"ketut, why is life all crazy like this?" I asked my medicine man the next day. He replied, "Bhuta ia, dewa ia."
"What does that mean?"
"Man is a demon, man is a god. Both true."
This was a familiar idea to me. It's very Indian, very Yogic. The notion is that human beings are born, as my Guru has explained many times, with the equivalent potential for both contraction and expansion. The ingredients of both darkness and light are equally present in all of us, and then it's up to the individual (or the family, or the society) to decide what will be brought forth--the virtues or the malevolence. The madness of this planet is largely a result of the human being's difficulty in coming into virtuous balance with himself. Lunacy (both collective and individual) results.
"So what can we do about the craziness of the world?"
"Nothing." Ketut laughed, but with a dose of kindness. "This is nature of world. This is destiny. Worry about your craziness only--make you in peace."
"But how should we find peace within ourselves?" I asked Ketut.
"Meditation," he said. "Purpose of meditation is only happiness and peace--very easy. Today I will teach a new meditation, make you even better person. Is called Four Brothers Meditation."
Ketut went on to explain that the Balinese believe we are each accompanied at birth by four invisible brothers, who come into the world with us and protect us throughout our lives. When the child is in the womb, her four siblings are even there with her--they are represented by the placenta, the amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord and the yellow waxy substance that protects an unborn baby's skin. When the baby is born, the parents collect as much of these extraneous birthing materials as possible, placing them in a coconut shell and burying it by the front door of the family's house. According to the Balinese, this buried coconut is the holy resting place of the four unborn brothers, and that spot is tended to forever, like a shrine.
The child is taught from earliest consciousness that she has these four brothers with her in the world wherever she goes, and that they will always look after her. The brothers inhabit the four virtues a person needs in order to be safe and happy in life: intelligence, friendship, strength and (I love this one) poetry. The brothers can be called upon in any critical situation for rescue and assistance. When you die, your four spirit brothers collect your soul and bring you to heaven.
Today Ketut told me that he's never taught any Westerner the Four Brothers Meditation yet, but he thinks I am ready for it. First, he taught me the names of my invisible siblings--Ango Patih, Maragio Patih, Banus Patih and Banus Patih Ragio. He instructed me to memorize these names and to ask for the help of my brothers throughout my life, whenever I need them. He says I don't have to be formal when I speak to them, the way we are formal when we pray to God. I'm allowed to speak to my brothers with familiar affection, because "It just your family!" He tells me to say their names as I'm washing myself in the morning, and they will join me. Say their names again every time before I eat, and I will include my brothers in the enjoyment of the meal. Call on them before I go to sleep, saying, "I am sleeping now, so you must stay awake and protect me," and my brothers will shield me through the night, stop demons and nightmares.
"That's good," I told him, "because I have a problem sometimes with nightmares." "What nightmares?"
I explained to the medicine man that I've been having the same horrible nightmare since childhood, namely that there is a man with a knife standing next to my bed. This nightmare is so vivid, the man is so real, that it sometimes makes me scream out in fear. It leaves my heart pounding every time (and has never been fun for those who share my bed, either). I've been having this nightmare every few weeks for as long as I can remember.
I told this to Ketut, and he told me I had been misunderstanding the vision for years. The man with the knife in my bedroom is not an enemy; he's just one of my four brothers. He's the spirit brother who represents strength. He's not there to attack me, but to guard me while I sleep. I'm probably waking up because I'm sensing the commotion of my spirit brother fighting away some demon who might be trying to hurt me. It is not a knife my brother is carrying, but a kris--a small, powerful dagger. I don't have to be afraid. I can go back to sleep, knowing I am protected.
"You lucky," Ketut said. "Lucky you can see him. Sometimes I see my brothers in meditation, but very rare for regular person to see like this. I think you have big spiritual power. I hope maybe someday you become medicine woman."
"OK," I said, laughing, "but only if I can have my own TV series."
He laughed with me, not getting the joke, of course, but loving the idea that people make jokes. Ketut then instructed me that whenever I speak to my four spirit brothers, I must
tell them who I am, so they can recognize me. I must use the secret nickname they have for me. I must say, "I am Lagoh Prano."
Lagoh Prano means "Happy Body."
I rode my bicycle back home, pushing my happy body up the hills toward my house in the late afternoon sun. On my way through the forest, a big male monkey dropped out of a tree right in front of me and bared his fangs at me. I didn't even flinch. I said, "Back off, Jack--I got four brothers protecting my ass," and I just rode right on by him.