What is the Meaning of Hari Raya Nyepi ?  
Over the next two weeks, the Balinese Hindu community will be busy with two major religious ceremonies. March 17 sees the summit of the Panca Wali Krama rituals at Besakih, coinciding with taur Agung Kesanga (a ceremony to celebrate the end of the Saka year, which is designed to sacrificially cleanse the universe and all within it. This is followed the next day by Hari Raya Nyepi.  

Nyepi falls on Thursday 18 March, for 24 hour, Hindhu people stay quitely at home. They are not allowed to go out in the streets, light fires or switch on the lights, they should not engaged in entertainment nor make a noise that might disturb others. During that time they are also forbidden to cook any meals.  

Hari Raya Nyepi is preceded by two ceremonies. The first is Melasti, a ceremony praising the power and glory of God through the parading of symbolic effigies which are believed to emanate holiness, which vibrates through the cosmos, eliminating negative characteristics in society and nature. The second is Taur Kesanga, one of the Bhuta Yadnya ceremonies which are conducted to purify the universe, ritually and spiritually.  

Nyepi marks the beginning of the Saka New Year. The purpose is to purify ourselves so that as we enter the New Year we will be 're-born', cleansed of all wrongdoings comitted in the previous year. According to the Bagawad Gita ( a Hindu holy scripture), in the life of humankind there are two opposing tendencies: towards the good and towards the bad. Kedewaan, tending towards the good leterally means 'having qualities like the deities' where people try to be good and honest and overtime come closer to God. Keraksasaan, tending towards the bad means 'having demon-like qualities' where people work against dharma (truth) and grow further and further away from God.  

How do such tendencies arise in human beings? According to Hinduism, human beings were created through the joining of Purusa (soul) and Pradana (matter). When soul and matter met they resulted in human beings born with Chitta (positive characteristics) and klesa (negative characteristics).  

There are five sorts of Klesa or negative characteristics (a bit like the western concept of the seven deadly sins): Awidia (stupidity), Asmita (egoism and arrogance), Raga (desire), Dwesa (anger and revenge), and Abhiniwesa (fear).  

Ironically, the most frightening thing in life is, in fact, death, and yet it is the one thing that certain. Timorous people always feel threatened, because they are afraid of death, they attack everything that threatens their life. Thus, human beings will suffer if they are under the power of Klesa. If, however, Chitta can control Klesa, it can transform it into a power to support Chitta. Human beings will then be encouraged to act and behave well.  

Thus, Nyepi is a ceremony to remind people to keep Klesa away and to cultivate the characteristics of Chitta. I Ketut Wiana 

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