As we travel, we get to experience many different cultures – and with that, many different religions as well. I travel the world from the point of view of a Christian, but every time an opportunity arises to learn about a different spiritual path, I take it gladly. Understanding the religion of a region is a great key into understanding more about its people and its history as well.
While staying in Bali and traveling through Ubud, I got the chance to bathe in one of the Hindu temples. We visited Pura Padang as a last stop on our day of exploring many different sacred sites, and I’m so glad we made the final stop here. Like most temples in that part of the world, there is proper dress, which usually consists of wrap sarongs to cover men and women’s legs and women’s shoulders. I was so grateful to all of the temples that allowed us to borrow sarongs – although I usually had my legs and arms covered ahead of time anyways, this gesture just shows how welcoming they are.
After exploring the other areas of the Pura Padang temple, we came to the section with the baths. There was a specific process in order to be allowed into the room of pools and fountains – a process I followed with extreme care so as to not offend any people there. First we spoke with a Balinese man about what to expect from the process. I was a bit apprehensive, since I would be praying in a temple for a religion which I didn’t follow. But he put my mind at ease, saying that as we go through each fountain, we should do whatever feels right to us. Those who practice Hinduism will do their own rituals. He left us with a piece of advice: “When you go into the water, don’t pray to our gods… pray to your own God.” This really showed me just how open and accepting Balinese culture is, and it is especially present at this temple. They were willing to open up a sacred place of prayer to all religions, so everyone can pray and engage in a spiritual journey together.
We started by stripping down, and swapping our colorful wrap sarongs for full green sarongs, leaving our few possessions in a little changing room behind the water. We helped each other tie the fabric around ourselves so it wouldn’t slip off while we were submerged in the cool clear water. We started on the far left side, as instructed by our Balinese friend, and prayed at each fountain, moving slowly along the entire length of several pools until we reached the right side. I said a little prayer at each fountain, going through with my two other friends. My friend Brad also sipped the water from some of the fountains, which is another Balinese custom.
Despite being a Christian in a Hindu place of worship, this was one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever visited. I felt very cleansed afterwards, and it felt surreal to have so many people gathered together for worship from all different spiritual backgrounds. All who were there, no matter their nationality, upbringing, or beliefs, went on a personal journey by choosing to enter to pools and bathe in the temple. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take part in such a meaningful and memorable experience. I felt a wave of holiness and appreciation for the inclusivity of this place. I think we can all learn something from the Balinese people – people who respect everyone, even with differing cultures and customs. And they are not only respectful, but they welcome and invite newcomers in with open arms. Thank you, Bali, for opening my eyes and my heart.