The Heart of Compassion
On Friday, April 14 2006, thousands of Buddhists escorted the Buddha Rupam (Effigy of the Buddha) from Nusa Dua into the Vihara Buddha Sakyamuni in downtown Denpasar. The golden-plated, 2.7 meters tall and 1.5 tons Rupam was donated by the Buddhist community and government of Thailand.
The main procession, which took place along the Denpasar's Gunung Agung street, was a colorful event that combined beautiful elements from various different cultures, including the local Balinese culture, the Chinese and the Theravada Buddhism's school of thought.
The fact that the Balinese Hindus enthusiastically supported the event was another evidence of the harmonious inter-faiths relationship in Bali.
This religious harmony could be traced back to a historical and monumental religious gathering in the 10th century. Organized by the influential sage Mpu Kuturan, the gathering at Samuan Tiga, Gianyar, involved religious leaders from nine competing sects, including the Mahayana Buddhism.
Kuturan's wise counsel throughout the gathering had resulted in the birth of Balinese Hindu, a unique belief system that practically unified and combined various important elements from the nine sects. Philosophically-speaking, it was a marriage between Siwaistic Hindu and Mahayana Buddhism. Thats the reason why the Balinese love to call their belief system the religion of Siwa-Buddha.
The Siwa-Buddha later on became the official religion of the East Java's Majapahit Empire, which had a sphere of influence extended from present-day Thailand in the west and present-day East Nusa Tenggara in the east.
During the height of the empire in 14th century, the philosopy of Siwa-Buddha was immortalized in a literary work "Sutasoma" authored by Mpu Tantular, one of Kuturan's descendants.
The text depicts the journey of Prince Sutasoma (literally means the Son of Peace) in search of the true enlightenment. Tantular describes Sutasoma as the reincarnation of Jinapati (Buddha). He is the living embodiment of the Bodhisatva ideal of boundless mercy and selfless compassion.
During his journey, Sutasoma meets various destructive forces---from a rampaging elephant, vicious dragon to a starved tigress---, which symbolize the human's flaws of anger, jealousy and selfish greed.
Sutasoma overcomes these destructive forces not by unleashing an equally destructive force, but by an act of sincere compassion; a willingness to sacrifice everything, including his own life to preserve the lives of others sentient beings.
To the starved tigress, which is about to devour her own offsprings, Sutasoma gave her his body. Through his death, Sutasoma jolted the tigress into a sudden realization on the true meaning of love; the heart of compassion.
Sutasoma offered similar sacrifice to stop a brutal war that almost annihilate the entire earth.
Interestingly, Sutasoma, after a period of deep meditation, received a mantra of perfect enlightenment from Dhurga, the Shakti (feminine side) of Siwa, an important deity in Hinduism, thus, "officially" acknowledges the intimate relationship between two religious belief systems.
Toward the end of the story, the Prince of Peace stated that in order to develop a Heart of Compassion, in order to win the perfect enlightenment, a spiritual seeker must first comprehend the true, undivided and singular nature of the Truth.
"Bhinneka Tunggal Ika Tan Hana Dharma Mangrwa"
"(Although it exists in different forms and interpretations) The Truth is One, There is No Multiple Truths."
Sutasoma further stressed that Siwa and Jina (Buddha) are merely the different forms of the same, singular Truth.
The line "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" was later adopted by the founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia as the state's motto to underline the importance of unity for the nation as well as of respecting the country's diverse cultural and religious heritages.
In this perspective, the story of Sutasoma should remind us to keep our faith in the excellence of a compassionate heart. Although various destructive elements are now threatening to subvert the very basic principle of our nation; the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, by bare violences as well as corrupted legislations, we should not dignify their actions by resorting to similar methods and means.
Instead, let us bow our heads to Buddha, Sutasoma and all those perfect beings who have bestowed us with the most powerful weapon ever known by mankind; the Heart of Compassion.
The Friday's parade has taught us that despite their many differences (religious beliefs, ethnicity, cultural legacy, social standings, etc), thousands of men and women could united themselves into one solid multitude with one single action; paying homage to the blessed man who have managed to cultivate the Heart of Compassion.
Let us working together to take this nation into a new era of compassionate love and selfless brotherhood based on respect and understanding toward each other's flaws and differences.
For the Betterment of Mankind
Marlowe and Jun