Malaysia, there are more than 80 different groups of indigenous
peoples, each with their own culture and language, and each
living within their own specific traditional territory.
And because indigenous spiritualities are based on the specific
geographical and cultural contexts of these peoples, there
are as many different indigenous spiritualities as there
are distinct groups. Yet, while they may differ in their
specificities and form, they share commonality in the function
and application of their belief systems. Furthermore, there
is no such thing as conversion from one indigenous spirituality
to another. However, if an individual moves to live in another
community through marriage or some other reason, then he/she
follows the ritual of that place.
for Responsible Living among the Orang Asli
of Peninsular Malaysia
are one of the 19 subgroups of Orang Asli, the indigenous
minority peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, who live on both slopes
of the Central Mountain Range. The fear of food shortages made
survival a primary concern of the Semai. Thus, Semai
spirituality extends beyond the realm of sickness and curing rituals
into every aspect of Semai life.
Meri dancer with his spirit-mask
concept is pehunan. It refers to a state of being unfulfilled
or frustrated with regard to some specific and strongly felt want,
particularly in connection with food. For example, if an individual
has a particular want or need, and he expresses this either openly
or subtly to another, then that person is obliged to satisfy his
want or need, if he is in a position to do so. Not to do so would
result in the former having incurred pehunan. The blame for the
resulting sickness, injury or death will now rest solely on the
individual who did not provide for his needs when he could.
tenhaq, may be considered the paramount edict governing
Semai living. This is a teaching that declares that every
human being is responsible for other human beings, no matter how
distant or out of sight the other might be. For example, if someone
dies of hunger in a distant place when you yourself have enough
food, you are in a way responsible for that persons death
from hunger. Therefore, no hurt, harm or deprivation is to be
inflicted upon another individual, irrespective of whether he
is kin or stranger.
through Sharing in Sarawak
left: Semai shaman during a healing ritual; Semai house.
are a small group of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers living in the
forested interiors of Sarawak. They are just one of almost 30
different indigenous groups found in the state.
indigenous peoples, the Penans believe that nature itself
has a soul. While they stake claim to a specific traditional territory,
they nevertheless regard themselves as temporary visitors to the
area, as intruders in the territory of the resident spirits.
also believe that the rainforest and its bounty were given to
them by the Creator, the God Balei Nge Butun. Their biological
adaptation, together with their spiritual beliefs, thus demand
that they exploit the forest in a sustainable manner.
to their spirituality is a sacred obligation to bequeath to the
following generations a healthy forest fully capable of providing
life to its human, animal and plant inhabitants.
Also, being dependent on
the forest for life, and on each other for survival, the Penans
have institutionalised several concepts necessary for successful
living and continuity. One such concept is see hun, a term
that translates roughly as failure to share, which
is viewed as sinful behaviour.
Balance between Humanity, Nature
and the Spiritual World among the Natives of Sabah
are one of 39 native peoples of Sabah. Like other indigenous groups,
they believe that humanity should, ideally, co-exist with nature
and the spirit realm in a state of balance. Minamangun,
the Creator God, oversees all of his creations, including the
of respect and care for all things, and the concept of conciliation
are paramount values to be adhered to under threat of otherwise
facing the wrath of Minamangun or the bad spirits. As such,
any disrespectful action towards a fellow human being, or towards
an animal or a plant, will invite trouble for the individual or
in a hot state (ahasu) where tragedy, suffering,
death or ill-luck prevails. The aim is to balance this hot state
with the cold (osogit). As such, maintaining
the delicate balance between the good and bad spirits is crucial
for harmonious living, just as it is equally important to maintain
the balance between the physical and the spirit worlds.
in Kadazandusun spirituality that help ensure the delicate
balance between the hot and the cold states include:
(vengeance): the belief that action against the natural world
can cause nature to respond with environmental disasters or personal
tragedy. Ohusian thus ensures respect for the natural world,
particularly the plants and the animals.
(revenge): the belief that one should not be too quick to belittle
others or else ones own family members would experience
shame or ill-fortune. Ohugian thus ensures respect for