THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE BRAHMANIC RITUAL
The ultimate stage of perfection in the evolution of man on this earth, from the Balinese point of view, is to reach the Brahmana caste and to be ordained as a pedanda, a high priest: from simple 2 'Me word pedanda comes, according to Friedericb, from danda, " a staff " staff-bearer," the law. The Balinese call high priests also pendita or penita, the Learned." human being, to warrior, statesman ' scholar, priest, and after death a god. Simply having reached this position, the highest during life in the long and arduous scale of evolution, endows pedandas with a magic character and justifies - in their own eyes at least - their superiority over all living men.
Thus the high priests are, to the Balinese, extraordinary beings , who, by their caste, knowledge, systematic preparation, and(old age, are immune in handling the dangerous secret formulas the higher ritual. An ordinary person, unprepared and not possessing the capacity to store the necessary surcharge of magic energy, would be destroyed, blown out like a weak fuse undere,a high charge of electricity, should be attempt to use this magic to control the unseen forces. With the proper training hoever, people of all castes may become priests; a common in,, can study to become a witch-doctor, for pemangku or for sunguhu, and a mystic prince with a vocation may become a re but only a Brahmana can be an authentic pedanda. Although the low-caste priests control the ordinary temple and Communityritual, have direct dealings with the ancestors, and are able intimidate demons with formulas of their own, they are stricted to officiating for people within or below their caste., while the Brahmanic priests serve all those who can afford their fees.
The pedandas still exert a powerful influence on Balinese life despite the fact that their relations with the people were never intimate; they represent the law, and the judges of the high native courts (raadkerta) are still pedandas in the majority They purify persons or dwellings, bless people after illness or accident, and can avert curses or spells. On account Of the knowledge of the calendar they must be consulted everyting), is necessary to determine the exact lucky or unlucky date on which to begin or to which to postpone a significant undertakin Mountain people ignore them entirely, but they are essential to all ceremonies of the nobility, and even the poorest commoner will make great sacrifices to be able to call a pedanda to Officiate at his private affairs, particularly at cremations, to assure his dead ones of the correct send-off into the nether world. To use the services, of a pedanda is a luxury that brings social precstige.
A pedanda's life is strictly regimented and full of prohibitions. We visited occasionally the good-natured, sociable pedanda, of Sidan, who often remarked with a deep sigh of regret that the life of a priest was a difficult one because be bad always to think of the gods. At lunch in his house, hen he had a goose cut " in our honour, be condescended to eat with us, but had to sit at a higher evel, " otherwise the gods would not like it.' With a grand disdainful gesture he threw a few grains of rice at the hungry dogs that surrounded us, explaining that he had to share his food with these evil spirits in disguise; then, he proceeded to enumerate the many taboos be bad to observe when eating: be could not sit at a public eating-place or eat in the market; he ate facing east and not until be bad made his morning prayers. Beef, pork, and food from offerings were forbidden to him and be could not touch alcohol. Under no circumstances could he walk under dirty water. He was fat and old and he loved to ride in motor-cars, but since so many drain-pipes have been built. ecently at high points over the roads to connect the ricefields, he encountered great difficulties when travelling by motor-car. Every time be came to a pipe the car stopped. He stepped out and climbed to the top with great effort, to come down panting on the other side.
marries, generally only once, a woman of his own caste, who becomes automatically
a priestess (pedanda istri), who must help her husband in the ritual and
who may herself officiate on certain occasions. High priests do not observe
sexual abstinence, although it is recommended in the scriptures. Ancestry
is one of their great concerns, and the standing of the various Brahmanic
families is determined by their 'purity of lineage. Balinese Brahmanas
all claim descent from the mythical Wau Rauh, the highest priest of Madjapahit,
who in coming to Bali took wives from the various castes. His descendants
established themselves at various places in Bali and founded the
Pedandas should dedicate their entire life to meditation, the study of theology, and the practice of the ritual. During life they are supposed to be models of knowledge, purity of thought and of actions, but unfortunately this is not always the case and, as everywhere else, there are priests who,take advantage of their position and by their mysterious hocus-pocus exploit the people. In Bali, however, this occurs on a considerably smaller scale than in countries dominated by an organized clergy. The Brahmanas jealously keep the inner knowledge,of the official religion for themselves and the common people believe in them, but continue to regard them, like their princes, as, foreigners aloof from the true life of Bali.
The Brahmanic priesthood is today divided into two great groups: the Siwaites (siwa or siwa sidanta), and the so-called Buddhists (bodda); not true followers of Siwa and of the Buddha, but simply sectarian divisions of the same religion (see page 318). The pedanda siwa wears his hair long, tied in a knot on the top of his bead, while the pedanda bodda has his cut shoulder-length; otherwise their office and ritual are the same with only small differences in detail, in phraseology, and in the texts used by each. To the average Balinese this division means so little that he will call a priest of either sect to officiate for him regardless of whether he is siwa or bodda, simply because of personal preference or family tradition or because the priest s house may be nearer. To him two 'priests of two sects are undoubtedly more effective than one but this is an expensive luxury that only the princes can afford. The present Regent of gianyar always engaged both a pedanda siwa and a pedanda bodda, who . sat side by side. He, went even further and bad also a Satria priest, a resi, and a sunguhu to take care of the evil spirits, so that every sort of priest was represented. In.
The religious service of the pedandas, the maweda, consists i the recitation of the mantras, the magic formulas, accompanied by ritual actions and significant gestures of the hands and fingers (mudra) to give a physical emphasis to the spoken wor Through concentration culminating in a trance, the priest be! comes the deity itself, entering the body of the priest and ac ing through it to consecrate the water and emanate divine vibra- tions.
A performance of maweda by an able priest is one of the mo beautiful sights in Bali. Such finished training, such showmanship, enters into its execution, and the hand gestures of the priest are so thoroughly imbued with rhythm and beauty, that the maweda is more than a simple prayer; it is a whole spectacle a pantomimic dance of the hands. I have once seen a revealing film of a Nepalese Buddhist priest dancing with his entire body.' while be recited Sanskrit mantras and performed the symbolical hand gestures, and I have wondered if this was not the origin' of the great art of Balinese dancing. Volumes have been written, on the band expression of the Hindus; The Mirror of Gesture Comaraswami is already a classic; the beautiful bands of India Tibetan, Chinese, and Indonesian Buddhist statues and fresco are well known, and in Java we find the statues of the B d of Borobudur in the positions of the mudras. De Kat A eli, in his Mudras gives us the most thorough study up to date the Balinese maweda, painstakingly illustrated by Tyra de Kleen Only a moving picture, however, could give an idea of its eerie beauty.
The most important activity in the everyday life of t pedandas is the performance of a domestic maweda, done every morning and on an empty stomach. Every fifth day (klion) a on days of full and new moons, the maweda is essential a more complete, with the full regalia of important occasion, The priest has first to purify himself thoroughly by reciting cleansing mantras for each action of his morning toilet. He washes his hair, rinses his mouth., polishes his teeth, and rinses his mouth again; washes his face, bathes, rubs his hair with oil, combs it, and then dresses. For each move he has to recite a short mantra, one for each garment he wears.
Meantime on a high platform his wife has arranged his paraphernalia (upakara) : trays with flowers (night-blooming flowers if the ceremony is to take place at night), gold- or silver vessels containing grains of rice and sandalwood powder, his holy-water container (siwamba) with a silver sprinkler (sesirat) and a longhandled ladle, (tjanting), his prayer bell (gantha), an incenseburner (pasepan) , and a bronze oil lamp ( pedamaran) . Put away in baskets at one side of where the priest will sit are the attributes of Siwa be will wear during the ceremony: the bawa, a bell-sbaped mitre of red felt with applications of beaten gold and topped by a crystal ball, the " shimmer of the sun" (suryakanta) , and a number of strings of genitri seeds (ear-rings, bracelets, neck and breast beads) ornamented with pieces of gold set with linggas of crystal, phallic symbols."
Once seated cross-legged among the upakara, the priest proceeds to purify his person; be lays a prayer cloth over his lap and with his hands on his knees he mumbles a formula and asks of Batara Siwa to descend into the water-vessel and into his body. He stretches his bands over the incense smoke, uncovers the tray in front of him, and mumbles the mantra asta mantra, the hand-cleansing formula, rubs the palms of his bands with a flower and sandalwood powder, " wiping out impurity," and recites a formula for each finger as it is passed over the palm of each hand, taking flowers which be holds over the incense smoke and then flinging them away saying: Be happy, be perfect, glad in your heart."
trance, the priest uses pranayama, breath con closing each nostril alternately
with a finger, breathing d and holding his breath as long as possible,
then exhaling through the other nostril. With a blade of grass he inscribes
the sac, ong in the holy water, prays again with a flower which he drops
into the water-container, then takes his bell in the left band a strikes
the clapper three times with another flower held in his right hand. Now
his breath, his voice. and his spirit idep
the priest proceeds, mumbling his guttural prayers, ringing the bell alternately with swift. intricate -gestures of hands, and fingers, taking flowers at intervals, dropping them into t holy water or holding them over the lamp and the incense, arflinging them away. He rings the bell louder and quicker stops suddenly.
During these preliminaries he gives signs of the oncoming trance; he gasps, his eyes roll back, and his movements take a tense, unearthly air. Now the deity is within him and sprinkles holy water and flings flowers, not away, but towards himself. He touches his forehead, throat, and shoulders with sandalwood powder and puts on the attributes of Siwa: he ti a long blade of alang alang grass around his head; wears the beads over his ears, across his breast, and on his wrists, and places h red and gold mitre on his head. He mumbles inwardly his in sacred prayers and, with apparent physical effort, he leads soul from his " lower body " into his head, holding a rosary genitri seeds and raising his bands slowly upwards. This brings him into the complete trance; he trembles all over and, rolling, his eyes in ecstasy, be pronounces the prayers " for the world in a deep, strangely changed voice. Thus the water in the container becomes toya pelukatan, Siwa's water.
Such is the power of concentration of the pedandas du these trances that once, at the preliminary ceremonies for the cremation of the Regent of Buleleng's daughter, a small pavilion caught fire near where the high priest performed the maweda, almost burning, prematurely, the corpse lying in state; the priest went on with his prayer totally unmindful of the wild screams of the women attendants and the rushing relatives, who extinguished the flames.
To become himself again, the priest sprinkles water towards him and " drives back his soul into the stomach." He takes off his ornaments and pins a little bouquet of multi-coloured flowers over his hair knot. This ends the ceremony, and he sprinkles his relatives and neighbours with the remaining holy water.
Despite the secrecy with which the priests surround the knowledge of the Sanskrit mantras, a good many of them have been studied and translated by Dutch and Javanese scholars, such as De Kat Angelino, R. Ng. Poerbatjaraka, and Dr. R. Goris, and I refer those interested in mantras to their works. Most sacred of all the aphorisms of the pedandas, and as typical as any, is the kuta mantra: "OM, HRAM HRUM SAH, PARAMA-SHI^VA-DMATA NAMAH: Om, hrain hrum sah, praise be to the all-high Shiva, the Sun"' (Goris) .
Religious knowledge is transmitted from father to son or from teacher (guru") to pupil (sisiya). The priest then becomes his pupil's absolute master and his father; even in case there be no blood relationship between them, marriage with the teacher's daughter would be considered as incest, a most dreadful crime. All Bralimanas are eligible to become pedandas with the exception of lepers, madmen, epileptics, the deformed, and those who have received dishonourable punishments. The pupil learns Kawi first, the classic language, to study the preparatory texts; is taught the moral principles by which to rule his life, which are, according to De Kat Angelino, the capital sins: crime, greed, hypocrisy, envy and ill temper, morbidness; the five commandments for the outer world: Thou shalt not kill, not steal, be chaste, not be violent, adhere to the principle of passive resistance; and those for the inner self: avoid of impure foods, or anger, remain conscious of the teachings, and be in unison with the teacher.
Later on, he studies Sanskrit (sloka) and learns the Wedas.Eventually he is initiated by his teacher in a most elaborate cere mony, which I know only by hearsay in which the teacher leads the hands to perform his first' the hands of his pupil with his own hands. The pupil makes repeated reverences (sembah) to his teacher and to the sun washes and kisses his teacher's feet
and receives his priestly credentials, a secret document containing powerful formulas written on a blade of lontar palm. I have been told that the pupil " dies " symbolically during the ceremony and is reborn as a priest, and that his body is then washed and treated exactly like a corpse. As conclusion, we find that the amazing conglomerate of traditions, beliefs, and philosophies that together constitute the, Balinese religion, one that is as complex and tangled as can be found anywhere today, alone is the most powerful motivating,. force to the entire life of the island. Our knowledge of Bali is as young as the history of its contacts with the West, and a good deal will have to be unravelled before we can have a clear picture of that unique product of tropical Asia, the character of the Balinese, which is reflected in the fantastic interpretation of religious ideas from India, China, and Java. These were at times assimilated with a sense of practical logic, at times obvious] misunderstood; but the result was a healthy and thoroughly Balinese manner of belief. Despite Hinduistic deviations, religious symbols and ideas retained much of their original, primitive simplicity, and fanaticism and idolatry did not overshadow the ancient animist worship of nature and of the elements. Whatever the source of these ideas may be, the Balines worship the sun, the earth, and water as, sources of life-giving fertility; fire is a purifying el ' ement. The sea receives offerings once a year in a great feast in Lebih on the Gianyar coast. Also sources of fertility, and the dwellings of the gods, are the moun tains, which are venerated in every temple and private shrine.
The highest mountain, the Gunung Agung, is the navel, the focal point of their world. A cult in itself has developed around the planting, growing, and harvesting of rice; old banyan trees are seen with respect, and many contain a little altar among the maze of their aerial roots where passing people leave offerings. Once a year all food vegetation, and coconut trees in particular, have a feast in their honour; they are given offerings and each tree is " dressed up " with a gay skirt and a scarf. We have seen that wood for house posts must be erected in "' correct " position, the way the tree grew and not " upside down." Not everyone can cut down a tree; specialists are called because they know the formulas and the magic to be performed after a tree is felled (placing a small green bough in the stump) to prevent the tree spirit from taking revenge, making the cutter lose his hair or be reincarnated in a prematurely bald-headed person. Itwould be dangerous for a person who is sebel (spiritually unclean) to climb trees. Everywhere there are temples dedicated to the nameless spirits of the mountains, of the sea, of old caves, an cient trees, lakes, springs, and even shapeless stones and other inanimate objects.
Although invisible and elusive, the gods of the Balinese are not unlike living human beings; they can be invited to dwell on this earth, to visit the temples and homes, when they are received as honoured guests with music, banquet food, and entertainment. They are not opposed to coming in contact with ordinary mortals, and to help them they often take part themselve's in the ceremonies. But the gods are worshipped only in spirit and nowhere are their images or representations considered as holy in themselves unless it is supposed they are temporarily occupying them. By contrast, they have to tolerate and pacify evil spirits, who are as unavoidable as illness and trouble, but whom they treat with contempt. These evil forces at times pollute and disturb everything: people, temples, houses, the whole organism of the island in general, are subject to critical moments, becoming weakened and unclean, and it is the office of their priests to cure this condition by neutralizing the evil forces, cleansing and strengthening the village or the individual, thus defiled by spiritual sickness.
Thus, Balinese religion remains a colourful animist cult in,: which are interwoven the esoteric principles and philosophy of, Hinduism,.but this condition is by no means limited to Bali Javanese Hinduism was of this sort, and even in India we find)" a parallel in the simultaneous worship of primitive demons, ancestors, and elements, belonging to the Dravidian lower classes, intermingled with the Brahmanic philosophy. To the Indian masses as with the Balinese, Siva and Vishnu may be dignified,. gods of a higher rank than the more accessible local deities, who remain, however, closer to the common people, perhaps because, like themselves, they are of a lower caste.
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