The Javanese Traditional System of Belief and the Concept of Power

Friday, November 8th, 2013, 11:27 WIB

wedforumIt has by now become obvious to many scholars that there is significance of the Javanese traditional system of belief coming before the arrival of the Abrahamic religions. Interestingly, Indian world-view and concept of power have highly shapes the traditional system of belief. For instance, it is highly emphasized in traditional Javanese worldview that power exists in itself, and whoever holds the power have legitimate authorities to use it freely. That is also the case for traditional worldview requiring any Javanese leader to spread out the Javanese views to other parts of the word.

Influenced by the complexity of the Javanese culture, President Sukarno proposed the Javanese traditional system of belief to the international community. That was mainly did by Soekarno at the time of the global tension of the Cold War. He took measures concerning the tension of two camps by using personal approach equipped with Javanese traditional world-view to engage in diplomacy with different world leaders. In consequence, some leaders kindly respected him, but others quietly disregarded him. For instance, Western leaders seriously try to overthrow him from power because he began to turn to the communist block. However, there are Soekarno’s economic and political interests besides his world-view influenced by the Javanese superciliousness.

Dr. Baskara T. Wardaya SJ, presented this enlightening topic. He become a speaker at the CRCS-ICRS Wednesday Forum on November 6, 2013. Dr. Wardaya holds PhD in History from Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He returned to Indonesia in 2001. Then, he went to the Philippines to join a spirituality program. Completed the program, he become lecturer at the Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He teaches history and cultural studies subjects. He served as the university’s Director of Graduate Programs (2003-2008). He also worked as the Director of the university’s research center called PUSdEP (Center for History and Political Ethics) (2004-2011). Then,  he was serving as a consultant for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) for the Asia/Pacific Region (2003-2013). Currently, he is involved in a research project sponsored by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) called Pacific Rim Research Project (PRRP) for on past human rights abuses documentation.

At the forum, Dr. Wardaya raised several critical questions, as follows: “Was Sukarno’s failure to extend the Javanese world-viewto the world outside caused by his personal shortcomings? Or was it caused by the incompatibility of the traditional Javanese world-view with the modern world? How important is traditional Javanese world-view as an alternative to the current dominant world-views in international relations?“

Referring to the Clifford Geertz’s master piece, “The Religion of Java” (1976), Dr. Wardaya convincingly argued that Javanese culture is very complex. In this regard, the Javanese already had their own traditional belief system and world-view, partly influenced by the Indian culture and religions before the coming of world religions that mainly from Middle East. Furthermore, Javanese have tendencies of syncretism. These make the Javanese able to combine their own traditional belief system and world-views with other culture and religions. Therefore, Javanese has a rich culture due to their ability to absorb, to incorporate, to learn and to evolve elements of various cultures.

The. Dr. Wardaya brilliantly emphasized that Javanese concept of power have strong influences on Sukarno, the Indonesia’s first president. In this sense, the influence is not only visible in Soekarno’s personality and his perception of the world, but also in his general understandings of political power. This includes how he exercised political policies in both domestic and international stages. In fact, Soekarno grew up in Java and was mostly raised as a Javanese, although his father was a Moslem Javanese while his mother a Hindu Balinese. Proper understanding of the Javanese’s syncretic idea of power is very helpful to explain why Soekarno embraced a style of a modern national leader such as being a president of a democratic republic, but at the same time he frequently showed Javanese traditional ruler’s attitudes. Moreover, Soekarno believed that perpetual peace in the world can be achieved by unifying the world under Javanese cultural order and political rule. (admin,che)