Here are yet more Balinese and Indonesian words with complex ideas behind them which are unique to that part of the world. Vacationers in Bali, no matter how casual, would benefit from getting to know some of these concepts, because they express ideas that are both uncommon to the Western world-view and indelibly embedded into Balinese society.
Rasa – The feeling evoked by a work of art.
Arts in Bali and most of Indonesia have a trait that is peculiar to Western thought: they may be overwhelmingly sad, scary, erotic, or humorous, to the point of making the work itself a caricature. Don’t be confused by this over-bold statement; this is actually the “rasa”, a Sanskrit word that’s seen as a quality to strive for. There’s some dozen of them, and they’re meant to invoke different Hindu gods and even have chakra colors associated with them. For instance, a statue of a conquering warrior might invoke the “viram rasa”, associated with the deity Indra and the color yellow.
Maya – The illusion of life, and the life of illusion.
This is one of the most difficult concepts to express in any Western frame of reference. It is tied in with the Buddhist concept of the word “mu” – Briefly, since both Hindu and Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that this world is basically a shadow-play on the canvas of our minds (in the big scheme of things, anyway), “maya” is a reminder that we shouldn’t get so wrapped up in our perceptions of the world, because we humans have a bottomless capacity for self-delusion. If this hurts, just don’t think about it too much.
Nadi – A trance in which you inhabit another dimension.
Tied in with beliefs in Hinduism and especially yoga, a “nadi” is a spiritual trace-state associated with meditation. It comes into play during singing and dancing performances – the performers may very well appear to go into a trance, letting their performance totally absorb them. In the Western world, actors might call this “method acting”, deliberately inhabiting a separate personality of your character.
Halak – A spirit guide that appears to you in dreams.
Anybody who has dreamed about a long-lost friend or loved one can relate to this odd experience, but the Indonesians take this one step further – when a person appears to you in a dream and gives you advice, they believe that you should listen to it and follow it, because it’s literally a spirit visiting from heaven.
Adjal – The predestined day of one’s death.
This is a typically Hindu idea. They believe that not only should you have a “birthday”, but a “deathday” as well, and this Indonesian word conveys the concept. Just like the rest of us visit the grave of a loved one to remember them, the Balinese may mark the anniversary of one’s passing with ceremonies or rituals. They also believe that all deaths are inevitable pre-destiny, recorded somewhere in the schemes of their many gods.
Dharma – One’s predestined path in life, in the scheme of the universe.
This is one of the core concepts of Hindu beliefs, affecting everything from social castes to public policy. It isn’t merely a sense of duty to one’s country or community; the belief is that to avoid fulfilling one’s dharma inevitably brings chaos and dischord to oneself and everyone around them.
Insaf and Masa Bodoa – Politically active and politically passive.
“Insaf” is an Indonesian word, while “Masa Bodoa” comes from Java. “Insaf” is a word we Westerners might use to mean “activist”, “crusader”, “demonstrator”, “missionary”, or any of those. Someone willing to act with commitment for a cause they believe in. “Masa Bodoa”, on the other hand, is to respond to these needs (and the people advocating for them) with a shrug. People in the West who wav their hand and say “I don’t follow politics” are expressing masa bodoa.