* Javanese mysticism
(Kebatinan) & Traditional Javanese religious tolerance: a model to the world?
*The Yogya Kraton Myth
*What we can do for Java....
*Java: Land of Kala, its Candi's (Temples):
Earth and the Community
Some 30 years ago I read Niels Mulder's
"Mysticism & Everyday life in Contemporary Java". I was very much impressed.
However, my everyday life had other priorities at that time, so the book didn't have
further implications for me. Deep within I hadn't forgotten Java, though. In the course of
time I had intuitive flashes, in which I was remembered of its hidden treasures. We live
from origin to destination ("sangkan.paran"), the Javanese say. "We come,
form and disappear; we go nowhere but fulfil the scheme of Life" (p.33). Although
many religions are teaching the same thing, on Java people are taking this very literally.
They emphasize spirituality ("mysticism") as the guiding principle of their
everyday's life. Or better: they used to do that. Because in the last decades many things
have changed. Society moves rapidly toward materialism. In many villages, however, the
traditional pattern is still cherished, while all over the country mystic groups are
thriving. Spirituality as the priority of an entire culture, pervading every aspect of
life, fascinated me. Where on earth this still can be found? Yes, there are enough
beautifully formulated principles to find, but an entire culture living up to them, that
is very exciting indeed. That doesn't mean, we should follow them blindly. Quite a few
principles and practices are simply not suitable to be "copied". On the other
hand the main conclusions the Javanese have come up to are highly relevant in a world,
that is desperately searching for spiritual renewal. I can only pick a few of those
principles out. The above mentioned book serves as a guideline*. Useful concepts will be
elaborated upon in the sections below.
* Its latest print is called "Mysticism
in Java," 1998 Pepin Press
First principle is that of
"macrocosm" and "microcosm". It means that creation and thus
man is part of the Cosmic Whole. "To Javanese mystics life on earth is part of this
all-pervading unity of existence. In this unity, all phenomena have their place and stand
in complementary relationships to each other, they are part of one great design".
(p.29). Central to this is the Divine (Sang Hyang) or Life-Itself (Urip) as the Origin of
All. Everything is born out of it while continuously returning. To be in harmony with Life
is the purpose of mysticism. However, man has a twofold nature. He consists of spiritual
inner Core ("batin") while his periphery is tied to the outside world (lair).
Without "batin" drives and passions prevail, causing chaos in both the inner
world as well as the outer. Only through re-connecting to the Origin order can be
restored, overcoming the destructive tendencies of the ego-centric self. "Harmony
with the Ultimate Principle of existence is the moral task of all that exists, and the
noble purpopse of the practice of mysticism" (p. 30).
Although life is determined by a Cosmic Law
e.g. pattern, man is able to influence it through its efforts to become part of it. This
sounds very paradoxical. The explanation is the following. The more one becomes one with
the Divine Plan the more the course of events will be in his favour. His or her life will
be harmonious, peaceful and morally optimal. This is also true for the times in which we
live. "Such periods are known as zaman mas (golden periods), when just kings reign
and people share in general prosperity. Yet, if people, and especially the worldly
powerful, are guided by their passions and egoism, they will cause anarchy and chaos,
injustice and insecurity, poverty and hardships" Such periods are known as zaman
édan (crazy times) (p.31). The mystical practice consists in cultivating one's
"batin", thus containing one's lair aspects. Its ultimate goal is to become one
with the Cosmos, also called the Void. This process is both world-denying as well as
world-confirming. It denies decay and welcomes order. A realized mystic, because of his
perfected Nature is a beacon to the world. Through having overcome all self-centered
tendencies he is available to all and everything. By "not-doing" just radiating
his Divine Nature, he spontaneously turns things and events for the better. He leads
people in the right direction, e.g. to reflect Divine Order on earth.
These assumptions lead to further
consequences. One of them is the necessity of hierarchy. "The order of life
and Cosmos is seen as a spiritual hierarchy that runs from the lowliest animals and
material conditions, through the social hierarchy, into the realm of invisible forces, and
up to the highest Truth and Cosmic Essence". (p.34). Among the old Javanese nobility
- people linked to the royal court - this has led to the idea of a hierarchically
structured society in which "a-priori!" all higher ranks are "closer to the
truth". Cosmic Order translates itself in social order. Thus adapting to the existing
political power structure is seen as a sign of inner achievement. It puts social harmony
as value number one. Disturbing that order is seen as going against cosmic law. The
immediate benefits are clear. But how to cope with one's inner drives? Well, the latter
are all sublimated into one's effort to strive for perfection. In the realm of inner
growth (almost) everything is allowed. It is the realm of spiritual (esoteric)
speculation. Its playground is limitless. Moreover, "the notion of the essential
oneness of existence carries over to the material world. Objects are possessed by the
spirituality of their owner or maker, and may contain a power of their own. Natural
happenings - be they droughts, vulcanic eruptions, or plagues - have supernatural
significance and stand as signs for the workings of the Cosmos". (p.35). Through
these signs the Cosmos reveals itself. Again, by trying to become in tune with Cosmic
Purpose, one is able to influence these events. It is the threshold between spirituality
Common people may not accept the existing
political power structure as "coming from God". They may even use
mysticism as a way to go against it. Nevertheless they also have to respect basic
conditions of life, like striving for harmony, the wellbeing of the community, and peace.
All strive to become more in tune with the Cosmos. The more one fits into the Whole, the
Whole in its turn will benefit people and the situation they are in. However, spiritual
Realization is considered much more important than manipulating the world. "The
spiritual aspect is superior, more true as it were. In its highest quality, it constitutes
the origin and destination of humankind. Harmony and unity with the Ultimate
Essence is the purpose of all life" (p.36). A life dominated by greed
(materialism) is rejected. Everybody looks very critical at possible abuse of power of the
worldly mighty. Note! This isn't imposed on people by organized religion. Not even by
Islam! Kebatinan or Javanese mysticism is part of Javanese culture. It pervades all
and everything. It is the Javanese Soul that speaks here. To me this this is the core of
my fascination. Although these traditional values are (rapidly) disappearing (together
with its oppressing elements!), this basic paradigm of spirituality as the foundation of
an entire culture is totally unique. More so, because of general acceptance, it
constitutes an all-inclusive guideline for everyday life. It doesn't get stuck in ideals
and concepts, but comes from within. The question is: how to acquire this inner -
all-determining - inner quality?
Javanese mysticism is practical. It
doesn't loose itself in intellectualism. It is generally accepted that "climbing the
spiritual ladder" is not something that one can achieve on his or her! own. Therefore
Kebatinan masters or guru's are sought. As can be expected there are hundreds or thousands
of them. Mostly, a master has a (relatively) small group of followerrs around him*. His
attraction is his degree of spiritual Realization plus (logically following) his
irreproachable moral behavior. The latter is judged after his deeds and reputation, the
former, however, cannot be easily known. The only one who knows his inner state of Being
is the master himself. Out of necessity.... he has to reveal essential aspects of his
inner achievent. Many are not excactly modest in these regard. They have to compete with
many others, after all.... Joining a master means to start one's quest for "one's
place on earth and in the Cosmos" (p.45). The master leading its pupils toward
oneness with existence itself. It pre-supposes total dedication, eventually leading to the
Truth (kasuyatan). "The mystical journey is most often thought to be performed in
four stages, moving from the outside to the inside" (p.45). The first level consist
of improving one's moral conduct. It may vary from following religious rules, to the
"conscientially" performance of duties, to respecting one's ancestors,
everything against the background of the desire to become part of the Whole. To be
unselfish (sepi ing pamrih) is the gate toward all further progress. Self-importance is
considered a major obstacle. Gradually awareness grows about the relationship between
inner and outer. In the second stage one brings awareness into daily life. It means the
inner quality starts playing a role. This, of course has to be developed. Especially,
bigger Kebatinan groups, those which have established themselves during the past decades
have developed workable forms of meditation. In the third stage one tasts a first Unity
with the Divine. The latter starting to pervade daily life. Life itself becomes a
meditation. Being aware in all daily activities reveals one's inner "laku",
one's inner insight. The ultimate goal is reached in the fourth and last stage, in which
one achieves a total Unity with the Divine. "At this point, the adept shines like the
full moon (not sun!) over the earth, his (or her) very presence beautifying the world
while inspiring others" (p.46)
* In Kebatinan groups men and women are
treated as equals.
Let's now discuss some similarities and differences
and The Original Tradition
Earth and the (new) Community
Traditional Javanese will certainly consider
our times to be crazy times. From a spiritual point of view the world is
certainly ruled by unlimited greed, with as a result decay and chaos, and.... suffering.
Their diagnosis proves to be right. The sad thing is, that this wisdom about Cosmic
Connections is vanishing. Their lives are increasingly getting out of balance, as society
moves rapidly toward "modernity". For the foreseeable future this will be
unstoppable, because of the restrictions people had to endure for too long a time. Freedom
and individuality are the ideals of city people everywhere. In the Western world, however,
we already have enjoyed the benefits of materialism for quite some time. Through
experience WE know that it hasn't made us really happier. On the contrary, our pursuit for
more, more and more has culminated into the burn-out of the entire planet. Hence, Western
people could take the lead in achieving a turning-point. More and more people - especially
in Europe (e.g. Germany) are willing to make practical steps in that direction. This is
already the case with material goals: a more simple life, a healthy life-style and
renwable energies. The core-problem - our ego-centric attitudes - are not so easily
changed. Moreover, only if there are clear alternatives to material wealth, people will
really drop it. It pre-supposes a realm of life that has a true promise of happiness in
it, yes, more than money alone was able to give. In the last 40 years attempts toward
introducing spirituality to our lives have been made. However, most of them have stranded.
Why? Because the forces of egoism proved to be too strong. Spirituality became a tool
"to feel better", yes, even became abused to improve the effectiveness of the
workers e.g. maximizing profits!
What we need is a spirituality that includes
our Unity with "Heaven, Earth and a (new) Community". It
emphasizes being part of the Whole, rather than using spirituality for one's own purposes.
The Javanese are a great example in this regard. To them mysticism is all-inclusive,
nothing is left out. This is the kind of spirituality we in the West dearly need. Does it
mean we have to follow it in all details? Of course not. The first thing is even quite
basic. While in Java - under the influence of Hindu-Buddhist tradition and later Islam -
"God" is considered the Ultimate, people long ago, however, had insight into the
True Nature of the Ultimate. It proved to be a Cosmic Womb or "Great Mother".
Out of "Her" Absolute Bottomlessness both the Light and the universe emerge.
"God" thus being the Mother's first emanation, while the visible world is the
second. The surprise: signs of Her once Omni-Present Power can still be traced in many
cultures around the globe. Java included! First this: strikingly absent in Javanese
religion and society is female power. Ironically in a region that emphasizes
"balance" like no other. I don't mean Western emancipation. I mean the
Eternal-Feminine absent in the cultural narratives like Ramayana and Mahabhatara. The
latter only glorifying male hero's. On the other hand, there are so-called
"Kala's" all over the place. Almost all Central and East-Javanese temples have
Kala's displayed above their doors, the inside or on top of Gods and Buddha's. In order to
erase the memory of the ancient Mother patriarchal priests have made Her a Demon, later
proclaimed as "God of Time". In the sixth century there was a big natural
desaster on Java, destroying its entire cultural heritage. With it all ties with the past
were cut. People had to rely on stories brought in by Hindu and Buddhist preachers, only.
The latter having no need to re-introduce the Ancient Mother. To them the Feminine was the
Source of suffering, the ongoing cycle of birth and death was caused by Her, after all.
The purpose of religion was to overcome it (Her)!
"God" as the Ultimate has caused a
male-dominated world-view. With the "introduction" of the Original
Mother this has changed. The WOMB has re-claimed Her "sovereignty". It changes
both Cosmic as well as worldly order. Order as such possesses only very limited inherent
value. Not every order reflects Cosmic Order. So, there is a conflict here. On the one
hand Javanese will stress that "order" has to reflect the Cosmos, on the other
hand, they accept their hierarchical political system without questioning it. We in the
West are in a better position, because we still have to "re-invent" both the
Ultimate, and the order that reflects it. Which social system is truly in harmony with
Reality? And, which areas of life are influenced by it and which not? At least this can be
said. If one accept spirituality - or (wo)man's relationship with the Whole - as the alpha
and omega, then spiritual teachers - those who have realized the Inexpressible - become
the core e.g. cornerstone of society. Because all other areas of life depend on it. Like
the Javanese say: without the inner Core life will be a prey of passions, desires and
ambitions. Having said that, and considering the ego-catastrophy we in the West are in -
it follows that spiritual masters should become the teachers of the culture. Because they
"operate" between "God" and the world, spirituality is organized along
vertical lines. Quite understandably thus, that Javanese mystical masters enjoy the
highest status. With regard to the world the situation is opposite. The cause is the
Cosmic Mother. In Her Dark Womb everything is dying while continuously being reborn. Her
two Cosmic Forces of Destruction and Creation maintain a dynamic balance. Through which
life is possible. There are fluctuations, though. With "Creation" (the Eternal
Light) having the "upperhand" everything on earth flourishes; with Destruction
dominating everything is in decay.
"Macrocosm is microcosm" as an
ancient old notion can thus be applied to the spiritual Realm. Deep within we Are
Divine. PS. On that level the ego has completely disappeared. Nobody can thus claim
"I" am Divine or "God". Going deeper even our Being is temporarily
dissolved: into the Great Darkness. Everybody eventually has the boundary to the Mother in
his or herself. Basically, indeed, everybody is "equal for God", in practice
there are differences in the Realization of this Truth. A materialist is a "child of
the Mother" just like everybody else, just like the animals, the trees, the rocks and
the rivers. However, he or she denies his inner Being. This in sharp contrast to a Buddha,
who has realized Enlightenment. Hence a vertical hierarchy. Spiritual teachers should be
respected. Thusfar things seem to be clear. The question is: is the comparison also valid
for the phenomenal part of our existence? Is everything on earth a reflection of the
Cosmos. On the subatomic level one would say yes. All energies of the universe are
interconnected. At this point it becomes clear how important it is to come close to the
Truth. If insight into the Truth is poor, so is our interpretation of our existence. If
e.g. the perfect Light is considered the Ultimate, then our demands for a moral and just
society are accordingly. This is how the Javanese see it. Can, on the other hand, the
Ultimate rather be defined as a Cosmic Womb, together with "Her" two Cosmic
Forces of Destruction and Creation, the criteria for a "moral" world will change
also. Goethe's "Stirb und Werde" (death and rebirth) become the underlying
principles for a just order. Immediately after followed by "permanence" or
Mother's "Web of Life" , the result of the dynamic balance between the above
mentioned two Cosmic Forces, something we call life. Summarizing: Mother's Cosmic Law
consists of two priciples 1) ongoing Death and Rebirth on all levels of existence 2) the
interconnectedness of everything and all. This asks for a new interpretation. Which
meaning can be given to these facts?
If we project these findings on humans and
society, how would it work out? Death is most needed where greed and evil have
accumulated. In practice this is embodied by the male ego. Conclusion: Mother's principle
of "Stirb und Werde" (J.W.Goethe) are moral guidelines primarily applied to men
and women who have put their ego's in the "centre of the universe". An ego that
cannot die is blowing itself up. With as utter consequence the destruction of the planet.
That's why I am convinced that this link between "macrocosm and microcosm" is a
right one. What about the second part: Mother's "Web of Life?". This can be
applied to women. Women represent the substance of life. They are part of it. It is them
who give birth to children, caring for them until they leave home (and beyond). But not
only that. Women, because of their closeness to life, have a much better developed
emotional life e.g.. intelligence. It is in their genes, the result of millennia of
conditioning. They feel more interrelated than men, giving the former much better social
skills. They thrive in a community. The latter in itself a reflection of Mother's Web!
Although every human being is different with feminine men on the one end of the spectrum
and masculine women on the other, the latter group is rapidly increasing, because of the
forces of capitalist individualism and materialism, not saying that women should not have
an independent life of their own!, it is safe to say that the "permanence"
aspect of the Cosmic Law applies more to women than to men. The consequences of this
insight are clear. Women should occupy key positions in the community, while men thrive
through constantly "sacrificing their ego's" in favour of a greater Mission. Not
as they do until this very day as slaves of the current exploitative system, but as
servants to the Whole. Like the Javanese demands for a moral person: selfless and
committed to the common good e.g. peace, justice, harmony with nature and prosperity for
* Note: although Javanese Kebatinan and The
Original Tradition both claim to reflect Cosmic Law.... the outcome of both is quite
The Javanese resist decay. To them
it is caused by the ego. Without denying this at all, my position goes beyond it.
Destruction is a Cosmic Force. It destroys everything old, sick, ugly and evil. In
Hinduism the MotherGoddess (Durga) destroys the buffalo demon Mahisha, the latter being
synonymus with the male ego. An ego, whose thirst for power and everything related is
unquenchable. In ancient times it was this ego that destroyed its own Origin. The Son
denying, denouncing and demonizing his own Mother. (Marduk destroyed Tiamat). Darkness was
not considered the Living Source of all Life anymore, but a devil who is undermining
masculine "light" (ego). Hence, ever since the struggle of "Light
against Darkness". This is also the theme of Ramayana and Mahabhathara, epics
of Hinduism, which - in itself rather late, hence patriarchal myths - became the
foundation of Javanese culture. Back to our own situation. It will be clear that our
Cosmos is a different one. Acknowledging Destruction as a Cosmic Force we have to accept
it. In accepting it we experience what it really does: destroying our ego's. For millennia
these ego's have always manipulated "the Gods". Absolute Emptiness cannot be
manipulated, though. Being confronted with it, the ego experiences an inescapable death.
That's why Emptiness and Nothingness and thus the Cosmic Womb have always be the greatest
taboo in the West. We refused to give up our ego's. Nowadays we have no choice anymore.
Either the ego dies or the planet will die. So, this is the undisputable clear part of the
story. Quite questionable is the assumption that everything on earth reflects Cosmic Law.
If somebody has an accident, does it mean that it reflects "Cosmic Will?" I
don't think so. As the second emanation (after the Light), it has - at least partly - also
a "life of its own". Is the accident then entirely without meaning? Well, that
doesn't depend on the Cosmos, but on our choice to put the event against the background of
the Whole. We can consider the accident as a purely individual fate, or we can give it a
cosmic perspective. In that case it is US who GIVE it a meaning. Obviously, the more
"advanced" we are on the spiritual Path, the more our interpretation will
be more in accordance with the "Higher Reality". And so the circle closes.
So, it is not so simple as it originally
looked like. Life on earth isn't a perfect order. We have to live with
insecurities. Instead of waterproof events, life follows the "probability law"
as formulated by quantum physics. As for the phenomenal world no totally controlled order
exists. Which is a benediction rather than a desaster. On the other hand, accepting
Destruction as part of Life brings much more life into life. It means that you surrender
your ego to the Ultimate. The Bottomlessness of the Cosmic Womb guarantees, that the
former will be properly taken care of. It is a new kind of security: the Cosmos helping
you to get rid of your "lair" or self-centeredness. Once you start cooperating
with the Mother, She starts cooperating with you. She will do the work for you! Obviously,
because cosmically seen you have never left the Womb. Isn't that the tragic joke about the
male ego, which so heroically tried to escape from the "cycle of birth and
death?" You may try the practice of it yourself. Every evening laying in your bed,
you first restore feeling contact with your whole body. The result is the totality of your
aware body, feeling contact of the body with its immediate suroundings (the sheets).
Secondly you may intensify it by consciously observing your breathing. Especially the
breathing-out is important because this reflects Cosmic Destruction. Eventually, every
breathing-out disappears in the "bottomlessness" of your pelvis, the latter
being synonymus with the Cosmic Womb. In the mean time you look into the darkness around
you, imagining that this is the Womb you are embedded in. Your attention then focusses on
the mind, on the flow of thoughts, images, desires, emotions and comments. Most of it you
simply let pass. Sooner or later a "knot" may manifest itself, though. Something
that rather than disappearing is returning time and again, trying to make impression on
your mind. If this lasts for a longer time then you know that this complex is part of your
ego. Trusting the limitless Power of the Womb, visualizing that this ego-complex is
disappearing in Her, and seeing it happen (before you), while keeping your watching
position without flaws, you ask the Mother to take this ordeal from you. There are only
very few cases where the Mother doesn't respond! Your Cosmic Mother is like a good earthly
mother AND FAR BEYOND, She has to help Her children at all costs, being the inexhaustable
potentiality of the entire universe.
is the Mother of all things
I could go on for a long time, so
why not stopping here? Do you feel my teaching touched your innermost Core? You could do
some other reading in this website, watch one of my video teachings on YouTube (to become
extended in short notice) or try to pasrticipate in a living Teaching. For there is
nothing on earth like the Mother!
ye all unto Me, I Am the All-Embracing One"
HEALING THE PLANET
|What can we do for Java?
Sadness about disappearing values, the ordeals the Javanese people
have to face and gratitude for the gem Java has given to the West go together. The big
question: will the West accept this great gift? For sure there is an increasing group of
people that is fed up with materialism. There are many obstacles on the Path. The
recognition of the fact, that almost everything that goes under the flag of spirituality
is degenerated, only representing parts of life, rather than embracing the Whole. Without
recognition of that fact, you will not feel the need for something better. The global
crisis may help you in realizing that we urgently need an all-connecting world view. A
living Reality that re-connects us to "Heaven, Earth and the (new) Community". I
have called this The Original Tradition. Essays about it can be found at many places in
this website. But what about Java itself? Is our contact with its culture based on
mutuality (musyawarah) or based on "business as usual", our "inborn"
attitude of taking without giving anything in return?
My first and foremost recommendation is to go there!
To be continued.
(Back to the start of Han Marie Stiekema's
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