The Practice of Receiving and Giving
“Terima kasih (thank you)!” A joyful voice echoes through my memories of Bali. I was fortunate to live on the Island of Gods before modernization swept it through. Many expats had already been living in Ubud, the art center of Bali when I landed there first time in the 90s. But local people were still curious about foreigners. “Where are you from?” “Are you married yet?” “Where is your husband?” “Is your husband Balinese?” Ladies selling spices, fruits, and handmade crafts at the Ubud Market bombarded me with the same questions. “Terima kasih!” They handed me my change with grinning smiles and moved on to talk to the next customer.
Terima kasih consists of two words, terima (receiving) and kasih (giving). The phrase originated in the meditation practice of ancient Indonesia: receive negative energy from someone, transform it into a positive one, and give it back to the person. It is the same as tonglen, the meditation practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Dalai Lama does this meditation daily to cope with Chinese oppression in Tibet. More than 800 years ago, an Indian monk went to Sumatra, one of about 17,500 Indonesian islands (Bali is also one of them) to study with a master. He learned the meditation practice of terima kasih there and later spread it to Tibet.
Terima kasih meditation is difficult to practice. Our natural response to negative energy (anger, sorrow, envy, pain, and more) is to stay away from it. We repulse it because it is dark, heavy, and depressive. It is far from peace and joy we all want. To do this practice, we need to expand our capacity for negativity. We make our hearts bigger and stronger than the negative energy we take in. We then bring out love from our core and purify negativity with the power of love. Finally, we give love back to the person. It is the noblest thing a human can do to others.
Terima kasih is a hard practice to do, but we can try it on a small scale. When a supermarket cashier is mean to you next time, smile at her instead of reacting to her attitude. Acknowledge the store is short-staffed and thank her for her service. Kasih is the word for giving, and it also means love. Receive the cashier’s negative energy and return her love. I guarantee her attitude will change quickly. You have just made her day. Receive her unhappiness and return her love.
In Indonesian, the phrase used to respond to terima kasih is kembali kasih (returning love). Someone receives negative energy and gives back love. The receiver then returns love to the giver. This is how we multiply love through the action of giving and loving.
Many thanks to Anand Krishna, a highly respected interfaith spiritual master and leader in Indonesia who shared the practice of terima kasih with me and many others. You can read his article on terima kasih here: https://www.anandkrishna.org/en/2008/06/10/indonesia-tibet-and-the-secret-of-terima-kasih/
“The mutual practice of giving and receiving is an everyday ritual when we know true love.” – Bell Hooks