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Sekala dan Nikala - The Seen and The Unseen

by Hana K , at 7:29 PM
Visitors to the Bali paradise Isle, no matter how long they stay, can hope to see no more than half of bali's fabled charms. However many dance and drama spectales they attend or colorful rituals they witness, they are only viewing one facet of the Island of the Gods. The Balinese call this the Sekala, the compenent for world that you can see, hear, and feel. There is another, unseen world which the Balinese consider to be as much a part of their daily live as lush rice fields and dramatic dance, the realm of the spirits who can and do exert a benevolent or baleful influence on worldly events.

Sekala dan Nikala
The concept of Sekali and Niskala lies at the heart of Balinese philosophy. Literally. the words mean respectively 'of time' and 'out of time' in the Balinese language. The black and white checked pattem on the poleng cloth draped around religious icons as a sympbol of divinity reflects the dual, interdependent nature of seen and unseen worlds. The primary pupose of Balinese life, the reason for the endless cycles of public ritual and private obsevance, is to maintain a harmonious balance between the worlds of Sekala and Niskala; to care for the soul as well as the body.

In temple ceremonies, penjor, bamboo poles weighted at the tip so they resemble the bent stalks of rice ready for harvest, call gods to earth to receive offerings of gratitude and devotion. each morning. saiban, simple offerings of rice and cut coconut leaf, are placed on ground near entranceways to placate demons. In these routine obsevances the Balinese demonstrate that they recognize the existance of Niskala and that neither the gods nor demons need fear that they will be neglected for forgetten.

During some occasions, however, the worlds of skala and Niskala meet. and, for a time, become indistinguishable. During powerful, scared perfoemances such as the calonarang dance, which dramatizes the relationship between good and evil, order and chaos, the unseen powers assume almost tangible form, and can wreak havoc if not controlled by player and meditation. In trance events. participants enter an altered state of conciousness, in thrall to benevolent or demonic forces. These are some of the most dramatic - and disturbing - spectacles in Bali. Theyrange from the scenes of charm and beauty like the sanghiang dedari, in which two preteen girls with no previous training dance in perfect synchroniztion of their fluid, precise movements; to enactments of demonic decaptiate live animals with one bite to the neck.

Sekala and Niskala also meet in deceptivelu domestic surroundings when a Balinese, who is physically ill, emotionally distressed, or facing a a major life decision visits a balian. Balinese shaman, who can be either men or women, balian are believed are to have a direct connection to Niskala through a particular spirit who had assisted them during a previous grave illness of life threatning experience. For a fee or some other consideration they can call upon the benecolent sprit to offer advice, channel healing energies, or predict the future.

While commonly considered as and unseen mystic realm, Sekala-Niskala can be used to rafer to any dichotomy of outward appearance versus inner nature, for example, social conduct and private desire. The Balinese are often described as being able to peer into another's soul, to judge their true nature at a glance. In fact they are determining whether a person's Sekala aspect - appearance, words, and deeds -  is accordance with what they perceiveto be his or her inner character. If they sense discordance, then that person is not to be trusted.

Whether the unseen world has an objective existence or is simply a metaphor is a question best left to priests and philosophers. Nevertheless, the whole-hearted belief of millions of Balinese in a parallel world that Gods and proves, once again, that in Bali, what you see is not always that you get.

Hana K
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Sekala dan Nikala - The Seen and The Unseen - written by Hana K , published at 7:29 PM, categorized as article
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