Thursday, January 30, 2020

How the neuroscience validates the Gurung "Syai-Syai" culture?

Syai-syai is very unique culture of Gurung community for the management of pain. It reveals how Gurung perceive pain through their cultural lens in a multidimensional way and its holistic management. How it helps to maintain social bonds? How the neuroscience validates the approach of pain management in syai syai? This article focuses to answer all these relevant questions.

What is pain?

Pain is universal, but how it is perceived is determined by culture. The meaning and expression of pain are greatly influenced by culture. Pain has not only physical dimension but also social, economic, psychological and spiritual dimensions. It is not an absolute matter. People of different cultures perceive it differently. One may feel pain which may not be pain for others. The lens through which people perceive pain is culture. For Nepalese people, while walking if a cat crosses the road, they feel discomfort and pain because they perceive it as a symbol of a dangerous situation.  But it is not pain for all the people in the world. This shows how the culture differs the way of perceiving from one community to another. 

When and how Gurungs perform syai-syai?

Gurungs perform syai-syai especially when they are facing an unwelcome situations like death rite of passage, accidents, peripheral spirit possession, etc.  For example, after performing three days of death rite of passage(Pae), syai-syai is done for deceased family members by their relatives.  Relatives say "syaaai" with long tonality putting Ripa(spiritual thread) on the neck of victims and give them different gifts like money, clothe, etc. Ripa is sometimes called Rupa. Ripa for the male is made by nine spans of thread and nine knots installed through it. Ripa for the female is made by seven spans of threads and seven knots. There is spiritual reason behind the process of making ripa. 
Being ready for syai-syai
Syai-Syai:  Holistic approach to pain management

The experience of pain is influenced by culture. So, the management or treatment is also influenced by culture. Syai-syai is the holistic management of pain because it manages pain through spiritual, economical, social and psychological dimensions. 

i). Spiritual Management: Gurungs believe that during the Pae, the soul of the deceased family member may dissipate which may cause pain. Understanding with this spiritual framework, relatives put ripa on the neck of victims or sufferers to pass waves of vibration and energy.  

ii). Economical management: The unwelcome situation directly causes economic loss. For example, in Pae, there is high expenditures during the three days of time duration.  This may cause a variety of loss and pain. Relatives give them money and other materials as a gift in syai-syai. This helps the deceased family members to be safe from the turbulence of economic status.

iii). Social management: Humans are social beings. We cannot live alone. We are social beings from the early stage of evolution. We have different kinds of bonds and social relationships. When people experience pain, they feel the loss of the status and their relationship. They may doubt the bonds and relationships with others. In Pae, deceased family loss the member which causes them to feel alone, loss of social life. Loss of family member may cut the webs of social relationships. Syai-Syai is done by gathering different groups of relatives which ensures the social bonds remain forever. 

iv). Psychological management: Psychological aspects of human is very important in life. What and how we feel and thought shapes our behavior. So, our success and happiness in life is closely related to our thinking process. During the unwelcome situations, we all feel pain. We may feel uncontrolled. We feel hopeless. If this situation is not managed, it may create unexpected losses. In Syai-syai, relatives gather in groups and say "syaaai" in long tonality touching the head of the victim. This helps the victims change the frequency of thought and creates strong feelings to retrieve in normal condition. 

Validity of Neuroscience in syai-syai

Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system.  It studies how the mind works.  The more sense organ we process information, the more our mind believes.  Mostly, the visual(image), auditory(sound) and kinesthetic(sense) play a pivotal role.  When relatives come close with helping hand, visual stimuli is activated. When they say with long tonality "syaaai", auditory stimuli is activated. When they touch on head for a specific period, kinesthetic stimuli is activated. During syai-syai, all the visual, auditory and kinesthetic stimuli are activated simultaneously without any interference with each other which sends the same electrical signal to the mind causing the victims to believe in their relatives. Different relatives perform syai-syai turn by turn, which is the repetition, as claimed by neuroscience, allows the mind to believe. Ultimately, this becomes an effective strategy for pain management. 


When people experience pain, they try to manage it knowingly or unknowingly, which is shaped by culture. Syai-Syai is the culture of the Gurung community to manage pain regarding its multidimensional aspects. It is the primitive culture but endorsed by neuroscience. 


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