My first visit to Bali was in the 1970s – not too long ago, I guess. I remember staying in Sanur then. My budget was limited, yet I could get a decent cottage by the beach.
Those days they still had small hotels there, many run by foreigners settled in Bali. Big hotels were very few. Even Kuta Beach was not that crowded; so you can imagine how quiet Sanur was.
As I entered my cottage, I noticed that the door could not be locked properly. Now, please bear with me: you may have heard this kind of story repeated over and over, but that was my first encounter with Bali. I complained to the manager on duty. She laughed and said, “Tuan (Sir), this is Bali.”
I didn’t quite understand what she meant.
This is Bali. So?
She explained, “Tuan, we believe in the Law of Karma here. We do not steal. We know that we will have to pay for whatever bad karmas we do.”
Hmmm, the Law of Karma. I knew what that meant: The Law of Cause and Effect. In the words of Newton, it would be: The Law of Action and Reaction. Long before the great scientist “rediscovered” and explained it to his western audience, people of the orient were already “practicing” it.
What I didn’t realize on my first trip to Bali was that the law meant so much to the people living on the isle. It was an unwritten law, with no government sanctions for the people who broke it. Yet the Balinese followed it diligently, following their conscience rather than any state-stipulated ruling.
Things have somewhat changed.
As in any other place on the globe, “bad” things do happen in Bali too. I like to believe in the general expression: “It is the outsiders, and not the Balinese, who commit most of the crimes on the isle.” Honestly, that is no longer the case now.
We, living in Bali, have forgotten our culture and cultural values. The moral degradation that we see around is the direct result of that.
Bali believed, and still does, in the age-old concept of Tri Kaya Parisudha. Since good begets good and bad begets bad, as the law of Karma implies, one must take care of one’s Thoughts, Words and Deeds.
Tri Kaya literally means “Three Bodies.” Our first body is Mind, the Mental Body. In Balinese it is called Manasik Kaya. Mind is the accumulation of our thoughts. Mind is like a piece of cloth made of the yarn of thoughts. So it is the quality of thoughts that decides the quality of our mind.
In order to have a clear and peaceful mind, it is necessary that we keep our thoughts clean and pure. Do not get distracted and carried away by what you see, smell or sense. All these are fleeting experiences. Enjoy all the blessings of life, but do not get attached to them. For nothing is permanent.
Our possessions, our relations, as also our pleasures and pains, joys and sorrows – all are momentary. A king today may become a pauper tomorrow, and a pauper today may become a king tomorrow.
“We come to this world empty-handed, and we shall leave this world empty-handed. We live in the sea of uncertainties; the only certainty is death” – thoughts like these can help us become detached, and enjoy life without any expectation.
Some may argue, “That is fatalistic. You cannot progress that way.” I am reminded of what Gandhi had to say on this: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
If we use the yardstick of material possessions to measure progress, then we can never be happy in life. We shall live discontented, for matter and material possessions are always changing hands.
Now, the second body, the Speech Body, made of the words we use. This, in Balinese, is called Wachika Kaya.
Word is energy; it is Akshara, non-perishable. Each and every word we utter is recorded in and by the cosmos. Scientists like Stephen Hawking would endorse this. So whatever we speak will ultimately come back to us. It is therefore in our own interest that we always try to speak softly and sweetly.
Is anger bad karma, then? Yes, but there are times when anger becomes a necessity. The moneychangers and traders in the temple compound at Jerusalem made Jesus very angry. Krishna was angry with the Kaurava brothers for the injustice they did. Similarly, Prophet Muhammad had to raise his sword against atrocities of the ruling class.
At times it is necessary to remove a part of body to save the rest of the body. Cancerous growths cannot be left unchecked and un-removed in the name of non-violence.
That brings us to the third body, the Action Body, Kayika Kaya. All the three bodies are actually interrelated. You cannot separate them. Our thoughts prompt us to speak and to act, as also not to speak and not to act.
In the belief system of the Balinese, non-action is also an action. When you say that you “do” nothing, you are still “doing” something, and that is “nothing.” You “do” something or you “do” nothing; in both cases you are still “doing.”
So it is very, very necessary that we watch our actions, our deeds, and even our idleness. In fact, we can never, ever be idle. The thought process is ever ongoing. The mind is always active. We may or may not express our thoughts as spoken words or actual action, but all the same we are actually “doing” something. We are “doing” thinking.
Tri Kaya Parisudha implies parisudha or “purification” of all three bodies. Watch your thoughts, watch your words, and watch your deeds.
This, then, is the way to accumulate good karma.
I may be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Confucian, or even an atheist – the Law of Karma, the Law of Action and Reaction, applies to me all the same. I cannot escape it, and you cannot escape it. It does not matter whether you are a Balinese or a non-Balinese, a visitor or a resident on the isle. The law affects us all.
Enough of thoughts and words; now let us act. Let us purify our thoughts, words and deeds, and restore Bali to her previous glory. Together, we can!
By Anand Krishna
For The Bali Times