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Bali Challenged!

Anand Krishna*

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has


chosen Bali as the pilot project for environmentally friendly tourism.
Geoffrey Lipman, the UNWTO assistant secretary general, praised
Bali for its local wisdom, and spoke of the need to apply it to meet
actual challenges such as the climate change.

However, it was not the nomination per se, which made happy most
of the stakeholders I met. It was Lipmans promise that his agency
would also try to help Bali secure financial support from
international donors such as the World Bank and the Asian
Development Bank, to implement the green tourism concept as
part of a green economy, which made them happy.

A mere mention of assistance, help, donation, and money, is enough


to make our lazy eyes sparkle. The greenbacks, although withered,
and not quite green now, are still valued in our part of the world.
Money is after all money. The question of halal (legible/rightful) and
haram (illegible/unrightful) does not arise here.

Our religious institutions may pass verdicts against followers of


communism, pluralism, secularism, and atheism. When it comes to
money, however, charities and investments from them are still
welcome.

Lipman, as most of us do, believe that the local wisdom of Bali is


still alive and well and is still deeply held to this day. Yes, but
what percentage of it? What I fear is that Lipman misconceived the
local rituals as local wisdom.

Rituals are very much part of our indigenous local wisdom, but do
not represent our wisdom in its totality. It is the spirit behind such
rituals, the spirituality of it, which makes for the important
ingredient of our local wisdom. For, some of our rituals are quite
harmful to the environment, such as those, which involve the
slaughtering of animals, including the endangered species.

It was, perhaps, for this very reason that Governor Pastika


considered the nomination as a challenge to all Balinese to
reconsider nature and its preservation.

Bali is, indeed being challenged!


The question is not only how to apply the wisdom, as put by
Lipman, but how to define it. What is our wisdom? Can we let go of
the irrelevant rituals and customs? Are we still holding on to them
considering them as parts and parcels of our indigenous wisdom?

I am reminded of a beautiful ancient tale from the Buddhist


tradition. A sacrificial lamb, it is narrated, began to laugh at the
sight of the priest about to slaughter it. The priest trembled, for it
was, it is, unusual for animals to laugh the way we humans do. The
ritual dragger in his hand almost felt.

The equally terrified devout watching the scene began to chant their
mantras and prayers. The lamb laughed again, and said, Those
mantras and prayers cannot save you. We all are condemned to
work out our own karmas, following the natural law of cause and
effect. You reap what you sow. You must pay for all your actions.

Listen to me. Once I was a priest, and I took it as my religious duty


to make the sacrifice of innocent lambs, and other animals. Today, I
am a sacrificial lamb. I am paying for my deeds. I am laughing at
the poor priest, he will have to pay for his karma as well!

Our first president, Soekarno, firmly believed that religions were


created to facilitate humankind. Religions and rituals are for
humankind, and not the vice versa. Unfortunately, we are now
confronted with a totally different belief system, which endorses the
otherwise. Rituals, which are already irrelevant, are still being
practiced. They are considered as the backbone of the religion. No
one dares to question the validity of such beliefs and wrong notions.

Forget the innocent lambs, and turtles being satayed in the name of
religion, just look at our beaches. Do we understand the meaning
and the implication of seawater corrosion and sea-sands abrasion?
Are we even bothered if our grandchildren may be deprived of clean
drinking water?

We take pride in promoting Tri Hita Karana, the three principles of


general wellbeing, as our ancient heritage. Yes, it is. But, do we
even understand what does the heritage imply? What have we done
to our heritage?

The ongoing concrete constructions are still affecting our beaches.


You just have to walk along the Kuta beach to see this for yourself. I
fail to find even a single Hita Karana there. We go on making the
same mistakes of constructing unintelligently, and not building
wisely. Do we even understand the difference between constructing
and building?

Lipman indicated that his agency would assist Bali in the reduction
of carbon dioxide production, environmentally friendly investment,
the use of alternative energy, preservation of biodiversity, etcetera,
and etcetera.

Well, there are no free lunches. Such assistance would not be given
free. Lipman and his agency needs to, first of all, analyze Balis
problems and needs. Analysis, studies, researches, and reports are
not free either. Initially, large corporations or institutions could fund
them. Eventually, all those expenditures will be thrust upon us.

At the end of the day, we shall find ourselves paying for their
brilliant findings that, 1. We should rely on the solar energy, since
we have sunlight in plenty, 2. We got to fix our public transportation
system, and cut down on the number of vehicles, especially the
motorbikes, 3. We got to build wisely, and not construct
unintelligently.

Bravo, hurray, kudos, thank you Mr. Lipman! And, to say those
few words we will be throwing a party for Mr. Lipman and his
party.

Tri Hita Karana - the three principles of general well being defines
our relation with A. Fellow Human Beings, and B. The Environment,
based on the C. That the One Divine Principle, God, is all (not in all,
for God is too large, vast, and huge to be contained. Actually, we all
are contained in God).

Bali, wake up to your ancient heritage. Wake up to your


responsibility to, not only preserve the ancestral heritage, but also
live the heritage.

Bali, more than anything else, it is your, our sanity, which is being
challenged!

*Spiritual Activist, and author of 132 books. His recent book One
Earth, One Sky, One Humankind was released at the 2009
Parliament of Worlds Religions Convention in Melbourne
(www.anandkrishna.org)