IIAS Newsletter 23

Page 13


Prof. I Gusti f

n 1932, Prof! Dr I Gusti Ngurah I Bagus was born into the family of the former feudal overlord of a small village near Denpasar. Since his grandfather had wasted the fam­ ily wealth on gambling and women, his father had to make a living as a teacher at the local volksschool (‘ele­ mentary school’). When his father stopped working in order to concen­ trate on the study of religion and theosophy, Prof. Bagus’ mother was forced to trade in local commodities to provide for the education of their children. From 1938 to 1944, Prof. Bagus attended elementary school, first in his village and later in Den­ pasar. During the turbulent years of 1945 and 1946, schools were closed, and Prof. Bagus had to stay at home. He became very close to his father who had by now focused his sole at­ tention on the study of religion and theosophy, immersing himself in the classical Balinese religious texts preserved in the palmleaf (lontar) manuscripts of the family as well as in the collection of theosophical books he had been able to acquire. Prof. Bagus recalls growing up with a foto of Krishnamurti hanging on the wall of his fathers pavilion. In those days, his father liked to discuss the life and teachings of Jesus and Jesajah with two Christian friends. Often, his father would read him


a fellow Balinese, Ida Bagus Mantra, who had graduated from the Shantiniketan Vishva Bharaty University in India, founded by Rabindranath Tagore, was continuing his studies in a related field. In their free time, both men instigated other Balinese students to study the Hindu religion together. Having graduated from UI, Prof. Bagus returned to Bali where he conducted fieldwork on various topics such as the Balinese ritual sys­ tem, the impact of tourism on Bali­ nese society and culture, the history of an early Balinese religious reform organization as well as Balinese folk­ lore. After he had spent two years at the University of Leiden from 1971 to 1973, he wrote his dissertation on a socio-linguistic aspect of the Bali­ nese language. Since 1983, he has worked as professor of anthropology at the Universitas Udayana in Den­ pasar, gaining a reputation as a Bali­ nese homme de lettre of international status. In response to what he frequently describes as the growing Islamization of Indonesian society, Prof. Bagus started to become an activist on be­ half of the Hindu religion in the be­ ginning of the 1990’s. In 1991, he con­ vened a seminar at the Bali Beach Hotel in order to discuss strategies onhow to forestall any further dero­ gatory remarks about Hinduism on the part of Muslim Indonesians such as those made in the tabloid IKRA. In 1995, he joined the first Bali-wide demonstration against the Bali Nir-

Ng Bag us passages from the palmleaf manu­ scripts, while Prof. Bagus himself also enjoyed reading about Chinese religion. In 1946, Prof. Bagus continued his education at a Dutch secondary school in Denpasar. Beside his for­ mal schooling, he studied classical Balinese texts with the Brahmin priest (nabe) of his family. In 1950, he was sent to Yogyakarta in order to attend a Catholic school. In Yo­ gyakarta, he also visited some theo­ sophical lodges, which had a strong leaning towards Buddhism, and started to study theosophy more sys­ tematically. In the library of the Sonobudoyo Museum, he spent hours reading books on Indian phi­ losophy. After one year, he changed from the Catholic school to a state school due to growing religious con­ flicts with his Catholic teacher. In 1953, he entered the Gadhah Mada University in Yogyakarta and en­ rolled in Eastern literature. A year later he switched to the study of an­ thropology and linguistics, privately reading Albert Schweizer, Radhakrishnan, and the Indian Bhagavad^ita formerly unknown in Bali. In 1956, he went on a grant to the Universitas Indonesia (UI) in Jakarta to study under the well known anthropolo­ gists Prof Alaar and Prof. Koentjaraningrat. At the same university,

Guest 'Editor

Martin Ramstedt Martin Ramstedt was bom in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1 9 6 Z . In München he studied Indian Studies, Prehistory, Psy­ chology, and Folklore Studies, majored in Ethnology, and spe­ cialized on Indonesia. Already in 1981 he had taken up playing the Balinese gamelan which roused his interest for Bali. His master thesis, which he published in several articles, dealt with the influence o f Indonesian cultural policy on the devel­ opment o f the performing arts in Bali. For his PhD on the world view and legitimacy o f rule in pre-colonial Bali he stud­ ied with Balinese priests, priest puppeteers, and artists. Later, he again turned to the present, to modem Indonesia, and to the study o f Hinduism which enabled him to look beyond Bali. He added South Sulawesi, Java, and, recently, India to his scope. In the autumn o f this year he is travelling to Sumatra and Kalimantan for an investigation o f Hindu communities there. For the last three years Martin Ramstedt has been work­ ing at the HAS, with funding from the ESF Asia Committee, to write his ‘Habilitation’ (professorial thesis). "Y ts strong ability to I adapt and reinvent itself under difficult circumstances made In­ donesian ‘Hinduism’ an interesting topic for Mar­ tin Ramstedt. ‘Hinduism has a diffi­ cult status in Indonesia. The so-called “religions of heaven”, based on divine revelations, such as Islam and Chris­ tianity, have discriminated against ethnic religions that are supposedly man-made and rooted in local tradi­ tion. Some of these ethnic religions were classified as currents of Indone­ sian Hinduism between 1958 and 1980. During Bali’s colonization be­ tween 1849 and 1908, Christians and Muslims alike sniffed their noses at the Balinese who, to their minds, had

no religion, a term which they re­ served exclusively for monotheistic traditions. They even denied them the status of being “Hindu” while European orientalists praised Bali to be “the last Hindu enclave" in the whole archipelago. Later, the Indone­ sian government pursued to rational­ ize the religiosity of the people to pre­ pare them for modernity. Magic, trance, and other local traditions were to be ignored.’ ‘For these reasons, the Balinese had to officially reformulate their theolo­ gy in the 1950s. From their pantheon of gods, they chose one Almighty God, classifying the rest as relative as­ pects of God, akin to the Muslim and Christian angels. Rituals were stan­ dardized, a new emphasis was laid on

Dr Martin Ramstedt reading texts. The Bhahagavad Gita, a previously unknown text, became one of the Holy Books of Indonesian Hinduism that copied much from neo-Hinduism in India. This Sanskritized version of “Hindu” religiosity stood in fact in great contrast to the folk Hinduism that had long existed in Bali. Previously, India had not been a reference point for Balinese identi­ ty-’

‘Members of other ethnic groups followed the example of the Balinese when having a “religion” became im­ perative under Soeharto’s anti-Communist regime, seeking recognition for their local religions as “Hindu sects”. The Balinese, however, have monopolized important positions in the supra-local Hindu bureaucracy. This bureaucracy has been the domi­ nant representative of Hinduism in Indonesia until now. The Indonesian or even Balinese Hindu community is now far from unified. With liberal­ ization and ‘democracy’ Balinese have tried to disempower the Hindu bu­ reaucracy as the only decision-maker concerning religious affairs. Some af­ fluent Balinese and Javanese have

Prof Bagus has visited India sever­ al times. In 1999, he was part of a Ba­ linese delegation that was invited by the Indian government to talk about closer cultural cooperation between Bali and India. At the moment, he is busy lobbying for the establishment of a Hindu Centre dedicated to the protection of the status of Hinduism within Indonesian society and the development of the human resources within the national Hindu commu­ nity. Prof Bagus cannot be described as a religious or spiritual leader like Ibu Gedong. He is an intellectual Hindu activist striving to prepare the Hindu community for the challenges caused by being a religious minority in contemporary Indonesia. As an academic, he tries to promote a ratio­ Prof. I Gusti Ngurah Bagus nalized, modern form of Hinduism, the practice of which he likes to see firmly rooted in a profound knowl­ vana Beach Resort, a hotel complex edge of Indian philosophy still un­ built by successful Sumatran Muslim common among Indonesian Hindus. entrepreneurs, the Bhakrie brothers, In order to promote the study of In­ which desecrated the sacred ground dian philosophy, he has recently around the famous temple Tanah Lot. Having distinguished himself as a published writings of Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and spokesman for democracy and the Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in the In­ preservation of local culture, Prof donesian language. However, as an Bagus was elected as a member of the anthropologist, he cannot endorse Indonesian Parliament during the in­ the substitution of Balinese religious terregnum of ex-President Habibie. practices by forms of religious service In 1999, he initiated the establish­ imported from modern India. Hence, ment of the Forum for the Awareness he has witnessed the growing popu­ of Dharma (Forum Penyadaran Dharlarity of the Hare Krishna and the ma), and increasingly talked about Hindutva in connection with the con­ Satya Sai Baba movement in Bali with reserve. temporary Indonesian Hindu move­ ment.

turned to India for guidance, express­ ing themselves against animal sacri­ fice and propagating vegetarianism. Hare Krishna, Ananda Marga, Tran­ scendental Meditation, Brahma Kumaris, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, and, most of all, Sai Baba have gained con­ siderable ground. On the other hand, some influential people are against Indian influence. They say that the Balinese tradition is unique and should not be hegemonized by India.’ Martin Ramstedt sees Indonesian Hindus turning to India for reasons of strengthening their positions against hegemonic Indonesian Islam as well as Christianity. Through this issue’s theme he hopes to stimulate the debate on this rapprochement. The Indianization of Southeast Asia has often been described for the peri­ od from the beginning of this era to the fifteenth century, but modem re­ lations have largely been neglected. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 India lost its main trading partner. India then shifted focus to the Asia Pacific and tried to establish better relations with East and Southeast Asia on the basis of a common Hindu-Buddhist heritage. Most Indians do not know about In­ donesian Hinduism though, but there is an increase in awareness on the part of different Indian institu­ tions. Due to his increasing influence in Indonesia, and Southeast Asia in general for that matter, Sai Baba is a case in point.' Ramstedt has visited the ashram of Sai Baba in Puttaparthy, India, where he found several boob on Sai Baba’s preaching in the Indonesian language as well as other references to both the Balinese and Javanese culture. Alternatively, more and more boob on Indian Hinduism are appearing in Indonesia while

Hare Krishna ashram, Sai Study Groups, and Yoga centres have been set up in Bali and Java, and Balinese travel agencies have organized annu­ al pilgrimages to India since 1993-’ ‘The future of Indonesian Hin­ duism will be determined by a grow­ ing orientation towards Indian Hin­ duism, boosted by the increasing is­ lamization of the Indonesian society. This in turn may lead to an increas­ ing fragmentation of the already di­ versified community. Christianiza­ tion is threatening Hindu communi­ ties in South Sulawesi and North Sumatra. Since they are economically and education-wise lagging behind, converting to Christianity often means moving upwards socially and economically. Moreover, traditional­ ists among the “Hindu” communi­ ties tend to reject the reformation of local religion, hence preventing In­ donesian Hinduism to become a vi­ able medium of modernisation for the marginalised communities. Be­ cause the traditional rituals related to the agricultural cycle cost both time and money, “Hindus” increas­ ingly turn to less costly forms of reli­ gious practice. In South Sulawesi and North Sumatra, this often means conversion to Christianity. In Bali and Java, however, this trend has en­ couraged the boom of Indian spiritu­ al movements.’ After completing his Habilitation entitled Diversity in Peril? ‘Hinduism’ in Modem Indonesia in 2001, Martin Ramstedt would like to look further into Indonesian Studies by concen­ trating on avenues of tolerance with­ in Indonesian Islam. ‘To understand contemporary Indonesia, it is imper­ ative to tackle the question of reli­ gious pluralism and tolerance’ he says. - (EvdH) ■

October 2000 •

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