woensdag 9 september 2015

The nice guardians of the huge sleeping Buddha of Bejijong

Between 2 and 7 September 2015 I was in Manado for AICIS, the great Annual International Conference on Islamic Studies. I met again many former students and colleagues among the more than 1000  participants. One of them was Muhsinin Cholish, who with six colleagues from STITNU Al Hikmah (an NU related Theological Academy in Mojokerto) published his research about the majority Muslim village of Bejijong, close to Trowulan/Mojokerto. It is believed that close to the old centre of the Kingdom of Majapahit here the largest Buddhist temple must have been. A small Vihara was opened (the book mentions three monks), with a huge sleeping Buddha, 22 metre. Among the 3.874 citizens of this village there are 18 Protestants, one Hindu and 8 Buddhists. Musinin and friends published a very interesting book about the relations between the Buddhists and the Muslims.
The book with the title Interelasi Muslim-Buddhis di Maha Vihara Majapahit. Kajian Pendidikan Multikultural (314 pages, published by the LP3M of the STITNU) has a long theretical introduction.  Chapter three elaborates on the small conflicts of 1987-1990 when the compound was built and the monks bought ground from the farmers. (page 153 about some conflicts. The monks paid more for the ground than was usual in this region). Some Muslims were afraid that the project would turn into a process of weakening of Islam. But the monks were wise: they hired quite a few villagers for guards, cleaners, keepers of the compound. Especially from Surabaya, but also from other places visitors came for a pilgrimage and this gave money for parking, foodstalls, so the population was happy.
The monks also stimulated a dancing and a gamelan group that has already won prices and holds exercises in the monastery. Villagers are now proud of the new attraction. Especially a Waisak (here interpreted as one day for three events: birth, illumination and death of Siddharta Gautama) thousands will come.
The monks are keen in visiting sick in their neighbourhood. They also divide food, oil, sugar, basic elements in the kitchen to the poor, material they receive from their guests.
The book has a very detailed description of (very many!) Muslim activities in the village. It shows the Muslim orthodoxy: Majlis Taklim, Idul Fitr, Tamatan al-Qur'an (reading the Qur'an in full in one day), connected with Islamic lessons also arisan, mutual help. It sounds all very orthodox, but pages 162-163 mention slametan, a ritual sedekah bumi, when once a year gifts are presented to the ancestors who built the village, slametan on 1 Sura (New Year). At the slametan the kaum or fomal leaders of prayers in the mosquehave Javanese prayers that end with nggih, and Arab ones where the answer is amin.  Small presents of food (saji) are often given tot he ancestors. If Bob Hefner asks 'where are the abangan gone?' we must suggest that he comes to Bejijong, where among majority 'orthodox' Islam also Javanese traditions continue.
Also the Buddhist rituals and other activities are described in much detail.
The Buddhists of Bejijong are classified as Buddhayana, which means that they follow the three major branches of Buddhism together: we would say, ecumenical Buddhists with elements from Theravada, Mahayana and Tantrism. In fact the great celebrations concern the festivities of the Buddha Gautama and Kwan Im.
The villagers know when Buddhist festivals and prayers start and therefore will stop their loudspeakers (a mosque is very close to the Vihara) when the Buddhist start their prayers.
There is some pullition of noise (pollusi suara) but no open confrontation. The book is very well written, full with facts and in a nearly rosy positive way. Thank you Muhsinin for giving this tome. I turned happy while reading this during the long flight from Singapore to Amsterdam.

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