Balinese Hinduism

Hinduism in Bali

Balinese Hinduism is very closely related to the Hinduism in Indian history. Their beliefs are based on the Vedic, ancient writings, philosophies and various living arrangements with many different theories that all support each other. Therefore, Hinduism is not a dogmatic religion, but rather a result of a spiritual lifestyle. The traditions that exist in Hinduism also continue to develop and change over time.

Hinduism came to Bali during the arrival of Indian traders. Long before Islam, Hinduism became the core beliefs of the people using rituals, traditions, and arts. It also brought with it spiritual ideas, myths and legends – which can be seen in the unique festivals and events associated with the spirits of ancestors and their gods. The temples in Bali also have similar designs and principles to the Indian temples. Balinese call their sacred temples (Pura), which is a holy place with enclosed walls. There are more than 20,000 temples across the island; each one is associated with a specific characteristic such as virtue of descent or geographical area.

Balinese Hinduism as an Official religion in Indonesia

After the independence of Indonesia, there were struggles to organize the religious life of its citizens that consist of various dimensions and beliefs. This lofty intention was outlined on its basic ideology called Pancasila (“Panca” means five, “Syila” means principals so that it can be interpreted as five fundamental ideologies for the country). In the first precept which says “Ketuhanan yang maha esa”, it is explicitly referring to believe and worship only one God/ Goddess. It was a polemic in the legalization of Balinese Hinduism as one of the official religions in Indonesia. At that time, Balinese Hinduism was only considered as a sect of a religion. The Balinese did not want to give up; they continued to struggle to validate their faith and beliefs as a religion recognized by the country. After a long journey and all the hard struggles by the heads of religions, cultural observers and various parties related to Bali Hinduism, finally, it was established as one of the official religions in Indonesia in 1959.

Balinese Hinduism can be defined as a combination of 2 beliefs, the Shiva sect of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. That is why it is often called the Shiva-Buddhist, Hindu-Dharma, Tirtha religions and also the Holy Water Religion. However, unlike polytheistic Indian Hinduism, in the belief of Balinese Hinduism, they only worship one God, called Sang Hyang Widhi, Acintya or Sang Hyang Tunggal. Vedas is used as their primary scriptures, along with other holy writings about life arrangement called Shruti (gospels passed down by the Rsi in ancient times), Smerti (literature inherited from generation to generation, non-revelation papers) and Yadnja (the rules of religious operations including about rituals and ceremonies that are engraved on lontar leaves). The true Balinese Hinduism is a personal spiritual experience and an individual’s journey in finding the meaning of their life. It offers to reach perfection through “moksa” (becoming one with the universe), not only based on certain dogmas. Comparing Hinduism as a dogmatic religion with others is somewhat irrelevant, as in essence, Balinese Hinduism is rooted from doctrines originating from the spiritual traditions of Nusantara that had existed since thousands of years, along with the uniqueness, characteristics, and enlightenments of saints who had lived on this land, way before the country was established.

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