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Full Access Keeping the Faith: Divine Protection and Flood Prevention in Modern Buddhist Ladakh *, **

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Keeping the Faith: Divine Protection and Flood Prevention in Modern Buddhist Ladakh *, **

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In August 2010 the Himalayan Region of Ladakh, Northwest India, experienced severe flash-flooding and mudslides, causing widespread death and destruction. The causes cited were climate change, karmic retribution, and the wrath of an agentive sentient landscape. Ladakhis construct, order and maintain the physical and moral universe through religious engagement with this landscape. The Buddhist monastic incumbents—the traditional mediators between the human world and the sentient landscape—explain supernatural retribution as the result of karmic demerit that requires ritual intervention. Social, economic, and material transformations have distorted the proper order, generating a physically and morally unfamiliar landscape. As a result, the mountain deities that act as guardians and protectors of the land below are confused and angry, sending destructive water to show their displeasure. Thus, the locally-contextualized response demonstrates the agency of the mountain gods in establishing a moral universe whereby water can give life and destroy it.

Affiliations: 1: Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen 38 Fore Street, North Tawton, Devon AB24 3FX, UK, angebutcher@yahoo.co.uk

10.1163/15685357-01702002
/content/journals/10.1163/15685357-01702002
dcterms_title,pub_keyword,dcterms_description,pub_author
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In August 2010 the Himalayan Region of Ladakh, Northwest India, experienced severe flash-flooding and mudslides, causing widespread death and destruction. The causes cited were climate change, karmic retribution, and the wrath of an agentive sentient landscape. Ladakhis construct, order and maintain the physical and moral universe through religious engagement with this landscape. The Buddhist monastic incumbents—the traditional mediators between the human world and the sentient landscape—explain supernatural retribution as the result of karmic demerit that requires ritual intervention. Social, economic, and material transformations have distorted the proper order, generating a physically and morally unfamiliar landscape. As a result, the mountain deities that act as guardians and protectors of the land below are confused and angry, sending destructive water to show their displeasure. Thus, the locally-contextualized response demonstrates the agency of the mountain gods in establishing a moral universe whereby water can give life and destroy it.

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/content/journals/10.1163/15685357-01702002
2013-01-01
2016-12-08

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