By Clarence W. Hall
Let Bali Come To You 朗読
For any traveler, the British novelist H.M.Tomlinson once observed, "there are place names which, when whispered privately, have the unreasonable power of translating the spirit east of the sun and west of the moon. They cannot be seen in print without a thrill."
The place name that provides that magic carpet for me is "Bali." I'm not alone, of course. Ever since the 1930's when Bali became "open" to outsiders, visitors have marveled at the beauty of this island where nobody hurries and all is peace.
But it wasn't Bali's unearthly beauty that intrigued me. It was Bali's elusive spirit. Compounded of tranquillity, regard for one's neighbor, a clear joy in living, this spirit gets under the skin of visitors fresh from the toils and tensions of Western living. It sets them yearning to capture Bali's special magic. But how?2
I too the problem to Anak Agung Pandji Tisna. "Anak Agung" means "great ruler," but Pandji Tisna has ruled nothing save this own independent spirit since 1950, when he turned over this palace and the title of Rajah of Bulelang Province to a younger brother, and moved out to share the common lot of his people.
I found Pandji Tisna at Lovina, a youth hostel he'd set up on the shores of the Java Sea. He smiled when I announced my quest. "You've sensed that Bali is not only a place but a state of mind," he said. "Many visitors come here in cruise ships making one-day stops. They zip across the island, but curios, hurry through temples, glimpse our festivals and dances, snap endless pictures. But I don't think they capture Bali. Like most of life's choice things, Bali can't be found by chasing after it.""How can you find it?" I asked. "You have to take time," he replied. "Expose your heart. Let Bali come to you."
Let Bali come to you. The quiet phrase exploded in my mind a timeless truth, and one we too often forget: namely, that life's major blessings are seldom found by deliberate searching but come to as by-products, dividends, bonuses. To seek them for their own sake is frequently to miss them entirely.3
That evening, by the seaside, we watched the phosphorescent waves dumping cornucopias of liquid jewels on the shore. The scent of frangipani blooms was in the air, and from a distance came the haunting sound of gamelan music. We spoke of the time and energy squandered in striving after that which can only be found by "exposing our hearts" and letting "Bali" come to us.
Pandji Tisna said, "Has happiness ever been found by pursuing it? Here on Bali we know that happiness is like a shadow; it follows him who pays it no heed but flees from him who scampers after it. happiness comes from within."
I was reminded of a time capsule placed in a new building in Minneapolis in 1955, containing prophecies of what life would be like 20 years hence. One leading citizen made this forecast: "In 1975 men and women will still struggle for happiness -- which will continue to lie within themselves."
Pandji Tisna nodded thoughtfully. "Exactly," he said. "And the same same will be true in the years 2975 and 4975."4
At that moment two young Balinese, a boy and a girl, strolled by, hand in hand. Lost in themselves, they scarcely noticed us sitting there. In the youth's colorful batik head-cloth was stuck an oleander blossom; the sarong-clad girl's long blue-black hair waved in the breeze as her dark and liquid eyes swept the boy's face. Pandji Tisna murmured, "Is is not true also of love?"
I agreed that no quest in life occupies us more. A common complaint of the swains I have known is, "She's not in love with me; she's in love with love."
"Balinese are romantic, too," said Pandji Tisna. "So I keep reminding our young that to seek love for its own sake is not lose it. I tell our young people, 'If you want to beloved, make yourself lovable -- and love will seek you out. You can't command it. It must come of its own accord -- as the result of what you are.'"
The gentle ex-Rajah then discussed other "Balis" which, courted for their own sake, simply slip away from us. Physical and mental health, for example. Pandji Tisna pointed out that his people don't worry about health, as many Westerners do. And to which the splendidly shaped Balinese swinging along the forest paths with their gliding, regal gait, erect and supple under heavy loads, is to know that their physical beauty, as well as their tranquillity, comes as the sure bonus for right living, the dividend of temperate habits.
I mentioned to Pandji Tisna the contrast between the Westerner's notion of success and that of the Balinese. I spoke of a friend who was being devoured by ambition. Through years of enviously watching other men receive promotions he himself coveted, my friend had developed a serious ulcer.
Said Pandji Tisna: "To us Balinese, what you call success or recognition is regard as the garland we receive as the result of so loving our work that we give nothing but our best to it. Tomorrow I'll show you."5
The next day we strolled among the shops where workers were fashioning the flawless designs in silver, stone and wood for which Balis is famous. I stopped beside a wood carver -- one of the island's most noted -- who was working on a small statue. "Try to buy it, as is," whispered Pandji Tisna. When I asked to buy the statue, stating that it already looked perfect, the wood carver regarded me with doubtful eyes. "Ah, no," he said firmly. "It does not yet represent my best. Perhaps in two days more..."
As we left the little shop, Pandji Tisna said, "You see? This man is not concerned with successes such, only with doing his best. Success and reputation have come to him, but as the by-product of his pride in perfection."
Among other boons that come to us obliquely rather than by haedlong quest is that prized, but pretentiously named, thing called "culture." The culture of the Balinese is an integral part of their life, not someting laid on. They live in an atmosphere of music, dance, play-acting of exquisite perfection. "Our culture is achieved not by self-conscious effort but by osmosis," Pandji Tisna said. "Does not all true culture come that way?"6
I was reminded of the late William Lyon Phelps of Yale University, who was fond of telling how he became a passionate lover of classical music. With no musical education, Phelps's appreciation of music stopped with comic opera and brass bands. They one night, having been dragooned into attending a symphony concert, he amused himself by gazing idly over the audience "to see how my fellow sufferers were enduring it." Here and there, he observed, were people whose rapture was plainly not a pose. And impulse like envy swept over him. He said to himself, "There must be something great here. I don't get it, but I'll go again.
He went to the next concert -- and kept going. "After repeated listening," he said, "I reached the state where I'd rather hear a competent orchestra play Beethoven or Wagner than hear anything else. And I reached this state of bliss simply by listening -- listening with all my might.7
The longer I was in Pandji Tisna's company the more I realized how many of our major and minor ecstasies come to us in just this way. And nowhere, I found, is his principle more cogent than in our quest for spirituality. Religious faith, sound and strong, is the choicest prize of life, adding glow and meaning and purpose to our living. Yet "few there be that find it."
Those who have attained any religious experience worth the name didn't gain it by hammering at heaven with importunate appeals. They simply opened their hearts and minds -- and waited. And one day, finding the soul's door open, faith walked in.
As I felt the enchanted island, I knew that Pandji Tisna had taught me a memorable lesson: that if we will but open our hearts and minds and let the best things take possession of us, there is no "Bali" in life that cannot be realized.