The Different Stages of Pencak Silat

The Different Stages of Pencak Silat
by O'ong Maryono

The Javanese ethnic group originally lived in East and Central Java. Javaneses are the largest ethnic group in Indonesia and today are spread all over the archipelago. It is estimated that they are about 130.000.000. They have their own culture and their own philosophy of life or cosmology, which is called kejawen. The kejawen's cosmology/philosophy is meant to shape the entire human personality during its complete life cycle since conception until death. Therefore it influences also the educational system of pencak silat (Mulder 1996:17).

The mahaguru, guru , pendekar, pesilat are expected to transmit Javanese cultural values to their murid (students). Since the Javaneses are the largest in number, the majority of pencak silat schools in Indonesia also derives from Java and has adopted the kejawen philosophy. In Javanese cosmology, the macrocosm (jagad gede) stands as paradigm for the microcosm (jagad cilik). The macrocosm --and its reflection, the microcosm-- consists of four elements, the sun, the earth, the water and the wind.

Furthermore, the macrocosm is conceived as a continuous fight between the forces of chaos and the forces of order. In human beings, the forces of chaos are symbolized by their outward and corporeal nature (lahir), that ties them to the phenomenal word through emotions, passions and worldly rationality, while their inner nature (bathin) relates them to the ultimate cosmic meaning and morality. In life, people have to try to overcome their lahir nature and become one with their inner/bathin nature. More in particular, human beings' lahir/corporeal nature consists of four kinds of passions/desires (nafsu patang parkara) Amarah = emotional/angry Luamah = like to eat Supiyah = sexual desire Mutmainah = secular rationality These passions are very difficult to control, especially at an early age. In Indonesia, people start to study pencak silat when they are very young. They are still full of emotions, passions and desires. They want to fight; they want to win; they wan to become famous, etc. All these are lahir passions. Physical fighting itself is by definition considered a corporeal activity. This is why, pencak silat training for self-defense or sport is considered a lowest/stage of ilmu. Although it is done to control emotions/passions and such, it is still a part of our corporeal reality. It is important to stress that for the Javaneses all kinds of corporeal instincts have to be mastered. By engaging in mystical endeavors -- for example praying, meditation (semedhi), fasting (puasa), and retreating to mountains and into caves (tapa brata)-- humans make an effort to overcome their corporeal nature in order to free their inner-self in their quest for reunification with the macrocosm, establishing ultimate order.

Order in its deepest sense means unity, the oneness of the all, of creator and created, of servant and master, of origin and destiny (sangkan paran). Javanese mystics refer to this principle of ultimate unity as God or The One (Sang Hyang), The Sacred (Hyang kesaktian), That -Which- Is - Almighty (Yang Maha Kuasa), and The Ultimate Oneness (Yang Maha Esa). The attainment of unity between microcosm and macrocosm is what I described as the aim of the fourth and highest stage of ilmu. At this stage, pencak silat practitioners have already abandoned lahir passions and needs and have taken upon them the moral task of becoming one with God and the cosmos through the practice of mysticism. In between there are the two stages of pencak silat as art (second stage) and the study of ilmu which enables us to help others, like to provide treatment to sick people (third stage).

(Consulted sources: Mulder, N., Mysticism & Everyday Life in Contemporary Java, 1983, Singapore University Press


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