Hinduism in Indonesia

In front of the Indonesian Embassy (on Embassy Row, Washington), one would have expected to see the statue of Sukarno, the founding father of Indonesia. But no; there is the Hindu Goddess of learning, Saraswati, glowing white and gold, with her four arms upraised. At her feet are three students -young Barack Obama and his classmates while he was in grade school in Indonesia.

The goddess’ statue, on top of a lotus, stands tall a block away from the Indian Embassy in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Why would Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, with Hindus accounting for a mere 1.7 per cent, choose a Hindu goddess as its embassy’s symbol?
It speaks volumes about the nation’s respect for religious freedom. Indonesia is a secular nation and its constitution is planked on the philosophy of “Pancasila” which is pluralistic in its outlook. The constitution refers not to “Allah” but “Tuhan” so as to ensure that the minorities feel fully integrated.

Indonesia has the fourth largest Hindu population and the highest number of Hindus outside the Indian subcontinent (after Nepal and Bangladesh). Most Indonesian Hindus are Balinese.

Hinduism’s manifestations in myriad forms are on display in every sphere of Indonesian life. The Hindu influence is immediately brought home when a traveler boards the national airline bearing the name from Hindu mythology – Garuda, the bird and vehicle of Vishnu. The national emblem of Indonesia is Garuda Pancasila. Hanuman is the official mascot of Indonesia’s military intelligence. At the 1997 South-East Asian Games at Jakarta, the official mascot was Hanuman.

Ganesh, the God of wisdom, is inscribed on the 20,000 rupiah currency note. The logo of Institut Teknologi Bandung – Indonesia’s premier engineering institute – is also Ganesh.
The dwarpal statue is placed outside hotels, shops, public offices. He sits with the right knee on the ground and holds a formidable mace in the right hand as a protector of the establishment. Even the Bank of Indonesia in Yogyakarta is guarded by, not one, but two dwarpals.

Indonesia has issued many stamps on the Ramayana and the Mahabharata featuring Arjun, Krishan, Hanuman and scenes from the epics. Depiction of epics in the form of folk painting, shadow puppets, dramatic characters and sculpture are found across the length and breadth of the country.

Sukarno himself was named after the Mahabharata character, Karna. Sukarno’s father, fascinated by his characterisation but equally disapproving of his support to the wrong side in the war, named him Su (good) Karna. Sukarno’s daughter was named Megawati Sukarnoputri and was the president of the country from 2001 to 2004.

The language of India is Bahasa which in Sanskrit means language (Bhasha). Thousands of Tamil and Sanskrit names are found in Indonesia, many of them in their corrupted form due to the passage of time.

The National flag of Indonesia, called the “Sang Saka Merah-Putih” (The Sacred Red and White) has been influenced by the banner of the Majapahit Empire, which during the 13th century was one of the largest empires of the region. Hinduism and Buddhism were the dominant religions in the Majapahit Empire.
(From the Internet.)

(Comment: Indonesia is not the only East Asian nation influenced for a long period in history by Indian culture)


Reality may be non-material

I prefer the material realm of the universe we occupy to be a projection of an ethereal realm. The latter realm is effectively unknown. It is also an inexplicable dimension of existence. Yet, reality also seems to me to be more ethereal than material. Why do I say that?

Because almost everything in the material realm is subject to change. Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, of entropy, goes even further. Nothing of substance seems to be durable. While the material realm also cannot explain the ethereal realm, the latter may contain the templates (see Plato’s ‘real’) for transient materiality.

When Heraclitus (a Greek philosopher of yore) quoted a typically unrecognised Hindu thinker of centuries before him, saying “All is fire,” he was referring to the firmament which surrounds us. All my life, I have been enchanted by the apparently infinite number of balls of fire which we see as stars.

Recently, my mind’s-eye developed this scenario. The invisible ‘smoke’ from these fires could represent an integrated ‘mesh,’ the ephemeral realm of the Universe; and the ‘ashes’ and other disgorgements from each sun which fall upon their respective planets (such as Earth) could represent the material from which life forms eventually oozed or erupted. Does this vision make possible sense?

Then, there is the material realm of which we are part; that is, we are substantially matter. We are part of the 4% of the totality of matter estimated to exist in the Universe to be visible.

What of invisible matter? Two-thirds is said to be dark matter; one third is apparently dark energy. Was the latter transmuted from dark matter, or vice versa? However, since we cannot see either, could they actually exist? Of course they can, since bees and some animals are apparently able to use certain alternative strands of the electromagnetic spectrum to go about their business.

As well, there was my first clairvoyant who could see, and describe accurately, the spirit of my uncle who had manifested himself to him. That is, invisible cosmic matter may become visible under appropriate conditions; and invisible energy may be identifiable through its material impacts.

In the event, what is the point of all the fuss we make about the minuscule amount of visible matter in the Universe, including our human material selves? Are we not a lot more than our material bodies? The essence of each human being is of far more significance than the outer shell. Should we not be investigating non-visible matter and energy in their role in shaping humanity, in order to understand our place in the ephemeral realm?

Ultimate reality seems to be beyond the visible, tangible, cupidity and crudity of much of Earthly human existence.

Babies and their souls

In the sixth century A.D. the leaders of the Christian church reportedly decided to reject the existence of the human soul before birth. This decision cleverly got rid of reincarnation. This was in spite of the prevalence of beliefs (in some form or other) in many (if not most) cultures of the continuity of the human soul – such beliefs going back thousands of years.

So, on a white board, the Christian church wrote in clear black letters the rules its acolytes and other followers were to abide by. Where reincarnation implicitly permits the individual to decide his present life and thereby influence his future life, the church would now seek to control his life. This control was reinforced by a Good Book, the injunctions therein being binding in conscience.

On the other hand, the greatest exponent of reincarnation, Hinduism, claimed through their Vedas, a history going back about 7,000 years. They wrote on a black board (darkened by the dust of time) with white letters about correct conduct. Lacking a comparable Good Book, they relied on oral injunctions (later written as an epic which contained sound advice in story form). This religion is not based on inherited authority and assumed control.

Reincarnation offers freedom. You make your own bed, and lie on it (so to speak). Your deeds in each life influence your next life (remember the law of cause and effect) together with all the other contributory influences. Any accumulated learning would be registered in one’s soul as it traverses from Earthly life to Earthly life.

And if the soul is more than just a register, could it impact upon my thoughts and actions in each life? Would it not be in its own interests that I behave correctly in relation to my Creator and my fellow co-created humans? Is not the objective of reincarnation to have each soul purified morally (polished) before returning to the Source?

Of course, I (the material human) am free to ignore any guidance from my soul (the durable ‘me’). That is, I can exercise my free will. I am also free to ignore any emanations from the essence of the Creator said to be within each human being (in a walnut-sized space within the heart). After all, I did (apparently) ignore messages from my Spirit Guide; until I was pulled up by my ‘casual’ clairvoyant.

I wonder now whether new-born babies, each with an ongoing soul, can be guided by, or respond to, their respective souls. Or, does the receiving mechanism needed (a developed brain and its associated mind) have to mature – taking about 3 years to do so? Effective reception will surely require an adequate capacity for awareness or sensitivity.

I am indeed speculating that a new-born baby, necessarily without any physical or mental ailments, or past-life limitations, or a scheduled truncated personal destiny path, may dance to a beat transmitted by its own soul. That is, could I assume that my soul is not a passive passenger within me?

If I could do so, in what manner could my soul influence me as I paddle, as best I can, on my personal river of destiny, as it meshes in with that vast network of destinies reflecting life on Earth? What a fascinating conundrum!

Insights into reality

Ever an investigator of knowledge, preferably of understanding, the Seeker, in his retirement, began to investigate extra-sensory phenomena (e.s.p). In his youth, he had read of Prof. Rhine’s work in this field at Duke University.

Having read a recently published tome bringing together the latest perceptions on e.s.p, the Seeker consulted a visiting European clairvoyant, just to see what happened. To his surprise, without even looking at him, she described accurately his family and their tense relationships, then mentioned his very private thought about re-emigrating, and finally advised that his marriage was over. This was news to him, but proven correct.

Such accuracy was impressive, as his previous exposure to clairvoyants, astrologers and ‘fortune tellers’ in an Asian environment had merely increased his inborn scepticism. There had been many amateurs or charlatans around. Yet, he had seen faith-healing and the discovery of lost objects, mainly valuable jewellery.

He then consulted an English clairvoyant, again out of curiosity. To his considerable surprise, on arrival, he was told ‘I have the spirit of your uncle with us. Will you accept him?’ Initially at a loss for words (and thought), he said, ‘I have 3 uncles. Please describe him.’ To his delight, it was clearly his senior uncle, the second-most important man in his life (after his father). His acceptance of the spirit (whom he could not see nor communicate with) enabled a silent dialogue between the clairvoyant and the spirit; he remained tongue-tied, only responding to questions by the clairvoyant.

The introductory statement by the spirit was that “higher beings” had sent him because he was the one the client was “most likely to accept.” The Seeker’s sceptical mind was presumably well known to the spirit world. The consultation ended in a three-way exchange, wherein the spirit displayed his knowledge of what had happened to his nephew after his own death. The spirit then faded away, having left his nephew with some sound suggestions for his future.

This experience left the nephew in a philosophical quandary. The spirit world had never been part of his framework of reference for anything. Ultimately, he realised that he had been exposed to a very significant event. He could not reject it just because it did not fit into any generally acceptable frame of knowledge, beliefs and values. He has since acted on the suggestions received.

The Seeker then consulted another kind of clairvoyant, a spiritual healer, again out of curiosity. An Australian, she offered her client’s past-life experiences as an explanation of certain physical pains of his, which he had not mentioned to anyone.

When he rejected her comments, saying that any of his past-life experiences must surely be available only to him, her reply was that her own spirit guide is a Healer, who is able to read all of the Seeker’s past lives. Strangely, soon after, the Seeker’s pains disappeared.
And, like the English clairvoyant, this Australian healer displayed an ability to sense the presence of the souls or spirits of the Seeker’s dead children. He found this quite disconcerting. How does one deny these events and their significance, or their implications about the reality of human existence?

Then, there is the ‘casual clairvoyant’ who, in a non-consultative contact, could claim to see either a past or the future of the Seeker. She once described the physical appearance of the Seeker’s spirit guide, while conveying his complaint that the Seeker had not been listening to him!

As the historical Lin Yu Tang, a Chinese philosopher of renown, might have said to his imagined porcine pet, ‘Where now, old sow?’

For a rational sceptical person to find, after a lifetime lived to the full, that the spirit world exists, is a great surprise. When the events experienced cannot be denied because of the accuracy of the information made available, and also because the Seeker of knowledge exposed to the events is told that the spirit world is playing a significant role in his life, what is he to do?


Some issues of multiculturalism

“In 1995, The United Nations International Year for Tolerance (and the twentieth anniversary of the enactment of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act), the then Prime Minister of Australia claimed that there is in Australia ‘no language not spoken, no culture not understood, no religion not practiced.’ It must be true; it was in the news. In any event, this means that we the most culturally diverse nation in the world; or is it only linguistically diverse?

The Office of Multicultural Affairs also told us then that multiculturalism is a policy for managing the consequences of cultural diversity; that this policy confers upon us two rights and a responsibility. The rights are: to express and share our cultural heritage, and to equality of treatment and opportunity; the responsibility is to utilise effectively the skills and talents of all Australians.

The Office also identified certain limits to Australian multiculturalism: that we should have an over-riding and unifying commitment to Australia; that we should accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society, viz. the Constitution and the rule of law; tolerance and equality; parliamentary democracy; freedom of speech and religion; English as the national language; and equality of the sexes; and that we have an obligation to accept the rights of others to express their views and values.

All this is eminently reasonable and sensible, except that bit about ‘managing’. In addition, the chairman of the Australian Multicultural Foundation (Sir James Gobbo), an ethnic community leader of great competence and renown, said (also in 1995) that he looked forward to ‘the day in the not too distant future, when our cultural diversity and our policies of tolerance and respect in handling this diversity will be so much a part of the fabric of society, that we shall no longer need to use such words as multiculturalism and ethnic’.”

“This view parallels the mature view (also expressed in 1995) of the President of the Czech Republic that the best hope for a peaceful multicultural civilisation in the world is to understand and insist on ‘the shared spiritual values of our cultures’.”

“Another outstanding ethnic community leader (Emeritus Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki) questioned (also in 1995) whether the term ‘multiculturalism’ is now out of date. … … ‘Many cultures, one Australia’ has greater attraction for him. While supporting the thrust of current multicultural policy, he raised two important issues: that ‘not all traditions, cultures and customs are necessarily equal’, and that wooing the ethnic vote throws the policy ‘out of balance’.

Where ‘some minority values are totally inconsistent with fundamental values of the dominant Australian culture’ (eg. where ‘the family takes the law into its hands to redress a wrong done to one of its members’), ‘it would be nonsense to say that every culture is equally valued and therefore legitimate’.

This is an extract from my book ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’ (1997)

Delaying learning through fads in education

Teaching a young child (say, 3 to 5 years old) or adults learning a new language has been successful through the phonics method. I learned my mother tongue, Tamil, as a 4-year old, and English as my second language from age 7 in British Malaya, through phonics. As an adult, I taught Indian shopkeepers in Singapore necessary English through phonics. Before that, I taught Chinese high school students basic English through phonics.

hen the pronunciation varied from the norm, all of us accepted the variations through memory. Yes, bough/ bought/rough/cough, row/row, and similar temporarily confusing sounds were memorised as idiosyncrasies in a slightly confusing foreign language. That the letter ‘a’ has a variety of sounds was no problem to me or to those I taught.

My wife and I taught our 3-year olds to read without difficulty in distinguishing between ‘sight’ words and ‘memory’ words. There are not that many ‘memory’ words in the English language of common usage. One can learn these without recourse to semantically unclear and confusing jargon phrases. I once read a short paper by a professor in education whose phrases were so abstract that a barrage of anvils was needed to be attached to them to obtain any operational meaning.

Then, when I found that my granddaughter could not read, even near the end of her second year at school (Year 1), I admit to having been disgusted. She had been taught by the whole-of-word method for 2 years, and could not work out the word ‘kingfisher’. I put her on the right track to reading, learning and enjoying books in two 20-minute sessions. How could a school hold back any child because of a sacred fad?

This bright child had been held back by a fad – which had been inflicted on little children for about 25 years, with the teachers bound by the edicts of their trade union, academics in education, and a certain arrogance by some teachers, when the right of teachers to decide how our children are taught had never, to my knowledge, been challenged. This arrogance did lead to a claim by some teachers that they should be free to decide what is taught. What arrogance! How would they know about the nature and needs of the society into which our children grow; and how our youth are enabled to fit into this future society?

We live in a global and competitive environment. Our children need to be as educated and as prepared for the real world as will be children from other nations, and who will be fluent in English. I do not detect that emphasis on excellence which is required to equip our youth for the real world, although a few educators and some politicians do their best.

The hegemonic empire – cheap to manage

A hegemonic empire is an empire of influence; not of direct control. The current hegemonic empire of relevance is that of the USA. Through its Monroe Doctrine, the USA has kept the buccaneers of Europe (including Britain) away from Central and South America.

The nations of this southern region rule themselves. Democracy and human rights are far less important than the profits accruing to the USA through the latter’s over-sight, and some intervention – militarily or in a clandestine manner – of politics and production.

Since the end of the Second World War, the USA has extended its economic, political, and military influence throughout the world, enjoying its role as Sheriff of the ‘International Community’ of Western nations and their acolytes. It apparently made Britain the Deputy Sheriff of Europe, presumably because, as President Roosevelt said (in 1945) of Britain “Now we own the bastards” (through Lend-Lease arrangements). Presumably there are other deputy sheriffs, especially Australia (for the Pacific).

As I wrote in ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ in the chapter titled ‘On empires gone – and going’:

It appoints so-called ‘deputy sheriffs’ to safeguard the interests of the West in their respective bailiwicks; it has trade and mutual-defence agreements with nations which seek protection from imagined foes; and it has military bases here, there, and everywhere to protect the nations of the West and their allies. The USA will fight terrorism anywhere and everywhere; defend itself from attack by enemies, real or creatively conceived; keep the sea routes open, thereby making other navies unnecessary; sell armaments (its primary objective?), and contain political threats, even imagined ones. This has given it the right to have a foothold in all sorts of places; we Aussies are grateful for such protection!

It also makes generous grants as strategically needed, to keep unpopular, even undemocratic, foreign leaders in power. Their job is to ensure that the needs of the USA, viz. oil and other resources, bases, access routes and export opportunities, are met. Its deputy sheriff Israel is furnished with the latest weaponry to prevent an Islamic resurgence. This includes the intended breakup of Iraq into three ethno-religious regions; so wrote an Israeli scholar recently.

A strong foothold on Iraqi soil will give the US power to oversight lesser nations and overlook the more powerful. The US has reportedly installed its satrap in Afghanistan to enable that desired oil pipeline from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean to be achieved one day. The US will also enable Israel to recover Judah and Samarra as that pure Jewish nation that their God decided was OK, even as it works assiduously to bring about ‘peace’ between oppressor and oppressed. Justice? Only the Court of Cosmic Justice can ensure that. And it will!

Ethnic cleansing, like ‘rendering’-with-torture, and assassination are acceptable, but only in the interests of protecting Western democracy. Australian politicians who visit Israel without being able to notice the plight of stateless Palestinians couldn’t possibly have any concern with this view of the Middle East of the future.” … …

“How long will this new empire last? Since it is only about 60 years old, who can tell? Through its Monroe Doctrine, the USA assumed indirect control of South and Central America a long time ago. Would the US now install Monroe Mark 2 to keep any rising power away from its current spheres of interest? If so, how?” … …

“Yet, this neo-colonising nation is the only major power which has shown any inclination to protect a minority here and there in the world from being butchered.” … …

“Thus, the USA can become a moral leader for mankind. Should we Aussies hold to this hope?”