It used to be that we Indians burned real women all year round. Once a year on Dussehra, we still burn a wooden man. This week, while rained in at Huahin and unable to do much beyond watching TV, I caught a French report on a just-concluded annual American rite, which began in 1986 with one man in San Francisco wanting to burn a wooden effigy.
It’s grown into an enormous annual arts festival centred on the ritual of burning a wooden man. The language on www.burningman.com could perhaps be more finetuned to the blind and to the ‘pagan’-like-us. But I found their mission and ten principles quite refreshing and just what old religions need to read, to recall what it could be all about: “Our mission is to produce the annual event known as “Burning Man” and to guide, nurture and protect the more permanent community created by its culture. We believe that the experience of Burning Man can produce positive spiritual change in the world. From this devotion spring those duties that we owe to one another. We will always burn the Man”.
Their Ten Principles, edited for space: “*Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation.
*Burning Man is devoted to acts of unconditional gift giving. *Our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising.
*Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.
*We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.
*We value civil society. Community members who organise events should assume responsibility for public welfare and for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
*Our community respects the environment. We clean up after ourselves and endeavour, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
*We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through personal participation. We achieve being through doing. *We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers.”
Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture email@example.com