Religion in Indonesia
Hinduism in Java
Buddhism in Indonesia
Sanghyang Adi Buddha
Islam in Indonesia
Christianity in Indonesia
Divine Word Missionaries
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Symbols of Javanism: The Sky is my Father, and The Earth is my Mother
Wayang puppet representing Semar
Kejawèn or Javanism, also called Kebatinan, Agama Jawa, and
Kepercayaan is a Javanese religious tradition, consisting of an
amalgam of animistic, Buddhist,
Hindu and Islamic, especially Sufi,
beliefs and practices. It is rooted in the Javanese history and
religiosity, syncretizing aspects of different religions.
Hinduism and Buddhism
Islam and kebatinan
4.4 Official recognition
5.3 Animistic worship
5.4 Other practices
6 Historical texts
7.4 Sapta Dharma
8 Spread of kebatinan
9 See also
12.1 Published sources
13 Further reading
14 External links
The term kebatinan is being used interchangeably with kejawen,
Agama Jawa and Kepercayaan, although they are not exactly the
Kebatinan: "the science of the inner", "inwardness", derived
from the Arabic word batin, meaning "inner" or "hidden".
Kejawen: "Javanism", the culture and religious beliefs and
practices of the
Javanese people of Central
Java and East Java.
It is "not a religious category, but refers to an ethic and a style of
life that is inspired by Javanist thinking".
Agama Jawa: "the Javanese religion"
Kepercayaan: "belief", "faith", full term: Kepercayaan kepada
Tuhan Yang Maha Esa,[web 1] "Believer in One Mighty God".
"Kepercayaan" is an official cover term for various forms of mysticism
in Indonesia. According to Caldarola, it "is not an apt
characterization of what the mystical groups have in common". It
includes kebatinan, kejiwan and kerohanian.
Kebatinan is the inner-directed cultivation of inner peace, rooted in
Islamic traditions, whereas kejawen is outer-directed and
community-oriented, manifesting in rituals and practices.
Main articles: Java, Javanese culture, and
Religion in Indonesia
Wayang puppet representing Garuda
Java has been a melting pot of religions and cultures, which has
created a broad range of religious belief, including animism, spirit
cults, and cosmology.
Hinduism and Buddhism
Buddhism in Indonesia
Indian influences came first with Hinduism, which reached the
Indonesian Archipelago as early as first century. In the 4th
century, the kingdom of
Kutai in East Kalimantan,
Tarumanagara in West
Java, and Holing (Kalingga) in Central Java, were among the early
Hindu states established in the region. Several notable ancient
Hindu kingdoms are Mataram, famous for the construction of
Prambanan temple, followed by Kediri and Singhasari.
Hinduism along with
Buddhism spread across the archipelago
and reached the peak of its influence in the 14th century. The last
and largest among Hindu-
Buddhist Javanese empires, Majapahit,
influenced the Indonesian archipelago.
Buddhism penetrated deeply into society, blending with
the indigenous tradition and culture. One conduit for this were
the ascetics, called resi, who taught mystical practices. A resi lived
surrounded by students, who took care of their master's daily needs.
Resi's authorities were merely ceremonial. At the courts, Brahmin
clerics and pudjangga (sacred literati) legitimized rulers and linked
Hindu cosmology to their political needs. Small
Hindu enclaves are
scattered throughout Java, but there is a large
Hindu population along
the eastern coast nearest Bali, especially around the town of
Islam in Indonesia
Java adopted[note 1]
Islam around 1500 CE.
Islam was first
accepted by the elites, which contributed to the further spread and
Sufi and other versions of Folk
Islam were most easily
integrated in the folk religion of Java. The learned versions of
Islam and shari`a-oriented
Islam were integrated at the courts
with rituals and myths of the existing Hindu-Buddhist
Clifford Geertz described this as abangan and
priyayi, "the lower class and elite varieties of Javanese
The Kyai, the Muslim scholar of the writ became the new religious
Hindu influences receded.
Islam recognises no hierarchy of
religious leaders nor a formal priesthood, but the Dutch colonial
government established an elaborate rank order for mosque and other
Islamic preaching schools. In Javanese pesantren (
Kyai perpetuated the tradition of the resi. Students around him
provided his needs, even peasants around the school.
Christianity in Indonesia
Christianity was brought to
Java by Portuguese traders and
missionaries, from the Dutch Reformed Church, and in the 20th century
also by Roman Catholics, such as the
Jesuits and the Divine Word
Missionaries. Nowadays there are
Christian communities, mostly
Reformed in the larger cities, though some rural areas of
Java are strongly Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics and
Christian groups have been persecuted for their beliefs such as
a ban on Christmas services or decorations.
Islam and kebatinan
Nowadays more than 90 percent of the people of
Java are Muslims, on a
broad continuum between abangan and santri. Although
Java is nominally Islamitic, kejawen, the syncretic Javanese culture,
is a strong undercurrent. Pre-
Islamic Javan traditions have
Islam in a mystical direction.
Some Javanese texts relate stories about Syekh Siti Jenar (also known
as Syekh Lemah Abang) who had conflicts with Wali Sanga, the nine
Islamic scholars in Java, and the Sultanate of Demak. Although
Syekh Siti Jenar was a sufi whose teaching were similar with
Al-Hallaj, most of his followers (Ki Kebo Kenanga)
come from Kebatinan. Some historians have doubted the
existence of Syekh Siti Jenar, suggesting the stories represent
Islam in the past.
With the Islamisation of
Java there emerged a loosely structured
society of religious leadership, revolving around kyais, Islamic
experts possessing various degrees of proficiency in pre-
Islamic lore, belief and practice. The kyais are the principal
intermediaries between the villages masses and the realm of the
supernatural. However, this very looseneess of kyai leadership
structure has promoted schism. There were often sharp divisions
between orthodox kyais, who merely instructed in
Islamic law, with
those who taught mysticism and those who sought reformed
modern scientific concepts.
As a result, the Javanese recognize two broad streams of religious
Santri or putihan ("pure ones"), those who pray, performing the five
obligatory daily ritual prayers. They are more orthodox in their
Islamic belief and practice, and oppose the abangan, who they
consider to be heterodox.
Abangan, "the red ones", who do not strictly observe the Islamic
rituals. They have mixed pre-
Islamic animistic and Hindu-Indian
concepts with a superficial acceptance of
Islamic belief, and
emphasize the importance of the purity of the inner person, the
This distinction between "the High
Islam or scripturalist,
Islam of the `ulama" and "living local Islam"
or "Folk Islam" or "popular Islam" is not restricted to Java,
but can be found in other
Islamic countries as well.
Ernest Gellner has developed an influential model of Muslim society,
in which this dichotomy is central:
He sees a dialectical relationship between the two, with periods of
scripturalist dominance followed by relapses into emotional, mystical,
magical folk Islam. Modernity — especially urbanisation and mass
literacy — unsettles the balance between the two, by eroding the
social bases of folk Islam. An irreversible shift to scripturalist
Islam occurs, which is in Gellner’s view the equivalent of
secularisation in the West.
Bruinessen finds this too limited, and distinguishes three overlapping
Sufism (mystical Islam, which has its learned and popular variants),
The periphery of local rituals, local shrines, local spirit cults and
heterodox beliefs and practices in general.[note 3]
Javanese syncretistic religiousness has a strong popular base,
outnumbering the santri and the support for
parties.[web 2] Choy relates this to a Javanese apparent openness
to new religions, but filtering out only those elements which fit into
the Javanese culture. Choy mentions several reasons for this
Islamic scholars in
Java have been trained in curricula which were
geared for social conditions of two or three centuries ago, lacking
the ability to impart the spirit and sense of Islam;
The inability to summarise the principles of
Islam in understandable
basic points which can be applied to daily life;
Kebatinan can be learned and understood without the need to learn
In the early 20th century, several groups became formalised,
developing systemetised teachings and rituals, thus offering a 'high'
form of abangan religiosity, as an alternative to the 'high'
Islam. Bruinessen opines that the kebatinan-movements is a
deliberate rejection of scriptural Islam, which arose out of "folk
A Javanese man meditating under
Banyan tree. Dutch East Indies, before
See also: Batin (Islam)
Kebatinan is derived from the Arabic word batin, meaning "inner" or
"hidden", or "inner self". It is a metaphysical search for
harmony within one's inner self, connection with the universe, and
with an Almighty God.
Kebatinan believe in a "super-consciousness"
which can be contacted through meditation.
Kebatinan is a combination of metaphysics, mysticism and other
esoteric doctrines from Animistic, Hinduistic,
Islamic origins. Although the
Javanese culture is
tolerant, and open to new religions, only those qualities are accepted
and filtered which fit into the Javanese culture, character and
personality. Javanese ideals combine human wisdom (wicaksana),
psyche (waskita) and perfection (sempurna). The follower must control
his/her passions, eschewing earthly riches and comforts, so that
he/she may one day reach enlightened harmony and union with the spirit
of the universe.
According to Choy, the
Kebatinan have no certain prophet, sacred
book, nor distinct religious festivals and rituals. Nevertheless,
various kebatinan-movements have their own foundational writings and
A kebatinan practitioner can identify with one of the six officially
recognized religions, while still subscribe to the kebatinan belief
and way of life.
Although kebatinan is a predominantly Javanese tradition, it has also
attracted practitioners from other ethnic and religious groups, such
as Chinese and Buddhists, and foreigners from Australia and
Suharto counted himself as one of its
adherents. Their total membership is difficult to
estimate as many of their adherents identify themselves with one of
the official religions.
The Indonesian state ideology strives toward a unified nation,
recognizing only monotheism. Meanwhile, there is also a tolerance for
non-recognized religions. A broad plurality of religions and sects
exist. In the middle of 1956, the Department of Religious Affairs in
Yogyakarta reported 63 religious sects in
Java other than the official
Indonesian religions. Of these, 22 were in West Java, 35 were in
Central Java, and 6 in East Java.
These include also kebatinan-groups, such as Sumarah. This loosely
organized current of thought and practice was legitimized in the 1945
constitution, but failed to attain official
recognition as a religion. In 1973 it was recognized as Kepercayaan
kepada Tuhan Yang Maha Esa (Indonesian:
Belief in One Mighty God),
but withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of
placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and
See also: Tapas (Sanskrit)
A variety of practices is being used in kebatinan to acquire
ilmu[note 4], namely tiraka[note 5] and tapa or
Kebatinan followers practice in their own way to seek spiritual
and emotional relief. These practices are not performed in churches or
mosques, but at home or in caves or on mountain perches.
Javanese culture is a search for inner self wisdom and to gain
physical strength. This tradition is passed down from generation to
There are several tapa:
tapa Ngalong (meditation by hanging from a tree)
tapa Kungkum (
Meditation under small waterfall or meeting point of 2-3
rivers / Tempuran / Tjampuhan)
Fasting is a common practice employed by Javanese spiritualists in
order to attain discipline of mind and body to get rid of material and
pasa Mutih (abstention from eating anything that is salted and
sweetened, only eat/drink pure water & rice),
pasa Senen-Kemis (fasting on Monday-Thursday)
pasa Ngebleng (fasting for a longer period, usually 3-5-7 days)
Kebatinan often implies animistic worship, because it encourages
sacrifices and devotions to local and ancestral spirits. These spirits
are believed to inhabit natural objects, human beings, artifacts, and
grave sites of important wali (Muslim saints). Illness and other
misfortunes are traced to such spirits, and if sacrifices or
pilgrimages fail to placate angry deities, the advice of a dukun or
healer is sought.
Other practices include:
tapa Pati-Geni (avoiding fire or light for a day or days and isolating
oneself in dark rooms),
tapa Ngadam (stand/walk on foot from sunset till sunset, 24 hours in
The rituals carried out on
Mount Kemukus (also known as Sex Mountain)
have also been linked to Kejawen.
Kebatinan and kejawen practices are extensively written about in texts
that are held in the
Sanabudaya library in Yogyakarta, and the main
Kraton Libraries of Solo and Yogyakarta. Many of the
texts are deliberately elliptical so that those who do not work with
either initiates or teachers are unable to ascertain or understand the
esoteric doctrines and practices. In quite a few
cases codified texts with secret systems to "unlock" the meanings are
But according to Bruinessen, the writing down of kebatinan teachings
was a novelty which appeared with the institutinalisation of the
kebatinan-movements in the beginning of the 20th century.
The appearance of formal kebatinan movements reflects the
modernisation of Indonesia.
Kebatinan movements appeared early in
the 1900s in urban traditional elite circles, together with the
rise of nationalism and the Muhammadiyah, a modernist Islamic
movement. Hardopusoro, one of the earliest kebatinan-movements, had
strong links with the Theosophical Society. Some remained very
elitist, while others also accepted lower urban and rural followings,
thereby popularising abangan, or syncretistic Islam, as an alternative
to shari`a-oriented Islam.
After the independence of 1949, the kebatinan received political
support and attracted large followings. Kebatinan-movements were
seen by secular nationalistic elites as allies against the rise of
political Islam. The political struggle between the Muslim parties
and the Communists and Nationalists lead to a sharper demarcation
between syncretistic and shari`a-oriented Islam, whereby most
kebatinan movements affiliated with the Communist or Nationalist
Umbrella organisations representing several hundred kebatinan
organisations, lobbied to attain legitimacy and recognition as an
official religion. They are registered at the HKP (Himpunan
Penghayat Kepercayaan), which is controlled by the PAKEM (Pengawas
Aliran Kepercayaan Masyarakat). After the Suharto-era
(1967-1998), the kebatinan-movements lost political support, and
have become less dynamic, their adherents avoiding public
Altogether several hundred kebatinan-groups are or have been
registered, the best-known of which are:[note 8]
Main article: Subud
Subud was founded in the 1920s by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. The
Subud was first used in the late 1940s when
Subud was legally
registered in Indonesia. The basis of
Subud is a spiritual exercise
commonly referred to as the latihan kejiwaan, which was said by
Muhammad Subuh to be guidance from "the Power of God" or "the Great
Life Force". The aim of
Subud is to attain perfection of character
according to the will of God. Only when passion, heart and mind
are separated from the inner feeling is it possible to make contact
with the "Great Life Force" which permeates everywhere.
Subud is formed from the words susila ("the good character of
man"), budhi ("the force of the inner self") and dharma
("trust in God"). These words are derived from the Sanskrit words
suzila, bodhi and dharma.[web 3]
Muhammad Subuh saw the present age as one that demands personal
evidence and proof of religious or spiritual realities, as people no
longer just believe in words. He claimed that
Subud is not a new
teaching or religion but only that the latihan kejiwaan itself is the
kind of proof that humanity is looking for. He also rejected the
Subud as a kebatinan organization. There are now
Subud groups in about 83 countries, with a worldwide membership of
Sumarah was formed in the 1930s by Pak Hardo, Pak Sadina and Pak
Sutadi, without a formal organisation. In those early days, the
younger members were taught kanoman, occult practices including
invulnerability for knives and guns. This was regarded as essential in
the struggle against the Dutch colonial powers. Around 1950, when
Indonesia becale an independent nation, Sumarah was streamlined and
organised by dr. Surono. The emphasis shifted from magic to "surrender
to God". From 1957 on internal struggles surfaced between dr.
Surono and the founders Pak Hardo and Pak Sadina, leading to a change
in leadership by dr. Ary Muthy in 1967.
Sumarah theology maintains that humankind's soul is like the holy
spirit, a spark from the Divine Essence, which means that we are in
essence similar to God. In other words, "One can find
oneself," a belief similar to the "I=God" theory found in
According to Sumarah theology, man and his physical and spiritual
world are divided into three parts:
The physical body and brain. One section, Sukusma, governs the
passions. In the brain, the faculty of thinking has two functions:
To record memories
To serve as a means of communion with God
The invisible world, which is situated within the chest. It is the
Jiwa, the ineffable soul, which provides the driving forces governing
thought and reason. It is here that the deeper feeling (Rasa) is
The more elusive and sublime world. The most elusive and sublime world
is hidden somewhere near the anatomical heart.
Sumarah's conception of
God is different from Islam. It has a
pantheistic vision of reality, considering
God to be present in all
Pangestu was founded in 1949. Its doctrine was revealed in 1932 to
Sunarto Mertowarjoyo, and written down in the Setat Sasangka Djati by
R.T. Harjoparakowo and R. Trihardono Sumodiharjo Pangastu. It
describes the way to obtain wahyu, the blessing of God.
Dharma was founded in 1952 by Harjo Sapura, after he received a
revelation. According to Sri Pawenang, it was God's wish to
provide the Indonesian people with a new spirituality in atime of
crisis. Its aim is to free man of his passions.
According to Sapta
Dharma teachings, suji (meditation) is necessary to
pierce through different layers of obstacles to reach Semar, the
guardian spirit of Java. Theory and practice resemble Hindu
Kundalini yoga, aiming at awakening the Kundalini energy and guiding
it through the chakras.
Majapahit Pancasila[note 9] was founded by W. Hardjanta
Pardjapangarsa. It is based in Javanese Hindu-yogic practices,
c.q. Kundalini yoga, rather than Balinese ritual practice as is
prevalent in Parisada
Hindu Dharma. According to Hardjanta, his
meditation practices also lead to invulnerability for knives, daggers
and other weapons.
Spread of kebatinan
Kebatinan beliefs have spread to some parts of Malaysia in which
certain individuals have combined it with
Islamic concepts (e.g.
proclaiming themselves to be new-age
Islamic prophets, but delivering
messages that are a combination of
Islamic and kebatinan beliefs).
This has led to the Malaysian
Islamic authorities declaring elements
of kebatinan to be "syirik" (shirk) and un-Islamic. Kebatinan
Islam are widespread in Malaysia among
practitioners of silat, traditional healers and some preachers (such
Ayah Pin and other self-proclaimed
In the Netherlands, the former colonial power in Indonesia, some
kebatinan-groups are active.
Since the majority of Singaporean Malays are of Indonesian descent,
particularly from Java, many of
Kebatinan are still practiced usually
among older people. However, the practice is still widespread among
Kuda Kepang groups, and also traditional
It was brought to
Suriname by Javanese workers in the late 19th
Javanese sacred places
Mythology of Indonesia
^ Bruinessen: "
Java was converted to
Islam quite late; the process
started seriously around 1500CE, that is, at the time of the great
Alevi rebellions. Adoption of
Islam is perhaps a better term than
conversion, for the Javanese were deliberately syncretistic. For many
of the new Muslims Islam, especially in its
Sufi variety, was a
welcome additional source of spiritual power, not a substitute for
what they already had."
Clifford Geertz made a well-known, though criticised,
threefold distinction between abangan, antri and priyayi.[web 2]
The priyayi are the descendants of the high class and court members,
were gurus taught the Hindu-
Buddhist art of inner cultivation,
which stayed alive in the interior areas of Java. Geertz noticed
that the priyayi play a central role in the teaching of kejawen and
kebatinan to the abangan.
^ Bruinessen: "This third sphere was no doubt in most parts of the
world for many years the one that had by far the greatest numbers of
adherents. It has often been through
Sufism that people from the
heterodox periphery gradually moved towards some degree of conformity
^ knowledge, power
^ "Fasting", "ascetic exercises", "spiritual techniques"
^ "austerity", "spiritual techniques"
^ The relation between religion c.q. "spirituality", politics and
(post-)colonial struggles is not unique to Indonesia. In India, Hindu
reform movements involved both religious and social reforms, for
example the Brahmo Samaj, Vivekananda, who modernised Advaita
Vedanta, Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi. In Buddhist
Buddhist modernism was a response against the colonial
powers and the western culture. In Sri Lanka,
was revitalised in the struggle against the colonial rule. The
Theosophical Society played an essential role here. In
Taixu propagated a Humanistic Buddhism, which is again endorsed
by Jing Hui, the (former) abbott of Bailin Monastery. In Japan,
Buddhism adopted nationalistic politics to survive in the modern era,
in which it lost support from the government. zen was
popularised in the west by adherents of this modern Buddhism,
D.T. Suzuki and Hakuun Yasutani.
^ See  for a longer list of
^ Full "Sanaata
Majapahit Pancasila", acronym "Sadhar
^ a b c d e f g h Ooi 2004, p. 719.
^ a b Caldarola 1982, p. 501.
^ a b c Hooker 1988, p. 196.
^ a b c d e Caldarola 1982, p. 539, note 30.
^ a b Levenda 2011, p. 72.
^ a b c Mulder 2005, p. 16.
^ Oey 2000, p. 58-59.
^ Mulder 2005, p. 17.
^ a b c d e Choy 1999, p. 112.
^ a b Levenda 2011, p. 73.
^ McDaniel 2010.
^ a b c d e f g van der Kroef 1961.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s van Bruinessen 2000a.
^ Epa 2010.
^ a b Mulder 2005.
^ Headley 2004, p. 367-368.
^ Azra 2006, p. 129.
^ a b c d Mulder 2005, p. 15.
^ Mulder 2005, p. 21-22.
^ a b Mulder 2005, p. 21.
^ Mulder 2005, p. 15-16.
^ Mulder 2005, p. 22-24.
^ a b c Choy 1999, p. 109.
^ a b Choy 1999, p. 109-110.
^ a b Choy 1999, p. 110.
^ Masus 2009, p. 148.
^ a b c van Bruinessen 2000b.
^ a b c Choy 1999, p. 107.
^ a b Choy 1999, p. 108.
^ Choy 1999.
^ Masud 2009, p. 148.
^ Choy 1999, p. 111-112.
^ Beatty 1999.
^ a b c Retsikas 2012, p. 179.
^ a b c d Christomy 2008, p. 171.
^ a b c d Hughes-Freeland 2008, p. 189.
^ An adulterous pilgrimage, abc.net.au.
^ a b Musad 2009, p. 148.
^ a b c Senari 2000.
^ Rambachan 1994.
^ a b c McMahan 2008.
^ McMahan 2008, p. 98.
^ Gombrich 1996, p. 185-188.
^ Fields 1992, p. 83-118.
^ Feuchtwang 2010, p. 189.
^ Victoria 2006.
^ Fields 1992.
^ van Bruinessen & Howell 2007, p. 225-226.
^ a b c d van Bruinessen & Howell 2007, p. 226.
^ a b c d e f g Choy 1999, p. 116.
^ a b c d Choy 1999, p. 118.
^ a b c Choy 1999, p. 119.
^ Hunt 2003, p. 122.
^ a b c d Choy 1999, p. 115.
^ a b c Choy 1999, p. 114.
^ a b c d e Choy 1999, p. 117.
^ Choy 1999, p. 116-117.
^ a b Research School of Pacific Studies 1980, p. 217.
^ a b Tarling 1992, p. 563.
^ Choy 1999, p. 122.
^ Renard 2010.
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SUMARAH: A STUDY OF THE ART OF LIVING
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