For the Earth, a Nyepi Day of Rest

By I Made Suarnatha and I Gusti Raka Panji Tisna
For The Bali Times

NUSA DUA ~ During the opening of the 13th session of the Conference of Parties to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a very brief film, Nyepi (Silent) Day for the Earth, was screened.

This film, made by the Bali Collaboration on Climate Change, illustrates the situation in Bali during Nyepi, the Day of Silence, observed for 24 hours, once a year in Bali during the Saka New Year. All activities cease during that day.

People have asked the question how can an entire island cease activities, light only minimum lights and everyone stay home? This article provides background information on this old practice, within the context of reducing green house gas (GHG) emission.

Balinese people have a philosophy of harmony known as Tri Hita Karana. Tri means three; Hita means happiness; Karana means the cause. So Tri Hita Karana means three causes of happiness, which are harmonious relationship between humans and God; humans with other human beings; and humans with nature. This is complementary to the three pillars of sustainable development that we are familiar with today, i.e. the economic, social and environmental pillars.

One of the implementation of Tri Kita Karana is observing the Silent day or Nyepi during the Saka New Year, in March or April. Originally Nyepi was aimed at providing a space for individuals to reflect on themselves and to contemplate the Creator. Nyepi is also aimed at giving space for the nature to breathe and rest and rejuvenate herself. This is a unique traditional practice as part of the Nusantara Archipelago heritage that is still practiced until today. Nowhere else in the world do we know of a community observing a day of Silence collectively.

In the past, Nyepi was observed during different times by different villages or areas in Bali. The island-wide Nyepi was observed collectively since 1973 and it was declared a national holiday since 1983.

The Balinese community conduct a series of ritual as a symbol to cleanse nature and achieve balance between the macrocosm (Bhuana Agung) and microcosm (Bhuana Alit). This is followed by four self-restraining conducts or the Catur Brata Penyepian during Nyepi, i.e.:

1. Amati Geni (not lighting fires)

Literally not lighting fires for cooking and not lighting lamps. People are advised to fast to rejuvenate the body and restraint wants. Today this extends to not putting on lamps after dark, including street lights.

2. Amati Karya (not working)

It is advised not to do any physical work, but rather to meditate on the self and on the Creator.

3. Amati Lelungaan (not travelling)

People are advised not to travel since the aim is to give the body a rest.

4. Amati Lelanguan (no entertainment)

It is advised to switch off all entertainment equipment, such as television, radio etc. People are advised to be with themselves as part of self reflection.

In the modern day, Nyepi is still practiced on Bali with few exceptions.

All roads are empty of vehicles; all commercial and social activities are stopped; airports and seaports are closed; and people stay at home. Only certain police stations and hospitals are allowed to operate. For 24 hours, people are advised not to put on lights.

The original objective was to rest the body physically and to provide space for the earth to breathe after a year of being polluted and exploited by humans. In the present day, this ancient practice can become an easy, no-cost, fair way to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

It is estimated that during Nyepi, GHG is reduced by a minimum of 20 thousand tons, based on the following calculation. According to 2005 data, there were about 1,008,000 motorcycles and 200,000 cars in Bali. If it is assumed that each motorcycle consumes 4 liters of petrol each day, about 4,032,000 liters are used. Again assuming each liter of petrol produces 2.4 kg CO2, the CO2 emission from motorcycle would be 9,676,800 kg. Assuming one car consumes 10 liters of petrol, about 2 million liters of petrol are used each day. This would emit 4.8 million kg of CO2.

About 80 airplanes operate at the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali, consuming about 1,600 kiloliters of fuel (avtur). Using the same conversion assumption, the emission would amount to 3.840 tons of CO2. Thus total emission from motorcycles, cars and airplanes would be about 17,316 tons.

This is a conservative estimate. At a minimum, Bali reduces 20 thousand tons of CO2 emission during Nyepi, not including emission reduction from the seaports, industry and energy sectors.

Nyepi, or the Silent Day, is a real contribution to GHG emission reduction which is fair, easy to implement and at almost no cost. Of course this does not replace other essential mitigation and adaptation measures to address climate change. But this method of reducing GHG emission is something that anyone and everyone can do easily, because it requires only an individual will to do nothing for 24 hours. The international community can learn this wise practice by adopting a Silent Day on March 21 every year.

Bali can.

Can you?

Vote for World Silent Day at

The writers are members of The Bali Collaboration on Climate Change.

Filed under: The Island

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