Balinese Hinduism

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by skip, Jun 7, 2004.

  1. skip

    skip Founder Administrator

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    One of the religions I have most respect for (a rare thing for me), is the Hinduism practiced on the island of Bali. Having been there (in the 80s), I got to experience a whole people who lived what they believed. It's a very special place on this planet and it's managed to retain the old ways in the face of modern tourism & commercialism on the island.

    Bali is a rare gem and the people are very hip to what makes life a happy experience. I highly recommend anyone wanting to experience life in harmony with nature & beliefs make a trip to Bali (and I don't mean Kuta Beach!).

    Here's an excellent introduction to Balinese Hinduism from the Indonesian Embassy website (in Holland).

    Customs and Beliefs in Bali

    Hindu Dharma I Agama Hindu is the name of the religion followed by 95% of the 2.8 million population of Bali. The remaining 5% practice a mixture of faiths; Islam, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhism, and Kong Hu Cu.​

    The aim of Hindu Dharma is "to reach peace of spirit and harmony in the material life". In practicing their faith, Hindu communities try to achieve a spiritual balance of worship between Tattwa (Philosophy), Susila (Etiquette) and Upacara (ritual). These three areas are sub-divided into various tenets.

    1. The Tattwa has five principal beliefs (Panca Crada):
    • Brahman - The belief in the existence of one Almighty God head.
    • Atman - The belief in the soul and the spirit.
    • Samsara - The belief in reincarnation.
    • Karma Phala - The belief in the law of reciprocal actions (one gets back, eventually, what one gives out).
    • Moksha - The belief in the possibility of unity with the divine (Moksa).
    2. The Susila (etiquette) places emphasis on three major rules for behavior (Tri Kaya Parisudha):
    • To think good thoughts.
    • To talk good honestly
    • To do good deeds.
    As well there is an important code of Hindu Dharma called Tat Twam Asi - "you are as I am", in other words, "to feel the feelings of one's fellow beings".

    3. Upacara (ritual) is divided into five areas of holy sacrifice (Panca Yadnya)
    • Dewa Yadnya - holy rituals for the gods.
    • Pitra Yadnya - holy ritual for the higher spirits, and "rites of death".
    • Rsi Yadnya - holy rituals for the holy Hindu prophets (resis).
    • Manusa Yadnya - rituals for and on behalf of humans (from the baby in womb until marriage)
    • Bhuta Yadnya - sacrifices for neutralizing the negative influences from the natural and supernatural worlds.
    Hinduism is a monotheistic religion with one God head, in Bali called "Ida Sang Hyang Widhi", "Sang Hyang Tunggal", or "Sang Hyang Cintya", Hinduism is often misunderstood as being a faith with many gods and goddesses (Dewas and Bhataris). These other gods are merely realization or manifestations of the holy rays from the one God. The word Dewa (Deva) comes from the Sanskrit word Dev, meaning ray.

    Bhatara comes from the word Bhatr, meaning protector. The Dewas, or holy manifestation of God which appear most often in Balinese religion are called the Tri Murti or the Holy Trinity.
    • Brahma (The Creator)
    • Wisnu (The Preserver)
    • Ciwa (The Destroyer or Returner)
    In Bali, the Pedanda, (high priest), selected from the Brahmana caste, officiates large ceremonies. The Pemangku, or village temple priest, looks after the temple and leads the holy rituals included in the Panca yadnya.

    The holy books of the Hindu religion are the Vedas, which originated in ancient India. Those that reached Bali are the Catur and the Veda Cirah, which are still used by the priest in carrying out their religious duties.

    The religion is taught in other forms as well. The most popular of these are the Purana, or morality plays, and the Ramayana and the Mahabrata. The many theatre' forms - the wayang shadow puppet plays, the masked drama, the opera and ballets are also vehicles of religious teaching.

    The beliefs of the Balinese are a living force that pervade the island and reverberate outside it. The island sings of love, the love that spends an hour making an offering of woven plam leaves and flashing flowers, the love that finds the time everyday to think of the "other world", of giving something to the gods, of lighting a stick of incense, of sprinkling holy water, of whispering a mantra as the hands make gentle, sacred movements, of processions intricacy or suprisingly simple in their humility, of loving work and love bestowed on children a life of love, given freely to everyone in a smile or a wave as you pass by.

    On this island, there is a link to enlightenment. The Balinese feel themselves to be a blessed people, a feeling continually reinforced by the wealth of their everyday life and strengthened by the splendor of their religion. It is almost as if the Balinese are living as art continually worshipping their muse. To Nehru, Bali was "the Morning of the World", and to the Balinese, Bali is the only "real" world in the world and the sacred mountain Gunung Agung is the "Navel of the World", the umbilical cord from whence the world springs.

    The Rites of Passage

    The Balinese believe that the individual soul is reincarnated in to many life times, until through numerous struggles and stages, it achieves union with the divine. It is the duty of every Balinese to have children, to provide a vessel for his ancestors' spirits to be reincarnated in. A man does not become a full member of his Banjar until he is a father. Children are loved and highly prized in Bali, especially male children, as they carry the bloodline of the family and also look after the burial and cremation of their parents.

    As each lifetime is regarded as a passage from one stage to another, so also there are critical stages during life where an important passage occurs leading towards adulthood. It is the duty of family and friends to help each child through this passage. The rites of passage begin while the baby is still in the womb. A pregnant woman is "sebel", and is not permitted to enter a temple. After a safe delivery, the after birth becomes the "Kanda Empar', It finds a spiritual brother in each of the four cardinal directions to accompany the child throughout his life. There are further rites for the child at 12 days, 42 days, and again at 105 days when the child is for the first time placed, or rather planted, on the ground. Ibu Pertiwi (mother earth) is asked to look after this young offering. Before this ceremony, the child is hardly regarded as a human being. At 210 days, (one Balinese year), the child is given its name. A Balinese child is never allowed to crawl, as this is regarded as animalistic. He is carried everywhere until he learns to stand and walk.

    The passage into puberty is celebrated for both males and females. A girl's first menses is celebrated and then the rite of tooth filling follows for girls and boys. This ceremony must be carried out before marriage; often it is incorporated into the marriage ceremony. The canine teeth, which the Balinese regard as animalistic fangs, are filed flat. This represents the moving out of the more extreme aspects of one's personality as one enters adulthood. After the tooth-filling a father's duties to his female children are generally regarded as being completed.

    For a son, the father must finance and conduct the marriage ceremony, welcoming the bride as new daughter into the family. The new bride leaves her old ties behind and takes over a new family and their ancestors' spirits. Many Balinese marriages are pre-arranged, though young men increasingly prefer to choose elopement way, and mixed caste marriage are more common now.


    Cremation of the dead (pengabenan, pelebon) is perhaps the most important, and often the most colorful, ritual of Balinese religion. A cremation is necessary to liberate the soul of the deceased for the passage into heaven and reincarnation. Due to the immense cost and the complicated preparations necessary, cremations often occur long after the death of the person. Usually, group cremation is held in order to share the expense and the labor involved. Between death and cremation, the body is burned in the cemetery, or in the case of a wealthy person whose family can arrange a cremation more quickly, the body lies in the state of the family's compound. During this time, the soul of the deceased is thought to be agitatedly longing for release.

    An auspicious day for the cremation is chosen by a pedanda or priest after consulting the Balinese calendar. Preparations begin long before the appointed day. Each family builds a large tower of bamboo and paper, extravagantly painted according to the caste and wealth of the deceased, on a large bamboo platform. A magnificent, brightly colored, life-size bull is also constructed of Kapok wood, bamboo and cloth or color papers.

    On the morning of the cremation, relatives and friends of the deceased visit the house to pay their last respect, and richly entertained and fed by the family. At midday, the body is whisked out of the house and carried, with the tower and bull, to the dead man's banjar. This becomes a loud, noisy, boisterous procession, designed to confuse the soul of the deceased so that it will lose its way and not be able to return to the family compound, where it could cause mischief.
  2. skip

    skip Founder Administrator

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    Last paragraph:

    At the cremation ground, the body is put into the belly of the bull. A priest officiates the last rites, and then fires are lit. After the burning, another roucous procession begins, carrying the ashes to the sea or the local river where they are thrown to the wind. This represents the cleansing and disposal of the material body, and is the cause for singing and laughing in the care of the soul in the family compound. After a sojourn in heaven, the soul is believed to be reborn. The status of the reborn soul relates to the persons' karma, or his conduct in previous lives. In general, the Balinese feel that the soul is reborn within the same circle of blood relation. This cycle of death and rebirth is the cause of the Balinese reference for ancestors. Every Balinese knows that one day he will be an ancestor, whose long passage through the other world must be expedited and cared for it if he is to return to his beloved island of Bali.
  3. Cloudminerva

    Cloudminerva Member

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    Very awesome. I loved the entire article! Bali sounds like a beautiful place. I will definitely check out more stuff about it.

  4. eccofarmer

    eccofarmer Member

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    I have been to bali many time in the last ten years.I have to say it made a very big change on my spiritual life.Hinduism or sanatana dharma there is one of the purest form of religion that shines threw all the people there.It gives me faith that this can been done every were people are in union.

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