Thu, 20 Nov 2003

'Ruwatan' to purify souls

The Jakarta Post, Sanur, Bali

Human beings face daily ups and downs. For those who believe in a karma, good fortune may come and go in accordance with one's destiny.

While our destiny may not be thwarted, the Javanese have developed an age-old ritual to cleanse the path of one's fate.

"Sometimes, people think they are so unlucky or are trapped in bad situation. So many obstacles hamper their efforts to achieve their goals or to balance their spiritual and earthly lives," commented Eyang Suryo Wilotikto, who claims to be the direct descendant of the former rulers of Majapahit Hindu Kingdom in East Java. The legendary kingdom reigned from the 13th to the late 15th century.

In Javanese tradition, many believe that people who have suffered misfortune are spiritually "dirty and unprepared to receive divine inspiration," he said. Therefore, according to traditional Javanese dogma, a special ritual must be performed to prevent the people or individuals from any misfortune and evil spirit, which may disturb their well-being.

"The Javanese, in need of a spiritual boost, usually perform the ruwatan or melukat rituals," he explained. The ritual is basically aimed at revitalizing and recollecting the positive spiritual energy within one's mind and heart to exist peacefully and productively in order to eliminate any negative forces and influences.

Because Eyang believes that the Balinese people originated from the Majapahit kingdom, he said that such rituals were also appropriate within the tradition of Balinese Hinduism.

"But, actually, ruwatan has nothing to do with any religion. It is an ancient tradition which still exists within the Javanese community," he said.

In Javanese families, there are several circumstances which require them to turn to the ruwatan. Families with only one child or one set of twins, families who have only one boy with older sisters, kids suffering from serious illnesses and many other things of that nature. In Javanese tradition, the number of children that a couple produces and, more importantly the number of boys, can mean the difference between being spiritually blessed or condemned to misfortune.

Last October, he visited Bali and took part in the Gebyar Alternative Exhibition at the Inna Sindhu Hotel in Sanur where he held a series of mass ruwatan rituals for people who felt they needed it.

"Currently, many ruwatan ceremonies are regarded as commercial activities with people paying a large sum of money to perform it," he maintained, while adding that it was improper to accept payment for such a sacred rite.

"How can you charge people suffering from grievance and sadness just to purify themselves?" he asked.

He did not receive any money for the mass ritual.

"After the Bali bombing, a lot of people in Bali, Lombok and even in East Java, suffered spiritually as well as economically," he added. Thousands of people lost their jobs and incomes. Hundreds of them lost loved ones.

In order to survive, many of them have sold their belongings and are trapped under a mountain of debt.

The ruwatan ceremony has been a refuge for hundreds of those people in the last year.

One event took place at a seaside hotel. Prior to the ceremony, a special wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performance was held.

The participants held communal prayers in accordance with their beliefs, while the leader of the ceremony sprinkled water on their bodies symbolizing the purification process.

"They came from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Their main intention was to cleanse their minds in the hope of a better future," he said.