Prayer is a regular and beautiful part of everyday Balinese life. When walking around Bali you will hardly pass a day without seeing a person in prayer, weather at home, in the office, on the street, at the beach or market, and especially in the temple. Prayer is an important act of religious devotion. Upon waking each day a Balinese mother takes canang sari offerings (a woven leaf tray containing flowers, candy, a dry biscuit and a stick of incense) to the family temple in the corner of the compound nearest Mount Agung, the holy mountain where the Balinese gods live. The gods will receive these offerings up in the family shrine. The demons, which according to the Balinese Hindu philosophy make up the balance between good and evil, will however, receive their offerings on the ground. A silent prayer is offered during this process.
Balinese prayer can be performed in several forms, either alone, with the family, or with the whole community at the village temple. Tri sandya is a mandatory prayer performed three times a day and completed by the chanting of six Sanskrit mantras. The panca sembah (five prayers) is essential for every Balinese and children are taught by their parents and teachers following these basic steps:
‘Asana & Pranayama’ – An offering of canang sari is ready, incense is lit and then the men sit cross-legged while the women kneel on the ground, composing themselves in a quiet and peaceful manner.
‘Karashadana’ – Cleansing of the hands is performed by gently waving the palms of the hands in the incense smoke three times, and chanting “Om Kara Sudamam Svaha” for the right hand and “Om Kara Ati Sudamam Svaha” for the left.
‘Atmatatwa’ – Praying with open hands to connect the soul with the gods.
‘Sryanamastuti’ – Praying with a white flower that is held up in the finger tips, with hands closed together recognizing the supreme god Sanghyang Widi Wasa who is symbolized by the daily rising of the sun.
‘Tri-murti’ – Praying with the colored flowers for Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa, the gods of creation, preservation and destruction, symbolic of the cycle of life
‘Samidaya’- Praying using three or more flowers for the lesser Gods
‘Shanti’ – The closing prayer without flowers.
Upon other more holy occasions the panca sembah is followed by another ritual – nunas tirta (holy water), blessing with water by a temple priest. Participants wait quietly until the priest sprinkles holy water upon the person. The right hand is cupped in the left hand and is then held up and filled with holy water three times for drinking then three times to wash the head and face. A final handful of water is followed by grains of rice called bija, which are pressed to the forehead, the temples and the throat, with a few grains being eaten and sprinkled upon the head. No one is allowed to stand and leave before this entire process is completed for everyone participating in the temple ceremony.