Temple Groove

My island-to-island excursions aren’t just about playing with small children. I’ve also got big plans to kick off my exploration of the churches, temples, mosques and holy sites draped across this side of civilization. There are a mind-blowing number, each shining a divine spotlight onto the age, style and mojo of the period. The fundamental essence varies dramatically from site to site, each distinct sanctuary providing a journey within a journey. Having found recreational pursuits more important than geographical or historical throughout most of this lifetime, my personal temple-dance gleefully removes the necessity of lengthy explanation and guilt derived from scant retention.

One of my favorite aspects of this side-trip does not involve averting the stares of creepy gargoyles or traipsing through the playgrounds of the Gods. It is the ride on the public boat that bookends this outing on either side. There is an opening that occurs between islanders and travelers when the buying and selling stops. Riding with locals through their villages or in this case across the sea to their island home, allows separateness to dissipate and natural curiosity to win over. A genuine interest in features, clothing and demeanor are entertained and for one brief moment in time, a common destiny is shared.

The wooden boat is filled with baskets overflowing with everything from smoked fish to textiles — and no local bus, boat or even pushcart would be complete without a chicken. You’ve got to have the chicken or the experience just isn’t authentic. After we anchor, I wade ashore, assure the dozen taxi drivers that I do indeed have transport and then catch a horse-drawn cart to a waiting car.

After visiting the children’s center, my day consists of a handful of temple tours. These are the first I’ve explored since my arrival in a precautionary attempt to pace myself, as I have been known to contract severe cases of temple-overload. The symptoms include extreme drowsiness, glazed eyes, and lulling beeeeeep, flatlining throughout my brain. This comforting white-noise replaces all useful thought and is accompanied by shortness of attention span and slight agitation.

Fortunately for my condition, Pura Lingsar is the first site we visit and also where I receive the most elaborate education. After tying the red sash around my waist I am greeted by Yuda, who introduces himself as a temple guide. He’s wearing a black button-down shirt that on closer inspection, bears three red, green and yellow, Rastafarian patches. I happily accept his assistance and we begin our stroll. Crossing the path between two natural lily ponds toward the lush, expansive grounds he explains that the temple is unusual in that both Sasak Muslims and Hindus share the space — with a spoonful of Confucianists mixed in for good measure. Continuing our religious discussion I am led to the vast temple pools; there are two, one for men and one for women, utilized for washing and bathing with a separate area for drawing drinking water.

Next, I am directed toward the gates to the temple itself and instructed to enter between the two creepy guys holding batons (their checkered skirts make them appear much less ominous); Yuda waits outside. The strategy I employ for getting my temple-groove on is to step inside and allow my senses to guide me. I have found that places, like people, emanate a vibe and there is tremendous strength in the energy emitted from holy sites. Each is unique and by sitting quietly, a harmonizing little dance occurs between my self and the surrounding space. Once comfortable, I simply chill out for a spell and allow the experience to run its course.

The religious beliefs within Indonesia are a severe mix, with six official religions recognized by the government. Islam is predominating with Hinduism and Buddhism representing the minority. Having experienced the extremes between the Muslim culture in Sumatra and concentration of Hindus in Bali, it’s the harmony observed on the streets of the smaller islands however, that impart the consummate lessons. There is an unspoken understanding; behavior is more meaningful than faith, and humanity, more important than doctrine. And Pura Lingsar is a luminous star lighting the way of religious acceptance, proving it makes no difference on which side of the boat we sit.

~ by Christine Fowle