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RELIGION OF MARI'IM
In this section, you will read about the religious and spiritual beliefs which form such an important part of Mari'im society.
The predominant faith of Mari'im is called ula'iki, sometimes rendered in this language as "Ula'ikism" or "Ulaikianism". An older term, "Alva Lamaism", is discouraged - it has its origins in multiple misconceptions about the religion made by the Lendians, the former colonial power in Mari'im. Ula'iki was established in approximately 700 BP. Its founder was a man named A'inui (or Akinui, in the language of the time), a philosopher who despaired of the constant warfare between the eight Mari'im kingdoms. He established his philosophy with the aim of promoting peace and harmony, and his teachings spread rapidly. Ula'iki is very important to the people of Mari'im, and as such, has an honoured place in Mari'im society and government.
The ula'iki teachings are traditionally divided into three strands - its views on social behaviour and ethics, its views on the soul, and its views on the natural world.
According to ula'iki, the five key values that people should strive to uphold are kindness, fairness, honesty, peace, and duty. The first of these requires that we act with compassion and benevolence to all - this does not entail merely doing no harm, but requires us to actively work for the benefit of others. The second, fairness, requires that we deal equitably with others, and do not let ourselves be swayed by bias. The third value requires that we do not seek to deceive or mislead, and do not keep secrets. The fourth requires that we refrain from violence wherever possible, and never glory in it. Finally, the fifth value requires us to meet our obligations and fulfill our duty, and not abandon those to rely on us.
Ula'iki teaches that all people have souls, and that souls are everlasting. The soul is always pure and whole, and nothing can harm it. However, our actions are capable of distancing us from our souls if they fail to reflect the soul's purity - we retain possession of our souls only if our acts echo them. Those who commit great evil become separated from their souls, and thus we cannot be reborn - the soul is the only part of us that is not destroyed upon death, and without it, death is final.
The ula'iki religion teaches that the natural world has five basic forces behind it. These are not seen as tangible things, but rather, reflections of fundamental concepts which make up reality. To better aid understanding, however, ula'iki describes the five forces by relating them to observable features of the natural world - water, stone, wood, metal, and light. Water is seen as representing a fundamental purity, while stone represents the qualities of permanence. Wood represents growth and development, and metal represents strength. Light represents energy and spirit.
Ula'iki is a religion which promotes contemplation and whole-hearted devotion to its tenets. As such, there have always been large numbers of people in Mari'im who dedicate their lives to expanding their understanding of ula'iki in monastic communities. These monasteries date back to the earliest days of ula'iki, when new followers of A'inui left their old lives to pursue their new religion. There are today approximately three hundred monasteries in Mari'im, varying greatly in size. Twenty-one of these, referred to as Great Monasteries, are large enough to be considered small towns, and have traditionally served as centres of spirituality and education for the whole of Mari'im.
As is natural in religion, people can find themselves with different understandings of the teachings before them. This is fully accepted, as ula'iki recognises that people are not all the same, and will walk different paths to the same truth. As a consequence, their are several different traditions within ula'iki. (The traditions are referred to by outside scholars as "sects", but this obscures the fact that there is much overlap between them - they are not clear-cut divisions).
The largest and most influential tradition is called lai'a. It is found all over Mari'im, but has its spiritual centre on the island of Su'a'iti, roughly in the centre of Mari'im. The tradition is named after its ancient symbol, the lily, and its monks wear white. (The Lendian term for the religion as a whole derives from alva, Lendian for "white"). The spiritual leader of the lai'a tradition is a monk known as the Lai'a Ari'a, and in deference to the importance of religion to the Mari'im people, the Lai'a Ari'a serves as the country's ceremonial head of state. The Lai'a Ari'a is recognised as the foremost authority on ula'iki as a whole, although has temporal jurisdiction only over monasteries specifically aligned with the lai'a tradition. Other prominent traditions are vaha, to'iri, and kokoru.