One Day – Laksana Viriya

Laksana Viriya
Priest Laksana Viriya has served the faithful at the Silapraba Mahavira Graha Temple in Denpasar for nearly a decade, after moving from her native Medan in North Sumatra, and as the Year of the Pig approaches, the 51-year-old shared her views with The Bali Times’ Arga Sagitarini on Buddhism, helping those around you and what the new Lunar New Year means.

I say the special puja prayers of priests an hour after getting up at 5am and washing. I pray for this country, the region, the people and for all of God’s creations all over this world. Afterwards we ring a big bell in the temple and leave a full bowl of bubur (rice porridge) in front of the door as a gift for small animals like ants and spiders; it’s a sort of appreciation of God’s creations. It’s also a symbol that we’ve finished our morning prayers.
Most of our followers here are Chinese and they prefer that we use Mandarin in our prayers, though we also use Sanskrit and Indonesian.
I have breakfast around 8am and then do some meditation for half an hour. For me, no day is exactly the same; each is somewhat different. People can call me out for support, whether they’re sick or need someone to go somewhere with them for moral support. Whatever people want I’ll do for them – whether they’re Buddhist or not.
If it’s a morning when no one has requested my help, I clean up the temple and give some advice on the phone. Sunday mornings are for kids, when we have special prayers for them. We have naughty children that are sent here for the prayers; their parents hope I can turn them into good children. So I do things with them to show them how very lucky they are – I take them to an orphanage, where they can see children with no mothers and fathers, and children who are physically handicapped. When they see these children, they say thanks to God that they are not like that and that they are so lucky. I remind them, then, that they need to make sure that their parents are happy with them.
I pray three times a day – morning, afternoon and night. I pray in front of the Buddha and Bodhisatva statues, as I’m a follower of Mahayana Buddha and believe in and praying to Bodhisatva. The Kwan Im Goddess is another one we pray to.
I have lunch at midday and take a rest. I’m vegetarian, but there’s no rule that says Buddhist priests have to be. But we have a desire to reduce or stop our consumption of foods that have a soul within them, of blood and breath. Plants are also alive but they don’t have blood and breath. What we eat here is very much dependant on what people donate to us, which is usually fruits, vegetables and cakes.
I’ll do some exercises in the afternoon and then teach Shaolin calisthenics.
Eleven years ago I found my calling and had to fight to be a Buddhist priest. I truly wanted to help people, and becoming a Buddhist priest was the best way to do that. My parents didn’t want me to become one, but I did and I love it. They didn’t want me to do this because they love me and didn’t want to lose me – once you become a Buddhist priest your home becomes the temple and you can’t sleep in your parents’ home again.
I feel a different love in my heart now. Whereas before I loved my parents because that’s what they were, my parents, now I love all elderly people as I love my parents, and it’s my duty to give them the love and care they need. Doing that brings me joy; nothing about this life makes me feel disappointed in anything. The love I feel in my heart has made me a different, better person – this love makes others happy, and me.
For me, religion is a way to become happy with yourself and your life and to get close to God. Being happy in this life is the most important thing, and it doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you are content. I mix with people of all religions, especially the Hindus here in Bali.
This coming year, the Year of the Pig, doesn’t have any special significance for me – every year is the same, and there are always good and bad sides. This year now ending was the Year of the Dragon, and was supposed to be lucky, but look at all the disasters that affected Indonesia. So I say, don’t focus too much on the year and what it means – rather just try to make the year a good one for you.
After the final day’s prayer, around 9pm, I continue with the same ritual but this time it’s a full bowl of uncooked rice and water I leave out by the door. When everything’s put back in its place and the temple is clean and tidy, I go to bed.

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