Tat Twam Asi.
It means, “I am you and you are me.”
It might sound naïve and idealistic and the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from sandal wearing hippies lost in space, but it’s a fundamental moral code and a spiritual pillar of the philosophy of Hindu Dharma in Bali and it’s rooted in the idea of Tri Hita Karana.
A close translation of Tri Hita Karana means “three reasons for prosperity and well being.”
Very simply these are:
1) harmony among people, this is called Pawongan,
2) harmony with nature/the environment, called Palemahan and
3) harmony with god, called Parahyangan.
For the Balinese, it’s simple; life is about balance and harmony and as such it affects not just everyone but absolutely everything on this island paradise.
It’s also simple for us at Seven Stones Indonesia. We’re focused on building a sustainable business and also supporting our clients in creating and managing businesses that can grow profitably now and in the future.
The ceremony of life
If you’re lucky enough to be living in Bali, or even if you’re just visiting, it’s hard to ignore; simple daily offerings of colourful flower petals and fragrant incense smoke at thousands of shrines scattered across the island, in front of doors and homes, in offices and at busy intersections.
Then there are elaborate ceremonies attended by thousands of devotees, most dressed in royal finery, elegant ladies balancing tall pyramids of fruit on their heads as offerings while gamelan ensembles play hypnotic tunes on gongs and drums on their way to temples for purification.
There are ceremonies on full moons and dark moons and new moons; ceremonies when a child takes its first steps on earth; ceremonies of tooth filing when people come of age; ceremonies when couples get married and when people are cremated.
There are also ceremonies so sacred they’re only held once every 100-years to bring balance, not just to the island – but to the universe!
For most Balinese, life revolves around this devotion and there’s nothing more important than observing those rituals expressing it. It’s fundamentally rooted in the concept of Tri Hita Karana and it has literally shaped Bali’s physical and cultural landscape.
It’s what’s behind Bali’s incredible rice fields, which are fed by a thousand year old Subak irrigation systems and it’s why UNESCO actively encourage world tourism partners to do something similar to Tri Hita Karana to promote sustainability.
Quality over Quantity
The sense of balance and harmony with people, nature and god(s) explains Bali’s cultural attraction and why it is truly unique. It’s alive. Traditional architecture, ceremonies, art, rituals and social organizations are all reflections of the importance of balance and entwined with the threads of Tri Hita Karana.
A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for Gapura Bali called Tourism 2020: Quality over Quantity, which explored how local government and tourism industry stakeholders were looking to encourage a much stronger sense of Tri Hita Karana.
Their vision was to change the future of Bali’s tourism industry by focusing more on ‘quality’ and in doing so, leave less of a footprint on the environment – and the culture.
This isn’t a new idea. There have been Tri Hita Karana Awards for the last twenty years, rewarding those hotels, restaurants, businesses, schools and tourist attractions that abide by its principles.
Time for new priorities
But it hasn’t developed the traction it deserves. Sometimes it seems, higher visitor arrival numbers and the dollars they bring have been more important than balance and harmony.
In recent times, Bali’s soul has been in danger of drowning and the very things that attracted people to come here in the first place are in serious danger of being lost.
Now, like it or not, things have changed. And now might just be the right time to take a few steps backwards and reflect on what’s really important and what’s really at stake here in Bali.
If you’re a like-minded soul looking to rebrand to adapt to a new way of doing business in Bali, we’d love to hear from you.
If you believe you can make a difference with the way you do business in Bali, let us know.
If you want to take a long hard look at why you’re doing business and how you can adapt to the paradigm shift drop us a line, because we’re focused on growing our commitment to a more environmentally friendly way of living and working for our people, our clients, partners and community.
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