Methods of Learning Kejawen

Sastra Piningit
Sastra means knowledge. Piningit means secret. It's a secret knowledge, notably in the old days. More precisely it's mystically secret knowledge. The kejawen had been kept as secret knowledge by mystical power (gaib). Kejawen is not atheistic or anti religion, on the contrary it's a knowledge of belief in God. The Javanese ancestors had taught kejawen to only a view of selected individuals and in each case, only after a scrutinized consideration, that those people should keep the knowledge only for themselves and hopefully some of them should be determined to practise the knowledge whole-heartedly.

Note: It was not all of them, only some of them.

It is a way of speaking in a low voice, almost whispering. It was how the kejawen was taught between a guru with his very limited member of pupils (from 2 to 4 persons). That's why some people say kejawen is Klenik or Ngelmu (spiritual knowledge) klenik.
The lesson was oral. No one was allowed to write. Everything had to be remembered by heart. The usual time was evening until midnight or early in the morning before sunrise. The guru classified the lessons. Ordinary knowledge could be given inside the house.
But for important and sacred knowledge, 'the class' was not in the house. It was in the meadow, in the bank of a river, on the beach of sea, on the mountain etc. some were allowed to be taught only during full moon time.

They were special chosen good days to learn, which are valid to this day. There are among other:
Jum'at Kliwon and Jum'at Legi - Friday Kliwon and Friday Legi
Selasa Kliwon - Tuesday Kliwon.
Some sacred lesson only be taught on above days.

According to the spiritual Guru, it was a tradition. He had received the teaching from his Guru also in special places and days. He did not dare to alter the tradition.

According to Javanese calendar, except the 7 days/week, there are 5 days/week which is called Pasaran. They use them together. From Friday Legi to Friday Legi again, is 35 days. The same from Tuesday Kliwon to Tuesday Kliwon is also 35 days. This period of 35 days is called Selapanan.

The 5 days/week are: Kliwon, Legi, Paing, Pon and Wage. The most important date for a traditional Javanese is the 1st of Javanese month of Suro, the Javanese New Year. It is considered as a Holy day, a proper time to learn something (for detail, please click the article of Commemoration of 1st Suro)

In every session of meeting, the students have to come with clean heart and body. Sometimes, they are ordered to fast or to remain awake or to refrain from sex for a certain period of time. At midnight they have to take a bath with cool water. Some gurus obliged them to wear Javanese traditional costume during sessions.

In the old days, there was no written materials on kejawen, to gather the materials, one has to watch carefully various rituals, traditional ceremonies, slametans (praying together or ceremonial meals with rice cone), offerings, etiquettes, wayang performances, old legends etc. a keen cultural observer should know that among the grand shows, there are in fact spiritual rites.

This is a wise policy of Javanese ancestors, they spread the ancient valuable knowledge in many places. Those who are interested to learn, have to find through a hard-work. It is not easy to learn something valuable. It explains, why there is no book on kejawen since ancient time to present date.

Sastra Ceto
Sastra means knowledge, Ceto means clearly seen. The knowledge of kejawen in recent years is becoming clear. More and more parts of the teaching were written. Some publications for limited purposes or books are available.

Some gurus permits their students to write down the spiritual teaching, even mantras are written. Something which was impossible in the old days. But there is exception, some spiritual teachings which are classified as 'world secret'/Kekeran Bawono are not allowed to be written. Normally the learning sessions are held in the house, mostly in the evening. Only for some special occasions are held outside the house.

The method of learning has changed considerably. Some gurus stick to traditional rule by having only very limited students. But the situation of learning sessions are more relax. Sweet tea or coffee and snacks are served while smoking kretek (clove) cigarettes. At the same time, several spiritual or kebatinan foundations were born.

For sure they have more followers, they have office for Head-Quarter and branches in other towns. They have publication on their activities. They are organized like a modern association. It seems that Javanese are ready to embrace modernization selectively. The question is how far?

This article should only inform, in general, the kejawen traditional way of learning and practising, which is factually still exist.

The knowledge and understanding of kejawen remain the same in the old and present day: It's a Javanese spiritual knowledge in search of good and correct way of life, so the persons practising the teaching correctly and wholeheartedly should find the spiritual way to true life, achieving a harmonious relation between servant and Lord.
It is the most noble goal and wish for kejawen followers.

Regretfully, since the ancient period to this day, they are people who learn the knowledge for other purposes, among other:

  1. To reach Kawaskitan (to be waskita): he can see metaphysical world, able to predict. He is proud, people come to him for consultation.
  2. To reach Kadigdayan (to be digdaya)-invulnerable to sharp weapons, bullets etc. he is proud, people is afraid of him.
  3. To be Pana (to know everything)-he gives advices on love affaires, business opportunities etc. he is proud, people respect him, he has a high position. He collects easily material wealth.
    These aims are not correct, there are reflecting lust of selfishness, in pursuit of solely worldly material wealth.

The Javanese (wong-Jawa) and Kejawen
Wong means people. Jawa-Java => wong Java is people of Java or Javanese. In refined kromo language is Tiyang Jawi. The Javanese are grateful that they are born and live in the splendid fertile island of Java with its pleasant climate. According to wayang stories, the beauty of the island had even attracted gods to descend and built the first kingdoms in Java, some words to always remember "gods occupation" of Java are:

  • Jawata means god, the guru of the Javanese
  • Tiyang descendant of gods
  • Wong descendant of gods
So, Javanese (wong or Tiyang Jawa) is descendant of gods.

It means that existance of Java and the Javanese should be from a very long time ago. From archeological discovery, the eldest human-being in this island dated back more than 1,9 millions years B.C, as proved in the village of Sangiran, Solo, Central Java.

According to physical geography, the island of Java was already exist in the world map 20 million years B.C, as part of islands in southern India, prior to the birth of Mt. Himalaya, at that time, mainland China was an ocean.

With the above historical back-ground, there is no doubt that Java has one of the eldest cultures in the world. The Javanese love to express their view through symbolism and refined words, which sometimes are difficult to be understood by ordinary people.

The word 'Jawa' itself, in fact has a deep philosophical meaning. The late, Prof. Hardjono, MR. (Dutch Master of Law), a famous populist professor from Gajah Mada State University, told the writer about 16 years ago in his residence in Kotabaru, Yogyakarta.

"Dimas (younger brother), people should know the real meaning of Jawa or Jawi in kromo language". "Could you tell me, Romo (father)?"
"Ja means to be born. Wi means a bird". "Like a bird, a human-being, has to pass two steps to be a perfect human-being. First it's an egg, then a bird".
He didn't continue to explain, as if he let the writer to guess. 2 years latter, the writer had a chance to know, a very wise but low profile gentleman,

The late, Bapak Prawirowardojo, Ret. Army Colonel, an expert of kejawen, told the writer that a Javanese should be born twice to be a perfect person.
First: He/she was born thru the mother's womb.
Second: He/she should be born again by True Knowledge. (Ngelmu sejati). So he/she should know the true life, no more secret in this world. He/she has become a perfect person.

The writer did understand the meaning of the sentence word by word, but could not imagine how should be the second birth. The wise Pak Prawirowardojo further said: "Don't believe me, Nakmas (son), before you see the reality by yourself. As a true Javanese, you have to see reality first, before you believe". Only after 10 years of his statement, the writer does really believe of what he said.

Who should learn kejawen?
Only intellectuals and academicians are fit to reach the aim set by kejawen, besides some saints and holy and honest persons. Some say that kejawen is gampang-gampang angel in Javanese (gampang-easy, angel-difficult) i.e. if you say it's difficult then it's difficult, if you say it's easy then it's easy.

Some ordinary people (peasants, becak drivers, small employees) could gain the essence of kejawen too. As a conclusion the essence of kejawen is fit for those people who accept seriously and practise wholeheartedly (Kamot in javanese) the knowledge.

Every individual in the process of learning should have different experience as it depends to everybody's talent and background. The experiences of the respected gentlemen and ladies in the following chapters are worth to read.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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