Agama Tirtha.

Five Studies in Hindu-Balinese Religion, C. HOOYKAAS. (Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandsche Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, Nieuwe Reeks, Deel LXX. No.4.) Amsterdam: N. V, Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij. 1964. 252 pp., abbreviations, 24 figures, manuscripts referred to, 5 maps, references. $9.80.

 

Reviewed by CLIFFORD GEERTZ, University of Chicago

 

Professor Hooykaas, trained in Leiden and now at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, is the dean of Balinese philological studies. In this, perhaps his major work to date, he has collected, žas a shy attempt to penetrate into the mystery of the Balinese belief in God,Ó five of his textual studies on different aspects of Balinese religion. Marked by a profound respect for their subject matter, they are meticulous. erudite, subtle, and uncompromising. To anyone not already fairly thoroughly acquainted with the scholarly literature on Balinese (and early Javanese) religion they will probably seem cryptic, arcane, and disconnected; for anyone who is they will seem among the most significant contributions yet made to the understanding of the ruling spirit of that religion.

 

Of the five studies. the first. that on Sarasvati, the goddess of scholarship and learning, is perhaps the most accessible and certainly the most appealing. Once each Balinese year all the literally thousands of palm leaf manuscripts on the island are brought out to be blessed by the priests and honored by the population. Reading and writing are forbidden for the day, but in the evening literary conversation is recommended, and with typical Balinese catholicity even missionary books are sometimes blessed. Behind this charming custom, which might be more widely imitated in Indonesia where the burning of books has more lately been in fashion, stands the rather ill-understood figure of Sarasvati whose žbirthdayÓ this celebration marks. To clarify her position in Balinese thought, Hooykaas analyzes a series of texts devoted to her, discovering, among other things, that she is part of atypically Indic triad, including in this case, besides Sarasvati herself, Guru R»ka and Kavisvara. žGuru R»ka,Ó one text reads, žcreates the words, Kavisvara attaches meaning to them, Sarasvati utters them.Ó Hooykaas completes his investigation by placing Sarasvti within the well known Javano-Balinese color-divinity-direction system.

 

The second study directs itself toward clarifying the Buddhist element in the Brahmanist-Buddhist synthesis in Bali. This element is definitely the minority one today: there are only about 20 Buddhist priests left on the island against ža few hundredÓ Sivaite ones. Further, the Buddhist priests claim Brahmanic descent, invoke Isvara, Visnu, Mahadeve, Brahma, and Guru, and žaccording to my Buddhist informant a Buddhist priest would not object to [chanting a text] used by a Siva-priest for Siva is only another name for Buddha.Ó But in fact, they don't chant them because they simply don't know them and, žperfectly satisfied with the set which they have mastered. ... are not interested in learning them anyway.Ó Hooykaas analyzes at length, consequently, one they do know and use, a hymn of praise to the žRuler of the Realm of the DeadÓ Yama-Raja. The commentary here is more wide-ranging, rather less systematically organized and, as there is nothing which more excites a good philologist than another good philologist's mistakes, occasionally somewhat intra-mural. But a number of incisive observations are made in passing, including the relation between ritual reversals of the cosmic order and black magic.

 

The final three studies, that on the so-called žThrone of God.Ó (Padmasana, literally žlotus seatÓ), that on the Siva-Linga, the symbol par excelume of overlordship, and that on the Siva-Ratri, the royal žNight of WorshipÓ ritual, are all concerned, in one way or another, with the religious underpinnings of kingship, or more precisely with the formal correspondences between metaphysical and political order. In the Padmasana study, Hooykaas traces the concept of the divine throne from the stone seat of the high god, Surya (i.e., the sun), found in all Balinese temples, through various texts concerning the inner congruence of macrocosm and microcosm, to the all-important notion of God.Kingship: žThe utmost thing to be said about a mortal king [is that] he and his queen [enthroned, too, on a lotus-seat] are Siva and Uma ...; he is Isvara bestowing His supreme bliss upon mankind, he is Life.Ó In the Siva-Linga study, the connection between royalty and linga worship on Bali is demonstrated archeologically, ethnographically, and philologically: the linga is at once the mark of lordship and the mysterium tremendum of Baiinese religion, and the hypothesis put forth by Bosch four decades ago, žthat an invisible trinity is formed by the ruler, the linga (as the palladium of hereditary kingship) and the priest (in his double function as the king's [spiritual guide] and high priest of the linga cult),Ó is confirmed. Finally, in the last study, Hooykaas describes the royal ceremony devoted to linga worship in Bali and analyzes at length the sometimes tedious, sometimes exalted texts which govern it.

 

Again, this is not the work through which to gain an introduction to Balinese religion (for all its limitations, Covarrubias' Island of Bali remains perhaps that), but one to expand and deepen one's understanding after the outlines have been mastered. Anthropologists and philologists often display a certain disdain for one another's work, apparently on the ground that there is but one valid approach to the study of culture. But, as Milton Singer has remarked, in studying high cultures we need both žtext and context,Ó and Hooykaas' superb work, in itself unconcerned with social factors though acknowledging their importance, provides an indispensable source for any anthropologist who wants to know more about Balinese religion than when the holy days fall, how priesthood is inherited, and who makes the offerings for the temples.


American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 68, No. 2  (1966), 242-243.


 

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