Saturday, April 15, 2006

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

A Celebration of Diversity

The parade was not only a majestic display of religious devotion, but also a touching testimony of the participants' respect toward cultural and religious diversity. Indonesian citizens of Balinese, Chinese, Javanese and other ethnics origins, and of different religious beliefs, shared the parade as a lively celebration of cultural diversity.

Two Balinese gambelan orchestras provided the parade with a sweet local flavour. An orchestra of Angklung (from the hamlet of Begawan in southern Denpasar) marched in front of the decorated car that carried the Buddha Rupam. Its sentimental melody strengthened the parade's aura of solemnity. Simultaneously, an orchestra of the fast, spirited Bleganjur boosted the spirit of hundreds of Buddhists who walked in a long procession behind the Buddha Rupam.

The presence of the two gambelan orchestras was a clear evidence of the open, friendly nature of the Balinese culture and religious belief system. For centuries, the local culture and belief system have always been able to receive foreign cultural and religious influences in a peaceful manner characterized by a spirit of creative collaboration and mutually-enriching aesthetic dialogues.

It was a parade that highlighted the best of the three cultures; the bright colors of the Chinese offerings, the dynamic music and intricate carvings of the Balinese and the tranquil simplicity of the Theravadin. It was a beautiful event that showcased the harmonius inter-cultural and inter-religious relationship, which for over a thousand years has became the most prominent feature of Bali's socio-cultural landscape.

Sabbhe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitatta
May All Beings are in the State of Happiness
Sabbhe Satta Avero Hontu
May All Beings are in the State of Peacefulness

With a Mind of Love

Marlowe and Jun

1,500 miles to Graceland

after a long break (well, we had to give our hearts the much-needed rest to recuperate from the angst caused by all those fiery, take-no-hostage comments in this blog) we, Marlowe and Jun, are back again in Jiwamerdeka.

This newes post is not about the 2001's Demian Lichtenstein's movie depicting Kurt Russel and Kevin Costners dressed as Elvis Presley wannabees to rob a casino. Instead, it is a sort of self-congratulatory note on the achievement of the Jiwamerdeka 1945, our visual counter-argument to the controversial bill.

As of Friday, April 15 2006, (about one month after its launch), the website had recorded 1,556 visits.

We believe that the visits have not only reflected the level of interest in the subject matter but, more importantly, the willingnes of the visitors to learn about and educate themselves on the Balinese people's perspective on the bill.

We also believe that the willingnes to learn about other, different perpectives is a key factor in building an open, honest and peaceful dialogue that would surely be a very beneficial thing for the establishment of a more humane, civilized and democratic society in our country.

Therefore, we would like to express our gratitude to all those visitors.
Thank you for devoting your time and mind to comprehend our stance.

To a large extent, we are now closer to the Graceland than before.

Marlowe and Jun