The Javanese Worldview

Generally, a worldview, or Weltanschauung, is an abstraction from life experience; it is a way of thinking and feeling about values, social organization, behavior, events, and other aspects of experience. These various aspects of experience, based on socio-culturally defined concepts, give rise to a mental set of perceptions shaping an attitude toward life in general. The sociological and psychological study of the Javanese worldview can therefore reveal the approach to reality as experienced by the Javanese as an individual as well as by the Javanese society as a whole. An analysis of the Javanese worldview, then, will provide the means for understanding the logic behind the Javanese social system and its dynamics.

The beliefs of Javanism (‘Kejawen’) are based on the conviction of the essential unity of all Existence. In Javanism, human existence is viewed within a cosmological context. The encompassing view of Javanism toward human existence makes life itself a religious experience. Hence, dualistic concepts such as ‘religion’ versus ‘non-religion’, ‘natural’ versus ‘supernatural’, ‘worldly’ versus ‘other-worldly’, ‘impermanence’ versus ‘eternity’ become irrelevant to the Javanese perception of reality.

According the Javanese, worldly existence ought to be sustained in perfect harmony with the Cosmic Law and Order of the Universe. This can be achieved by living according to a twofold set of moral rules: (1) the Javanese etiquette (‘tatakrama’) which function it is to regulate the individual’s behavior; and (2) the traditional customs (‘adat’) which serve as a means to sustain the inner harmony within society. It is the moral responsibility of each individual to recognize and understand the universal order of existence, thereby attuning oneself to the Divine. This involves an approach to life and reality which is based on resignation and surrender to the all-encompassing divine presence, to That Which Is Almighty. The performance of formal religious and animistic practices, then, serves as a way to consolidate man’s relationship to the Divine.

This belief elaborated further into Javanese mysticism, which later evolved into Kebatinan. A practitioner of Kebatinan lives a life of modesty and simplicity, which implies following a moral set of rules that emphasize acceptance, patience and self-knowledge. In this way, he will then be able to rid himself of his ignorance and sensual desires, the source of immoral behavior. By cleansing his inner self (‘batin’), his purified heart becomes a vessel for the Divine Presence to reside in. Ultimately, when God has thus revealed Himself within man, then Master and servant may become one.

Though it is said that the Divine Truth is already present within man’s inner-feeling (‘rasa’), yet not every practitioner of Kebatinan may be capable of actually realizing such an exalted state of spiritual or divine awareness. This is due to the fact that the revelation of the True Knowledge cannot be forced by man himself; only upon man’s complete surrender to the Divine alone can it be revealed to him. Obviously, the people who claimed they did receive revelations soon became a spiritual teacher (‘guru’) themselves.

Due to the individual nature of the experience of revelations, the rise of spiritual teachers of Kebatinan consequently lead to an increase in different theories since they based their methods of teachings solely on their personal experience. Hence, both traditional (‘Kejawen’) and modern (‘Kebatinan’) Javanese mysticism contain no specific religious dogma or any religious scriptures of its own, since every guru starts anew. Thus the practitioner’s reasoning is based on his intuition, which is free from an indigenous tradition of systematic reasoning.


– Mulder, J. A., Niels (1970): “A Comparative Note on the Thai and the Javanese Worldview as Expressed by Religious Practice and Belief,” in: Journal of the Siam Society, 58 pt 2: 79-85.

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