CAVE MEDITATION

gua lawang

LEYEP LAYAP LIYEPING ALUYUT

MOVING FROM OUTER TO INNER SELF TO REACH WISDOM

In Javanese Kejawen spiritual worldview a recurrent concept states that the human body and mind can be seen as a microcosmos (jagad cilik) of the Universal macrocosmos (jagad gédé). For practitioners of this cosmic view of life it means being connected with the environment and the world around us. As a result of spiritual beliefs, many traditional communities indeed throughout the world have given a special status to natural sites such as mountains, rivers, lakes, caves, forest groves, coastal waters and entire islands. Many of these have been set aside as sacred places. The reasons for their sacredness are diverse. They may be perceived as abodes of deities and ancestral spirits; as sources of healing water and plants; places of contact with the spiritual, or communication with the ‘more than human’ reality; and sites of revelation and transformation. Spirituality is born of this view and conception by which all beings that exist in and with Mother Nature possess life and are interrelated. Spirituality is linked to the sense of community, where beings are interconnected and interdependent in their existence.

In Java too many of the rituals and ceremonies are conducted in natural sites. In fact astral bodies above such as the Moon, the Sun and the stars also part of the sacred site. Javanese spirituals therefore worship water sources, rivers, seas and lakes, mountains, Ibu Pertiwi (Mother Earth), not only because they are the means for our survival, but also because they are a part of ourselves, of our identity as people. Environments are treated as community members, and in many cases, mountains and water resources are sacred for Javanese: they represent their ancestors, they are sources of force, spirituality and their soul. Stewardship of these sites is often of crucial importance to nearby local communities, and consequently, protected area managers need to recognize the importance of shared responsibility for management.

Sacred natural sites often epitomize such cultural and biological diversity and importance due to their dual character in reflecting cultural worldviews and environmental significance. Sacred natural sites are areas where nature, the divine and remembrances come together in special combinations that are particularly meaningful to a community, society or people. Across the DIY Province in particular they are sometimes temple sites (candi), the burial grounds or ascetic hermitages of ancestors (petilasan), places of pilgrimage (ziarah), or sites associated with special events. They can be the abode of deities, nature spirits and ancestors. They can be feared and secret places or they can be benign areas for ceremony, contemplation and meditation allowing communication with the transcendental. Common to most sacred natural sites is that they are areas removed from everyday access and resource use.

As a specific example, we can mention the significance and use of isolated caves for mystical purposes in the Javanese lore and literature which still serve as inspiration for present-day practitioners. The seclusion element of sacred natural sites is illustrated in caves, as they shut out the profane world. Caves can also be doors to an ‘underworld’ or mark the transition from a ‘here’ to a ‘there’. Throughout the Arjunawiwaha story Arjuna spends most of his time in a hermitage cave. In the Dewaruci story Werkudara (Bima) is asked by Durna the felon guru to search for the ‘Water of Life’ in a sacred cave guarded by two huge demons. In the Darmogandul text, being the first inhabitant of the region of Daha (Kediri), Kyai Daha the deceased minister of the King Joyoboyo became its patron; his residence is in the cave Sela Bale on Mount Klotok, an eastern spur of Mount Wilis. His younger brother resides in the volcano Kelut; he sees to it that during eruptions of the Kelut, the lava does not harm the villagers. For Islam Kejawen followers, the Serat Centini text provides guidance to existing caves where in the last phase of the book the hero Amongraga continued his journey visiting various sacred places and caves in East Java and the southern part of Central Java where Javanese ascetics used to live in meditation. Some of these caves located in the Prambanan, Gunungkidul and Parangtritis Beach areas were related to ascetic practices and are indeed very popular tapa (ascèse) spots today. This is obviously the case with the religious complex of Ratu Boko. The presence of meditation caves in the northern part of the compound already suggested that the place was used by hermits or ascetics. Fasting and meditating for forty-day periods, sometimes in caves or forests, are a common concept in this area. The purpose was (and still is) to acquire sakti, “life force” or “power”. A famous rebellious Prince of the Yogyakarta Kraton, Diponegoro who waged several battles against the Dutch Colonizers, acquired unusual spiritual power (kasekten) through meditation at isolated caves near the south coast and was reputed for his recurrent retreats in these natural hermitages.

Philosophically speaking, the cave is a silent place ideal for spiritual contemplation by anyone wishing to purify his mind. The atmosphere reminds one of being a fetus inside the mother’s womb. The mother cares and transfers life-force to her child in a genuine selfless manner, providing and stimulating the various early dynamic processes of the child’s life. The caves are considered as reenacting this process of pure life injection and re-birth, through the stages of calmness of mind (nyepi) and desires reaching an anticipated state of consciousness clarity (keheningan). Moving as such the more subtle astral bodies of the practitioner connect and meddle in the ghaib (metaphysical) realms where it is believed that higher realizations and knowledge can be attained. Here the deep Self ultimately apprehends a state of Universal Wisdom (Wijaksono adil Paramarta) and the new identity known as Sang Jumeneng Sepuh will provide answers, no longer questioning. This gradual process of elevated consciousness is named LEYEP LAYAP LIYEPING ALUYUT.

Moko Pramusanto & Patrick Vanhoebrouck

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