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Friday, May 8, 2009

Gods in The Island of Gods (1)

Miguel Covarrubias, a Westerner who came to Bali with his wife in 1930, like other foreigners, became fall in love with the beauty, mystery, and wonders of the Island. Happened to change be an anthropologist rather than a mere curious tourist by his direct contact with the land, people, and their custom. He wrote what I considered as a historical book about Bali, named Island of Bali, when no one even to heard of the place in their first coming. Mr. Covarrubias wrote, “Rather than a sectarian Church system, separate from daily life and in the hands of hierarchy of priests to control and exploit the people, the religion of Bali is a set of rules of behaviour, a mode of life. The resourceful Balinese fitted their religious system into their social life and made it the law by which the supernatural forces are brought under control by harmonious cooperation of everyone in the community to strengthen the magic health of the village. Like a human being, the community possesses a life power that wears away and must be fed by regular performances of magic acts of the ‘right’ the side of righteousness.”

Miguel Covarrubias and his wife, Rosa

Though Covarrubias may not understood the subtle meaning of Balinese religion, but his observation gave us prove that Balinese were a spiritually conscious people. Many anthropologists who didn’t enter deeply to the core of spiritual life thought that the Balinese religion was just a mixture of animistic, primitive, tribal beliefs with some touch of Indian and Javanese Hinduism. But this is incorrect. Actually the religious system of Balinese was a manifestation of earlier form of Vedic tradition. In one way more purer than our Western influenced modern Hinduism today. The same tenets also preached and protected by our revered Acharyas as we inherited from our Vaishnava-parampara. The soul and spirit of Balinese system of religion was Vaishnavite by nature. Although superficially we also find demigods, ancestors, even Bhutas worships. I’ll try my best, by carefully analyze the prayer and the process of these worships, so we can grasp the real or should be the real intention of the ritual.

The temple procession

As Covarrubias said, the Balinese religious system was aimed at controlling supernatural forces by harmonious cooperation of everyone in the community. When we talk about supernatural forces and everyone in community, actually we have to consider not only human members but also the inhuman members of the community. Now we’ll talk about the gods, from whom the island got her designations as The Island of Gods or Paradise on Earth.

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