Beware the Nats of Burma

(Bumped – promoted by Armando)

Prior to Theravada Buddhism, the Burmese were animists who worshiped a series of nature spirits called Nats. The term Nat derives from the Pali-Sanskrit, natha, meaning lord or guardian.

There are 37 officially recognized Nats (inside Nats), each with its own history. The Nats are spirits of natural forces, such as water, wind, stones and trees and take many guises. All Nats are  ghosts or spirits of heroes.  There are many lesser nats (outside Nats) that are characterized as mischievous when they are disturbed.

…Some were martyrs, people who had been betrayed or had suffered a premature and frightful death. One had died of diarrhea and was reputed to inflict that on those who displeased him.

Regardless of their origins, they were easily disturbed, given to making a fuss when they were not treated with respect.

~Amy Tan, Saving Fish From Drowning, a novel combining Myanmar politics, Burmese superstition and spirituality, plus a touch of humor.

A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.” – Anonymous

The home of the Nats is Mount Popa, in central Burma and on the summit of this mountain shrines to all 37 Nats can be found. The Nats are still worshiped and honored with national and local festivals in Burma.

Each of the Nats has a story that tells how that person became a Nat. For example, the story of Popa Medaw, the mother of Mount Popa, tells how her two sons were executed by the king. Legends say they were castrated and left to bleed to death.

From beyond the veil, the brothers, now nats, continued to hassle the sovereign, and the King eventually made the them the spiritual lords of Taungbyon. The annual festival held in their name grew and grew, and when a later sovereign, King Mindon, proclaimed that he would cancel the festival, the two Nats made his balls swell until Mindon relented.

The regime has accumulated enough bad Karma and will suffer in future life times according to Buddhist beliefs, but the punishment from The Nats  will be dealt out in this life according to the beliefs of most of the people of Burma.

Each soldier that pulled a trigger or beat a protesting monk to death will be haunted by the Nat they have created. Perhaps they will lie in bed every night fearing that their balls will swell and explode or they will contract a fatal case of diarrhea or worse. Perhaps they will refuse to obey future orders that would offend the Nats.

Many world leaders have condemned these atrocities but so far there has been little or no action taken to help the people of Burma.

I guess it’s up to the Nats.


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    • Zwoof on October 2, 2007 at 17:20

    We seem to be on some sort of collision schedule. Thanks for the bump Armando.

  1. bad karma, nats…whatever it takes..

    it doesnt look like any outside help is on the way.  tragic. 

  2. has now permanently undermined itself by so blatently acting against the core values of Burmese society. The people will all probably be conjuring nats while the soldiers who killed the monks will be wondering what will befall them physically and in the society. I’m imagining that shunning will start to occur – and it will then project out to the government. Just a guess, but I doubt this junta will last for more than another year. And for the sake of the people of Burma, lets hope it’s less than that.

  3. This was really interesting.

  4. .

    • oculus on October 3, 2007 at 06:31

    Fish From Drowning.  I had given up on her fiction, finding she was repeating herself.  But his novel is very funny and clever. 

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