Leaving Bali. We’re in Asia. What a remarkable culture and landscape! As we sailed into the (very narrowly dredged) harbor, fishermen standing on sandbars dangled their lines only a few yards from the ship. On the pier were a gamalan orchestra and graceful dancers in ornate costumes swaying and bending to the sound. The orchestra was the first clue about the communal nature of Balinese society. There was no music, no conductor or concert master, just costumed folks playing percussion and wind instruments, gongs and xylophones of bamboo, in concert, sort of. Apparently there is no key, and the tonal jangle is part of the genre. Players come and go at will and smile as they enter and leave.
Then we visited a “typical house” for a family (of 3 generations) which is a compound of units in a walled garden: an open kitchen, bed”rooms” which are a bed on a garden platform surrounded by a half curtain, a large temple (each family house includes their own temple), a porch with large set of shelves where everyone’s clothes are folded in the same place. The land on which this compound sits belongs to the community. Taxes are paid on the value of the structures only.
The community consists of 30-50 families, a sort of super-family that attends all weddings, funerals, namedays, etc/ Children belong to the community and can be disciplined by any member. If there is any bad behavior by a child, the family is shunned (not spoken to); someone who commits a crime must leave the community. This would be hard because Balinese names are GivenName + BirthOrder + Community Name (I think it would be something like Hope First WestEndHartford), so all the given names must be different in each community. (The name also includes one’s caste, in a way I don’t quite grasp.) Re funerals: bodies are wrapped and buried in shallow graves. After 4 years (of decay) they are dug up, cremated together and the joint ashes placed in coconut shells and thrown into the sea (and most Balinese don’t swim or go into the waters that surround them).
On Fridays, all the women of the community clean the temple and patrol the streets to make sure that families have cleaned their yards to meet the community standards. The teens give one day a month to cleaning community properties, like the community center where well-baby checks are held weekly and celebrations happen. In the middle of this center was a chest of sarongs which were wrapped around us before we could enter the temple.
Regarding temples ... The family temples dominate the landscape inside their compounds. At the beginning of every day, women carry large trays of artfully arranged offerings (maybe 50?) of a flower petal and rice grain on a leaf and place them on all the nooks and crannies of the statues and in little shrines. The large community temple (the one we visited was built in 942) is used only every 210 days, but cleaned every week. Priests must be married and over 50 years old. If a priest dies, his wife inherits the priesthood.
Our guide Bawa, source of all this information, told us that there’s almost no crime and no poverty in Bali. Children start school at 5 and study 7 days a week. On Sundays they learn music and dance and art. Bawa, a high school graduate, spoke excellent English, was insightful and organized, and his interest is comparative religion. He says that Balinese Hinduism (96% of the population is Hindu) is eclectic and adopts the good in all religions, even celebrating Christmas. Balinese greet each other with the prayer that peace and harmony may bless them, and they depart with the prayer that their encounter may further peace in the world. Balance, says Bawa, is the goal of the Balinese. There will be good and evil in life - the task is to discover the good that can come from evil, accept the evil, and work to grow beyond it.
Along with listening to Bawa’s commentary, we visited a wood-carving studio and a batik studio, saw rice paddies, and went to a fabulous lunch at Puri Wulandari Resort, an extraordinary place on a hill with beautiful views. During lunch, more gamalan and dancing; in the long open air corridors red and white and green flower petals were strewn where we walked and infinity pools spilled down the hillside. Scented towels, lotus ponds, and many gifts - we returned with a woven basket, a wrap, joss sticks, a candle, a dish, a puppet, and a palm fan.
All in all, an amazing day with people so nice and hospitable and gracious and helpful and gentle that I wish the world had far more of them! We gave thanks for them - and for you all - at our worship service Sunday evening.