THURSDAY, JUNE 7
We rush to the buses for an all-day excursion to three temples and a volcano. Through villages and countryside, we wend our way north-eastward, glimpsing the simple, easy-does-it Balinese way of life. Outside the towns the roads narrow, permitting slow close encounters of opposing vehicles. Squeaking by other vehicles with less than an inch to spare, our buses progress toward our first goal.
I discover that this south-eastern part of Bali is flatter than I'd imagined. Still, the farmers have terraced each rice paddy so that adjacent ones aren't on the same level. Our guide tells us that farmers harvest rice two times a year, but each village has its own schedule. Planting and harvesting get spread out over a period of several months. We pass rice in all stages of development: bare paddies, flooded ones, newly-planted but still flooded ones; rice still green with immature heads; rice with yellowing leaves and ripening heads; full, ripe heads ready for harvest; farmers harvesting rice by hand; already-harvested paddies slowly burning, the bluish-white smoke dispersing lazily, riding on the humid air, spreading fog-like through the valley.
Farther north the road climbs higher, crossing over ever-deepening gorges lushly filled with bamboo. Slopes of some of these gorges sport clove tree plantations. Along the upper rims grow planted coconut palms and banana trees. We come to wider valleys now, with terraced paddies carving into their sides. This is the Bali of the picture books! We all sigh, drinking in the opulence of our visual feast. Cameras snap away out the bus windows.
Our lovely, vivaceous Balinese guide, Parwati, tells us that she'd been a professional dancer until she discovered she can make more money as a guide! She'd also married a man who is from a lower caste than her family. Since most of her relatives hold to the old ways, even though her parents do not, she had to move away from her village and not see her family for a whole year, or until a baby was born, whichever came first. Parwadi found this exile very hard, but she did see her parents a few times when they held clandestine rendezvous away from their village.
Our first destination, this temple, representing the feminine principle, sits not on a hill, but in a valley below the road! After our buses stop, we disembark and try to wrap ourselves in our sarongs and scarves. Our tour guides check us to make sure we've got the fabrics draped and tied authentically. Seems the men's style is different from the women's. After much laughing, re-wrapping and picture taking, we're ready for our descent.
A double set of wide steps lead from the road to the valley floor. I hop quickly down the steps on the left side, as I want to by-pass some slower movers proceeding down the right side. Across the mowed grassy stretch, three gates, left, middle and right, invite us inside the walled temple compound. Most of us choose the left gate, as it's the closest to the steps. We gather on the left side of the courtyard. Here at the left end we find a large square reflecting pool. Water flows into it from a spring high in the hillside immediately behind the temple grounds.
Don summons us to the low stone wall containing the pool. He tells us that entering a temple symbolizes entering a different state of consciousness, that of our inner world. He challenges us to become aware of the symbolism in our own actions and movements: Had we come down the left or the right steps; through which gate had we entered; and had we noticed anything about that gate? Was it open at the top, or roofed?
Entering through the left gate symbolizes approaching the states of higher consciousness by means of the feminine intuitive right brain nature (the right lobe of the cerebrum controls the left side of the body). The masculine, left-brain approach (left lobe controls the right side of the body) is through the right gate, or through the "safety" of the central roofed gate.
The roofed center gate represents the rules and rituals of a rigid, formalized and structured religion, a more comfortable approach for some. The left and right gates represent an unstructured, unformalized approach to God. These latter gates, called "candi bentar," appear to me as if carved as a single unit, then cut in half vertically from front to back, the two sides becoming mirror images of each other.
Don continues his explanation of the structures in the temple:
The Pool: Our emotional nature.
The Stream: The Source.
Harmonically flowing ripples on pools' surface: Serenity of the Alpha state of consciousness.
The Carp in the pool: Our thoughts. Serenely they swim. But feed them and they approach the water's surface in frenzied activity, creating eddies of turbulence--the Beta state!
The Bathing pools for the villagers: These pools lie downhill to the left of the temple pool and are fed by this pool's overflowing. Thus the villagers symbolically refresh themselves in the emotional waters from the Source (the stream) as it flows from the temple--a higher state of consciousness. Love flowing from Above, gravity gathering and directing It into the manifest world.
We wander about, feeling the temple vibes. Then back up the steps to the buses and off to the next temple.
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