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The island of Bali, Indonesia, Island number 9 (out of 100), country number 8 (out of 25), months number 4 (out of 100.)

What do you believe people should be allowed to believe?

I am writing this from the spiritual island of Bali, Indonesia. It is hard to visit this magical island without getting affected by the spirituality that oozes out from it. Everywhere you go you see temples, statues of gods, black-and-white checkered cloth symbolising yin-and-yang and so on.

During this visit I decide to dig deeper into this spirit of spirituality and sign up for a tour called “Local Shamans, Healers & Fortune Tellers”.

Now let me clarify one thing: I am not religious and I do not belong to any religion.

I am an agnostic, which means that I neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of God.

I do not have proof of any god’s existence, but I am so amazed about the sheer magic of the universe I can not rule out that it was more than just random chance that created it all.

The purpose for signing up was not for me to find “clarity about my life” by visiting a shaman – but to get an understanding about what some people in Bali believe.

My guide Nyoman took me to visit the son of Ketut Liyer – the Balinese medicine man, artist and palmist who was featured in Elizabeth Glibert’s “Eat Pray Love”.

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We also got to visit Cokorda Rai, an 80 year old healer with royal Balinese blood, and go the Pura Ulun Danu Batur Water temple (which is on the Unesco Heritage list.).

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One thing that strikes you when you visit Bali is the extreme friendliness of the balinese. They just seem happy, content and good. You feel safe, welcomed and calm when you are in Bali – and I think that is a reason why the island has been such a magnet for tourism. (the island of 4 million people see an additional 4 million tourists visit every year.) People like Bali. I think they even like how Bali changes them ever so little to be better people.

So has spirituality anything to do with this spirit of the Balinese?

I ask my guide.

He smiled (they do that a lot in Bali) and said: “Our soul should be as a bowl of clear water. Then it’s easy to see the moon in the reflection. If the water it’s dirty it’s more difficult to see the truth.”

I ask him to clarify this philosophical message about clarity.

He continued: “We believe we have to attract the positive energy from mother earth. Balancing is very important for us in Bali. Balance between human and human. Between Human and God. Between Human and nature.”

The spirituality in Bali is a mix of Indian Hinduism and Chinese influences with messages of yin-and-yang and so on. My guide explained how they both believe in heaven and hell as well as reincarnation.

“We believe in karma. Do something bad and something bad is going to happen to you. Steal and someone will steal from you.’

Learning about the spirituality of the people of the island of Bali got me thinking about faith in general.

I might not be a believer, nor am I a non-believer,  but I do believe in the right for people to believe, and that is what this post is about.

With a lot of attention being given to horrifying actions being done “in the name of religion” recently I would like to stand up for the right of people to believe.

Many people are implying that if people of a specific faith do not publicly denounce the monstrous acts done in the “name of religion” then they are somehow supporting the terrorists.

Some want to go further and ban some – or all – religions all together implying that “religion is bad”.

I think that is, frankly, unfair.

All major faiths are based on love and compassion.

Love – like faith – is a powerful, positive and magical force, but like all powerful forces they can be miss-used with disastrous results.

A lot of horrifying and monstrous acts are being done in the name of love as well – committed by sick or troubled souls. (Like, so called, “crimes of passion” where, for example, a jealous ex-husband kills his ex-wife because he cannot stand seeing her with another man). Terrible crimes committed in the name of passion and love – but clearly done as something directly opposite to what those words truly mean.

I do not hear anyone calling for all the people in love to publicly take a stand against crimes of passion, or people calling for love to be abolished as it brings so much sorrow to the world.

Love – and faith – are strong emotional powers that in some instances go terrible wrong. But in most cases are all about compassion, care and empathy.

Criminals should be punished, sick people need help. The root causes of terrorism, and all kinds of destructive extremism should be fought.

But blaming faith doesn’t do anything good, just like blaming love will not stop things like domestic violence. If anything it might direct our focus and energy away from the real issues that are causing these horrendous acts of violence.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of “religion” as institutions. But I am a huge believer of letting people believe in things that they feel is making the world better.

And today – perhaps more than ever – we need people who believe in the positive powers of love and compassion, regardless if that is done in the name of any god or not.

We just need more love in this world.
And we need less hate.
That I believe.


ps. So did the palm reading and healer work?

The very first thing that Cokorda Rai, that 80 year old healer with royal Balinese blood, said to me when I sat down in front of him for my session was: “I awaken your passion for creativity.” Then he patted his finger on my head.

Considering that my passion for creativity has been my center point for the last 15+ years I must admit that was pretty much straight on target. Not bad not knowing anything about me… (Or did he? Or had my guide googled my name after receiving my online application and forwarded some information about me to Kokarda Rai ahead of my meeting with him…? We will never know.)

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Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of Bali was island number 9, country number 8 and months number 4.


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