Tavarylga is occasional case. For instance, you are late for the flight and you take a taxi. This car or that one? You take that one and the car gets into the accident."
  "You can meet an old friend of yours occasionally. Such cases do not depend on anyone"s will."
  "It is a situation. For example, someone fell into a hole. It may be not an occasional case but a result of some deeds of a person in the past time or even in it"s past births".
  Such explanations are numerous. All things considered, the conclusion to be drawn is that the term refers to the elementary facts and short incidents of human life. Human destiny and life is constructed from such cases, incidents and situations.
  The "relative" of a noun "tavarylga" is a verb "tavarzhyr" that means "to meet somebody or something", a meeting is mostly accidental, not planned or controlled by the person.
  "Tavarzhyr" is opposed to "uzhurazhyr" (concerned to planned meetings).
  For instance, the phrases "ezhimge uzhurashkan men" and "ezhimge tavaryshkan men" ("I have met my friend") differ each other by the fact: was the meeting planned (in the first case) or not (in the second one).
  The expression "bagay chuvege tavaryshkan" ("a bad thing happened with him", or, literally, "he has [occasionally?] met a bad thing"). We can see that in the widespread expression the root "tavar-" is pointed out that the "bad thing" was unexpected. You are not subject of some interaction, you are the passive object only. In another phrase, "chastyrygga tavaryshkan" ("made the mistake", or, literally, "to have met the mistake") this passive position is even more clear.
  A shaman can reads "tavarylga" as a part of the greater situation. He or she "reads the life"s screenplay".
  And now let"s move to the next question. What is "salym-chol" for Tuvans and why it may be called "the manifestation of the Low of Karma"? (Literally, it is "destiny way", with an old Turkic word "chol" for "way".)
  2.3 "Salym-chol" is seemed to be as a concept very close to the karma one. The author does not know exactly was the influence of Buddhism big in this case or not, but it is not so important for the goals of the work. The root "salym" is connected with the Destiny Concept and the root "chol" is an old Turk word for "way" or "road". Now this word is never used in this meaning in the Tuvan language. However, the root is actively used in other Turkic languages in this sense. (For example: "temir zhol" means "railway" in the Kazakh"s language).
  In the Mongolian languages the root "zol" means a person"s luck or happiness. In the Tuvan language the word "chol" has the same meaning now and the adjective "choldug" means that somebody has a luck ("choldug kizhi" - "a lucky person").
  It is clear from the expert"s interviews that "salym-chol" is the global term for human life. This is a combination of circumstances, and it is very important that a person can not change it. A place of a birth, parents, citizenship by birth and ethnos - such things do not depend on human will.
  "You was born in Tuva, in the very far district of the republic, in high mountains, and your are Tuvan. This facts will influence you all of your life."
  Mainly, "salym-chol" is the frame of human life, something that a person receives in the beginning of life from gods or karma. It may be as individual as well as collective one (on the level of a family, ethnos etc). As experts said, "it is the main circumstances of life".
  As a metaphor for this concept we can use such expressions as "life path" or "way".
  "Your way is intended, but your behaviour on the way depends on you", as an expert said. (This individ"s freedom or "behaviour on the way" concerns to "salym-huu concept", a "personal fate"). A person can use the circumstances along the path in different ways, as well as the terrain. One person will climb a high mountain and just feel tired. The other one uses this opportunity to look around.
  2.4 "Salym-chayan", or just "chayan" are talents and abilities of human. As the dictionaries tell us, the meaning of the word is "fate", "talent", "human future". Definitely, it follows from the expert"s explanations that the meaning "talent" dominates in this term.
  By the way, also in the Buryat language there is a related word "zayan" ("fate").
  "Salym-chayan is a person's talent, you can develop it, but everything depends on this person heredity."
  "This is what is given, a gift, if a person sings well, dances, composes verses."
  "Shamans and artists can have it. People tell about them - "salym-chayannyg" ("the one who has salym-chayan ".
  It is important to note that "salym-chayan" can be considered not only as a synonym for the word "talent". This term describes the whole complex of abilities, predispositions of a person that one had since his birth. This is the "property" that a person has at the beginning of his life's path.
  As a matter of fact, the meaning "talent" here is only the most conspicuous part. Also, it includes the character of the person: "A person"s "salym-chayan" is created by God. It was God who created the character of a person... If people do bad to God, God himself will create a bad salym-chayan, God can create people stupid or hooligans. Salym-chayan is the creation of God, I think."
  The consideration of single-root words also attests to the semantic proximity of the term to the concept of "something that is given" rather than to the narrower concept of "talent". The verb "chayaar" means "create", "chayatyngan" - "given by nature, natural" ("chayattyngan reflex" - "unconditioned reflex"). If a person has the "good" salym-chayan, it does not mean a good fate in general. Almost everything depends on a person: how to use one"s abilities. In order to understand the main sense of the term the author considers the following metaphor useful:
  All people at the beginning of life's way are given a set of items that can help them on the road - matches, knives, clothes, etc. A person can use them wisely, can use it in the wrong way. One can even throw it away, without realizing the value of what it was.
  Thus, if salym-chol is the road, salym-chayan is what a person receives at the beginning of a life's path.
  2.5 "Salym-huu". The categories described above are a kind of skeleton of human life, the general structure given by gods or karma. These are the facts that already "existed" at the moment of the birth of a person in a "timeless space". This set of categories can be compared with the rules of computer games, a set of possible moves.
  Salym-huu, personal destiny, is in this case a process in which the rules are implemented in one way or another.
  A traveller on the road can go fast or slowly, engage in battles or avoid them, etc. A traveller can use a rope to do a bridge across the river or to commit suicide. Personal destiny depends on the person himself only: "Salym-huu - if your life is good or poor."
  "Some people drink much, they are mistaken. Each person's life is different, for example some people live very well and there are some people who are suffering, starving. One family has 8 children and another only 3 children. Life will be bad if people are lazy and life will be good if you work hard. Many of our young Tuvinians do not want to work hard."
  "It is personal destiny. For example, a guy fell in love with a girl, they were friends from childhood, then they got married, and then he finds out that his wife is a bitch. And because of this he begins to drink."
  3.1 The existence of these four concepts (included to the "big" concept of Destiny) allows a person to solve a complex "existential" dilemma between rigid determinism and free will. If the "rules of the game", "terrain" and "route" are predetermined by karma or gods, the course of the game itself (or "behaviour on the road") and it"s total are the result of the free choice of the "gamer" ("traveller").
  For instance, on the way one meets with innumerable situations-"tawarylga". However, one can pay attention to some of them, and ignore some.
  Someone will ignore a bottle of vodka found on the curb, someone - a book. On the way there can be a pit. If you go forward with your eyes closed, you will fall into it.
  If you open your eyes - the pit can be bypassed. There is always a probability of this or that choice. The set of probabilities is almost infinite, but always the previous moves make this or that event (or the choice), more possible than others.
  3.2 The Tuvan shaman is a very important figure in this system of "probability management". All the activity of the shaman is based on the idea of the possibility to change the fate of a person, to reduce the probability of one event and increase the probability of another.
  One should note that shamans attach great importance to all possible signs (that are, in fact, "tavarylga").
  A person can see or not to see a sign, one can interpret it correctly or not. The shaman's own life consists in the constant interpretation of such signs. Predicting the destiny of man, including using the traditional fortune-telling on huvaanak stones, the shaman determines the most probable path of development of situation. At the same time, at the request of the client (and sometimes - for his own purposes), a shaman can, with the help of spirits or gods to make the probability to reduce or increase and send a person on a different path.
  3.3 The same can be said about the activities of lamas. Predicting the future, they single out one of the most possible (under certain conditions) variants of events. To illustrate this idea, the author will give a story (or a legend) about such a prediction. The story is about the period of religious persecutions in Tuva (1930s). When the lamas of one of the major Tuvan monasteries realized that their huree would be destroyed soon, they gathered to discuss the situation that had arisen.
  "The abbot of the monastery performed a rite of predicting the future and cast lots and it fell on one young novice. The lama told him:" We will all die, and only you will see both the destruction and the revival of the yellow faith. To do this, you must immediately leave the monastery and go to jail for some crime. Then you will not be taken for the "crime" you are a monk.
  This guy did so, he left the temple and decided to do so: at night he came to the village shop, and near the store there was a barrel with alcohol for a long time .Tuvan people then were indifferent to alcohol, and nobody paid any attention to the barrel. No one protected this one, and so he took it and drove it into the wood or bush and pushed it into a pit, and in the morning he went to the police and said: "I had stolen alcohol". And they do not believe, cause policemen knew that he was a novice. He repeated his "confession in a crime" several times and then they went with him.
  Indeed, it turned out that there were no barrel near to shop, and there was no one in the store, and then he showed where he had hidden the barrel. He was put in jail for some years and he was sitting like an usual criminal (not as a political one). In 1980s, when he was old, and when Buddhism began to revive, he was one of the few in Tuva who knew the necessary rites, and he conducted them. So the prediction of the lama came true."
  (The author saw almost the same very old lama in the high mountain region of Tuva in 2001).
  As can be seen from the story, the lama points not just to a strictly predetermined chain of events, which should lead to such and such a result. He indicates probability only. The situation (to live until the revival of Buddhism) can take place only if the novice takes certain actions. Lama tells only the general direction of the necessary actions - to go to jail. The novice himself develops and implements a certain scheme of actions. His actions are, therefore, a manifestation of free will.
  4.1 What is the social and psychological function of the shaman"s and lama"s predictions and their activities in "destiny management"? An ordinary person do not know the secret causes of many events (for example - the activity of spirits, the "terrain relief" of his life"s "path") and one can suffer psychologically in critical situations (death of relatives, divorce, illness etc.) and has discomfort associated with the inability to control events.
  The Tuvan shaman and lama can help the person to make a desicion in some situation, to determine the life goals and ways of their realization.
  In addition, the person redistributes responsibility, part of it is shifted to a shaman: "I did everything as he said, but it turned out so bad. This is a bad shaman. "
  Shamans, as the author said, oppose such a position of their clients: "If a person lives badly, his soul is black, he spoils his life, why does he expect me to do something good for him? There are no black and white shamans , which does only good for man or only bad, what he already has, he will get. " Nevertheless, it can be argued that for people who are not sure of their abilities, the reference to shaman is a mechanism that compensates for the consciousness of one's own failure. For people who are more successful, the shaman's prediction can be as an advise: is the chosen strategy correct or not?
  In modern Tuva the social mobility of the population is high (not "up", but rather "down"), a property stratification is very strong (42% of the population are poors, as Russian government said in official papers in 2017). In such conditions for a number of people who do not consider themselves "successful," the idea of a rigid predetermined destiny or fate is actualized. This allows a person to minimize control over one"s actions, not to bear "internal responsibility" for them. This process helps to consolidate the stereotypes of the behavior of the "loser". Even if one performs actively asocial actions (murder, robbery), a person takes off his inner responsibility ("I met a mistake, my destiny is this"). Appropriately oriented activities of shaman societies, Buddhist communities and Tuvan media could smooth negative trends. It means the promotion of a person's more active attitude toward his destiny.
  5. The author would like to thank Dr. Gemuev, helped me to organize my field works in period of 1998 - 2002 and the Chief of Tuvan shaman"s society Ay-Churek (Moon Light) Oyun for her explanations and permission to live with shamans for months. Also I thank the business community of Tuva (for cars etc) and, of course, Emmanuel Okongy from Nigeria for some interesting observations in Tuva Republic.
  6. In conclusion, I would like to quote the statement of a young shaman:
  "Buddhism says that a person chooses his own salym-huu, personal fate or destiny. For example, in the 14th century I was a merchant. So one great shaman said. I was kind, very rich, I sold something. I worshiped Vishnu and made many donations. I do not remember this, but there is evidence. I always want to sell something. And I have nothing, so I steal everything from home and sell and my mother scolds me. Because of this, I did not become a great shaman. That's how we build our own destiny."
  E. Chinbat. Mongolian English Dictionary. Ulaanbaator, 2012
  E.R. Tenishev. Tuvincko-russkiy slovar [Tuvan Russian Dictionary]. Moscow, 1968
  Video, concerning this article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_3TzXNuVkA
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