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Religion

Religion in Indonesia was a complex and volatile issue in the early 1990s, one not easily analyzed in terms of social class, region, or ethnic group. Although Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions influenced many aspects of life, the government generally discouraged religious groups from playing a political role. The state guaranteed tolerance for certain religions (agama) regarded as monotheistic by the government, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but only as long as these creeds remained outside of politics.


Kejawen
Another brand of 'religion'

Javanese beliefs (Kebatinan or Kejawen) have principles embodying a "search for inner self" but at the core is the concept of "peace of mind". Although Kejawen is not strictly a religious affiliation, it addresses ethical and spiritual values as inspired by Javanese tradition. It is not a religion in usual sense of the word, like Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. There are no scriptures such as the Bible or the Qur'an, nor are there prophets. There is no emphasis on eschatology (ie. life after death, heaven or hell, devils or angels).

Kebatinan is a metaphysical search for harmony within one's inner self, connection with the universe, and with an Almighty God. Javanese beliefs are a combination of occultism, metaphysics, mysticism and other esoteric doctrines, exemplifying a Javanese tendency for synthesis. The Javanese system is so flexible that syncresis in all manifestations is attainable, even that which is in conflict. Javanese ideals combine human wisdom (wicaksana), psyche (waskita) and perfection (sempurna). The follower must control his/her passions, eschewing earthly riches and comforts, so that he/she may one day reach enlightened harmony and union with the spirit of the universe.

Generally speaking, the Kebatinan follower believes in the existence of a super-consciousness in the cosmic world which is beyond humankind's comprehension, yet controls and guides humans' affairs and destiny. This Superconciousness is believed to be contacted via meditation. There are several meditation techniques (tapas): tapa kalong (meditation by hanging from a tree), Tapa Geni (avoiding fire or light for a day or days), Tapa Senen (fasting on Monday), Tapa Mutih (abstention from eating anything that is salted) and Tapa Ngablek (isolating oneself in dark rooms).

Fasting is a common practice employed by Javanese spiritualists in order to attain discipline of mind and body to get rid of material and emotional desires. Many Kebatinan followers meditate in their own way to seek spiritual and emotional relief. These practices are not performed in churches or mosques, but at home or in caves or on mountain perches. Meditation in Javanese culture is a search for inner self wisdom and to gain physical strength. This tradition is passed down from generation to generation.

Javanese spiritualism entails a never ending search for wonder and surprise. It has some foreign influences. The Javanese tend to be flexible and pragmatic as far as one's spiritual life is concerned. The complexity is perhaps the result of Java's complicated cultural background and its myriad cultural influences. But basically, Javanese spiritualism is individualistic in approach, something typically Javanese. The approach is person-to-person or person-to-guru. One on one.

The "Sumarah School:" according to this school, man and his physical and spiritual world are divided into three parts: The physical body and brain, an invisible world, and a more elusive and sublime world.

In the Brain the faculty of thinking has two functions - one to record memories, the other to serve as a means of communion with God. One section, "Sukusma," governs the passions, while the other, "The Jiwa," provides the driving forces governing thought and reason. The invisible world, which is situated within the chest, is the Jiwa, the ineffable soul. It is here that the deeper feeling (Rasa) is located. The most elusive and sublime world is hidden somewhere near the anatomical heart.

Sumarah theology maintains that humankind's soul is like the holy spirit, a spark from the Divine Essence, which means that we are in essence similar to God. In other words "One can find God within oneself," a belief similar to the "I=God" theory found in Hindu-Javanese literature.

The Sapta Dharma School was the product of the Indonesian Revolution. It was God's wish to provide the Indonesians with a new spiritual approach in their search for Peace Of Mind and Happiness at a Time when they were undergoing a mental and spiritual crisis.

Kebatinan and kejawen practices are extensively written about in texts that are held in the Sanabudaya library in Yogyakarta, and the main Kraton Libraries of Solo and Yogyakarta. Many of the texts are deliberately elliptical so that those who do not work with either initiates or teachers are unable to ascertain or understand the esoteric doctrines and practices. In quite a few cases codified texts with secret systems to "unlock" the meanings are employed.

Some Javanese texts relate stories about Syekh Siti Jenar who had conflicts with Wali Sanga, the nine Islamic scholars in Java, and the Sultanate of Demak. Although Syekh Siti Jenar was a sufi whose teaching were similar with Al-Hallaj, most of his followers (i.e Ki Kebo Kenanga) come from Kebatinan. Some historians have doubted the existence of Syekh Siti Jenar (also known as Syekh Lemah Abang), suggesting the stories represent conflicts between Kebatinan and Islam in the past.


Last revised on December 27, 2009
    
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