Accepted Paper:

In search of spirituality: aspects of individual experience in Balinese Hinduism  


Annette Hornbacher (University of Heidelberg)

Paper Short Abstract:

The paper investigates the desire for spiritual experience as a new and dynamic aspect of Balinese Hinduism, which was often described as a standardized ritual orthopraxy for which spiritual or philosophical immersion and other forms of intimate and individual experience were meaningless.

Paper long abstract:

Bali's religious traditions have been described as a set of highly standardized ritual practices for which philosophical immersion, personal belief or individual experience is irrelevant. According to this assumption, the original Balinese Hinduism can be described as an orthopraxy based on standardized ritual actions as opposed to the religious politics of the Indonesian government that forces its citizens to reinterpret their ritual and cosmological traditions in terms of a modern world religion and thus as a consistent monotheist doctrine. While some scholars expected that this may lead to a shift from Balinese orthopraxy to a scriptural Hindu orthodoxy the Balinese perform their rituals more fervently than ever even though they subscribe to an allegedly universal Hindu religion. I argue therefore that the analytical alternative cannot adequately describe current religious changes in Bali because it ignores the role of individual agency and especially the desire for spiritual experience that has become a crucial aspect of current religious dynamics in Bali.

In my paper I will analyze some aspects of this shift towards spirituality in view of Balinese pilgrimage tours to India and to one of the newly established Balinese ashrams that offer new techniques of individual experience, philosophical studies, personal advice or healing. All of these innovations are usually referred to as 'spiritual'. I will describe these largely ignored aspects of individual religious experience and agency as a new form of religious intimacy that displays a critical stance against both: standardized ritual traditions and a universal Hindu orthodoxy.

Panel P061
Religious trends toward intimacy and revolution