Bali holds a special celebration on the full moon. At the time I was there, it coincided with the cremation week and a procession to the Spring Temple where a ritual to the Goddess was held. A group of us, organized by my student Erin Owen of Philadelphia, trekked to one of the hundreds of temples to join the full moon celebration.
I was told that cremation week happens only once every 5 years. What do you do with a person who dies 3 or 4 years before? I asked somebody. He said, They will be cremated during Cremation Week. I remember a film clip from Laurence and Lorne Blair’s “Ring of Fire” DVD where the widow kept the body of her husband wrapped in blankets in the bedroom for years until it was Cremation Week.
Especially in Ubud, there were processions down main street. Everybody congregated in the grounds near a temple. There were bands playing music, women balancing offerings on their heads, men carrying papier mache bulls on bamboo poles. I did not stay for the cremation.
The other procession to the Spring Temple included men, women and children dressed in formal clothes. A group of men were made up and dressed like women. I was not able to ask anybody about it because I took the photos from the car when I was being taken home. I surmised that when men join the ritual for the goddess, they have to look like women. It is a practice from ancient times before the patriarchy took over the world.
I have no photos of them but I also had dinner with Natasha from Russia, Lotte from the Netherlands and Francesca from Italy. I do not know if it is true — only in Bali can you freely converse at the same table with total strangers. I often ended up having meals in restaurants with people I had not met before. Ketut and Anita, owners of Ganesha Bookshop treated me to lunch. Ketut, a famous poet, gave me two of his books. I hope to join the Ubud Writers Festival in early October next year.
A couple of nights, I had dinner with Karma Lhatrul Rinpoche, an incredible guru from Bhutan. When he was 3, he asked his parents to take him to the temple … Well, if you are interested, you can google his bio for his fantastic story. He is quite an interesting teacher. I brought food and had lunch with him when he got sick and could not move around. He promised to teach a small group of us “phowa,” translated as “transference of consciousness,” part of bardo or the in-between stage between lives. So next time I am in Bali, I will have the chance of studying with this master.
In my previous trips to Bali, I went with David Verdesi to many temples and met priests. This time I did not do any tours during my visit. However, it was important for me to do a pilgrimage at sunset to Purah Tanah Lot, the famous temple situated on an outcropping of rock in the sea. I took a few photos of the beach at low tide. That’s when people can walk on the shore to the temple.
On my last day in Bali, my new friend Made Soka at the temple where I was staying gave me a farewell dinner of Balinese cuisine specially cooked for me. That’s her looking at the camera in one of the last photos in the collection.