Reunion with Reality

On Global Respect

If we see the divine wherever we look, shouldn’t we respect everything we see?

We were standing in the tropical sun of Bali, in Pura Puseh in Batuan, near Ubud (pura means temple). Its red brick walls outlined in gray stone, its thatched roofs, its courtyards with rows paved with stone alternating with grass, and its exquisite carvings and statuary all reflect the devotion of many generations over many centuries. Pura Puseh is not a ruin, it is an active, ancient temple full of life in 2014.


We moved in and out of the shade as we could. Six degrees below the equator, this mid-February day was technically a mid-summer one, but it was the rainy season and not the hottest time of year even with the sun nearly overhead. The day was glorious.


Komang, our guide, was explaining to us the worldview of Balinese faith, a holistic blend of the Animism of his very distant ancestors and the Hinduism of slightly more recent ones.


There are three levels of being: higher, lower and middle. The higher realm is occupied by gods and good spirits, the middle by human beings, and the lower realm by “lower” beings and other spirits.


They believe human beings in the middle realm should offer worship to the beings of the higher realm and respect the beings in the lower. This creates a harmonious balance between the realms. Worship and respect.


Worship plays a large role in Balinese life. Many make offerings of leaves, flowers, fruit, and grain in palm-sized, palm-leaf baskets three times a day: at sunrise, at noon and sunset. They place the offerings in front of homes and shops on sidewalks and in driveways, and one finds oneself walking around or stepping over them wherever one goes. Many have been stepped on or kicked, but it matters little. They will be replaced in a few hours’ time.


Their prayers and offerings recognize and request divine influence and grace in most everything they do.


We visited a family compound or karang along a busy road near Ubud. The roads are mostly full of traffic: cars, trucks, scooters, motorcycles, and tourist buses.


The compound, like many in Bali, is home to an extended, multi-generational family. It is surrounded by a stonewall and consists of several buildings and structures, each fulfilling an important role. The entrance is a gap in the wall on the street. Just inside the gap is a small and short stonewall which offers privacy from the street and blocks the entry of unwelcome spirits (who can only move in straight lines). There are bedrooms for the grandparents, for the parents and children. There are workspaces, a kitchen, pens for animals and storage.


Copyright 2017 James Phoenix

updated 9/24/2017