Nearly every where one looks in Bali, there are stones and trees that have been religiously decorated. The decoration can be as simple as a chequered cloth or the whole shebang with umbrellas and little shrines. Even on little walking tracks out in in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, it’s possible to come across little shrines with fresh offerings, in amongst some rocks or in a tree .
The Balinese are Hindus with a fair amount of animism thrown in, and as such they have no problem believing that spirits might inhabit trees and rocks. To a Balinese, it’s perfectly rational and just plain good manners, to have seats in their shrines and temples for the gods to sit in if they should want to visit.
It’s not hard to see where James Cameron got some of his ideas for his movie “Avatar”, from.
Early every morning, women go out and place offerings at all the places that have any kind of religious significance. The offerings are usually quite beautiful and consist of little woven palm baskets, that would fit in a child’s hand, filled with a bit of rice, a flower or two, some incense, and sometimes even money. All throughout the day, it’s possible to see women preparing offerings in open doorways or by the side of the road while at work as they sell things.
Over the years I’ve found myself thinking about how much industry religion has created. Huge stone cathedrals in Europe, religious statue sellers in Italy and Thailand, etcetera ad infinitum. Thousands of acts, great and small to try and relate to a deity. To me, the idea of trying manifest faith in the material world is such an odd thing. To somehow bridge the gap between the corporeally knowable and the incorporeally unknowable.
Perhaps Marx was right, when he said, “religion is the opium of the masses”. I’m pretty sure Marx didn’t mean that religion was an addictive drug, but rather something that takes pain and care away.