BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE BRAHMANIC
RITUAL

From the scriptures the priests obtained the all-powerful mantras, formulas of magic words recited, or rather mumbled inwardly, accompanied by special gestures to give added emphasis to this abracadabra. Mantras consist of litanies of praise. each phrase preceded by mysterious sounds, syllables that are repeated in rhythmic sequence and that perhaps produce the ccstasy by which the priests commune with the gods.

There are ten of these magic syllables (adasa aksara) , the proper use of which is kept a strict secret, because " they can become extremely dangerous in the hands of the ignorant." They form an integral part of the nawa sangga, the ever present Rose of the Winds, together with the gods, patrons of each direction, and the colour of each point of the compass.

The synthesis of this is contained in the Word of Words of the Yogis: Om, pronounced in Bali ong, consisting of the sounds ah - u - m, or, as the Balinese say, ang, ung, mang, and again sada siwa, prama siwa, and maha siwa, or, further still, Brahma, Wisnu, Iswara, the eternal Trinity manifested throughout the universe: heaven, earth, and underworld; fire, water, and wind; male, female, and hermaphrodite. ritual; for instance, two ongkaras facing or turned away from. Like a living being, the ongkara has a crown (the upright dash) , a forehead (the circle) , eyes (the half-moon) , beside, a mouth, trunk, stomach, and legs - the various sections c: the lower character.

The magic formulas are the essential part of the religious service of the high priests, the often mentioned maweda, throu which the pedandas make the " pure " holy water (tirta) used in such profusion in the ritual that the Balinese have come to, call their religion agama tirta, the " science of the holy water. The making of this holy water is the principal function and main source of income of the pedandas, who sell it to the people. often for exorbitant prices.

There are various kinds of holy waters in varying degrees of power depending on the standing of the priest who makes it. the ritual undergone, the formulas used for its consecration, and, of course, the price paid for it. Simple yeh ning, clean water. can be procured from a holy spring such as the one high up on the slopes of the Gunung Agung or near the crater lakes, or can be made by a low-caste priest by placing flowers of three colours in ordinary water and reciting a mild prayer over it.

Water from a " yellow " coconut (nyoh gading) may be used in an emergency, but all these are poor substitutes for the real thing, the tirta made by a Brahmanic priest through the complete performance of the maweda, the religious service. Thus tirta pelukatan, the water that has the power of curing almost any sort of spiritual impurity, is sanctified by the embodiment of the gods in it, through the person of the high priest, and is the water essential to important ceremonies. Humans may procure a more expensive and considerably more powerful tirta: the toya pangentas, in which only the holiest formulas are employed and 1ich contains ingredients such as rice dyed yellow, powdered sandalwood, inscriptions (pripih) on thin plaques of gold, a ring set with a jewel, and even powdered rubies.

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