Everybody loves a parade.
Especially the Balinese with their fondness for ritual, purification, ceremony and processions.
The Balinese love and worship with flowers, nature and water – it would seem that our Tournament of Roses parade would be a perfect model for them to emulate, but instead they chose to parade their demons. In the early 80’s they started a new tradition of the Ngrupuk parade in Bali. These Ogoh-Ogoh, elaborate giant painted paper-mache sculptures of demons drawn from Hindu and Balinese mythology and pure imagination, are created by the village youth organizations. Gotta give the kids something to do, right? On the eve of Nyepi (the Day of Silence) they strut these formidable statues through the crowded, darkened streets of the Dead Moon. Ogoh-Ogoh symbolize the spiritual pollution caused by the activity of sentience. In other words, you and I. The negative aspects of all living things caused by the act of living. More often that not, our demons ritually confound us rather than the other way around, which is the intent of this spectacle. Right down to snarling the eternal energy, eternal time of the already fierce traffic on Bali.
But the Balinese also strive to achieve the balance of moksa in the intertwining worlds of dharma and adharma. There is a balance to all. The Saput poleng, black and white checkered cloth used to wrap statues and trees is reflective of this balance. The symbolism of Black and White to our dualistic minds is a litany of familiar opposites in which we find belonging, preservation and the comfort of judgement.But the absolute poles of black and white are also tempered by the interweaving of the two threads that produce an interim square of middle gray symbolic of our relative situation in life rather than an absolute.
Positive and negative is not the same as good and evil. Positive and negative are merely like battery poles – morality might be more in tune with what you choose to do with the batteries. It is the differences that set the balance of the universe, it is polarity that creates movement in the vast sea of energy we call home.
The Balinese also worship and purify with fire. So perhaps it is fitting to parade our demons. Bring them into the open rather than allow them to auto-pilot blindly from the darkness of fear, denial and ignorance. Careen them madly down the streets, confound them by spinning them three-times counterclockwise at intersections, shake them violently in an attempt to dislodge their heads, and then set them on fire. Offer them up for Agnihotra, purification by fire ceremony. Burning demons has a delicious irony to it. Perhaps the carnage and destruction left afterwards in the wake of our need to burn demons is also cautionary. Acknowledge and accept the responsibility that this is a part of our nature, but that we have a choice as to how we choose to weave the fabric of our lives.
Nyepi follows, a parade of silence. No fire. No activity. Just the white square.
The next day, we relight the fires and forgive. And begin to weave the gray square anew.