published by : wayan purya on March 1, 2016

A glimpse into the afterlife


The concept of reincarnation has been around for centuries, and yet many people still dispute its existence. For the Balinese reincarnation in a term of “Punarbhawa” or “Numitis” is just one of the long journeys that one has to go through until they achieve eternity. They believe that after death the body of the deceased must be dissolved to return to its original elements. In the cremation process, “ngaben” the purification rite that frees the spirit from its temporary earthly ‘housing’, dissolution facilitates the spirit on its journey to its next ‘existence’. The Balinese believe, the spirits realize that they are no longer residing in human bodies right after this stage.


During this process each spirit will go through another long and winding road depending on their karma and the completeness of their rituals. The journey of the spirit starts right after the final stage of cremation ceremony when the ashes are washed, collected and then transported to the nearest beach and cast out to sea for another releasing ritual. This step signifies the final separation of the soul from the body, with ashes dispersed to ‘where all things end’, and the soul is then unified with the great ocean. According to Hinduism the soul or atman is immortal, while the body is subject to birth and death. And one spirit may come and go over and over again occupying many different bodies mostly amongst one family tree.


Everyone believes that every time a family welcomes a newborn baby, they arrive to repay unfinished obligations, and they reincarnate intricately linked to karma, another concept in Hinduism normally used as a form of social control. Karma, literally ‘action’, is the sum of one’s actions, and the force that determines one’s next reincarnation. For those who have attained consciousness usually seek higher forms of happiness, which can be attained only through spiritual experience. At this point, one has reached the ultimate dissolution, moksha or salvation; a concept that is equivalent to attaining nirvana in Buddhism. Not everybody will be able to reach at this level, it requires sacrifices, determination and good will apart from the cycle of karma itself.


It is a custom that each newborn usually after 12 days is taken to ask for who, or which among the ancestors has returned home and then ‘ask for rice at the family kitchen’. As a child grows older and later into adulthood, his or her parents would observe how the child’s character, attitude and behavior resembles someone they have known from the past, including the way they laugh, cry, or any specific look, or behavior. *BB-RM*

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