Mulat sarira, an expression oft quoted by the Balinese, has been chosen as the theme for this year’s Bali Arts Festival. Meaning self-introspection, mulat sarira is not just a concept, religious dogma or doctrine, but a call for all human beings irrespective of their religious, social, racial, political and economical backgrounds to “go back to the roots and find yourself.”
Unlike any religious call, this is not a call to turn to God. This is not a call to face Kashi, Kaba, or Yerusalem – but to “go within” and find your “self.”
Indeed, this is no ordinary call. For when you turn to God, allegedly all love and all compassion, you may have some consolation. But turning within to find your “self,” you may not find any love or compassion. You may, instead, find hatred and selfishness.
When you pray to All-Hearing God, you expect Him/Her/It, whatever or whoever, to hear your cries and pay heed to your plight. But when you turn within, you are turning to your very “self” who is in plight. There is no consolation; in fact you find your “self” in utter nakedness. You get to see your “self” without any covering, without any dressing. You get to see your “raw” self.
When you do so, do not jump into any conclusion. Do not go within with a heavy burden of your previous conditionings, such as “God is within you,” or “You are essentially God.” Go within with an open mind and open heart. Go within without any expectation, and only then you may find your “self,” your “true self.”
This “process” of going within is “meditation.” Buddha called it vipashanaa. The Buddhists added a set of exercises. Buddha himself never described, or rather prescribed, any exercise. His was a generic call, “Go within,” mulat sarira. No exercises, no initiations – just carry your “one pointed intention” to go within. Just carry your “intense desire” to go within. Carry your “willingness” to find your “self” in its utter nakedness.
There are people who connect vipashanaa or meditation with health, healing, emotional balance and so forth. That would not be mulat sarira; that would not be vipashanaa; that would not be Going Within. You do not go within to heal; you do not go within with any expectation. You go within without any expectation. How can you go within with an expectation to heal, if in the first place you do not even know if you are healthy or not? You may not be in need of any healing. You may be imagining your poor health or emotional condition.
So, once again, go within without any expectation.
And be thankful, be grateful, for whatever you find. It may be love, or it may be hatred. It may be compassion, or selfishness. It may be humbleness or arrogance. It may be wisdom, righteousness, or ego and jealousy. Whatever you find, that is “you.” Once you find your “self,” the next step becomes easy.
Delve into your finding; be true to yourself and what do you want to do with it. Be honest to yourself if you are satisfied with your finding. If the answer is positive – “yes” without any doubt – then nourish it. But if the answer is “no,” then transform it to what you consider as your ideal.
So there are, actually, two aspects to mulat sarira. The first is that of finding your “self,” and the second is what you want to do with it.
Unfortunately these aspects are often forgotten. We understand the phrase, but we do not practice it. It is like having a medical prescription at home from a very good doctor, but not taking it, not consuming the drugs prescribed. This has resulted in a pitiable condition of our society.
Bali, the island of Gods, has more deaths by suicide than any other part of Indonesia. Bali also has the greatest number of HIV infections than any other island in the archipelago. Many would like to blame outside factors for conditions like this. I would not. I would rather do some mulat sarira, some self-introspection, some vipashanaa, some going within to find the root cause of our problems. Where have we gone wrong?
It is easy to use mulat sarira as a slogan, but it is very difficult to practice it. For when I begin to practice it, I find so many faults within me. The number of deaths by suicide, the number of HIV-infected Balinese, the number of robberies and other crimes – all of them are directly connected with me. Scary!
I am turning materialist, in the sense that I can no longer see energy as the source of all and everything. I have begun to believe in the immortality of matter, rather that of energy. I had forgotten, though Einstein reminded me, that matter and energy are relative, yet when it comes to non-ending and non-perishable, they are qualities of energy.
When I went within, the very first lesson I learned was that of the need to find the source of all things, to see things as they are. Having done that, having gone within, I turn to the prophet from Arabia and I found him repeating the same line: “One who knows self, knows God.” I heard the seers of ancient Greece echoing, “Know thyself!” And, I heard Krishna singing to his friend Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, “Your ‘self’ is your best friend and enemy too.”
Mulat sarira is a call to stop relying on all outside factors and begin to rely on oneself. Friends, we are on the journey now. Next week, I shall continue this. I hope, I pray, that you will accompany me.