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Knowledge for All!  

by on Tuesday, 24 July 2007No Comment | 928 views

Balinese Hinduism nowadays is fighting a negative stigma “ritual without essence” in religious practices in Bali. Balinese do their religion, attend ritual, and hold temple anniversary or countless other ceremonies without any knowledge on the meaning of these rituals. In sort, Balinese practice their religion without sufficient understanding on what they are practiced.

Melasti procession

There is a great gap in the understanding of religion between the young and the old. The young which have tasted the knowledge of western logic begin to ask ‘why’; “why we do this ceremony?”; “what is the meaning of that ritual?”; “what is the significant of that offering?” etc. the old which almost have no interest in doctrine, or generalized interpretation of the religion, give unsatisfactory answer “that’s just the way it is” to the persistent questions of the young. And still uncomprehending Balinese attending temple rituals and relying on priests to tell them what to do.

This situation happen as a result of the misunderstanding of the concept of Aywa Wera (do not reveal). A religious teaching text usually contains an instruction not to reveal the teaching of this religious text to “other”. Unfortunately, at the dawn of Hinduism in Bali, the religious texts were in the Brahmana (priest) group. They misunderstood the meaning of “do not reveal to other” concept, the true meaning of this concept is not revealing the religious knowledge to the one who does not interested in the religious teaching. The Brahmana group interpreted the word “other” as other caste group, began to monopolize the knowledge of religion.

The example of this misunderstanding can be shown in “Tutur” case. Tutur are “prose texts containing religious instruction and speculation and are often magical and mystical in content”; they were, and are, thought to be dangerous to study for those who have not had the right training and preparatory rituals. One needs a specific level of initiation ritual (pawintenan) to read such texts, or one’s life will be in danger. The texts were largely restricted to Brahmana, These texts (as well as some other sorts of sacred texts) often contain the phrase Aywa Wera, “do not reveal to other,” which was understood as a prohibition to spread the teaching to other group.

The misunderstood Aywa Wera concept combined with a belief that sacred texts were laden with magical force and cannot be learned or handled by a laymen (non priest) made religious knowledge, in 19th century, inaccessible to the non-brahmana groups and created a serious lack of religious knowledge. People at that time relied on priest to tell them what to do in ceremony or ritual.

The young generations now begin to democratize the religious knowledge with “knowledge for all” spirit. They realize that the democratization of religious knowledge and breaking with older ideas of forbidden knowledge has been a major historical change in Balinese Hinduism or at least it can give Balinese a sufficient knowledge of their religion.

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