Understandings of Bhakti and Tantra in Balinese Hinduism (HT15)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Prof. June McDaniel
Date: March 30, 2015
Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Balinese Hinduism is a tradition that emphasizes dharma rather than bhakti. Still, esoteric bhakti can be found in Bali, especially in the experiences of the pedandasor brahmin high priests. They are primarily Saivite, though there are a few Buddha-Siva priests remaining. Bhakti is combined with the daily ritual identification with Siva/Surya, the surya-sevana ritual, involving tantric mantras, mudras, pranayama, nyasa, and bhutasuddhi. The priests transform ordinary water into the holy water which is needed for virtually all other Hindu rituals in Bali, and in doing so they not only ritually identify with the god, they also develop a devotional relationship to him. The surya-sevana ritual includes both bhakti and tantra. This paper will describe the roles of bhakti and tantra from field interviews with practitioners, primarily Balinese pedandas.

This paper will argue that the concept of bhakti is known in Balinese Hinduism, but it is not primarily associated with emotion. It is associated withsannyasa, with dharma, with jnana, karma, and with yajna. It is almost anythingexcept emotion. The concept of tantra is also known, and found primarily in four areas. There is priestly tantra, in which the pedanda identifies himself with the gods and with the universe, and ritually merges his identity with the god Siva. There is magical tantra, both black and white, in which mantras, mudras, yantras and amulets are used to supernaturally influence the world. There is architectural tantra, in which the layout of temples, and indeed the island of Bali itself, is an expression of the mandalas of deities. And there is bodily tantra, in which the Kanda Empat are both deities and biological entities which develop along with the human souls, spiritually evolving from physiological organs to divine beings.