Satria Gugur: an Obituary for Om A.
Beloved families and guests,
I want to express my gratitude for your coming today at the funeral of our uncle, brother, son, and cousin: Om A. Verily, we are all God's creation, and to Him, every creation shall return. So is the teaching of the prophet. Meditating on this teaching, please allow me, young and inexperienced member of the clan, to share the insight which he obtained.
Life is a mere blink of the eyes—the truth behind this expression I experienced recently. During my return to Indonesia in January 2020, I met Om A. at the village Bakungan, Central Java. Om A., an uncle who used to live in our household during my high school years in Bandung, West Jawa, was actively engaged in his daily activities: taking care of both my 91 years old grandmother and her house, while at the same time tend his small business venture.
From the working desk in my father's bedroom, through the window, I could see how his clients came with pickup truck or motorbikes to take items which they want to rent from my uncle: chairs, ratan mattress, cutleries, plates, and glasses. Om A. rent party properties. In our village and its neighboring villages, where people still held traditional ceremonies and gatherings, such service is of essential need. I remember that my younger cousin just had a newborn baby, and she held a blessing ritual. The family-in-law looked none other than Om A. for the party needs. It was a village economy; the customers were friends, relatives, and neighbors.
When I received the news that Om A. passed away on February 28th, 2020, I was shocked for a moment. The person I remembered during the visit was a person who was fit enough to carry rent materials back and forth. But the pictures my relative sent me of his last times were painful to look at. He looked weak, and his eyes were empty. His kidneys failed to function, and the dialysis performed was already too late. When I looked at his pictures, I knew I was looking at the past. Due to time differences and my activities in Berlin, Germany, I will be late due to 6 hours of time differences.
About the pain of separation, I will not speak; about the promises of the afterlife, I shall refrain. The first one, I believe, requires no more articulation due to what we share here at the funeral. The second one is beyond my ability to explain. I left this to beloved elders from our clan to speak about this. What this young and inexperienced member of the family can talk about is his remembrance of the teaching of Prabu Kresna to Prabu Arjuna during the dawn of the war at the Great Kuru Field. If I may summarize it in one sentence, it sounds like this: “Perform your duty while being patient in the process.”
Prabu Kresna asked Prabu Arjuna to perform one of the duties of a prince: to go to war on behalf of his kingdom. Prabu Arjuna, who found that his enemies were his relatives and friends who, due to political situation, had to stand under the opponent's banner, refused to take his bow and arrows, fearing that killing them would lead to consequences of bad karma. Prabu Kresna, however, convinced him to do precisely that because of his duty.
Prabu Kresna's teaching, the karma yoga, taught and encouraged everyone to do the work within their power and responsibility, in whatever position or career they have. No results should be expected, according to the teaching, for the law of karma is absolute. A result is a direct consequence of the action (karma). Therefore, one should concentrate instead on the purity of one's action.
One of the jewels from Occidental philosophy with which I am familiar with is the teaching of Epictetus the Stoic. The teaching of Prabu Kresna resonates in his discourse in Enchiridion. The particular text supposes that life is a big theater, and the gods gave us a role. Like a good actor, we should do our best to fulfill these roles. As a poor person, live the best of a poor person's life. As a king, then the best of a king's life. That way, we would attain such a life conforming to nature.
Om A. is a satria gugur; a warrior fell on a battlefield. The fact that his disease only got treatment so late show that he alone hid his suffering. He had neither a spouse or companion; he had no offspring to continue his legacy. In terms of the Javanese standards of becoming a complete person (dadi wong), he lacks two symbols out of five, which our tradition demands: no house of his own and no spouse. But he did fulfill the other three: a weapon (vocation), a horse (mean of transportation), and a pet bird (mean of entertainment). The three he fulfilled with his constant and humble work. His love and patient to take care of my grandmother is unquestionable. And he had the character of silence. During my stay in Bakungan, the voice of someone sweeping the garden early in the morning inevitably came from him.
Om A. fulfilled his duty, like how Prabu Kresna taught us, and performed his role to the best of his ability, like how Epictetus encouraged. Alone and without glamourous trophies, he preserved in life until the end. He tried until the end to fight, but life is indeed beyond the power of humankind. Let us, especially to the generation of my age and my younger siblings, learn from his example and live in such humbleness and perseverance.
Meditating on these teaching, allow me to console all of us. That Om A. passed away, he is not only free from his disease but also all of the suffering of the world. We, the living, are subject to the dukkha according to Buddha: we face pain, disease, getting old, and death. From these, Om A. is free. As a fallen warrior, he has successfully done his duty. The fact that his small business found reputation even from neighboring villages shows that he did his duty well. And I believe he did his role as a friend, neighbor, son, cousin, and sibling well. Is it not that everyone here cares and loves him? Can we not point a single enemy of him? Let these be our consolation; let these be our example.
I would stop here so as not to delay the procession any longer. Thank you all for listening. I humbly ask for forgiveness, if what I have said in a way insulting someone. It is, of course, not on purpose, and show proof of my inabilities and lack of experience. I thank you for the honor of saying this on behalf of my family. May peace be upon your heart, as well as the receiving of His blessing and His gifts.
Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt 29 February 2020 #speech