I looked high and low for the perfect Buddha statue to bring home from Bali; I desperately wanted to own one!
My husband made an annoying observation as usual, that I am neither a Buddhist nor a Hindu, and the statue, while “very cool”, could not carry for me the intended and true significance it does for its worshipers – which, in some irony, was the very reason I wanted one in the first place. True, I am neither a Buddhist nor a Hindu but I would have considered becoming one in a heartbeat if it meant being forever wrapped in the spirit and harmony that was the magic of Bali. I wish I could carry home with me with this island’s supreme harmony and balance between man and nature, an emotion I have never experienced anywhere else, not in all my travels to 20 countries and over 145 cities around this beautiful world!
Bali blows all your expectations out of the water. Bali tastes like the delicacy of Asia and like an aphrodisiac for inner peace. Bali embodies the true spirit of an island and the Balinese the wonder of a most peaceful, spiritual and kind people you shall hope to meet. Bali leaves you with an indelible impression as no other place on earth and even if you have other favorites – Hawaii’s beaches are unmatched for all of this world still as far as I am concerned – you cannot and would not deny the perfect harmony between man and Mother Nature here in this sacred and spiritual Indonesian island.
I think it is for this very reason that we should travel to new and far away destinations (and with 12 hour time difference and crossing the equator once, Indonesia is quite the distance from the East Coast of North America!). Sometimes, our expectations of a new city or country are far from met and other times, a new scale presents itself on our measures of beauty for a place and we instantly know that all the effort and labor and expense which we so painstakingly plan in pursuit of travel is worthwhile. The memories we make in these magical places do last a lifetime and can shift our perspective on life for much the better.
Facts and statistics about a place usually seem dry and boring, even if fascinating in context. You read them in Wikipedia or a travel book – or on a blog! – and may make a mental note to remember them long enough to repeat to someone else or put to some good use at some point. Facts are easy to forget and it is not until you experience them first hand that you truly appreciate them. Then – and only then – do they become a part of your direct memory because seeing them come to life from the pages of a book makes them real and immediate. Travel enables us to taste this sweet sensation, one so powerful that you cannot help passing it on so I do hope you indulge me on these beautiful facts we learned and saw first hand from the lovely Balinese themselves:
- Over 90% of the Balinese practice Hinduism.
- The Balinese language is different from Indonesian, both are spoken in Bali and the alphabet is Sanskrit (the language of yoga!).
- The Balinese greeting is with prayer hands and a small bow, exactly like Anjali Mudra for yoga (a gesture I was too happy to return).
- Two or three times a day, all Balinese religiously place an offering comprising of food, flowers, plants and other items, arranged on a square trey made from bamboo. They openly observe this ritual and believe in its power to ward off evil and awaken benevolence from good spirits.
- The doors of the temples open only during a ceremony, which is held twice a year usually.
- There are more temples in Bali than houses!
- There are “Functional” temples in schools for gaining wisdom from education, on the rice fields for richness of crops for farmers, in the city for prosperity in the market, and in every house for family worship.
- The temples in each house must face in the direction of Mother Temple of Besakih (one I regret not being able to visit).
- Children go to school in uniforms so they all look equal regardless of family class and this way always focus on their studies.
- Men and women, local and foreigners alike, must wear a sarong when entering a temple.
- Most temples have an inner courtyard and an outer courtyard, each for a purpose. The performances the inner courtyard are among the most sacred rituals with massive offerings exclusively for the gods, while the outer courtyard is used for ceremonies for gods and people.
The most memorable conversations and teachings to which we were privy came from our kind Balinese drivers. Luck and fortune smiled down on us by sending our primary driver, Dewa, who kindly recounted simple beautiful wisdom about life during those bumpy, winding and long drives to temples and towns, rice fields and the Balinese festival and our second driver, Ari, who on just one short trip from Ubud back to our hotel, shared with me more on Bali’s Hindu traditions and meditation ritual than I could hope to behold.
Here’s to always remembering the gorgeous subtle wisdom shared in the most memorably broken English and most genuine voices by Dewa and Ari on those car rides:
1 Dewa: You choose to make your life either comfortable or difficult. It is very simple and it’s all your choice, regardless of your circumstance.
2 Dewa: When you are angry with someone, you only remember the worst things about them. Try to remember their goodness also. You will notice you won’t be so angry for very long.
3 Dewa: Remember to enjoy each other – your spouse, your partner, your friend, your lover – because one day you won’t have each other anymore.
4 Dewa: Do not compare yourself to others. There are always those who seem better and you will only become unhappy with your life by comparing.
5 Dewa: Cherish how lucky you are to be healthy to travel to Bali and enjoy your every morning, every night and dream sweet dreams and wake up with a smile.
6 Dewa: Take care of your bodies by eating well such as not eating after 8pm, drinking water on waking up, exercising often and always eating less than you desire.
7 Ari: On meditation, we must go inward by removing distractions of sound (ears), sight (eyes) and smell (nose). We do the first by chanting – it can be any chant and mantra through the lips. We do the second by closing our eyes. We do the third by burning the incense. (Much as I meditate, I never knew all this!)
8 Ari: On balance of nature and life, essentially all things have a place and all relations between elements is what life and death are about. We must practice and preserve a balanced relationship with people, animals and all of nature to have peace and happiness.
9 Ari: On the Balinese offerings, it represents gratitude to good spirits as well as an appeasement to demons and it is a sacred ritual which is repeated throughout one’s life and all this gratitude results in eventual happiness and peace.
As I listened to my drivers, I felt secretly ashamed of how ungrateful I have lived at times in my life but what of regrets? Alas, what is done is done but we still have time and chances for a new perspective and a new approach to life. If only I can preserve these bits of wisdom, they may just bring me heaps more happiness and peace than the Buddha – the one which was not to be – could have granted me.
Your Thoughts on Bali, life and pursuit of Inner Peace:
It was nearly impossible to share just a few photos from over 2000 and only a few stories from our 8 magical days in Bali – so future posts may appear around Andy’s 5-hour private vegetarian Indonesian cooking class, our rides and time with the elephants and a note on their talent show, and our encounter with wild life in the Bali jungles. Until then, I am thrilled to be sharing with you a few precious gems I brought home from Bali and love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions on it all.