The Magic of Bali – Sarita’s Blog

At the time of writing, I have been living in Bali for 7 months. Life is a serendipitous journey and many seemingly random events led to me being here as the time of global lockdown happened. While many people in the world have been struggling and locked down for months at a time, I find myself to be in paradise on earth. My relationship with Miguel offers deepest fulfilment and daily life is based on heartfelt appreciation of aesthetic beauty, healthy lifestyle and the harmony of meditation.

The sudden cessation of my travelling and teaching lifestyle has been deeply nurturing. I was probably burnt out without realising it. My global schedule was crazy. I would regularly take a flight halfway across the world and begin teaching an intensive group or training the next day. This continued with back to back groups, festivals, retreats and trainings week after week and year after year almost non-stop.

These months in Bali have brought me into deep contemplation as well as sublime contentment. I adore my work, and yet now I realise a more balanced lifestyle is needed. Yes, I am in service and delight in being so, for the highest good of all beings. And, I can offer even more by doing less. I may never have come to this realisation without the sudden stopping of the world as it was.

As I open my heart to Bali and the quality of life here, my Beloved Miguel and I have decided to make our home here. We envision co-creating an eco-retreat centre where we can live and work, together with friends who have a similar vision.

I would like to share with you some highlights from my Bali experience, giving a glimpse of the innocence and wonder I experience here.

I am living near vibrant green rice fields and the cultivation of these follows a rhythmic cycle of seasons. Landowners share water resources through an elaborate system of canals and the management of how these canals flow and are used. All along the canals of fresh rushing water, are paths just wide enough for a walker, motorbike or bicycle but not wide enough for cars. On these paths, people jog, walk, cycle or ride motorbikes, peacefully enjoying the beauty which is evident all around. The shape of a volcano shimmers in the distance bringing majesty to the landscape.

Families gather to fly kites, and indeed kite flying appears to be a national obsession. Everyone is doing it, from young children with their fathers, teenagers, adults and the elderly. Kites of all shapes and sizes appear like enormous butterflies in the sky. And in the night, kites are adorned with fairy lights, making it appear as if a fleet of flying saucers are gliding overhead.

As I take my daily walk, I am in a perpetual state of wonder at the beauty and harmony evident everywhere. My heart sings with gladness. The evils that beset the world seem to be very far away and my soul resides in deepest peace.

Balinese place a great importance on beauty and harmony. To this end, they create exquisite houses, marvellous hand carved furniture and incredible works of art. I am sure no other country can claim to having so many artists as Bali.

The temples of Bali are a phenomenon to behold and to experience. About 1546 AD the king of the Daya Kingdom in East Java was being overthrown and as part of his surrender, he converted to Islam. He asked his spiritual advisor to convert as well. However, the advisor wished to remain Hindu and therefore had to escape to the nearby Island of Bali together with his wife and 7 children.

This advisor ‘monk’ named Dang Hyang Nirartha, built the cliffside Uluwatu Temple. It is said he attained Moksa there. He also travelled on foot all around Bali offering prayers and protection to the Island in order for Bali to maintain its Hindu orientation. As part of his offering, he was instrumental in powerful temples being built in stunningly beautiful places, aligning divine and earthly powers. These are:

Pulaki Temple / Besaki Temple / Perancak Temple / Rambut Siwi Temple / Tanah Lot Temple / Melanting Temple and the Suranadi Temple (in Lombok)

My Beloved and I make it a point to visit these temples and more, as a form of pilgrimage and to take part in ceremonies and blessings. Balinese people hold a great reverence for nature and some of the temples are ‘water temples’ where the devotee gets into the water and receives a special ritual blessing from the holy spring water that gushes out of numerous carved spouts.

In Ponjok Batu Temple the place of blessing is where fresh spring water comes out of some rocks near the sea and gushes into the sea. The mixing of sweet and salt waters is considered very auspicious. At this site, devotees go into the sea and float for a while before kneeling before the priest and receiving blessing of sweet spring water being poured over the head three times and drinking this spring water three times.

   

At magnificent gardens and islet Tanah Lot Temple there is a cave under the temple which has three water spouts with fresh spring water pouring from them. As I contemplated these three spouts, I said to the elderly priest, “The three streams of holy water are symbolising Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, is this correct?” The priest was so overwhelmed that a foreigner had recognised the Godheads that he burst into tears and hugged me! I also started crying, touched by his deeply felt devotion and wonder.

The Balinese are also enchanted by trees and recognise some special trees as deities. The trees which are worshipped are usually huge and ancient. Devotees put special protection around them and wrap them with ceremonial cloth. In some cases, temples are built around such trees.

When praying and receiving blessings in Balinese temples, flower offerings, rice and incense are used. The flowers are offered to the Gods and once blessed by the divine, are then tucked into the devotee’s hair. In the temples, a special ceremonial costume is used, consisting primarily of sarongs and a sash with the men also wearing a particular form of cap on the head. When we go into shops or restaurants, it is very common to see both men and women with rice on their third eye and flowers in their hair, or stuck behind their ears, a sure sign they have recently been to a temple.

It is very common when wishing to hire someone for a job of some kind to hear them say; “I cannot come at that time because I have a ceremony in the temple.” Daily life activities are fully integrated with spiritual life. Each family compound also has its own temple and the statues of these temples are honoured daily with flowers, prayers and incense.

The local cuisine focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables, rice, tofu and tempeh, pork and fish. There is also an ever-expanding awareness of the great success achieved by those cafes which cater to the ecstatic dance and yoga based tourism, where plant based holistic food is served. Foreigners flock to raw, vegan, gluten free and sugar free restaurants.

In Ubud where I live is the best restaurant in the world (in my opinion) called Moksa. The philosophy of this restaurant is garden to table, with a large permaculture garden being an integral part of the restaurant. The menu is mostly raw but the food is made with such finesse that it is not even noticeable that you are eating raw. Within a few days of eating at Moksa, the body simply begins vibrating with the joy of health. We feel light, nourished and satisfied on multi levels. This is food as medicine at its finest. Chef Made is a creative genius and his multicultural menu is simply astounding.

I am still discovering Balinese culture and while there are many endearing qualities, there are some other aspects that I feel concerned about. Until a few years ago, there was no plastic in Bali. The influences of consumerism only came into play from the 1960s. Perhaps because it is a recent phenomenon, the general public is not really aware of the devastating influence plastic has on the environment. They continue their ancient practice of throwing things they have no use for into the waterways. This means loads of plastic waste ends up in the sea.

Some foreigners are making concerted efforts to bring awareness about plastic to locals and slowly, positive change is on the way.

Another phenomenon which I can’t get my head around is the practice of sacrificing animals. Balinese recognise opposite polarities as being an integral part of life, good and evil, love and hate, darkness and light, male and female. They don’t believe evil can be eradicated, but rather search for ways and means to placate evil entities so they don’t create too much havoc. The way to placate these dark forces they believe is through the sacrifice of animals. Therefore, each time a building project is being launched, one or more animals are sacrificed.

Being vegan carries with it a natural empathy with animals and other creatures. It is impossible for me to imagine what benefits people could think will come by murdering a helpless animal, no matter how much consciousness may be entered into while the sacrifice is being carried out. I pray this dearly held tradition, which is practiced not only in Bali but has a long history in many places in the world, will wither away to be replaced by non-violent ways of bringing balance to society.

For those in countries affected by severe lockdown, you may wonder how Bali is remaining so peaceful during the pandemonium in the world. In Bali mask wearing and hand washing while in public places is recommended and yet the whole atmosphere around this subject is quite relaxed.  However, Bali is in lockdown which brought devastation to the economy. 80% of the economy in Bali comes from tourism and it is the richest country in Indonesia because of this. When lockdown happened, untold numbers of people suddenly found themselves with zero income. The system of Banjars (village headman and local governance) creates a caring environment where those who are part of a Banjar are automatically in a state of security with the local governance taking care of its own. However, the devastating loss of income on such a vast scale means that there is tremendous suffering and hunger being experienced by many.

Some foreigners who remained in Bali when lockdown happened and some local people as well, have been offering donations to communities in need. These kind-hearted donations are a drop in the bucket, while still offering respite to some communities.

My Beloved speaks fluent Indonesian and he has had some interesting conversations with locals. A priest in one of the remote sacred temples we visited said, “So you have decided to stay in Bali during this ‘plandemic?” He then looked at us to gauge our reaction. We replied, “Yes, Bali is so peaceful, we love it here.” Because we didn’t react to his comment, he repeated again, “I use the word ‘plandemic’ on purpose. The people of Bali are aware that this virus is being used for political and economic manipulation. Because a few wish to control the many, our people are starving now.”

In a very remote, small village, we were having a bath in a natural hot springs. Miguel struck up a conversation with a young man coming from the village. The young man said: “People in Bali know this Covid 19 is simply a new kind of biological warfare being waged, a very sneaky way for a few people to get rich through the collapse of economies world-wide. They don’t care at all about the suffering they are causing through this man-made pandemic.”

There is a children’s story about the emperor who was convinced by a crafty tailor to parade naked through the streets while believing he was clothed in a glorious costume, finer than all other clothes. All the adults, not wishing to stimulate wrath in the emperor, bowed and praised his amazing ‘finery.’ In the crowd there was a child, who shouted loudly to his mother; “But the emperor is naked! He has no clothes!” At this, everyone burst out laughing, no longer being able to keep a lid on the obvious lie being paraded in front of them. I am thinking a lot about this story these days. The child within all of us simply needs to speak out the simple and obvious truth, thereby provoking a wave of laughter and hilarity at the great con being pulled off under our very nose!

In general, people in Bali believe that if they are sincere in their spirituality and prayers, they will be protected. They have faith in the divine to guide every aspect of life, from rice planting to affairs of state. This attitude leads to inner and outer harmony. I am always overcome with astonishment to experience the level of genuine kindness Balinese are prone to. They have a level of concern for the well-being of others that is remarkable.

In light of Balinese kindness, it is hard to imagine that Bali was in virtual slavery to the Dutch from 1895–1946. Balinese report how their ancestors were purposely kept in starvation mode by the Dutch to make them more docile. Huge quantities of rice were burned while people were starving, just to make it clear the Dutch were in control.

Of course, foreign powers also tried to convert Balinese people to Christianity but this attempt failed. The faith of Balinese in their own unique form of spirituality appears unshakable. They are aligned both with the ancient animist tradition and a form of Hinduism which is Tantric in orientation. It is normal to see a Shiva Lingam as the holy of holies in temples through Bali.

This morning, coming out of my garden door onto the path, I found that some kind person had decorated all around my entrance with frangipani flowers arranged in a beautiful design. Loving gestures such as this are an integral part of life here in this ‘Island of the Gods.’

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