In Rakhine State, like elsewhere in Myanmar and in the region, many healers combine the knowledge and skills of both the herbalist and the exorcist, each resulting from the blending of several medical traditions that have spread across the region and mixed with indigenous belief systems. Within this assemblage, both the efficacy of the remedies, as well as that of the healer, derive from compounds of different sources—tangible and intangible, visible and invisible, material and spiritual1 —reflecting the complexity of the cognitive framework. Within this therapeutic whole, Buddhism occupies a singular position. Although often presented as totally separate from worldly practices, Buddhist practices, symbols, and powers are indeed a sine qua non of medical efficacy in many therapeutic processes. Focusing on the case of the master U Thun Kaing, this article intends to illustrate how medical efficacy is built within a pluralistic medical context, where Buddhism occupies a predominant role that is often denied in ideological conversations. How are different notions, practices, and powers articulated in the hands of a single healer? How is this complexity shaped by the dominance of Buddhism, and how is this role articulated with the common perception of Buddhism as “pure” and “otherworldly”? How does the relationship between materiality and spirituality, visibility, and invisibility unfold?
CodereyC.2011. Les Maîtres du “Reste”: la Quête d’Équilibre dans les Conceptions et les Pratiques Thérapeutiques en Arakan (Birmanie) [Masters of “Remainder”: The Search for Balance in the Therapeutic Conceptions and Practices in Arakan (Burma)]PhD dissertation University of Aix-Marseille 1.
CodereyC.2016. “Accessibility to Biomedicine in Contemporary Rakhine State.” In Metamorphosis. Studies in Social and Political Change in Myanmar edited by R.Egreteau and F.Robinne26–287. Singapore: NUS Press.
MersanA. (de-).2005. Espace Rituel et Construction de la Localité. Contribution à l’Etude Ethnographique d’une Population de la Birmanie Contemporaine: les Arakanais. PhD Dissertation Paris: École de Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.
MonnaisL.2007. “Medical Traditions in Southeast Asia: from Syncretism to Pluralism.” In Dictionary of Medical Biography edited by W. F.Bynum and H.Bynumvol. 567–77. Westport, CT, and London: Greenwood Press.
SkorupskiT.1999. “Health and Suffering in Buddhism: Doctrinal and Existential Considerations.” In Religion Health and Suffering edited by J. R.Hinnells and R.Porter139–165. London, New York, NY: Kegan Paul International.
TosaK.2005. “The Chicken and the Scorpion: Rumor, Counternarratives, and the Political Uses of Buddhism.” In Burma at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century edited by MoniqueSkidmore154–174. Honululu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.