Bali is a state of Indonesia, a secular country with the biggest Muslim population in the world. But the majority in the state of Bali, over 93 %, are Hindus. Bali is home to 4.22 million Hindus whose ancestors had to flee from other islands of Indonesia, after the great Indonesian Hindu Empire Majapahit was defeated and most of Indonesia was converted to Islam. Here are some interesting facts about Bali that every Indian Hindu must know.
1. Nyepi day, a day of total silence (mauna) once a year, when even the Ngurah Rai International Airport of Denpasar is closed from 6 am to 6 am. No cars, no traffic, no entertainment, no TV. Sit in the house, do contemplation, do prayers. Can we introduce that Nyepi Day in our noisy country?
2. The culture of Bali was begun by the Rishis of India, whose names are no longer taught in the schools of India but which are common in the schools of Bali—Markandeya, Bharadwaja, Agastya - the names we hear in the Puranas but they are part of the way the history of Bali is taught in the schools of Bali. How many Rishis can you name? Do you remember any one of the 402 names of the Rishis and Rishikas (female Rishis) from the Rig Veda (the most ancient and most sacred text of Hinduism), which are our ancestors and the forming fathers of our religion – Vaidika Sanatana Dharma?
3. The national Balinese dress for both, men and women, girls and boys, is Dhoti. No one can enter a temple without wearing a Dhoti. Except in some parts of South India, Dhoti is laughed at in India today. Why are we so ashamed of our heritage? Even most Indian priests change their dress after they are finished with the worship because they feel ashamed in a Dhoti??
4. The social, economic and political system of Bali is based on the principle of tri-hita-karana…three benevolent, beneficent principles— that every human being has three aspects …the duty, the relationship that we have with God [Parahyangan]; the relationship that we have with human beings [Pawongan]; and the relationship that we have with nature [Palemahan] and these are the three principles on which the entire culture of Bali is built. This was all established by the Rishis whose names are just about forgotten in India which are taught in the schools of Bali.
5. Trikala Sandhya (Sun worship three times a day) is practiced in every Balinese school. The Gayatri Mantra is recited by every Balinese school child three times a day. Many of the local radio stations also relay Trikala Sandhya three times a day. Can we even think of introducing something like this to our schools in India? How many Indian Hindus are aware of their duty of Trikala Sandhya? It is as central to our religion as the 5 times Namaz is to Islam, yet?
6. In the year 1011 AD, at a place which is now known as Purasamantiga… there was the first interreligious conference of three religions: Shaiva Agama, Bauddha Agama and Baliyaga, the traditional pre-Buddhist, pre-Hindu, Balinese religion. The scholars and the leaders sat down and worked out a system by which the three religions should work together and exchange forms with each other and that is the religion of Bali today.
7. In Bali every priest is paid by the government. Despite the fact that Indonesia is a secular country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, the priest of every religion is paid by the government so every religion is supported by the government. That is the Indonesian form of secularism. Can we even think of this in India?
8. The national motto of Indonesia "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. One is many, many is one." is inspired by an Indonesian Hindu scripture Sutasoma Kakavin. The complete quotation is as follows - "It is said that the well known Buddha and Shiva are two different substances; they are indeed different, yet how is it possible to recognize their difference in a glance, since the truth of Buddha and the truth of Shiva are one? They may be different, but they are of the same kind, as there is no duality in truth." Why can't we have "Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti" (The truth is one, but the wise express it in various ways – Rig Veda) as our national motto?
9. Bali is one of the world's most prominent rice growers. Every farm has a temple dedicated to Shri Devi and Bhu Devi (Lakmi the Goddess of wealth and mother earth - the two divinities that stand on the either of side of Tirupati Bala ji in India). No farmer will perform his agricultural duties without first making offerings to Shri Devi and Bhu Devi. That is called culture, that SubakSystem. The agricultural and water irrigation plan for the entire country was charted in the 9th Century. The priests of a particular water temple still control this irrigation plan. And some World Bank or United Nations scientist did a computer model that would be ideal for Bali. And when they brought the model the Balinese said 'we have been practicing this since the 9th century. What are you bringing here?' And I don't know how many million dollars these WTO, these World Bank people, United Nations people, spent on creating that chart which was already created in the 9th century without any computers…. and that Subak System still continues. Such systems were in place in various parts of the country. Its remnants are still visible here in India. I have visited areas where there is no water for miles due to drought, yet the well at the local temple still provides fresh water.
10. In Bali Hindus still don't read a printed book when they perform Puja (worship). They read from a Lontar, which have traditionally been scripted by hand on palm leaf. When they recite the Ramayana Kakavin…where the book is kept, worship will be performed. There is a special ritual of lifting the sacred book, carrying it in a procession, bringing [it] to a special place, doing the bhumi puja, worshipping the ground there and consecrating the ground, then placing the book there. Then the priest will sit and recite the Ramayana.
When I was called to Bali it was to teach and preach the Vedic teachings. But I came back with a humble realization that I have to learn more from Bali than I can actually teach them.
Facts according to Swami Veda Bharati, a great master of meditation from the Himalayan Tradition.