I love Bali: Rendering and surrendering

by Made Wijaya on 2012-10-31

Spiritual tourism in Indonesia is expanding in the most weird and wonderful ways. Last week, I stood at the entrance to a lateral condominium project near the Yoga Barn in Pengosekan, near Ubud, and watched gobsmacked as a kaleidoscope of mankind filed past. There, young quasi-militant “Hungry Games Hippies” and pedestrian convoys of albino Pilates fanatics with Kool-Aid green hair swept past. A phalanx of backpackers roped together with Tibetan prayer flags took up the rear.

Recently, one “trend vigilante” drew my attention to a blog called Bali High. On the blog was an article by an Australian karmic warrior woman about her experience of being stabbed repeatedly at a Barong dance in Bongkasa. “This does not bode well for tourism,” was my first reaction. She wrote of this extraordinary experience in an article entitled “Surrendering like never before”.

“I was in the middle of the arena,” she wrote. ”There were 1,200 Balinese cheering, yelling and hooting at the Bule [white foreigner]. Two men held each of my arms. I looked up and about 10 meters away a man in trance with a keris was coming straight for me, full pelt, with the blade pointed at my stomach.”

As a former wannabe trancee, I was impressed with her tone — it really had a ring of truth to it. I once felt “the force” while carrying the palanquin of a major deity from Pura Besakih to the sea, so the account of the Sydney-born she-shaman sent shivers down my spine.

Old-time, expatriate “culture-vultures” attacked the born-again faith-healer, mocking her on Facebook with taunts about the veracity of her lotus position and the scanty swimwear featured on her alarmingly commercial website, with a “Book now to realign your crystals on 12-12-12“ message.

The Balinese are amazingly welcoming toward foreigners who show any interest whatsoever in taking part in spiritual activities — many village temples now have a pale-face mascot.

The comments posted on the Bali Cultural Discussion Facebook page by westerners were for the most part disparaging, but the Balinese gave her the benefit of the doubt.

“Whatever floats your boat” commented nautical expert and Ubud restaurateur Odeck Kren-habis.

Little by little, other expats — those buried deep into the spiritual fabric of the island — started coming out. One Chinese–American — who has, since 1980, been temple assistant or parekan at the mighty 10th century Pura Samuantiga at Bedulu, near Ubud — shared his innermost secrets about life inside the island’s most exclusive chorus line.

Another, a lapsed German aristocrat in the North West of the island, rang me and confessed to speaking in tongues during her raw food demonstrations.

And it’s not just in Bali. In Java last month the main square in front of the island’s oldest mosque, the Mesjid Agung Demak, was festooned with giant yellow and Sunni-Green Bali-ho (billboards) extolling the virtues of Pariwisata Spiritual.

I was in Java doing an architectural pilgrimage, visiting the 16th century Hindu-temple-like tombs of the Islamic saints along the north coast. I discovered that young Muslims from all over Indonesia are fired up about spiritual tourism too. It is now very fashionable to berziarah (make pilgrimages) to the holy tombs. Domestic spiritual tourists experience “surrendering” or “mystical rendering” but don’t write home about it or send up flares. Humility is considered the keynote feature of advanced spiritual knowledge. And the tombs are gorgeous, like Balinese temples before the craze for hard-edged Andesite facelifts. Soon the Hindu-Balinese will be flocking to Java to see real Majapahit-era architecture.

Since Eat, Pray, Love there has been a veritable stampede of soul-searchers and mantras are being marketed like used cars.

“Guruji’s Oatmeal Enema” read one small sign outside a monkey forest home, “$20. o.n.o. We accept all credit cards”.

Around Ubud, at least, it’s the dawning of a new commercial Age of Aquarius.

Source : Bali Daily

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