Accelerate on the road.
Life is not a race.
Fasting is a very familiar way of life to Javanese. Called pasa or poso, fasting in Javanese culture is always related to the effort to self align. Many Javanese like doing fasting with or without meditation (tapa brata or topo broto) depending on their commitment.
While Javanese Muslim do at least one month of fasting per year in Ramadhan, fasting in Javanese culture itself came even much earlier before Islam was introduced. While in Islam fasting is between dawn to dusk and the same restriction is commonly applied to all kinds of fasting, Javanese fasting is more varied both in term of period and restriction.
Fasting helps Javanese slow down the pace in their mind, regulate the speed of their ambitious behaviour upon life goals, train themselves to be patient.
There are several kinds of fasting in Javanese culture that are still practiced by relatively many nowadays.
1. Regular fasting
This fasting is done only from dawn to dusk like the Islamic fasting. This is a common practice, many Javanese parents use this kind of fasting to train their children about how to manage their immediate excessive desires and concentration in under pressure situation. I remember when we were elementary and high schoolers, we were instructed by parents to do fasting on Monday and Thursday during yearly school testing weeks. Yes, I felt more focused on my study as I had to prioritise tasks to save energy. Brilliant!
Mutih is derived from the word putih (white in Javanese, Indonesian, Malay). During this fasting, a person is restricted to eat other than white rice and fresh water for 24 hours started either at dawn or dusk. Ordinary Javanese can do it for one day, three or seven. Yet more advanced (usually senior) Javanese would extend the period as per commitment.
3. Ngasrep or nganyep
Ngasrep is derived from the word asrep that means cool or cold; while nganyep from the word anyep means tasteless. In this kind of fasting the food and drink should be all cool and tasteless. The person is suggested to eat only boiled vegetable without adding taste (salt, sugar, oil, sauces, etc) and drink fresh water. It is mostly done in three days.
Ngrowot is a word derived from the word krowot that means Javanese common carbo source except rice. The person who does this fasting will only eat carbo non rice like sweet potato, suwek (konjac), gembili, gembolo (English please….), taro, cassava and other tubers.
Ngebleng means staying in; so doing this, a person will do regular fasting but very limited food intake allowed without leaving room or house, not meeting anyone, just doing meditation or doing household chores without distraction from anyone. Someone can do it three and seven days and forty days. Not many are doing this as this is a challenging one: not easy to find a place. This fasting is quite heavy because it does not allow sufficient food intake for a long time.
5. Pati geni (pati: turned off, geni: fire)
It literally means “fire turned off”. This is the highest level of Javanese fasting as the restriction applied really tests the person’s very high commitment: s/he is not allowed to eat, drink, sleep including fall asleep and see any light both artificial and natural. How long? The shortest is 24 hours, maximum unlimited. Note: if s/he sleeps or falls asleep, s/he has to restart the fasting.
There are other kinds of fasting in Javanese culture which were done by very limited people and have been left by many due to the impracticality such as pasa ngidang (from the word kidang or deer) in which a person is only allowed to eat raw foliage like a deer, pasa ngalong (from the word kalong or bat) only eating ripe fruit from the tree, pasa kungkum (bathing up to chin level either in the pool, river or shallow sea) without eating or drinking, etc. There are probably other kinds of fasting as Javanese used to be very creative in “fasting engineering” hahaha….
Javanese believe that with fasting they will connect better to themselves and inevitably with the ultimate power of the universe. They will usually become confident people without showing off. Those fasting committed people —if doing it right and without evil intension— will be a highly spiritual people and voluntarily dedicated to environment and people.
Javanese believe that this type of people bring blessings to the surroundings although blessings are not always tangibly seen. The blessings can be as simple as peaceful daily life with little conflict,
Do we still have many of them? In very silent villages around Java island we might still find a few. They are traditional farmers who feel the need to connect with the ultimate power as only that can help them manage their humble farming that is now severely industrialised and exploited.
Hope we still have them in silence. Amen.