It seems to me that there’s something common in the faces of the Indonesian holy men – all of them have deep wrinkles in the corners of their eyes. These are laugh wrinkles, like sun rays that seem to prove that an Indonesian holy man lives in blessed harmony, looking at the world through the healthy prism of laughter.
Papa Jero’s eyes were the same. Long beard, droopy hair and pajama-like batik patterned clothes could let me assume the uncle living in a shed in the mountains is a weird hippie. But there’s so much warmth beaming from that hippie, the smile, the eyes. His humble shack on North Bali looking at Buyan lake is always open to his guests, because when Jero has a lot to do, then Jero is happy.
Now this weird papa tells himself to be a holy man. If this was all I knew about him I’d think him to be a weirdo. But bit by bit the microcosm of the holy man opens up to us, reveiling Hinduist colours intervened with animistic powers and Buddhist rationality.
In every expanded family there’s usually one holy man that the god has given special powers to communicate on a bit more powerful level. If there’s someone ill in the family or there’s a quarrel the holy man can help a lot. A holy man has no steady relationship with any temple but if necessary he could take part in sacred rituals. Usually the power of the holy man is passed from one generation to another. Jero got to know about his role only six years ago when somebody in his brother’s family was suffering from a difficult illness. When the family went to a farmer for consultation, as it’s proper on Bali, he’d told that in their family there already is one holy man. The threads led to Jero and in a magical way the sick became well again. This was followed by some other weir healing cases that papa Jero had to do with until people really started turning to him when they had any trouble. But not always do the methods carry fruit, Jero says honestly. Sometimes I’m lucky, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes the god talks to him, sometimes he doesn’t.
Usually when Jero feels sensation in his chest there’s somebody from the family coming over; if he feels it in his head, somebody from the village is coming; when he feels it on his hand, there’s a foreigner coming. Jero says that money isn’t the most important, health is as important, if not more. Jero understands that the god’s treat doesn’t depend on the amount of the sacrifice. “You have to believe, truly. Even a small sacrifice is a good sacrifice.”
In the morning Jero wakes up and says he has a feeling somebody’s coming. It’s less than 30 minutes later when the owner of his land arrives and waves a contract before the holy man. The contract says that papa and his family have to move because this is a place where a hotel for tourists has to be built. With a pool, of course.
But Jero doesn’t worry, he’s happy per se. He baptises all of us his children and like a modern man he says that one has to love all countries and honor all nationalities. The little papa takes his five European children, who are all much taller than he, into his jeep and drives us to the most beautiful rice fields of Bali, which have also been noticed by the protective hand of Unesco. And then we hold hands and meditate.
Our new mom cries when we drink our last morning coffee and try to ask Jero if the god is rightful and moral.
If you live your life in an honest way, truth truth truth, then god takes your hand and takes you to good places, Jero says.
I think I have to do a little sacrifice to god, really honestly, I’ll let him have mango and banana, truth truth truth, as papa Jero says. Because this really was a very good step of him to take us here.
Fabulous photos by Ethel Kings, Estonian photographer/painter based in Yogyakarta
@The surroundings of Buyan lake, Bali, November 2010