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The conglomerate of religious principles manifests itself in elaborate cults of ancestors and deities of fertility, of fire, water, earth, and sun, of the mountains and the sea, of gods and devils. They are the backbone of the Balinese religion, which is generally referred to as Hinduism, but which is in reality too close to the earth, too animistic, to be taken as the same esoteric religion as that of the Hindus of India. Since the earliest times, when Bali was under the rule of the great empires that flourished in the golden era of Hinduistic Java, the various forms of Javanese religion became in turn the religions of Bali, from the Mahayanic Buddhism of the Sailendras in the seventh century' the orthodox Sivaism of the ninth, to the demoniac practices of the Tantric sects of the eleventh century. In later times Bali adopted the modified, highly Javanized religion of Madjapahit, when Hinduism had become strongly tinged with native Indonesian ideas. Each of these epochs left a deep mark in Balinese ritual; to the native Balinese cults of ancestors, of the elements, and of evil spirits, were added the sacrifices of blood and the practices of black magic of the Tantric Buddhists, the Vishnuite cult of the underworld, Brahmanic juggling of mystic words and cabalistic syllables, the cremation of the dead, and so forth, all, however, absorbed and transformed to the point of losing their identity, to suit the temper of the Balinese.

It is true that Hindu gods and practices are constantly in evidence, but their aspect and significance differ in Bali to such an extent from orthodox Hinduism that we find the primitive beliefs of a people who never lost contact with the soil rising supreme over the religious philosophy and practices of their masters. Like the Catholicism of some American Indians, Hinduism was simply an addition to the native religion, more as a decoy to keep the masters content, a strong but superficial veneer of decorative Hinduistic practices over the deeply rooted animism of the Balinese natives.


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Religion is to the Balinese both race and nationality; a Balinese loses automatically the right to be called a Balinese if be changes his faith or if a Balinese woman marries a Moha'mmedan, a Chinese, or a Christian, because she takes leave forever of her own family gods when she moves into her husband's home and instead worships his gods from that time on. The religious sages, the Brahmanic priests, remain outsiders, aloof from the ordinary Balinese, who have their own priests, simple people whose office is to guard and sweep the community temples, in which there are no idols, no images of gods to be worshipped. These temples are frequented by the ancestral gods, who are supposed to occupy temporarily the little empty shrines dedicated to them, when visiting their descendants. The Balinese live with their forefathers in a great family of the dead and the living, and it would be absurd for them to try to make converts of another nationality, since the ancestors of the converts would still remain of another race apart.

Rather than a sectarian Church system, separate from the daily life and in the hands of a hierarchy of priests to control and exploit the people, the religion of Bali is a set of rules of behaviour, a mode of life. The resourceful Balinese fitted their religious system into their social life and made it the law (adat) by which the supernatural forces are brought under control by the harmonious co-operation of everyone in the community to strengthen the magic health of the village. Like a human being, the community possesses a life power that wears away and must be fed by the regular performances of magic acts of the " right," the side of righteousness. The life power is seriously impaired by the magic evil, that of the " left," or by the polluting effects of sickness and death. Bestiality, incest, suicide, and temple vandalism are among the acts of individuals that would make the entire village sebel, or magically weak. The spiritual health is also undermined by the gradual predominance of evil forces, the demons and witches that haunt the village. Some of these are easily disposed of, but the main concern of the Balinese centres in the propitiation of the protecting ancestors who descend to this earth on special holidays and at the anniversaries of the innumerable temples, when they receive offerings and entertainment from the people. By these ceremonies and temple festivals the populace hopes to entice the spirits to remain among them; the beauty of the offerings, the pleasant music, the elaborate theatrical performances, aim to keep them from growing bored and leaving.

Motivated by this background of religious beliefs, the Balinese found it necessary to establish a system of communal cooperation to provide for the magnificent festivals that are such an important part of their life. The spirit of co-operation soon extended to their personal and economic life and developed into a primitive agrarian commune in which every village was a socially and politically independent little republic, with every citizen enjoying equal rights and obligations. These villages were ruled by councils of village members and officials who governed as representatives of the ancestral spirits. Since the land, source of all wealth, also belonged to the ancestors, individual ownership of land was not recognized, and it is remark. able, but typical, that the village officials still govern as a duty to the community and without remuneration.

Furthermore, the Balinese have been extremely liberal inmatters of religion. Every time a new idea was introduced into the island, instead of repudiating it,'they took it for what it was worth and, if they found it interesting enough, assimiiated it into their religion, since no one knew what power there might be in the new gods. In this manner, from all the sects and cults that at one time or another reached the island, they selected anew the principles that best suited their own ideas and accumulated a vast store of religiou's power. Buddha became to them the younger brother of Siva, and if the efforts of the Christian missionaries who are attempting to convert the Balinese succeed, it is not unlikely that in the future " Sanghyang Widi," theexalted name that the missionaries have adopted for Jesus, will become a first cousin of Siva and Buddha and will enjoy offerings and a shrine where he can rest when he chooses to visit Bali

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