by Ma Anand Bhagawati
They managed to travel throughout the island in as little as three weeks and rediscovered places they had been to during their first visit, 18 years ago: “So much has happened in our lives since the Ranch, and yet it also seems like yesterday we were all together. Bali is still a magical place...of all the places in the world we have visited it is still our favorite place.” They would both be happy to hear from old friends: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ma Prem Gangotri came for a holiday to Bali. She is well known as one of the founders of the Earthaven community near Asheville, North Carolina, and as a unique body therapist: “The intention is to help people increase awareness so they can relax into gravity.”
Gangotri – like many in our caravanserai who are of a certain age – is looking into her retirement. Having done all she wanted on the material plane, she now wishes to spend time at Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai, and to experience the sacred Arunchala Mountain there. “To combine this with staying on Bali part of the year is the ultimate vision for me at this time,” she said. “I see myself now at the stage of being a sannyasin in the true sense of the word: leaving the old life behind and opening to an ever-deepening silence.” (email@example.com)
Prem Anado, my most-wonderful roommate in No. 70 in Pune One, has been
living in Seattle for 17 years. She teaches Italian to adults in various
schools and in private lessons. And not only that, she organizes trips
with customized itineraries to various regions in Italy through her business
V.I.A.V.I. (Vita, Avventura, Viaggi, meaning Life, Adventure, Travel).
Anado also enjoys giving cooking classes and is currently writing a book
on four cooking seasons and four kitchens, based on her life in Tuscany.
“ The best costume thing I did was around 15 years ago when me and a bunch of friends here in Seattle decided to dress up as Rajneeshees. Remember those people who had invaded a little town in Oregon and were followers of the Indian guru with 100 Rolls-Royces? We all dressed in orange and red clothes and went down to the main square!” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ma Amana Aile, who writes under the name Aile Shebar, was on one of her frequent Bali visits when we met. She was busy creating exclusive, hand-painted silk wall hangings with meditative motifs for meditation rooms, homes, and centers. After years in Santa Fe, she now alternates between living in North Carolina and Florida where she gives transformational de-hypnotherapy and breathwork groups and sessions. She facilitates a group process she calls Creating from Source, which combines writing and drawing with meditation. She often holds groups through Wildquest, a sannyasin enterprise in which wild dolphins act as catalysts for unleashing creativity. The next group will be in September in Bimini. Next year she plans to bring a group to the rice fields in Bali where participants will have a chance to commune with the endearing Balinese ducks! (email@example.com)
Talia (Ma Prem Nishavda, formerly from Germany) was fully ensconced in mainstream USA for the past 10 years, but recently she felt that enough was enough and she relocated, on the spur of the moment, to Bali a few months ago. She came with her adorable two-year-old daughter, Sierra, who even beats the ever-smiling Balinese with her happy, beaming smile. Enjoying the tropical island life and the abundant domestic help available, Talia is looking for sources among the multitude of merchandise, to set up a work base for herself. Even though Talia feels like she has received a very warm welcome from the island of Bali, she is still looking for a new permanent home for the two of them and is planning a trip to Europe in the summer. She would love to hear about kid-friendly places among friends, especially in the south of Europe. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the time of writing, a very auspicious time for the Balinese Hindu population is under way: Galungan and Kuningan, an island-wide two-week celebration, which is comparable to Christmas and New Year rolled into one. This year, an important day called Nyepi falls on the day after Galungan. One of the many legends regarding Nyepi has it that Yama (Lord of Hell for Balinese Hindus, Lord of Death for Indian Hindus) clears all devils out of hell, who in due course descend on Bali, and this makes it necessary to have a huge purification ceremony. This event symbolizes a great exorcism, to bring back into harmony the macrocosm and the microcosm as we know it.
On an esoteric level, the Balinese are responsible for continuous purification of the blood of this planet Earth, therefore the night before and the day of Nyepi itself have a very special function globally also.
In the days leading up to Nyepi, enormous monsters made of papier-mâché are assembled on the sidewalks, with all sorts of exotic accessories and lots of paint. They are called ogoh-ogohs and are up to three meters tall, in various fantastic forms. On the evening before Nyepi the parade of the ogoh-ogohs starts before sunset, and everyone involved in this event bangs on drums and pots and pans, to make as much noise as possible. Firecrackers explode loudly, and flaming torches add to the heat. Thus a ruckus is raised to scare the evil spirits to such an extent that they push off – at least this is the commonly shared version.
One image after the other will be coming by: a green monster with lit-up bug eyes, a grim reaper complete with scythe, various sculptures of rangda (the awesomely toothy and horrific figure representing the negative side of man), a grinning colossus standing on his hands, a giant goblin in bright purple, an enormous insect painted in red hues, a yellow basilisk-like apparition from hell, a Gorgon painted Prussian blue, and a multitude of other appearances from the far side.
Waking up the next morning, on the day of Nyepi, you notice how still it is. There are a few birds twittering away here and there, but that’s it. Even Nature seems to be holding her breath. No cars, no motorbikes, no airplanes. The airport is closed. No people on the roads. Just silence. Imagine, a population of more than three million being quiet?!
Everybody remains indoors. It is permitted to speak within one’s own four walls, yet people are encouraged to look within, to review the last year – what to improve, what to forgive, and for what to seek forgiveness. In order not to attract any of the evil spirits that have been driven off, there are no fires allowed (so they can’t see the island), no noise (so they can’t hear the island), and no food to be cooked (so they can’t smell the island). If this sounds difficult, it really isn’t. People simply prepare food a day beforehand and enjoy the peace and quiet among their family. Of course, this also means no electric lights or even candles, so it’s a good idea to head for bed early because the sun sets at 6:30 pm and darkness falls quickly in the tropics. A perfect day for silence and meditation.