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Op-Ed

MOATSU – Philosophy of the ‘Highest Good’

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By EMN Updated: May 01, 2014 10:53 pm
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Dr. Asangba Tzudir

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes, “…every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.” Further, in Politics, Aristotle states that “every State is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But if all communities aim at some good, the State or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.” What is ‘good’ then, has a direct relation with the pursuit of the highest good. In a similar strain the existence of every Naga village in general and the Ao villages in particular, was the pursuit of the ‘highest good,’ ‘good’ for the individual and family as well as the village at large.Every Ao village since the times of Chungliyimti (the place of origin myth of the Ao’s) was engaged in the pursuit of the various aspects of ‘good’ which together would give rise to what can be considered as the ‘highest good.’ In the olden days the main concern of any Ao village was, to put it plainly and crudely, peaceful existence and bountiful harvest towards sustenance of the village. Thus, one can say that the pursuit of the highest good was directed towards the attainment of ‘peace’ and ‘prosperity.’ It may sound simple but one can think of the rigorous but vibrant work ethic and the ‘complex’ yet a well established belief system during those days. It must have been a real challenge to survive and live. Now, within this pursuit, Moatsu contributes directly to an intrinsic philosophy which gives impetus to the attainment of the ‘highest good’ of every individual.
The Moatsu festival can be directly linked with two concepts in Ao Naga epistemology – ‘Tsuksungensung’ and ‘Yimjiyimjung.’ Most importantly these two concepts finds entrenched within certain ethical values like honesty, sincerity, dedication and hardworking, amity, peace, progress, etc. which is tantamount to everyday life and living of not just existing in form but to live in a particular way. Tsuksungensung’ has a direct connection with prosperity. It can be said to be a state of well being where the granaries in the village are full and vegetables abound as a result of rich harvest. Many a time the rice crops and the vegetables in the fields can be badly affected due to heavy rains. There were many instances where, in the olden days, wild elephants and boars would trample upon and destroy the entire fields. During any bad year, the entire field can turn out to be barren leading to famine. Thus invoking Gods blessings during Moatsu becomes very significant towards the call for prosperity and for the ‘good’ of the entire village.
‘Yimjiyimjung’ has a much deeper philosophy which is empirically present as well as transcendentally elevating (the intuitive and spiritual above the experiential and material). It connotes prosperity, amity, peace and well being encapsulated by a holistic sense of gratification. During the days of yore, most of the time, the villagers were said to be in a state of fear of being raided and their heads being taken away by their enemies. As such people desired peace. This also pushed for aksu or peace treaty among the warring villages. In the absence of enemies there will be no external disturbances and conflicts and most importantly the villagers will live in amity and peace without any fear of their heads being taken away or their village razed to ashes. Famines and outbreak of epidemics were quite prominent that affected the cohesive fabric of the entire village which in turn creates an adverse impingement on the pursuit of Yimjiyimjung. It is not something quantifiable nor is it about the permanent attainment of the highest good which cannot be simply defined. Beyond the empirical and the praxis, it can only be encountered in a pure state of form of mind and heart that gives one a ‘spiritual’ sense of fulfillment and contentment. As such it is both empirical and transcendental. But the core of this concept is about the ‘pursuit’ that gives meaning to life and living a particular way of life.
Moatsu is dedicated to the supreme God in the Ao belief system – Lijaba who is considered as the God of creation, the one who created the Earth and also the one who blesses all forms of life. Moatsu can be translated in two ways. Panger Imchen in his book Ancient Ao Naga Religion and Culture loosely translates Moatsu as Moa which means an open field or street and Tsu means to go round, meaning to go round the open streets with singing, drinking and dancing. This explains how the festival is celebrated. Moatsu is celebrated over six days in the first week of May. It falls during spring when the people are finished with seed sowing. The second, brings out the literal meaning as well as the essence of the festival. Moatsu means blessing or seeking Gods blessings. Once the hard work of clearing the forest and sowing of different seeds are done in the fields, the ‘Gods’ are invoked upon during the festival to nurture and protect the crops in order to have a bountiful harvest. During Moatsu every family performs a ritual by cleaning up the fireplace and then an egg is generally offered to the God while seeking his blessings for a bountiful harvest from different kinds of seeds they have sown in their fields.
Today, we may not celebrate in that spirit but beyond the fun and celebration and the colorful costumes, beyond the singing and dancing and the feasting, let this festival serve as a reminder of the rich values and virtues towards the pursuit of ‘peace’ and ‘prosperity’ within the larger project of the ‘highest good’ and also of our rich traditional heritage. Even though we may not believe in the ‘ancient’ God today, these values and virtues – peace, unity, progress and prosperity are colossal and they are universal in nature wherever we are and where ever we go. These virtues are relevant and will continue to hold its relevance.
(Comments and critical appraisals can be mailed at asangtz@gmail.com)

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By EMN Updated: May 01, 2014 10:53:29 pm