Restoring Peace and Harmony
While making a Balinese offering sample, my mind wanders the rice paddies in Ubud, the village where I lived with my family for over 15 years.
I see our pendantu (domestic helper) laying a palm-size flower offering on the ground. She splashes holy water over it while reciting mantra (sacred words). She closes her eyes and prays for troubled spirits in the underworld. A smoke rises from the incense and winds through the air until it disappears to eternity. Crow's cry echoes through the rice paddies. Time stops.
Balinese people believe everything exists in duality. If there is joy, sorrow must be there too. It is the same for light and darkness, men and women, and other opposite elements, including good and evil.
As long as goodness is in the world, an evil is there too. Because nothing can eradicate evil, people in Bali try to pacify it so it stays underground and will not bother human beings. It is their way of balancing positive and negative energies to maintain order in the world. Both gods and evils receive offerings and prayers for peace.
The Balinese philosophy of duality (Rwa Bhineda in Balinese) was evident in the wake of the Bali bombing in 2002. The tropical island had been untouched by terrorism that attacked Indonesia since the 1980s (many people think Bali is a country, but it is part of Indonesia). Balinese economy had been booming, and its future looked bright until the bombing, the severe shock to the island of Gods. Not only did it kill 202 people, but it also destroyed international tourism, the backbone of the Balinese economy.
Lively beach resorts of Kuta and Seminyak quickly became ghost towns. Many young Balinese people lost jobs at hotels, restaurants, and shops and returned to their villages to live with their families. Anxiety about the unforeseen future was in the air. Something had to be done to restore harmony, peace, and prosperity in the island.
So, they made offerings. Thousands of, millions of offerings. Offerings to both mighty gods and violent spirits in the underworld. And they prayed. They prayed to gods to shine their lights brighter and give them blessings and protection. They also pleaded to evils to calm down and return where they belonged, the darkness in the underground. They acknowledged troubled souls, gave them compassion, and asked them to leave the world of humans.
Darkness is part of us. The evil force is the manifestation of our society's sickness, the culmination of our individual destructive energies, and the expression of our collective aggression. When darkness overwhelms us, it is easy to feel powerless and helpless. However, it is time to remember our light and shine it brighter. The greater the dark energy gets, the more light we need to bring to the world.
There is so much misery and despair in the world now. Let's send our light to those suffering by donating through non-profit aid organizations, volunteering for a cause, or doing whatever helps them directly or indirectly. Let's also send our light to destructive forces with our prayers for peace and harmony. We need both action and prayer to overcome the darkness.
"The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." – John 1:5å