First comes the clapping on the street outside and
then you hear a low, singing call, "Kula nuwun"
("I request attention"). There is a minute's pause
and the clapping and call are repeated, and then
silence. It may be repeated a third time but that
is all. Your visitor may have seen you come home,
but you are indisposed and it is very bad manners
to violate someone's peace by leaning on the bell.
Javanese manners generally follow this pattern: you may ask but do not be importune and do not necessarily expect a truthful answer. It is important to have a feel for this ambiance, where behavior is closely tied to rasa, before we begin discussing the cases Sumarah is applied in.
First, let's see if I can jog your memory because you are the first case. We talked about rasa and maybe you understood it; but could you relate to it or relate it to your existence? No. Why not? Because you are not a child and you do not practice open psychology.
How do you distinguish people? How do you evaluate them? How do you love, like, dislike or hate them? With rasa. Rasa is the way you feel, the way you are with others.
To open rasa and make it more accessible, let's go back to your childhood. Do you remember the smell, the feel, the taste, the sound, the look, the overall sense of your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters? Or has the multifaceted sensing blurred into a confused glob of feelings, "I love my parents." If that is the case, then you did not love them back then, at least not in the same sense. You were with them but did not pretend to control the tone of being there.
Do you remember how big, how really huge those grown-ups felt? Do you remember their awesome power? "I'm going to tell my father on you!" Your father: the great avenger. Has he really shrunk so much or have you stopped looking so carefully and being open to what is here? Did the child fantasize in feeling so much? Or do you distort now in receiving so little? Or both?
We are not concerned about the Oedipus complex or repression or the unconscious. The issue is reception itself, and why you no longer "see as a child, feel as a child and think as a child." What happened.
When you were young, everyone had a kind "smell" or "feel." This sensing of people did not have a proper word in English though in Javanese it does, but in ignorance and innocence you were necessarily open to it. The smells you knew best were the people you knew most deeply and the scent told you something about the person's present state, intentions, values, purposes, and your relationship with him/her. Old people had a more pronounced scent than children and babies hardly smelled at all.
As you got older, in the interest of establishing a consistent personal space (which is to say, not getting buffeted around so much) you withdrew from the active sensing of others and started to create -- more or less consciously -- your own scent. Your scent was founded in your opinions, your stance, your preferences and your beliefs because they defined whom you associated with and what you were open and closed to.
One thing necessarily lost in the rush for identity was accurate reception. The present was sacrificed and, along with it, the deep reading of others. Thus, while you succeeded in losing some of your vulnerability, you also lost reality reference to ground your experience in. If you do not let people be so close, they cannot influence your experience so much. You started trying to impress others rather than being pressed on yourself. You created and maintained your own image, and the rest be damned.
During adolescence you spent time wondering where "you" went, where the little kid who loved and believed and gave and cried disappeared to. However, the older you got, the staler the question became. The basic problem is that even if you could answer the question correctly, you were not interested in going back to that naked vulnerability. The child rests in an agony of tears and fears and scoldings and dreams that went the other way, and in people you cannot stand to be that close to anymore. It happened to all of us.
Now let's go back to Java. When I first arrived in Java, something felt strange. Just watching the drivers' calm intensity gives an indication of what I mean. The Javanese drive too fast and weave in and out like they do in South America, the Middle East and many other places; but in most such places, every other corner provides a curse and a gesture to some offending adversary. In Java everyone remained stone-faced and quiet, waiting to see what is going to happen next.
What are those inscrutable Orientals thinking?
One of the pervasive characteristics of Javanese behavior, reflected in the "I request attention" call above, is the tone: "Sorry. I am an imposition." Of course, thinking about it, they are right -- we are all impositions on one another -- but what sets them apart is that they maintain and practice this awareness all the time. It is the pre-definition given to all relationships and interactions: "It is not pleasant to be with me. You are just being polite if you pretend otherwise. Sorry. I should know. I'm here with you."
It goes far beyond being shy or self-effacing; this is not some goody-goody modesty presented as a facade to hide what you really feel: it is the ever present naked fear, the fear alone we all are with one another, the fear of the child. It is born of hurting and being hurt, and the two edges of the sword: the pain of being with others and the terror of being without. This is the stuff of children and neurotics in the West. You may need to go back to your adolescent terrors of not fitting in to recall it, because we phase the fear out in forgetfulness and achievement after that. It is real though: there is no greater terror than your existence itself.
This is why the Javanese smell like children. They do not bury this fear under a lot of distracting activity and pleasant, self-deluding stories. They do a lot of watching and waiting, paying attention to what hurts. Try it yourself. Be on guard, paying attention to everything you are. How do you feel? If you cease feeling so linear and controlled, you begin to touch on what they are thinking.
They are constant and concerned (sometimes disconcertingly so) about things we consider it good taste not to talk about much. "Are you married? Oh, do you have any children? Really, why not?" These are among the first questions you might be asked meeting someone. They are unknowing experts at pointing out things we obviously share as concerns, but which we have learned to hide and define as our own business: family affairs, love matters (things they investigate and hide with equal skill), your intelligence (or lack of it), physical or mental health problems, your feeling state, your income -- private matters to us that are obviously public concerns to them. As with calling on someone, "You may ask but do not be importune and do not necessarily expect a truthful answer." A "mind your own business" type of response will surprise them a bit: that is exactly what they are trying to do.
Their concern and openness make Westerners look shell-shocked, as if the trauma of fitting in never left because they never really did. We seem to suffer the battle fatigue of constantly attacking and defending, and never feeling anything but the struggle for control: blunted affect and sensitivity, wandering attention as if trying to escape, continual disorientation and insecurity, propensity to violent and inappropriate outbursts of aggressiveness and destructiveness -- sad, lonely creatures who do not let themselves feel very much for fear of losing control.
The Javanese can be more demanding than we are accustomed to being as a result; they are more aware of their fear and much less afraid of it. If you are not here, it is their duty and right to find out where you are if they can, and sharing your fears is one of the ways to do this.
In the following cases we will see that we are not the only ones with problems; however, we will also see that the sense of isolation we so often feel is treated as a much more profound issue in Java. Problems work themselves out one way or another, but isolation can become chronic. There is nothing more dangerous than losing track of where we are, and there is no quicker way to do it than to feel sorry for yourself. When you do that you pretend a world without justice trying to hurt you in particular, a place where no one shares your problems unless you force them to. You punish everyone around you with your troubles while making yourself feel important.
It is the basis of self-righteous distinction, the fount of petty argument, the compulsion behind so many excruciatingly boring stories to explain why you are so different and justify being somewhere else. If it gets out of hand, this indrawn orientation can consume your person and destroy your relations with others to justify itself and keep control: a dangerous and insidious addiction.
The two cases we will look at came from a meeting
held in Grogol, a small town south of Solo. About
twenty teachers and school administrators get
together every Friday afternoon during the time
when the stores close, the roads melt and the dogs
stop barking: hot, still and simmering. Most of
the human population seems to try to imitate this
stillness -- nobody moves without reason and
breathing is more than enough exercise.
However, the teachers have this time free and the heat does not seem to slow them down much. They are a rather loquacious group and like things rather more carefully articulated than some others. Most of the participants have long known and practiced Sumarah, and the meeting provides many clear illustrations of its techniques and their application.
Language is a special problem that we need to consider. Javanese is a furious love of a language, a rasa tongue with many distinct levels or codes to express and distinguish among the subtle shadings of rasa, and to reflect both the basic nature of relationships and their changes from moment to moment. Six codes were used at the meeting: krama (high Javanese), krama inggil (high krama), ngoko (low Javanese), madya (a middle level mixing high and low Javanese), Jawa desa (rural Javanese) and Indonesian.
To understand how they select from this babel, you
do well to recall Charles V's rule: "I speak
Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men
and German to my horse." Javanese works the same
way. It is a collection of languages used to
express relationships and comment on the present
tone. Ngoko is the basal vocabulary that is
used for intimate relations with equals or
addressing positional underlings (children,
servants, etc.); krama is for showing
deference or talking with strangers; krama
inggil is for showing still more respect;
madya is for the gray area between the high
and the low, respect and intimacy, and can draw on
more or less vocabulary from krama or
ngoko as befits the relationship and
situation; and finally Indonesian has become yet
another of the Javanese levels for talking about
politics or business or conversing with Chinese or
Ngoko is a complete language, krama has about a thousand words and krama inggil has about a hundred words. The higher levels fill out by drawing on vocabulary from the lower. A conversation between a maid and her mistress can be dizzying: they each use their own language and the tone that goes along with it. The mistress's ngoko is fast and sharp while the maid's krama is slow and singing. Language choice can reflect shifts in tone: two men using madya do not go down into the direct and explosive ngoko if the conversation starts producing friction, the go up to the deferential and mellifluous krama and to defuse the dispute.
There are a couple of problems connected with this richness of language. First, you can never become really fluent in Javanese unless you are born to the shades of rasa and vocabulary. You can learn ngoko, krama and krama inggil but speaking madya requires affective as well as linguistic fluency in selecting the right word for the feeling of the moment. Second, when you go from Javanese to another language, you translate all the subtleties out of the medium. Another part of this, reflected in adopting so many Javanese terms, is that the complexity requires a great deal of borrowing else it be lost in the simplicity of our ignorance. If you want to learn the niceties of medicine or economics, you need to borrow terms and ideas from English; if you want to understand about open psychology, you will have to expand your conceptual base with terms like those that exist in Javanese or Balinese.
At the meetings, problem discussion can range from
brief, specific questions and answers to lengthy
expositions and analyses that can be returned to
again and again during a meeting. Many of these
exchanges are very similar to group therapy, but
some of the topics and techniques are not present
in any Western approach. However, the following
two cases illustrate the use of Sumarah in
confronting rather mundane problems.
There are generally two stages in the discussion of emotionally charged issues. The first stage focuses on a person's acceptance of his/her own reactions in a situation and the evaluation of these reactions. Strong emotions are examined, they are placed in a larger context and an attempt is made to get them out of their initial, exaggerated frame and into a larger perspective. After you have accepted yourself, the second stage focuses on accepting the rest. The problem is brought into a still larger context and sympathy is advocated for the people causing the problem (either they do not know what they are doing or, even worse for them, they are doing it on purpose). To eliminate the trauma, relaxation and direct acceptance and gratitude for the experience are used. No matter how horrible the experience, you let it be and add to your experience and your capacity to be with others (tepa slira). Karma is sometimes an aspect of this large context and if you are playing the helpless victim it can help you to see your humanity and that of those around you as well.
Basically, the two stages involve us going out to wherever you are, and then bringing you back and leaving you here where we all are.
Dewi is a teacher and mother of three in her early
thirties. She is sharp-eyed, alluring and somehow
provocative. When she started Sumarah some years
ago it was partially because of marital problems.
She used to dwell and ruminate constantly on her
troubles and could become semi-delusional as a
result. There is an example of this over-focusing
below but she does it less and is a good deal
In this case the two stages of the discussion were neatly divided by an hour during the meeting. Dewi had a problem at work: she is the school treasurer and was accused of embezzling. During the first stage she angrily denied the accusation and attacked the accuser. She felt that this attack was motivated by a desire for revenge as a result of a previous incident. He had called for a financial statement and she put one up on the bulletin board. It showed that the school fund was actually in debt to her. She justified her public response because his attacks had been made in front of the students.
This all started on Saturday and the argument and invective were repeated on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday she decided against responding and the meeting was on Friday.
During the first stage, Suwondo focused on her reactions and tried to put them into a larger perspective. He works on separating the response from the problem, examining each in its place and chiding her for not doing this herself.
Dewi: But this is a money problem. I was accused
of dipping into the till; I was thought to be
Wondo: It's not important. You should just be aware of it. Not responding doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong. Later the reality of the situation will come out, and other people will find out. If you can, don't be like this, the emotion right now.
He felt the report on the bulletin board was unnecessary and generally did not advocate confrontation but patience and waiting for the process of exposure to complete itself. One problem he starts to touch on is her enjoyment of the scrap.
It's not important. Later you'll be in a strong position. Why don't you want to let the process complete itself? That's what you should do, you know.
He commended her policy of not responding as a sign of awareness and told her to continue it if she was strong enough.
Just try this, just try to follow and understand the process. How about it? Isn't that more relaxing? Don't fuss and fight so. That's what isn't good; if you could be patient for a while it would benefit you.
Suwondo then started to work on the sense of isolation she imparts to the incident. He describes something that angered him, someone who came to his house and was rude to his mother.
If it had just been me, I wouldn't want to make a fuss about it; but when it is my sick old mother, it's my duty. I had to be calm, but my temper rose and I thought, "I'd love to punch that guy in the nose." The anger didn't escape, but I wanted to punch him in the nose -- treating an old lady like that.
Leaders often draw on personal experience for
examples. It is generally an effective reminder
that you are not alone in having problems. Dewi
was a little surprised by his story and said, "So
you got mad?" to which he replied, "Yes, it
At the same time he is hitting on a distinction here that he touched on before: sometimes a situation makes you angry and you have no real control, but sometimes you make yourself angry because you want to for some reason or other.
Dewi ended the first stage with what seemed a strange and fanciful story in the basically non-violent Solo context. She claimed that her accuser had been worried about being attacked and was carrying a knife in school that day. Suwondo chided her:
When you get frightened like this it's in your own imagination, isn't it? You used to be like that, but you've gradually gotten better. Don't keep going over and over things; it limits your ability to progress. It's a shame. You should become more able to criticize yourself and your tools. This meditation isn't just being quiet; it's to change your attitudes and your character.
The meeting then drifted off into other problems
for an hour. When Dewi brought up the subject
again, she was much more relaxed. The first stage
generally leaves the problem in your terms and
your reactions are examined as in this case. Now
in the second stage, an effort is made to expand
understanding of the situation that means letting
the behavior of other participants be as it is
(rather than trying to fit them into your
version), and putting the whole event back into
open being where we, Tuhan and Natural Law
are all here together.
Dewi began by asking if she bore a grudge; Suwondo returned to the distinction between direct, contextual emotions versus constructed, acontextual emotions and said that there are two kinds of vengeful responses. The first is premeditated and constructed out of your opinion about the situation rather than what really happened. This kind of vengeful response is a disaster waiting to come back to you; it fails to respond to the real situation and in it you try to impose your fantasy on reality. It does not work. The second type of vengeful response is a spontaneous reaction to the situation, reflecting its influence on you, not your ill will. It is all right precisely because it is an interactive event though you should try to learn from and refine your responses.
However, after this return to first stage topics Suwondo pushes her on into the second.
Once again now, what's done is done, but it carries over into the present -- that's reality. While it was happening, you were not really wrong in thinking, "I've treated him well and now through no fault of my own I'm hated and insulted like this, even though I'm not even in the wrong." That's all right. That's true and when it comes out spontaneously like that, it's all right.
In other words, the responses were acceptable in context, but they are neither appropriate nor acceptable now. Suwondo continues and attacks the issue of her total innocence with a reference to karma and links it to gratitude for the experience.
But this event is the return of karma and it has its good side for your psyche too. It's like this, you think to yourself, "Something like this happens to me when, in fact, I've never insulted him, so why is he insulting me?" Actually this is just the result of your having insulted someone else before.
We tend to connect "karma" with great events in
the West. It is the stuff of triumphs and
disasters; when it is used at all, it is connected
with the great inexplicables. In Java Karma is
different. It is an everyday aspect of Natural
Law, the "you get what you pay for" part of
experience that is always going on. We live in an
ocean of feeling and karma is one of the currents
in this waters of life. The transmission line
aspect of emotion is rather like the Restoration
drama: master chides mistress, mistress scolds
butler, butler insults cook, cook cuffs boy, boy
kicks dog, dog bites master. That's karma.
When you set a strong feeling loose it flows through this sea, passing through one attribution and mode of expression after another, helping or harming everything in its path through what it defines. When it gets back to you, you can recognize it because, though its face has changed, the feeling is the same.
The karmic vision appealed to Dewi. She had accidentally embarrassed another teacher the month before and this felt like the return of that.
However, she still felt that demonstrating her innocence was important and Suwondo began to work on pulling apart the various feelings involved and identifying them. He said that showing your innocence is all right but doing it with too much emotion is not. He then differentiated places for expressing constructed emotion. If you are alone, like when she prepared the report, it is relatively harmless, "In that it's all right to use emotion. When you're writing it's all right whether it's with emotion or without." But if you force your emotion on others, like when she put the report on the bulletin board, it is regrettable. He called this action crude and questioned her intentions in doing it. She said she wanted her students to know. He responded that that particular intention was all right but:
A single action can have more than one meaning, but if he gets hurt by this you should have sympathy for him because you've already been hurt yourself. The problem is that when your actions are based on emotion, there's usually an ulterior motive.
to demonstrate her innocence was acceptable but
trying to discredit and hurt her colleague was
not. Suwondo pointed out that the action being
labeled as "demonstrating innocence" could be
hiding the desire to hurt her colleague behind the
smoke screen of exaggerated emotion. She felt the
point and admitted, "the ulterior motive was a
trial of strength."
Here Suwondo is clearly taking the role of the other, the Javanese father's role mentioned above. His concern for her colleague is not feigned or superfluous; in people-problems you must remember that the others are people too, otherwise the problem never really gets solved. Both you and the others must be protected from your excesses.
With the problem thus brought here, the discussion tailed off. It was rumored in the school that Dewi had gone to an authority for help and she told about her outrage when she heard about it, "I told him to tell me who it was who said that so that I could slap his face." Again she was counseled that the behavior was acceptable under the circumstances, but that she should not make a habit of it or she would offend people.
After this the discussion opened up and Dewi elaborated on the incident that she felt to have motivated the attack. She had seen her accuser hit one of his students in class and had reported him. The other participants advised her to have sympathy for her unstable attacker who "just does what he pleases," and reminded her that "if you have sympathy you cannot bear a grudge." Suwondo, who is the director of a bank, balanced this perspective.
Yes, have sympathy; I'm like that too. I can be very strict, but then later when I sort things out to myself, I feel sympathetic. I have to be firm about my responsibilities though. It's like the two are different things, and you can't mix them.
Sumarno came in late. He sat down and vibrated
like a drum recently hit. The Javanese are not
much known for brooding; they do not often wander
off into yesterday or tomorrow and leave you
watching the house lizards (cecak) stalking
flies on the wall up near the ceiling. That is bad
manners. But Sumarno brought his distraction with
him and was obviously afflicted.
Sumarno is normally high-strung and nervous. He is a small, slight man who bears a lot of responsibility and aggravation as the principal of a gerryrigged grammar school. He is about fifty, married and has four children, but most of his weltschmertz comes out of his position as coordinator of a converted storage shed and some rooms rented from another school. His voice is high-pitched and tightly controlled, a penetrating voice that must serve well at school meetings. It normally quivers with subdued intensity, but today it is louder, faster and sharper than usual.
Sumarno's situation has made him rather philosophical; the existential dilemma today is coming out in a long question about problems, rationality and free will. Suwondo: "One should first act with rationality because a cool head is what is needed." Sumarno asked if finding a solution depends on free will or if everything depends on the Will of Tuhan.
You do it yourself but the choice that comes out of your use of free will is not your personal choice; you should not use emotion. So ask yourself, "What would it be best for me to do? What's the best way to handle this problem?" When you do it like that you're using your thoughts in a healthy way rather than in a way that is enclosed in emotion, and the way you act as a result will be different. Isn't it true that there is one kind of rationality that's encased in your own opinions and another that is open to reality?
So Suwondo rather sliced through the philosophical
knot in applying open psychology: where do you
want to base your behavior? Do you want to come
out in reality or remain in the muddle of your
opinions? In general, Javanese behavior attends to
the former position and the latter is seen not as
a positive fount of "self-expression," but as a
crude way to impose on your neighbors'
hospitality. You draw them out of the present to
witness and become a part of your confusion. Not
As a result, Sumarno felt very uncomfortable about bringing up his undigested experience. If the one who knows the circumstances is not yet comfortable with it, how much more tiresome will it be for others who do not? He says he feels that it would be an imposition on the others in the group. Tellingly, Suwondo does not give him blanket approval; to enjoin him to tell all would be to show no respect. It would also be challenging his ability to make decisions in his own context. "You look at the time, the situation, the conditions at that time."
Sumarno finally decided to tell his long story and it did indeed embroil the group. The district school commissioner ordered Sumarno to have the third and fourth grades attend school in the afternoon. Both of these grades were located in his scholastic warehouse and the fourth grade was divided into two classes, so there were three sections. The problem was that there were only four blackboards in the storage shed, so if all of the classes were there at the same time, the blackboards would have to be divided up 2/1/1. Time problems made it impossible to transfer a section to the other part of the school, so he decided to put the fourth grade in the morning and have the third grade alone in the afternoon.
The commissioner heard about it; he did not like it. He gave Sumarno an exquisite public lambasting for not obeying his dictum.
When I wanted to respond I wasn't allowed to speak. That's what made me mad. What could I do? So I said, "I'd like to give an explanation." "There is no explanation." "Then I beg your pardon." "It's not good enough to just beg my pardon." What the heck is this?
Suwondo's response works on two aspects of the problem: first, pulling Sumarno out of the horror of his continued involvement in the feelings from that time; and second, defusing the sense of isolation that he imparts to his trial.
Just accept it. It's not important; just let it be. Let it work itself out because it's up to other people. I've been through that too. It's all right -- just let it go. It's up to them. It's up to them. When it was me I just tried to make myself willing to accept whatever they had to give.
The "going out," the first stage of Sumarno's case involved a great deal of work on these two aspects: acceptance and isolation. The commissioner looms inhuman and incomprehensible in the nightmare sense of isolation and helplessness. Suwondo tried to pull him out of the waking dream and soften the sharp positions and feelings surrounding the incident by reminding him that the commissioner is a person too.
Suwondo: Sometimes that's the way it goes. So I
recommend that you have a little love.
Sumarno: A little (not believing what he had heard)...
Suwondo: Love, sympathy.
Sumarno: For whom?
Suwondo: The one that yelled at you.
Sumarno: The one that yelled at me?!
Suwondo: That's the way to do it, you know.
Sumarno: That guy yelled at me and then went off and bragged about it.
Suwondo: Have sympathy for someone who isn't aware of what he's doing.
Sumarno: When he was born, sure, yes, he must have still been good. But frankly, those times are past.
Suwondo: Yes and his character has come to this.
This is the oft-forgotten baby that peers out of
and into all of our eyes, the loving little one
crushed beneath the weight of our importance and
indifference. The infant is our open source and
the farther we drift away from that baby, the more
of a problem we become. Suwondo's sympathy is a
tool for helping you to accept others who are,
unfortunately, no longer with us and to help you
be here yourself. This sympathy is not the pity of
wanting to turn the person into someone else; it
is the simple sorrow of seeing what life has done
to that baby.
Some examples of the ripple effect of such incidents then came out. Sumarno was forced to scold a child to enforce the regulations. The rule did not make sense but it was his duty to see that it was respected. Another participant made something of a joke about it being a good thing Sumarno was not a woman principal. Sumarno did not find it funny and interpreted the joke as abuse.
You just try it when you become a principal. But don't drool about the extra pay, which comes to sixteen dollars a month.
The meeting was as tense as any I ever went to at this point. Suwondo responded to this more local ripple that passed through the meeting by again stressing acceptance.
Just let it pass. This is an exercise, a mental exercise. That applies to everyone.
Sumarno fell into ruminating on the commissioner's action as a ripple effect as well (like his scolding of the child). The commissioner had his superiors as well. At this point the tone of Sumarno's wanderings started to shift subtly. He said that if it were him, with one of his subordinates, he would correct it. Suwondo jumped in immediately.
No, don't be like that. According to our practice here the way we do this isn't like that. Don't do that.
The self-pity that Sumarno was headed into is one
of the seeming benefits that can accrue to not
facing a problem. If you indulge yourself thus, it
can easily become an addiction; you would rather
listen to your own sympathetic stories than accept
the problem and see it without being on your own
Suwondo's counsel is based on his own experience. If you let the experience and your reaction to it get separated it can cause bigger problems, as happened to the guide himself. "I got sick. I was sick for a year." Being upset is all right but feeling sorry for yourself, and thus manipulating your feeling state, is not.
To avoid responding to the commissioner until he could calm down, Sumarno went off on his motorcycle. When he got back he found the commissioner sitting in his office, waiting to upbraid him for not working. "That guy just isn't right." Suwondo commended Sumarno's effort to calm down and then commented on the commissioner's behavior:
From the point of view of our study here, it's a pity; and from the point of view of his psyche, it's truly a shame.
Open psychology in general and Javanese kebatinan in particular have a clear long-term orientation. From birth to death, life is one continuous event and your excesses today become your infirmities tomorrow. If your overindulge yourself in emotion, food, drink, sex, etc., these excesses are waiting to come back to you; basically, you get what you pay for.
But there'll be a result. This commissioner will eventually develop heart trouble. Yelling at people like that has an effect of the heart, the intestines, and gives you ulcers. When that happens he won't even be able to move.
sounds a bit like "and then I hit him in the fist
with my other eye" from a Western perspective. It
is not. This is a simple observation based on what
they have seen during their long, careful watch on
Another perspective which appears naive in theory but is really an obvious necessity is the accumulation of tepa slira. Your experience is your clearest window on reality. When you experience something new it opens a new vista and allows you to see and be that much more here. If you successfully devote yourself to your comfort, you end up with a rather thin resume of experiences and a limited real understanding of anything or anyone. The superficiality that comes out of this is often protested by our adolescents, but we generally forget about it thereafter. In Java the problems of tepa slira and knowing the world well are a general concern. Acquiring experience is a very important part of being with others and painful experiences are things to be grateful for: they help you know and serve your loved ones that much better.
Sumarno: My feeling is that for as long as I've
lived, this is the first time I've ever heard
such truly stinging accusations.
Suwondo: So you've added to your experience.
Suwondo agreed with the remark above about the
commissioner's pending health problems but then
said that the real present problem with the
hateful vibrations was right there at the meeting
itself. "Actually the pity of it is right here
because of the vibrations."
The "your problem is our problem" aspect of this incident was particularly obvious. Sumarno described his teachers defending him and not coming to school for some days after the event. Suwondo:
It's all right. In time you'll receive strength from the experience. You just need to try to be patient and wait for it to work itself out.
The first stage of Sumarno's case was obviously a
lot more turbulent than it had been in Dewi's. The
amount of emotion involved made airing the problem
difficult; it excited a loud echo in the group
which made grounding the problem here in calm and
quiet impossible. Emotional contagion was active
and a general rise in tempers was apparent.
So the first stage did not get much beyond lancing the infected wound and letting the acrid pus drain out, assailing everyone's nose in the process. When this kind of general emotional turbulence is present in the environment, it is especially important to hold to the "rationality" Suwondo recommended. If you do not, your reactions are going to be based on murky emotion; they are likely to end up confusing and complicating and blowing the problem further out of proportion. A lot of the process of defusing the problem rests in expanding its context and showing its common, as opposed to special, nature.
This can be used for your study here, and in time it'll all seem different; just wait and see. I myself experienced something like that to the point where I got sick. It was like this but kept going on and on, and was so strong you wouldn't have believed it! It was a disastrous year but that's the way it goes sometimes.
is pus yet to come out before the wound will be
able to close and heal. For now the problem is
remembering the tender spot and not running amok
if it gets bumped. As a result, Suwondo advises
Sumarno to be as careful and calm as possible
again and again.
The second stage was separated from the first by only five minutes, but Sumarno was much calmer and asked what attitude to adopt in seeking an answer to the problem. Suwondo came full circle, back to his initial comments about free will.
In seeking a way to correct the problem you should frame it as, "What would it be best for me to do?" Then eventually there will be an indication of what should be done. Even though you don't initially receive an answer, your question should be, "What would it be best to do?" Sometimes help doesn't come from yourself but from outside. For example, it could happen that someone else could help by shaking up the situation.
Sumarno observed that when you get very angry
sometimes you say things like the commissioner
did, and if it is really necessary, he is willing
to take it. Suwondo: "As long as it's you that
says it." Sumarno: "The meaning is still deep
within [batin]." This is the batin
discussed in Chapter 5 and I will consider it more
fully in the Conclusion that follows.
In fact, this acceptance is the most important part of the discussion process, although some of the concerns of the two stages have not yet been touched on. It was necessary to return to the subject a number of times during the following weeks to open and clean it. It was only after Sumarno had attained this global acceptance that he was relaxed enough to begin examining his own response.
While I was being yelled at I was solid; even afterwards I was solid. To be honest, though, I'm usually a person who, um, gets afraid in that kind of situation, but I was solid.
The discussion opened up and began to expand to other incidents and problems with the school bureaucracy; Suwondo capped the Sumarah contribution, commenting on Sumarno's admission of strength and weakness and then restating the basic method for confronting problems like this.
I'm not saying you have to be strong -- oh no. If you're staggered by this, that's all right, it's okay. This has been a disturbance to your feelings. It's all right. But we must keep a firm grip on rationality. A cool head's what's needed here. A cool head and reality itself will cause the problem to work itself out.
What are they trying to do?
We will attempt to answer this question by first looking at a couple of relatively obvious differences and then examine some of the common problems that unite and distinguish open and closed psychology.
I trimmed these two cases of techniques that are not present in the West, but a couple of basic differences still show up. First, the guide is not exterior to the situation: he draws on his personal experience to clarify and relate to things much more than is common in Western techniques. The meetings are more like group therapy for a group of therapists than for a group and a therapist. The guide does not cultivate his position. He is not different; he is like you and his abilities come from doing the same things you are doing. The guide has a certain mystique but it is based on performance and gets tested all the time. As a result, it is a familiar and comfortable thing, a kind of solid reference which you yourself might yield for others later, if your practice progresses.
The second departure is in what the guide does and where he is when he does it. The acuity visible, especially in Dewi's case, does not arise out of special intelligence or planning, it is spontaneous and comes directly out of the capacity to be spontaneous and with the other. The guide is right here and, in a sense, if you are not he/she knows more about you than you do (mothers too sometimes express this uncanny omniscience, "What mischief have you been up to?"). The guide's sensitivity is most remarkable for its simplicity. It is something we can all do and, in fact, all did when we were children. However, most of us did not get the opportunity to train in the use of our capacities. The guide learns how and why to be present. If you are not here, whether because of habit or some special problem, he learns to feel your departure. In a general sense, the guide can feel where your departure locates you in your experience. It is as if he is listening attentively and you are listening to the radio on your headphones; it is not very difficult for him to keep up with what is happening better than you can in your distraction.
Thus, in having less experiential background noise, the guide becomes more able to pick up disturbances to and departures from the present. They impinge on his experience too, but he also becomes less interested in following them. During his years of practicing open psychology, the guide has been through the same emotional static, distortion and noise that confuses your experience and the hedonistic inclination that underlies it. In coming here and now, the guide necessarily was exposed to most of the pitfalls that may plague your experience and is not afraid to be with you as a consequence.
This is one of the ways that open reception (rasa murni) is applied in the practice. The clear picture of our shared present that open reception gives makes it possible to adjudge your departures much the way a winetaster evaluates wine or an aerialist finds balance. Like theirs, the guide's skill is nonverbal. It comes from knowing what is sought well and then just watching for depatures from it.
The idea is that if life has battered you more or less senseless over the years and you have gotten stated in the turmoil, then you have lost track of the present and become much more a part of maintaining than solving our common problem. It is as if you have learned to take the noise and confusion of the city as your reference sense for reality and no longer listen to the noise around you, while the guide's reference is the quiet of the country and he/she is actively listening. Even if you go out into the still and quiet with the guide, your ears ring in the quiet and you are uncomfortable: you turn on your radio to drown out the silence. Recovering the capacity to receive this silence is one of the points of this practice and is the basis of guiding.
Without this reference sense of the present, you stop attending to the subtleties your senses report: you lose track of any but your simplified and rosy version of reality. You manufacture noise in your thoughts and feelings; you hear and relate to little else.
The "meaning within" that Sumarno referred to is this reference sense. It is not really a question of inside and outside, but of the nature of receptivity. Confusion within or without obscures vision and blocks reception, but clarity can only come in as much as you stop trying to control and start letting things be as they are. The general character of the union of the inner and outer sense in open reception is truly just the recognition of the naked horror of being itself. You recognize your irreducible dilemma and surrender to the service of a solution to our seemingly endless problem.
This stance is also an approximation of the wide-eyed vision of a child. The child is open and the result is a feeling about being that rests in being itself (i.e., it is not constructed). This underlying current of things is strong and steady but events can appear to contradict its flow: how does the ugliness fit into this dominant sense, this ever-present beauty? You reach peace by surrendering and working towards bringing justice and openness throughout all of being and gradually recognize that this means tacit support for lessons bringing others out of their obliviousness in that they become more and more obviously a part of your existential agony.
Children start out in a proper service orientation reflecting an appreciation of our problem (the enfant terrible expressed in mischief and those incredibly embarrassing observations children are wont to make) but with bitter experiences and failures to explain the pain, we all tend to fall away from open purposes towards a more personal perspective on what is important and a glorification of our selves. We try to make ourselves less vulnerable by adopting more defensible positions that reflect our anger and disappointment and fear, rather than the horror of being itself. The problem is that by protecting ourselves from the ugliness around us, we are betraying the reception of the problem and the deeper beauty that rests in this reception. This deeper beauty is the "meaning within," and the practice is largely devoted to examining the problems being present that can cut you off from it.
Sumarno's case was much more intense than Dewi's and did not lend itself to the elucidation of the stages generally used in the practice as neatly as a result. However, it was a good example of something equally important: what happens when there is too much emotion, when there is too much noise and smoke and confusion within and without, making it impossible to separate from the event and accept it. It showed how you can become a slave of the nightmare and your defense against its recurrence or of the ecstacy and your longing to return to it. As we saw, this can make the process of digesting the experience much more difficult.
This kind of blinding emotion is the power behind many errors in judgment. If you strike out in heat, you only find out what you hit after the confusion clears. Avoiding such behavior is an important part of the practice and this involves "rationality." Rationality is not really an intellectual position; it has to do with observing your reactions and trying not to get carried away in narrow, excited responses.
Let's extend this image and give it substance in a simple experiment. Stand at a high window overlooking a city and gaze out on the life and movement below. This quiet gaze is like the reference sense of being. Now look through some binoculars and focus on this person or that tree or the dog on the corner or the group of school children wandering home. Notice how different looking at this or that will make you feel. Now put down the binoculars and gaze unaided again. It is the same place but observe how different it feels as your interest pans and the details return to being details: the dog becomes a dot, the pretty girls become a blur and the car a flash of reflected light.
If you train your binoculars on a particular scene for a long time, it is easy to forget its smallness and distance from you. You get absorbed in the looking and can end up forgetting the larger vista. You start to relate to the focused scene as primary and it becomes your reference sense; if it gets really interesting you might feel as if you could step out of your window into the scene you are looking at. One of the reasons this happens is that the panoramic reference sense is generally not very exciting, but this focused scene may be, depending on where you put it (which may explain the voyeurs among us).
This is one of the problems illustrated in the cases. Dewi likes to focus; she likes to dispute her interpretations of what she sees. She used to get so carried away with this that she would exhaust herself and start seeing things. She does not have that problem much now, but she does have a hard time going from the specific to the general, from the focused scene to the panorama, and letting a situation rest in its real context. Her reference sense is not really settled here in the quiet gaze; she is feisty and has a tendency to limit her view to her central concern at the moment. This is a very common problem. It takes time and experience to find and found your sense of being in the present and to prove to yourself that this is worth doing.
Sumarno's practice is rather more mature. His problem is less that he likes the argument than that the focus and fight do not allow him to return to the panoramic vista he he normally uses as a reference. He has found the problem with the binoculars but he cannot place it when he looks unaided. "The meaning is still within," however, and it will still be there when he pulls himself out of the horror he is focused on, and comes to let things be as they are. This is not easy for him at the moment but it will come. The panoramic vista may not be titillating but it is eminently reliable. Whether you like things the way they are or not, that is the way they are. Their method brings to mind Melissus of Samos: "Nothing is stronger than that which is real" and Parmenides' apparently cryptic: "What is is and cannot not be; what is not is not and cannot be". The reader may be interested in viewing From a Greek Vein which considers this common concern in Greek and Javanese thought from the Greek side.
The problem is not really the focusing and discerning and discriminating and distinguishing; it is doing it too much. The problem arises when you do not come back here often enough, when you are somewhere else and are not really paying attention to what is here. You overfocus and lose sight of where and when we are. You forget your real setting, its real dimensions and your own; you step out of your window to enter the room in the binoculars: a long surprise -- you drop till you find out where the ground was all the time.
This application of Sumarah is designed to give you this reference sense of our constant present, thus bringing you to us and allowing us to be with you and imparting to you the essential character of studying and practicing the present.