Padmāsana, liṅga, śakti
Dans Negara de Clifford Geertz

30 janvier 2017

Clifford Geertz,
Negara. The Theatre State in 19th Century Bali
Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 1980

The symbology of power, pp.104ss.

Behind the tendentious dramaturgy of state ritual, then, and in fact behind the unchanging plot that animated it, lay two fixed conjunctions of imaged ideas. First, padmasana [padmāsana], the lotus seat (or throne) of god; lingga [liṅga], his phallus, or potency; and sekti [śakti], the energy he infuses into his particular expressions, most especially into the person of the ruler. Second, buwana agung, the realm of being; and /105/ buwana alit, the realm of sentience: the "big world" of what there is and the "little world" of thought and feeling.

Surrounded by a swarm of related, ancillary ideas, also deeply sunk in the pomp and ornament which Helms describes, these two symbol packets formed the content of what is usually all too casually referred to as "divine kingship" in Bali. The message the negara was designed to convey, and in its ritual life did convey, is ill-described by the mere statement, correct enough in itself, that the king was a kind of corporeal god. To the degree that it can be abstracted at all from the vehicles of its expression, the message was that the king, the court around him, and around the court the country as a whole, were supposed to make themselves into facsimiles of the order their imagery defined.

Like dream symbols, religious symbols are richly polysemic (that is, have multiple senses), their significance spreading out profusely in an embarrassment of directions. And this is as true for Balinese religious symbols as for any in the world. They reek of meaning.

Literally, padmasana means "lotus seat." It is used to refer to the throne of the supreme god, Siva (or Surya, the Sun), who sits unstirring in the center of a lotus (padma), surrounded on four petals to the north, east, west, and south by Wisnu, Iswara, Mahadewa, and Brahma, each associated with a particular color, day of the week, part of the body, weapon, metal, magical syllable, and form of supernatural power. It is used to refer to the small stone column, surmounted by a high-back chair (also of stone) set cater-cornered [en diagonale] on the most sacred spot in Balinese temples, upon which offerings to the supreme god are placed during temple ceremonies, when, enticed out of one version of heaven into another by his dancing worshipers, he comes there to sit. It is used to refer to the posture, a kind of infolded squat [position assise sur les talons], one adopts when meditating upon the divine. It is used to refer to the act and the experience of meditation itself. It is a coital position, it is the base of a lingga, it is one of the many names of the supreme god, it is an iconic picture of the cosmos, it is the receptacle upon which the remains of a high priest are conducted to his cremation. And it is the innermost reaches of the human heart.

Lingga is a symbol no less ramifying. Strictly, of course, it refers to Siva's phallus — the "marvellous and interminable" one by which he established his superiority over Brahma and Visnu. Beyond that, it refers to the rough-hewn stone [en pierres de taille grossière] representations of that phallus — mere oblong rocks, suitably rounded at the top-found in temples and other sacred spots all over Bali. More abstractly, it is the prime /106/ symbol of divine kingship a s such. Not only is the king referred to as the lingga of the world; but also, since "on earth, the ruler acts on behalf of Siva, and the essence of his royal power is embodied in the lingga [which] the brahman . . . obtains . . . from Siva and hands . . . over to the founder of the dynasty as the palladium [bouclier, symbole protecteur] of his royalty," the image summarizes the deep spiritual connection (Hooykaas calls it an "indivisible trinity") between the supreme god, the reigning king, and the state high priest. The small, whisk- like sprinkler made of grass stalks and plaited leaves from which priests shake drops of holy water over worshipers at the sacramental high point of practically all Balinese rituals is also addressed as a lingga. The kris (dagger) all noble personages wear thrust into the back of their sarongs, the crystal bar set into the ceremonial headdress of a high priest, the upper tip of a noble's cremation tower, the vehicle that transports the cremated soul to heaven, and the scaffold from which those widows threw themselves so dutifully onto their lord's pyre are also conceived to be linggas.

Finally, sekti is the Balinese word for the sort of transordinary phenomenon that elsewhere is called mana, baraka, orenda, kramat, or, of course, in its original sense, charisma: “A divinely inspired gift or power, such as the ability to perform miracles.”

At bottom, however, sekti rests on a distinctive view of how the divine gets into the world; and most particularly on an elusive and paradoxical conception (and not only to external observers) of the relation between, on the one hand, the subsistent "forms" or "shapes" the divine takes (the Balinese word is murti [mūrti], "[a] body," "bodily," "physical," from the Sanskrit mūrta, "settled into any fixed shape") and, on the other hand, the dynamic "manifestations" (the Sanskrit is śakti, "the energy or active part of a deity") that, in those forms and through those shapes, it variously has. Brahma and Visnu are said to be sektis — that is, roughly, "activations" — of Siva. So is Siva's wife. So, indeed, are all the gods and goddesses. The king, the lord, the priest, and the ascetic are all said to be sekti (not, as often has been said, "to possess" it) to the extent that they are, in turn, instances of what they adore. Royal regalia, priestly ritual objects, sacred heirlooms, and holy places are all sekti in the same sense: they display the power the divine takes on when it falls into particular shapes. Sekti is "supernatural' power well enough — but supernatural power which grows out of imaging the truth, not out of believing, obeying, possessing, organizing, utilizing, or even understanding it. /107/ Padmasana/ lingga/ sekti, the first set of apposed symbols (that is, ritual figures conjoined by the rhetorical structure of court ceremonial), provide the image of what it is, in that ceremonial, that is to be imaged; buwana agung/ buwana alit, the second set of such symbols or figures, provide the image of what that imaging consists in.

buwana agung = macrocosme, monde matériel, le dehors, loin du centre de l'expérience

buwana alit = microcosme, monde immatériel, le dedans, dans les immediate precincts of the soul.