Bali is widely considered to possess one of the world's richest cultures founded on mutual assistance, spirituality and time-honored traditions and rules. However, modern developments and global challenges of development are beginning to overwhelm Bali, placing the island, willingly or otherwise, at a critical crossroad in its history.
This situation was once again discussed at a year-end dialog conducted by the Forum of Mindful Duty (Forum Panyadaran Dharma). The gathering, which attracted the participation of a cross section of local leaders, adopted as its theme Bali at the Crossroads: Between Pragmatics and Public Interest. Among those contributing their thoughts were Bali's Governor Made Mangku Pastika the Rector of Udayana University Prof. Made Bakta, the former Rector of the University Prof. Wita, the Chairman of PHDI (Hindu Dharma Association) IGN Sudiana, and the Rector of the Hindu University (IHDN) Prof. Made Titib.
One of Bali's leading Pedanda or religious priests, said that if the Balinese are overwhelmed it is due to an inability to understand their own religion. Pedanda Sebali Tinayar, quoted in Radar Bali, said that the people of Bali are drowning in ceremonies. Each day is fully occupied with ceremony, although the true meaning and significance of these ceremonies has been lost. He said: "At this time Bali is drowning in ceremonies, ceremonies, ceremonies. What's more, these rituals are costing a great deal. Everything's been forgotten in order to create big ceremonies. This has brought Bali to its critical crossroad."
The well known religious authority said he fears people are so caught up in ceremonies that they have lost site of the true path to Jnana Marga or spiritual liberation; that is, the cultivation of religion through growing intellectualism, education and knowledge. "In the end," he said, "what's important is 'Jnana.' The people of India have managed to make their people able to compete with the world; with 60% of the richest people in the world are now Indians. This is because they practice their religion with "Jnana.'"
Echoing this, Bali Governor Made Pastika urged the people of Bali to be modern in their thinking, while at the same time keeping their connection with Bali's core values.
Pastika alluded to the views of sociologists Ania Loomba and George Ritzer who said that changes in the social intelligence of mankind is identical with changes in behavior, social norms and public behavior. The development of Balinese society if not accompanied by intellectual enhancement or Jnana will plunge into narrow mindedness.
"The Hindus of Bali will succumb to narrow thinking, and their own cultures will be left behind. This will leave Hindus on the side of the road, " warned Pastika.
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