Parahyangan: Harmony with God

The first of the three relationships that make up the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, Parahyangan, is the basis for all religious ceremonies that make up most Balinese life. Through ceremonies, the Balinese show gratitude to the Creator and many gods and goddess in the Hindu pantheon, who, in return, will guide the Balinese through life.

Balinese believe all life comes from Sang Hyang Widhi or the Creator. The life we have been granted is a gift; thus, we should be thankful for that gift. Showing gratitude is often done through ceremonies. While differing in practice, the plethora of Balinese ceremonies is all based on this fundamental philosophy.

Unlike Abrahamic faiths, where God resides far above in heaven and watches over humans, Balinese Hinduism believes that gods and goddesses live close to humans. While they may reside in the divine realm (svah) somewhere in the heavens, they often manifest in the “middle world” (bvah) to guide humans. When they do arrive, major celebrations are held to welcome and appease them.

For example, every six months, on a particular Saturday, the goddess Sarasvati is said to descend and bring the gift of knowledge to humans. To show gratitude for knowledge, ceremonies are held to honour the goddess.

Every six months, the Balinese celebrate Galungan, when good wins a battle against evil. As a token of appreciation for their bravery, the Balinese celebrate three days of Galungan with festivities.

A much larger example would be the massive ceremonies held at the mother temple of Besakih. Held annually, the Betara Turun Kabeh (lit. “many gods descending”) is a monumental occasion where it is believed that all the gods descend from heaven to “mingle” and provide blessings to humans. It is a festive occasion where people converge at the mother temple and show gratitude to the many gods present. Such are examples of the implementation of Parahyangan as a philosophy of life.

Maintaining good relations with the gods and goddesses is seen as one way to achieve balance in life. Thus, you can think of all the ceremonies that celebrate the gods and goddesses as labours of love to keep a healthy, balanced, and happy life!