Friday, August 31, 2007

Religious musings

For those of you who don't know, Bali is a Hindu island within Muslim-dominated Indonesia. Hinduism was brought here sometime in the 11th century (I think), making Balinese Hinduism a very different version of what I know.

The three gods, Shiva, Visnu, and Brahma, dominate here, but are said to be the gods of wind, water, and fire, respectively. Black and white gingham cloth is omnipresent on the island, supposedly representing the balance of good and evil. They have imported the caste system, although it seems than anyone can make an offering at the temple. However, they have also imported that favorite misogynistic practice: not allowing women in the temples if they are menstruating. Now, out of respect for another culture, I don't mind being asked to observe that practice, but every male Balinese tour guide takes it upon himself to ask every female tourist if she has her period instead of just stating the rules. (The first time I was asked this, I was initially shocked until I figured out why they were most likely asking; for someone unacquainted with Hinduism, I assume it's quite intrusive.)

Combined with importing my least favorite practices of Hinduism, the Balinese also make animal sacrifices at their temples of cow, pig, and chicken. They even have cock fighting. It's been odd witnessing all this; I can't help but think that their religion is mainly superstition and that must be how Westerners view India (although even Vivekananda said most of India is practicing superstition). And though they have artistic depictions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, I have not heard one mention of the Gita, Vedas, or Upanishads. It seems that Indians forgot to export the best part of Hinduism.

On a slightly different note, I've also been thinking of a book I read on Tenzin Palmo where another Buddhist nun said that the emphasis on renouncing desire and selfishness is a spirituality more geared for men, and that for women, the challenge is more in renouncing comfort. We women need, she said. I was skeptical when I first read this months ago, but after my sojourn in crappy hotel accommodations, I'm inclined to agree. But fear not friends; just as no one would expect a 30-year-old man with no intention of becoming a monk to give up sex, I have no inclincation to give up my comforts just yet.

3 comments:

sherif said...

never in my life would i guess that you would see a cockfight before i would. i'm so jealous!

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