Sumarah Theory

The Source and Substance

    We often have problems with God in the West. We cannot seem to decide what or if God is. God and Santa Claus have a lot in common among our "thinkers": they are concepts useful for managing and manipulating the behavior of the uninitiated. We generally feel uncomfortable even discussing the subject and "believers" are apt to be considered unrealistic and unscientific.
    But God is very simple in Java. God is everything. God is nature is energy is life is death is mind is matter is feeling is thinking is existence is good is evil is all that is. There is nothing else. As Suwondo, who is cited throughout this presentation of Sumarah theory, so clearly states:

Your job is not to define existence, but to open to it and get to know it as it is. Defining, denying or even believing in God is foolish: it is like trying to see by closing your eyes. Kebatinan is the study of opening your eyes to let what there is be seen. The great problem of existence never goes anywhere: it is always right here; we frequently are not.
    There is a famous story about one of the Wali Sanga, the nine Sufi holy men who brought Islam to Java. Seh Siti Jenar was summoned to a council. When he received the summons he told the messengers, "Know, you two, that Siti Jenar does not exist, now it is Allah who appears; report this." He later told the head of the council, "There is no Friday, there is no mosque, only Allah exists. There is nothing other which now has existence." For expressing this Seh Siti Jenar was put to death, but his heresy remains Javanese orthodoxy. His death continues to serve as a reminder of what should always be obvious: you can never be alone; we are here together, small bits of the totality, more or less conscious of what we are about.
    When I first arrived in Java, I was trying to determine the limits of my research; I asked a kebatinan leader from another group some questions. General Harnopidjati looked at me quietly and said, "You'll understand better after you've practiced and gotten some experience." In retrospect, the situation reminds me of trying to learn about swimming by interviewing a swimmer; no matter how much you may intellectually understand about the activity, there is a point you cannot go beyond without getting wet.
    One day Suwondo was asked about God and he threw the question back . The questioner said that God is the light of total love and goodness. Suwondo said that view was all right, but that the practice shows God to be total, not just the good part, but the whole. What is food? Food is what nourishes, not only what tastes good.
    God has many names in Java -- Tuhan Yang Maha Esa, Gusti Allah, Maha Adil, Kang Murbeng Alam, Maha Pendidik, etc. -- but names are just words: experience is primary; words are just for giving and receiving directions. Words can easily confuse: have you ever tried to describe snow to a child from the tropics or the noise and confusion of the city to one from the country? Kebatinan teaches how to open to new experiences and how to receive them accurately. We are going to die here, so we do well to get to know the place as well as possible while we have the chance.  In as much as "God" is a confused jumble of meanings and associations in the West, and the meaning we want is clear, I will use Tuhan to refer to it.
    The acceptance of the direct reception of reality, or Tuhan, as a goal is the first step in the practice. Allowing something to be beyond you is an important tool for relaxing and releasing the fearful, self-important control and separation of the ego. We pretend we are alone and block out great parts of experience to maintain the illusion. You accept, you relax and it affects your health. You pretend your situation less and can pay more attention to the real needs that are present both inside and outside you. Initially you mostly discover how tense you keep yourself, and how much you hurt yourself to demonstrate your power over experience.
    In this opening process, heavy emphasis is placed on "service" (leladi) in Sumarah and the other kebatinan groups in Java. The leaders do not receive material benefits for their time and efforts, though their real contribution is deeply appreciated and "value for value" is always practiced relative to their service. There is status associated with leadership but if you find pleasure in it you are showing your immaturity. Service should not have such coloration. When it does, you are trying to serve your ego and Tuhan at the same time.  Knowingly or unknowingly you are asking for things -- position, wisdom, rectitude, comfort.

    This highlights another emphasis in the practice: you only truly learn from your own experience. It is like any other complex skill -- playing an instrument, speaking a language, driving, typing -- you only really master it when you no longer separate and think about it, when it is simply done and you just watch for things needing correction.
    This joining with rather than separation from what is demands making the ego permeable, which essentially involves your stepping back so that the rest of existence can get in: "It's not me that's aware of Tuhan, but Tuhan who's aware of me" (Dudu aku sing eling pada Allah, ning Allah sing eling pada aku). This perspective restructuring involves an existential reassessment.

You are a little bit of close to nothing. In the practice you learn to cooperate, to serve, to surrender to the totality: Tuhan. Once surrender has arrived, the relationship becomes more active. The awareness comes from the activity itself, not from you somehow separate. This awareness constitutes a kind of support or succor, "aware within protective shelter" (eling dalem pangayoman).
    The process of opening to reality eventually develops into surrender (sumarah) to what you have opened to. This evolution in perspective is viewed as a process inherent in the activity itself: learning how to swim will work wonders on your fear of the water.
    Your life becomes a prayer, a constant prayer that reflects your relationship with existence. The closer you get to "me first," the less proper your prayer becomes. The process of opening reveals the beauty of what you are opening to and this in turn changes your attitude toward existence itself. The relationship that finally comes out in surrender is a return to a childlike, "What is Thy will?" (Panjenengan kersa menapa?) or "What must I do?" (Kedahipun kula kados pundi?) which, depending on your inflection, might also be translated more colloquially as "Now what?" (highlighting the continuing moment we all are) and "Where were we?" (emphasizing the collective character of experience) respectively. In this you are open: it is the attitude of surrender and the only one that does not separate you from reality and bury you in illusions.


    What do your senses report?
    Rasa is the sensing as well as the sense of being: the rasa you experience is what you receive of reality. But rasa is not something you control; rasa is the shared, common sense of being, the affective sea we are all fish in.
    To some extent, what you see depends on what you let in. Basically, the clearer your window, the more accurate your perspective because you can manipulate your reception, and knowingly or unknowingly distort what reaches you. Reflecting this is a receptivity continuum that stretches from spontaneity through various degrees of separation from what is here.
    Clear reception is termed rasa murni, and is the ever present flow of being and sensations that we habitually select from in defining our experiences. When you are no longer selecting, that is rasa murni, the personal interface with reality: "When I am here, Tuhan is not; when Tuhan is here, I am not" (Yen aku ana, Allah ora ana; yen Allah ana, aku ora ana). The more you are controlling and determining your experience, the farther you are from rasa murni. Babies are constantly close to rasa murni as they spontaneously sense what comes to them. We sometimes approach this state during periods of extreme stress: the car spins -- crash, helter-skelter, silence -- you are still alive, breathing deeply and feeling the heat of the sun. Rasa murni is just what is here.
    This immediacy, this spontaneous receptivity and loss of separation from reality is the goal of open psychology; this is where openness is expressed, and the ego is transcended. This is the reality base. Sumarah teaches you how and why not to escape from reality in forming your own version; then through the practice you study your avoidance habits and tendencies and gradually unlearn them.

    "The feeling of feeling" -- the uncensored reception of what the senses report -- is a clear window on now. But in principle, it is like any of the perceptions. For example, if you hear a noise and stop what you are doing to try to identify the source, you are placing your attention in the real situation. That means that you stop whatever you were doing that was interfering with hearing clearly. You do not decide what is present, that is what you find out by listening.
    Of course, you do not control rasa murni, and depending on the time and place, what you receive can vary considerably though the broader frame stabilizes experience. The sense of smell provides a good example of this. Normally you do not smell anything; the air is pure enough so that you do not notice it. But when a really noxious odor comes your way, it cuts through this inattention and you register it. The practice is designed to gradually lower the attention threshold so that you start picking up more of what is coming in and distinguishing it more accurately.
    There is a subtle intensity to the Javanese that can be very wearing to Westerners. They are always watching. Their eyes do not glaze over as they tell you things. Their attention does not wander; they just stay here watching your response, the feeling you are together and the movement of rasa from moment to moment.
    They are conditioned to be sensitive to subtle signals, and to avoid showing signs that intrude on the experience of others. They are like a people who have sensitized their hearing by always speaking to one another very softly. The idea is to avoid departing from the quiet flow of rasa murni and, more importantly, to avoid taking anyone with you if you do.
    If you make a big deal out of  something, you distort it and blow it out of proportion to get attention, and make it harder to see it clearly together. How often do we indulge in such "self-expression" in the West, causing people to take sides and preventing problems from being seen clearly until we calm down and start seeing one another again, rather than causes. Of course, the Javanese method does have limitations when used in contentious, confused social settings; receiving the confusion comes first which can be stultifying.
    The Javanese are calm to start with and tend to depart only minimally from that state: they listen, they watch. There are two fundamental concerns in being here together: first, being what comes to you; and second, letting others be as they are. When the conditions are not simultaneous and present, you have a problem. The Javanese approach to this problem is to stay in the hole between and live and suffer the being into the present. This is the rasa you share with others: the sensing of things together; the quietly united confrontation of what disturbs and keeps us apart; the being here together beginning and ending now.
    It requires a lot of respect and practice to see and be openly together. A lot of checking goes on when the differences in our senses of being are compared and the things that are interfering with reception are examined. Your feelings are not your isolated property; they are part of our capacity to confront reality and part of our problem being here with you. We share much if we feel our common sense.
    The relationship between sensing the world and creating a world with your senses is like that between hearing and talking. If you talk all the time you do not hear much, you do not exchange with others and you do not share with them the hearing of what is here. A brief aside: when I was studying kung fu and a Chinese instructor asked me: "If I did this, what would you do?" He then struck out at me, but he was a little too far away to reach. I went into a defensive position. Said he: "Wrong. Do nothing. I am too far away. Do not commit yourself any more than you have to. Each movement limits the next."
    The Javanese apply this same principle to behavior in general. Maximum capacity to respond to any situation demands complete attention which is this relaxed watchfulness. This "continuous plateau of intensity" has caused interpretational problems for Westerners coming from a closed psychological perspective (see Chapter 2). Bateson and Mead went so far as to attribute a "schizoid" component to Balinese character. However, beyond noting this problem in interpreting Javanese, Balinese and open psychology in general (the inscrutable orientals, etc.), let's look at some real differences between their perspective and ours in precisely this sense.
    When I went to Java, my research was designed to test a hypothesis coming out of research in the States, Culture and Schizophrenia: A Consideration of Ignorance and Information. In short, that work argues "that 'schizophrenia' is founded in problem-solving behavior."

It was just as well that I did not get a chance to do a focused study on Javanese psychopathology: Javanese psychology proved a great deal deeper than I had expected. However, there was ample evidence to support the hypothesis. One of the things associated with problem-solving problems is "unusual" or "uncommon" experiences, sensations you can neither really explain nor find a response to.

The place where the people of Java and Bali show the clearest difference is in their "common range" itself. They live in a much bigger world than we do -- one which we tend to associate with the fantasies of childhood. It is a world with gods and demons, people who are invulnerable -- they bounce cannon balls they throw in the air off their heads, they apply a red hot knife to their tongue, they savagely slice themselves with a sharp knife and do not even show a scratch -- people who see spirits, who can foresee the future, and people who can share your experience with you. These are examples from people who I knew or knew of directly. More important, the Javanese have people close to them who have had such experiences -- usually a relative. This discipline, these capacities, this awful wonder is just a part of  life, a part of life that we in the West have apparently tried to amputate.
    As a result of allowing more to be here, they have much greater flexibility. They can let what we would consider frightfully bizarre experiences come and go with very little to-do. It does not make all that much difference if your uncle can astral travel or your grandfather was able to read your thoughts -- you live with it. They did the best they could; your job is simple -- you do the best you can too, and wait and see what comes of it. Perhaps the most telling example of this was a much more mundane one.
    The Surakarta Justice Department was having an independence day party. The men and women from the office were celebrating the occasion with their families by making speeches, playing games, eating and talking a lot. One of the officers was obviously very nervous when he made his speech. He was shaking and his voice kept cracking throughout the presentation. But he bore with it and carried on to the end with no pretension or shirking: just the honest agony of someone doing something that they do not like and not liking the way they are doing it. It was one of the bravest things I have seen in a long time.
    He was not the only nervous performer, just the most obvious; but the reaction of the "Justice Family" was stunning. They received him (and one another's nervous speeches in general) the way we might if our own child were doing it, bearing his fear and doing his honest best. They did not turn away or fuss; they just listened respectfully, and when he had finished, the next speaker came out.
    The common terms of address in some Western countries for older/younger relationships are uncle or aunt to niece or nephew. In Java they are nuclear family relationships -- father or mother to son or daughter, older brother or sister to younger brother or sister. These are not empty terms. One consequence of this "family" tightness is a measure of mutual acceptance that we reserve for these relationships per se. As a result, incidents like the one at the party do not stand out either for the speaker or the spectators -- "You are one of us. Remember that we care for you and that we try hard too."
    A recent World Health Organization study found that schizophrenics suffered milder episodes and had quicker recovery rates in traditional than in industrialized societies, as well as emphasizing the importance of family and milieu in the course of the problem. In Java at any rate, I would also emphaze a difference in labeling -- to the Javanese, these intense, uncommon experiences are clearly connected with psychological and spiritual maturation. I encountered many examples of this.
    Suwondo suffered from a phobic mental disturbance for many years (as will be discussed further in the next chapter). He frequently finds it a useful window for seeing others clearly and a source of illustrations. As he often says, "Bitter experiences can be good. You add to your experience and your capacity to understand others."
    Pak Subuh is the founder of  Subud, one of the largest Javanese kebatinan groups and one of the few with international chapters. He went through a period of over a year of withdrawal and strange behavior and experience before coming out to found the group with the message and knowledge he had received.
    No stigma was attached in either case. This openness-suffering-derangement-maturation process is a part of the Hindic (and Sufi Islamic) tradition. The sutapa, hermit monks, go off into the wild to find strength and wisdom and guidance by exposing themselves to reality without the cushion of community. As well as the tradition, sutapa are also superman-type comic book heroes for Javanese boys, with the difference that you too can find wisdom and strength and help to set things straight in your own way as have so many before you. It is an attainable dream with dedication, discipline and self-abnegation, so profoundly unlike our comic book heroes.
    This secluded practice of tapa (fasts and abstinences) still goes on, though less than it once did. Solo used to be called "the city that never sleeps" as a result of all these activities, and at night some still meditate in graveyards or immersed in springs or rivers. Others seclude themselves in caves with the help of locals who bring them a bit of rice and water every day.
    The Javanese take good care. They take good care of their bodies, their neighbors, their community and their rasa. We have come to where we can begin to examine the great divide between maturation and ego psychology, between the open and the closed, using the didactic heuristic the Javanese have given us. If we return to the chariot and the four horses, we might understand the situation better than if we try to stretch any of our behavior models to the task.
    Let's simplify the four horses. They are the four aspects of our relationship with existence in a total sense: first, "taking" (aluamah), the desires associated with keeping your body fed and comfortable; second, "disputing" (amarah), the problem of keeping track of what affects you and letting sources of disturbance know about their influence in one way or another; third, "cooperating" (supiah), being with others and letting others be with you without trying to control or define them; and fourth, "giving" (mutmainah), serving without reservations, trying to help and return some of the bounty you have been granted.
    These are the four horses: taking, disputing, cooperating and giving. They are all just as necessary to a healthy group as they are to a healthy individual. The big difference between open and closed psychology, between Java and the West, is that all four aspects of our existential situation are obvious in Java, while in Western society we generally only see the taking and the disputing. This is the rasa divide. As a result, the game theory-like ideas of interaction and existence that come from a locked, disputing perspective do not work in interpreting groups with all four horses actively working together; however, their four-horse perspective can certainly comment on our circumstances.
    In a social situation where the expression of the two broader desires becomes excessively painful and prejudicial, they atrophy and emphasis goes onto the two aspects that can at least still be partially controlled: taking and disputing. You cannot control the cooperation or the giving of others, but you can fill your stomach and argue with anyone who interferes with your creature comforts. When this happens, two predictable sets of problems come out.
    The first problems come from the other side, the open side of the divide: the rasa of common sense does not fit into the disputive perspective of  the bumper sticker: "I'm the best, fuck the rest." The barrier between the closed and open perspective is locked by the disputive aspect: "Nothing exists that I cannot control and if I cannot control it then it does not really exist." This is the general Western response to such inexplicable phenomena as the Balinese Barong ceremony where the trance-state dancers turn their kris, their daggers, against their chests and strain to drive the point in, but only succeed in bowing the blade with their efforts. This is a traditional village cleansing rite throughout Bali, not a circus performance of  legerdemain. It is still done, though not very willingly with tourists present. Westerners cannot accept such things. We cannot do them, do not really want to try and even though Bateson and Mead made a movie of the Barong ceremony which includes the kris rite, we are rather more inclined to ignore such things than to try to explain why we cannot explain them.
    Such things provide a kind of cult fascination for some Westerners -- the thrill of extrasensory perception, the crystal ball, UFO's and the supernatural -- just deciding you believe in them is a protest, an assertion of your right to be eccentric.
    The Javanese do not pretend such things. The minute you start believing, you lose the capacity to be open to what is here.

The idea of the "supernatural" does not make any sense. There are things about Nature that we understand and there are things about Nature that we do not understand: that does not make any of it supernatural. Even if you can walk on burning coals, sleep on nails, stop your heart from beating and levitate: so what? Our basic problem remains the same and too many people have had experiences like that in Java for anybody to get excited about them.

While some of the groups do teach ngraga sukma (astral travel), Sumarah emphasizes other things and such experiences are regarded much as are emotions -- a part of reality to be accepted and received accurately, but not to be indulged in or distracted by.

    The second problem comes from this side, the closed side of  the divide. Over there are all the monsters we do not want to recognize; over here we have the monsters that come from not recognizing them. Specifically, the biggest problems come from the perversion of the energies associated with cooperating and giving. In individuals or groups whose confusion and unhappiness with their situation cuts them off from rasa murni and reality, the two denied horses have characteristic modes and media for expression. Cooperation comes out in an overemphasis on sex, whether in forbidding or exalting it, it is distorted and used as an escape. Sex is the aspect of the tools associated with cooperation that can most easily be manipulated. Giving comes out in fanaticism connected with the body, whether in destroying it through neglect or abuse (the use of drugs and other pick-me-ups can come in here), or in using it to destroy others for their "own good", of course, through fanaticism or because some "higher purpose" demands it. The body is the most manageable and manipulable of the tools of giving.
    Moving away from here on the rasa continuum, we have gone from rasa murni (which is here) through rasa (which is close to here) and now, across the divide, we first come to rasa bungah-susah or emosi. These are our manipulated emotions with their attendant ups and downs, and rasa bungah-susah means precisely that, "feeling happy-sad." This is where trying to decide if feelings are honest or not becomes a real problem. This is where we contemplate and calculate and manipulate our feeling state until we are likely to forget that honest feelings exist.

    One of the ways our versions of reality come back to us is that we get stuck with our own knowing or unknowing lies. They do not release. They are never allowed to sort themselves out and be the way they really are. Such unfaced material is a source of tension. Situations that touch on it excite it and bring back the tone and the tension and the self-justification. Unreleased intense material that is frequently excited is a source of illness.

    With old age, this unfaced material can become a very serious problem. The freedom from reality that you gave to your lies gives them an independence that can overpower you. You no longer have the youthful energy needed to push yourself into the present. Your senility takes you away into your version of things, never changing, never real and never here: you come to be the slave of your unfaced lies, confusion and fears and burden the people around you with the same dreary stories over and over again.
    This isolated rasa completes the continuum that went from the rasa of being here, rasa murni, to the locked rasa of not being here which is most actively expressed at the ignoble end of the continuum in golek penak ("seeking pleasure" - hedonism), when you are eventually lost in obsessions of control of one kind or another or in senility. The Javanese have a real fear of losing one another behind these walls of illusion. They start to teach feet-on-the-ground humility very early. The Kancil Tales are a part of this vital education. They are Uncle Remus-type stories that center on a kancil, a mouse deer. The two basic stances of open and closed psychology are alternatively taken by the kancil and then by the other protagonists. Whoever is closed, proud and disputive in the story always comes to grief and proves himself a fool. In one story the kancil uses the conceit of a dog to escape from a trap that the kancil's pride got him into. In the next a community of snails teach him a lesson in humility by (apparently) defeating him in a race. His pride got him into the contest and their cooperation outwitted and defeated him.
    This is one of the first lessons Javanese children learn: when you make much of yourself, you become a fool, seeing only your own lies in the mirror of your pride and/or evil and lost in believing them.


    Cogito, ergo sum.
    We have enshrined thought in the West. We use it to manipulate our feelings; we use it to manipulate the world; we try to control our experience to our pleasure by thinking. We do not understand very much about thought in the West simply because we think too much. The kind of thought you experience is connected with the rasa continuum, and it is in this connection that the influence of how far you are removed from the present becomes obvious. The Western notion of thinking is fundamentally removed. How much thinking can you do if you are really paying attention? How much is thought present?
    Let's begin with what we are most familiar with -- our kind of thinking, pikiran. Pikiran is properly time spent absorbed in examining and trying to solve some problem. If you do it all the time, then it becomes a problem itself and it is one you cannot think your way out of.

What are we doing when we are thinking and there is really nothing to be thinking about? Thought is one of the tools we use to control what we see and feel. In part we just keep ourselves busy creating and living behind a kind of thought screen. We do not relate to the world; we relate to the world we create. Thus, we have the power to choose what we see and do  not see to some extent. But if this is done in excess you cut yourself off from reality. This picking and choosing means that we do not see what is here clearly. We are alone, playing with ourselves, and afraid to be here simple and plain. Our fantasies would be exposed and our control lost.
    Recent Western art and literature largely reflect this. The benumbed horror of this isolation turns into the deeper fear that we might actually succeed in cutting ourselves off, or worse yet, that there really is nothing real and substantial out there, and that life "all a dream -- a grotesque and foolish dream".
    The hedonism (golek penak) that underlies this problem involves harboring pleasant experiences and denying unpleasant ones. Mechanically, you place your energy and attention in pleasant associations and return to them again and again. At the same time you remove energy and attention from the present situation and unpleasant experiences in general and do not go back to them unless you have to. In either case you distort these experiences and remove them from their real context -- you never face them and let them be.
    In a real sense these experiences have become problems, and the mechanisms for examining them -- both by thinking about and feeling them again -- start to work on these holes to bring them into the present. If you are beyond the rasa divide in closed psychology, you probably do not want to either lose the control that you have over your present experience by selecting where your attention is going to be, or to confront the experiences honestly and thus lose control over them altogether as they disappear into reality. Getting your triumphs and tragedies into real perspective is not pleasant work to start with, and you lose the option of playing with them when you do. The thrill is gone, if you will, and you cannot go back and wallow in them: they are already here.
    If you have this habit, you have to keep moving from one personal distortion to another. If you stay at a "party" too long, the reality denied in calling it up begins to assert itself and the feeling goes bad. You can use positive or negative experiences in this way, it does not much matter -- your intention is not to accept them for what they are in any case.

    This brings out the two directions you can go from this common predicament. You can face the experiences and let them be as they are ("make your peace" as the old expression advises in preparing for death), or you can devote yourself to defending the distortions through self-justification or auto-flagellation of one kind or another.
    You can get to these experiences either through thinking about them or through the feeling itself. Your present situation may generate a similar rasa and evoke recollections and ideas and generate behavior based on previous, undigested experiences. You may also think yourself into an associated feeling state irrespective of the current situation. Whether the former or the latter be the case, you are among the missing when this happens: "When I am thinking, I am not here; when I am here, I am not thinking."
    Anger gives another good, common example of this problem. Someone does something that angers you, you remember other things they have done before that rubbed you wrong, and you come back to the present situation angrier still. The anger-present feeds on the anger-past and it works itself into a kind of firestorm. You can go in the other door as well. You recall something that made you angry, your heart starts to race again, and you go through a fantasized, generally devastating and satisfying, response. In either case you are locked in the response and are not going to the source with the intention of confronting the problem and actually solving it. It is out of proportion and it is rather fun being angry: it lets you feel righteous and gets your circulation going. The problem is that the problem itself remains untouched and you have become a part of it with an interest in keeping it unsolved. Later on the mechanisms involved in properly resolving such situations come clear, but initially the issue is bringing them into the present and letting them be what they are.
    Another place where this tandem relationship frequently comes out is in sexual contacts. Sexual fantasies are powerful stuff. There is an awful lot of energy there to be played with. The power of simple sexual attraction itself can become a distraction and fog your windows.

    Becoming open does not mean that you no longer feel anger or hunger or sexual desire. It does mean that you learn not to get absorbed in fantasizing about things, and that your responses become more honest and present. You also learn that you hurt yourself in many ways that you were unaware of when you were drifting off in your vapors.

    So the thought continuum is parallel to the rasa continuum. They can interact with one another, interfere with one another and sometimes get so tangled up together that honest reception and reality itself become a murky memory you are not really interested in recalling more clearly. There are locked emotions associated with compulsive thought, or locked emotions associated with thought's loss of the power to influence feeling. The associated pathological conditions -- obsession, manic episodes, depression, schizophrenia, senility, etc. -- are all connected with problems of not being here. They have inspired a lot of people to study open psychology in Java.

The Rasa and Thought Continua

    Let's now go the other direction. What happens to our kind of thought, pikiran, when you come towards rather than withdraw from the present? What happens to thinking as you get closer to here and now? As with the rasa continuum, this part of the thought continuum is rather off our two-horse system's map: it is beyond the rasa divide. We have pikiran which is a tool for solving problems through examination in a kind of context-free isolation. When this tool is abused we get a kind of confused tangle of thought and feeling and the loss of reality reference that we just discussed.
    On the other side of the divide, we first come to angen-angen which is thought that comes out of the hole that separates a position from the present. You hold a confusion here quietly and information comes -- it is not controlled or linear or predictable -- out of the silence. This is the stuff of inspiration. If you try to write a poem or do creative work in general, you start with a feeling and you let the felling find and bring out the words of its own expression. You do not write a poem, you are present and participate in its writing. If you force it, it may be clever but it is no longer poetry.
    Angen-angen is also the thoughts that come to you as you let go and are falling asleep, and the thoughts that come to you and awaken you while you are sleeping. When it comes, it arises from outside your knowledge, an answer to a question you feel, but an answer that comes from accepting the problem to be beyond you, opening to it and letting it find its own expression.
    You do not set out to find angen-angen the way you purposely employ pikiran to solve a problem: you wait with the problem for angen-angen to come to you. Pikiran is active and directional and noisy. Angen-angen is passive and patient and quiet. Evidently, this is what Hecate is referring to in saying: "How is it that we think? It's by facing a problem and letting a solution come to us out of reality". You do not pretend to truly know the problem, nor do you pretend to delimit or define the natural result of being here with it. This sounds rather romantic but its application is rigorous and scientific. This is the science of intuition, but more, it is the science of receptivity and the study of rasa.
    This is the first level of thought on the open side of  the rasa divide. There are many more beyond it as you gradually approach here. As we will see later, this is where many interactive kinds of information become available including some mentioned above such as "the Inner Voice," "checking" and "the True Teacher."
    For now we will content ourselves with a look at the True Teacher, in part to introduce you to a fundamental perspective on existence in open psychology in general, and in part to orient you to the tone, direction and pace of the study.
    "The True Teacher" (guru sejati) is similar to Christianity's Holy Ghost except that the True Teacher does not come and go; the True Teacher is always here, your link with the Nature's totality. The problem is that you come and go. You are often too self-absorbed and noisy and assertive to receive the quiet voice of Tuhan within you.
    The story of Dewaruci is a Javanese addition to the Mahabharata. Dewaruci is another of the True Teacher's many names and the story is about maturation. The central character is Bima, one of the princes of the Pandawa family. First we will tell the story, based on Paul Stange's presentation, and will only examine it in the next section on ego.


    It becomes meaningless to treat rasa as separate from thought as separate from ego as you approach the present. They become one faculty with various aspects united in receiving reality and confronting problems. Thought arises from rasa and the acuity and accuracy of thought reflect the tone and receptivity of the rasa. Ego acts as a bridge between the two allowing them to work together in the present.
    We have spent a lot of time on the chariot's four horses, but what about the driver? The driver is most prominent when the horses are not cooperating. He must apply the whip to first one and then another just to keep moving. Hard work and very attention consuming for all concerned.
    If the team is working together, then the relationship changes. The driver no longer tries to dominate; he watches for problems among and around them and takes as good care of their condition as possible.
    The first role is active and basically destructive: you control by spending your energy and attention breaking the horses rather than going anywhere or seeing anything around you. The fight absorbs the fighters and they have little time for anything else. The second role is passive and conservative: you work with the team, attend to their needs and the needs of your circumstances, and in as much as they are not absorbed in fighting you or each other, they too can give attention to what comes to them. There is time to spare for everyone to help take care.
    If the ego abuses its position, it can find itself in serious trouble. The horses pay no attention to the driver or to anything else except fighting against further abuse.

Let's go back now and examine Bima's journey to openness. We start in the palace, the palace of the ego where the ego has its walls to protect it, lots of rooms and gardens and places to wander and dream and remember. There are unpleasant places in the palace too, but they are partitioned off and you need not go there very often. There is another unpleasant aspect to the palace which Bima brings out clearly -- there is really nothing to do there. You have to be pretty confused not to recognize that reality is outside the walls, and you are trapped inside where very little that does not suit you happens, in fact, not much happens at all that you do not determine.
    Bima goes on the sutapa quest. he leaves behind the comforting walls of the palace and his familiar associations to confront reality alone. He accepts the tutor's dubious counsel as anyone must to go on the quest. He is guided by wisdom beyond his own experience; it is basically hearsay and still has the tone of leading in a painful direction without being worth the pain. The counsel is empty, theoretical, a fine idea to dream about, but getting out and doing it is very different. The tutor never sought tirta marta. He probably read about it in a book.
    Bima climbs the mountain and is attacked by the two demons. The mountain can be seen as the leavings, the refuse of his thoughts and dreams and complaints and confusions: conflicting desires suspended in arguments of "should" and "shouldn't," the two demons of the undecided. Both sides of the argument have some weight and reality to them, but no matter which side prevails, the other is waiting for things to go wrong.

    The never ending argument of justifying what you do. This is the stuff the walls of the palace are made of. The reasons and opinions and justifications that allow the suspension of spontaneity. They give you the freedom to go over and over what and why you do what you do in isolation. This continuous argument goes from one subject to the next; the ego is the kingpin, the decision-maker choosing between and among the desires, and playing one off against another to maintain authority.
    The only way out is through cracking the two heads of argument together in spontaneity. You stop running off into a room in the depths of the palace to make decisions, you bring problems out into the open, examine them in the light of the sun, weigh them, and try to let reality, rather than opinion in isolation, guide your behavior. You do not think a decision eternally right and righteous. Tomorrow the balance may shift, and it may be proper to do what was not proper today. The problem is being spontaneous enough, being present enough to be able to feel and see the situation clearly from moment to moment.
    Confronting the thousands of reasons and arguments and lies and good intentions and confusions you have left behind you is not pleasant work. Cleaning up your mountain of refuse is one of the most confused and confusing jobs imaginable. One of the most difficult aspects of it is the lack of a reality reference that results from the ego being the source, the purpose, the substance and the consequence of the mess. It is a locked system: you cannot argue your way out of arguing.
    The next part of the journey is after Bima has come more into the present and become quieter and more spontaneous. He is less cerebral and more physically attentive. Bima returns to the palace for orientation, but the palace has not changed. It is a place of stories and flattery and lies, and Bima hurries on to the next step. There is no real rest in confusion -- Bima just found that out atop a mountain of it.
    Then Bima is enveloped by Nature's sea. In a palace or sweating your way up a mountain, you might be able to forget you presence in Nature and Nature's in you; but it is not easy to do that when you are under the water and the fish swim up to you and look you in the eye. Bima's next lesson is learning that beyond the confusion, he is still not properly aligned with his own condition or with Nature. The arguments are gone, but the monster of his neglected real being remains. he has been denying and ignoring it for a long time behind the walls and under the refuse, and now it can come out to complain and receive the attention it has been wanting.
    At the same time this real attention opens up the possibility of seeing and feeling others as more than just puppets in your hedonistic struggle. This sense of others born of shared experience and shared pain is called tepa slira.

    So a part of the serpent's power came from Bima's habitual neglect of his actual condition, and another part from the unleashed power of the unqualified desires and his lack of understanding of them. A third aspect of the power comes from seeing the reality he has been hiding from and ignoring behind the walls of argument for all these years. A fourth aspect of the serpent's power comes from the sheer horror of existence, the terrifying problem of being itself. In the argument about smoking above, death was mentioned, but it was death far away -- statistical, theoretical, not really my problem. In the struggle with the serpent, death ceases to be removed. You are going to die: face it; live it; prepare for it here and now.
    Bima and the serpent come to an understanding: he succeeds in "conforming to the real nature of the desires" (ngruntutake hawa napsu). He is left with the peace of being what he is. The quiet that arises out of this is the source of the union with Dewaruci, the True Teacher now allowed to be with him, the expression of Tuhan's concern within. Bima can now go back to his responsibilities knowing that Nature, Tuhan, reality, is inside and outside: the ever-changing constant.
    The realization that you are a part helps your understanding of what you are a part of, but you were always that way and it does not change your basic circumstances. Expanded and diminished, sundered and united, Bima has arrived at the point where he can finally do the best he can. He is an attentive part of our common problem, and maybe now that he is here he can do more good than harm for a change.


    We have seen how it becomes impossible to treat rasa apart from thought apart from ego. As you come closer to the present, they are convergent aspects of relating to, receiving and perceiving reality. Now we will relate these to perception itself, and perception to maturation.
    The active, "wild" ego does a lot of looking but sees very little. The problem is selection versus reception and the active ego tends to see what it likes. A model is applied to guiding perception in Sumarah, but, in short, the passive, open ego does a lot of quiet watching and sees a great deal.

    Let's look at how the various tools we have considered can interfere or assist with accurate perception and open receptivity.
    First, rasa: rasa, the sensing of being, and perception are intimately connected. What you perceive influences the tone of rasa, and the tone of rasa influences what you perceive. If you are practicing a hedonistic rasa bungah-susah, you must control what you see carefully. That is why it is called "feeling happy-sad," the one condition prepares the way for the other. When you are happy you block out what causes discomfort and remain more or less oblivious to that part of reality. Eventually, though, the ignored part of your existence asserts itself, and you go into the sad phase of the cycle which is an over-focus on the disturbances in order to prepare the way for another upswing. As rasa becomes quieter and more accepting, you censor perception less and have fewer preconceptions about what you will see or feel, and correspondingly fewer ups and downs.
    If you are seeing things in perspective, they generally do not change much in short periods of time: the basic character of existence does not change -- we live, we take, we dispute, we cooperate, we give, we die. In that frame there are not many surprises day to day. Your situation may or may not be pleasant, but in seeing it clearly, you are basically stuck with it as your point of reference. This does not mean that you cannot ameliorate it, in fact, the more clearly you see it, the more real options you have in confronting it.
    Second, thought: have you ever found that you could not think about something without you windows steaming up and you drifting off. It could be some one you love, someone you hate, somewhere you would like to be, or even just a hobby. Further, have you ever seen something that made you turn away and start thinking or talking about something else? It could be something or someone that has hurt you and you never want to see or consider again; it could be just a deformed beggar sitting on the street.
    We use thought to see or avoid seeing, to feel or avoid feeling, rather like five-year-olds dreaming about Christmas or their birthdays in the former instance, or hiding their eyes in the climax of the movie and asking if the hero is all right in the latter. We are sometimes a bit more subtle.
    Third, ego: you have got to be somewhere. One of the ego's capacities is placing attention. This is not as simple as it seems. Properly this allows you to focus attention on sources of disturbance in order to perceive the situation with more detail and accuracy. When there is no disturbance your attention pans and spreads to receive what is here inside and out, and watch and wait for the next problem calling for focused attention.
    When you are practicing hedonism, this capacity for identifying, examining and cleaning up messes becomes a source of confusion. Just as you cannot think your way out of thinking too much, you cannot focus your way out of focusing too much. You make much of little by looking at it all the time, and ignore or at least distort the rest. Perceptual selection is part of the same locked acontextuality, the same lack of reality reference, the same problem of isolation considered in connection with rasa, thought and ego.
    Mechanically the problem is that the big, colored sources of perception are located in the front of the body -- the forebrain, the eyes, the mouth, the chest, the abdomen, the genetals. This is where the ego can place attention for hedonistic purposes and where the enormous amounts of perceptual information both past and present can consume you. You can float away in concentration, imaginings, passions, fancies, desires: the many ways we pretend things that are not here to be present. Sometimes these little excursions can help you solve problems (as in concentration) or give you a place to release tensions (as in fantasies); however, if the capacity is abused it can become psycho- and physiopathogenic -- you neglect your real situation and eventually pay for it.
    The practice designed for the problems of front focusing involves trying to avoid: losing track of where tension you are releasing is coming from; losing reality reference as you drift off; and getting locked in the habit of drifting off itself. Sumarah teaches placing the attention in the back and extremities of the body. Try to drift off and forget where you are while feeling your back and your seat in the chair and your feet on the ground. It is not easy. The back and extremities are basically neutral, uncolored sources of perception. They do not provide happiness, gratification or excitement, so they do not consume your attention. When your attention is in the back, the neutral tone helps you assimilate what comes from the frontal areas and gives you the perspective and distance necessary to absorb (and not be absorbed by) the hotter sources of sensation. This does not mean that you should only locate your attention in the back, but that this can help you avoid the problems of over-focusing.

    The imaginings of a child are generally spontaneous and born of being here -- their richness and relevance reflect their source and place of expression: the present. Hedonistic drifting, on the other hand, is based on previously identified sources of pleasure or pain. Memories of pleasure that are not supported by your present circumstances get pretty stale if you keep returning to them.
    Thus, the more intense and prolonged an affective response, the more perceptual selection and censoring is involved in maintaining it and the more confusion and tension it may foster. The actual perceptions received are selected from the open response of rasa murni and the antagonism between the real situation and the constructed one is a continual source of tension. The tone of the affective state, whether it be positive or negative, is not considered material to this process. The critical factor is the intensity of the response as is discussed in the following:

Just to avoid any unnecessary confusion, Suwondo is not saying that ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are the same thing. He is hightlighting the fact that they may both be overwhelming passions that can toss the experience of the ego around in a similar fashion. There are more than ten words for ‘love’ in Javanese that contemplate the various aspects of the wish to be with the other in some way. The one that is closest to our ‘romantic love’ is sayang, which also means to ‘sorrow, 'regret' or ‘pity; the Javanese often make fun of this semi-pathological condition and the disturbances it can cause as the afflicted finds they are definitely not in control of their own experience and the rest of us find that getting in the middle of such a raw bond can be disquieting for us as well.

    ‘Hate’ can be outstandingly inconvenient in this same sense too as the effort to exact revenge and enact the ‘pain for pain’ of justice similarly involves us all. As in En EreboV FoV, the Javanese wont is to bear the agony of hate openly until it defines its own path of expression, much to the sorrow of the subjects of the bad feeling’s eventual emergence in physical form.

    Excessive drifting and excessive perceptual selection in general make being here more difficult. To be here you must pay attention or, more pragmatically stated, your health depends on how well you take care of yourself. There are many psycho- and physiopathological conditions directly provoked by a lack of attention. The most obvious are those like ulcers, headaches, backaches, etc., but the Type A personality studies discuss this problem in much the same sense as Sumarah does: accumulated tension is pathogenic.