To begin with yourself

* Javanese mysticism (Kebatinan) & Traditional Javanese religious tolerance: a model to the world?
*The Yogya Kraton Myth
*Taman Sari 
*The Gunungan 
*Tutup Ngisor
*What we can do for Java....
*Java: Land of Kala, its Candi's (Temples):
Borobudur 1
*Borobudur 2

*Borobudur 3
*Borobudur 4

*Borobudur 5
*Borobudur 6
*Candi Mendut

*Candi Pawon
*Candi Ngawen
*Candi Sari
*Candi Kalasan
*Candi Sambisari
*Candi Prambanan
*Candi Lumbung
*Candi Bubrah

*Candi Sewu
*Candi Plaosan
*Candi Gebang
*Candi Ijo
*Candi Banyunibo




Javanese Mysticism:

Heaven, 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 and magic. 

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 between Kebatinan
and The Original Tradition

The Original Tradition

Heaven, 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 all.*

* Note: although Javanese Kebatinan and The Original Tradition both claim to reflect Cosmic Law.... the outcome of both is quite different!...   

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.

Nothingness 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!

"Come ye all unto Me, I Am the All-Embracing One"

Cosmic Mother

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.

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