Buddhism in Indonesia

Buddhism has a long history in Indonesia, and is recognized as one of six official religions in Indonesia, along with Islam, Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), Hinduism and Confucianism. According to the 2000 national census roughly 0.8% of the total citizens of Indonesia were Buddhists, and numbered around 1.7 million.[1] Most Buddhists are concentrated in Jakarta, Riau, Riau Islands, Bangka Belitung, North Sumatra, and West Kalimantan. These totals, however, are probably inflated, as practitioners of Taoism and Chinese folk religion, which are not considered official religions of Indonesia, likely declared themselves as Buddhists on the most recent census.[2] Today, the majority of Buddhists in Indonesia are Chinese, however small numbers of native (such as Javanese and Sasak) Buddhists are also present.

Borobudur monks 1
Monks praying at Borobudur, the largest Buddhist structure in the world, built by the Sailendra dynasty.
Religious map of Indonesia
Religion map in Indonesia. Buddhist are shown in orange

History

Antiquity

Buddhist Expansion
Buddhist expansion from northern India to the rest of Asia, Srivijaya once served as a center of Buddhist learning and expansion.

Buddhism is the second oldest religion in Indonesia after Hinduism, which arrived from India around the second century.[2] The history of Buddhism in Indonesia is closely related to the history of Hinduism, as a number of empires influenced by Indian culture were established around the same period. The arrival of Buddhism in the Indonesian archipelago began with trading activity, from the early 1st century, by way of the maritime Silk Road between Indonesia and India.[3] The oldest Buddhist archaeological site in Indonesia is arguably the Batujaya stupas complex in Karawang, West Java. The oldest relic in Batujaya was estimated to originate from the 2nd century, while the latest dated from the 12th century. Subsequently, significant numbers of Buddhist sites were found in Jambi, Palembang, and Riau provinces in Sumatra, as well as in Central and East Java. The Indonesian archipelago has, over the centuries, witnessed the rise and fall of powerful Buddhist empires, such as the Sailendra dynasty, the Mataram, and Srivijaya empires.

Borobudur Temple Compounds-111359
Borobudur Temple Compounds, located in Central Java, Indonesia

According to some Chinese source, a Chinese Buddhist monk I-tsing on his pilgrim journey to India, witnessed the powerful maritime empire of Srivijaya based on Sumatra in the 7th century. The empire served as a Buddhist learning center in the region. A notable Srivijayan revered Buddhist scholar is Dharmakirti, a Srivijayan prince of the Sailendra dynasty, born around the turn of the 7th century in Sumatra.[4] He became a revered scholar-monk in Srivijaya and moved to India to become a teacher at the famed Nalanda University, as well as a poet. He built on and reinterpreted the work of Dignaga, the pioneer of Buddhist Logic, and was very influential among Brahman logicians as well as Buddhists. His theories became normative in Tibet and are studied to this day as a part of the basic monastic curriculum. Other Buddhist monks that visited Indonesia were Atisha, Dharmapala, a professor of Nalanda, and the South Indian Buddhist Vajrabodhi. Srivijaya was the largest Buddhist empire ever formed in Indonesian history.

A number of Buddhist historical heritages can be found in Indonesia, including the 8th century Borobudur mandala monument and Sewu temple in Central Java, Batujaya in West Java, Muaro Jambi, Muara Takus and Bahal temple in Sumatra, and numerous of statues or inscriptions from the earlier history of Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms. During the era of Kediri, Singhasari and Majapahit empire, buddhism — identified as Dharma ri Kasogatan — was acknowledged as one of kingdom's official religions along with Hinduism. Although some of kings might favour Hinduism over another, nevertheless the harmony, toleration, and even syncretism were promoted as manifested in Bhinneka Tunggal Ika national motto, coined from Kakawin Sutasoma, written by Mpu Tantular to promotes tolerance between Hindus (Shivaites) and Buddhists.[5] The classical era of ancient Java also had produces some of the exquisite examples of Buddhist arts, such as the statue of Prajnaparamita and the statue of Buddha Vairochana and Boddhisttva Padmapani and Vajrapani in Mendut temple.

Decline and revival

In the 13th century Islam entered the archipelago, and began gaining foothold in coastal port towns. The fall of Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit empire in late 15th century marked the end of dharmic civilization dominance in Indonesia. By the end of the 16th century, Islam had supplanted Hinduism and Buddhism as the dominant religion of Java and Sumatra. After that for 450 years, there is no significant Buddhist adherence and practice in Indonesia. Many of Buddhist sites, stupas, temples, and manuscripts are lost or forgotten, as the region has become more predominantly Muslim. During this era of decline, there was only small numbers of people practicing Buddhism, most of them are Chinese immigrants that settled in Indonesia with migration wave accelerated in the 17th century. Many of klenteng (Chinese temples) in Indonesia are in fact a tridharma temple that houses three faiths, namely Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

In 1934, Narada Thera, a missionary monk from Sri Lanka, visited Dutch East Indies (today Indonesia) for the first time as part of his journey to spread the Dharma in Southeast Asia. This opportunity was used by a few local Buddhists to revive Buddhism in Indonesia. A Bodhi tree planting ceremony was held in Southeastern side of Borobudur on 10 March 1934 under the blessing of Narada Thera, and some Upasakas were ordained as monks.[6]

Modern Indonesia

Borobudur on Vesak Day 2011
National vesak ceremony in Borobudur, Central Java.

Following the downfall of President Sukarno in the mid-1960s, Pancasila was reasserted as the official Indonesian policy on religion to only recognise monotheism .[7] As a result, founder of Perbuddhi (Indonesian Buddhists Organisation), Bhikku Ashin Jinarakkhita, proposed that there was a single supreme deity, Sanghyang Adi Buddha. He was also backed up with the history behind the Indonesian version of Buddhism in ancient Javanese texts, and the shape of the Borobudur Temple.

During the New Order era, the state ideology of Pancasila listed Buddhism among the five official religions of Indonesia. The national leader of the time, Suharto, had considered Buddhism and Hinduism as Indonesian classical religions.

The first Theravada ordination of bhikkhunis in Indonesia after more than a thousand years occurred in 2015 at Wisma Kusalayani in Lembang, Bandung.[8] Those ordained included Vajiradevi Sadhika Bhikkhuni from Indonesia, Medha Bhikkhuni from Sri Lanka, Anula Bhikkhuni from Japan, Santasukha Santamana Bhikkhuni from Vietnam, Sukhi Bhikkhuni and Sumangala Bhikkhuni from Malaysia, and Jenti Bhikkhuni from Australia.[8]

Today, in reference to the principle of Pancasila, a Buddhist monk representing the Buddhist Sangha, along with priest, Brahmin, pastor or representative of other recognized religions, would participate in nearly all state-sponsored ceremonies. The ceremony would always include a prayer (led by a Muslim imam with representatives of other faiths standing in a row behind him). It is noteworthy that, although the majority of Indonesian Buddhists are of the Chinese Mahayana school, more often than not the representative of Buddhism as selected by the Government would happen to be a Theravada monk.

Once a year, thousands of Buddhists from Indonesia and neighboring countries flock to Borobudur to commemorate national Vesak ceremony.[9]

Literature

The oldest extant esoteric Buddhist Mantranaya (largely a synonym of Mantrayana, Vajrayana and Buddhist Tantra) literature in Old Javanese, a language significantly influenced by Sanskrit, is enshrined in the Sang Kyang Kamahayanan Mantranaya.[10]

The Lalitavistara Sutra was known to the Mantranaya stonemasons of Borobudur, refer: The birth of Buddha (Lalitavistara). 'Mantranaya' is not a corruption or misspelling of 'mantrayana' even though it is largely synonymous. Mantranaya is the term for the esoteric tradition on mantra, a particular lineage of Vajrayana and Tantra, in Indonesia. The clearly Sanskrit sounding 'Mantranaya' is evident in Old Javanese tantric literature, particularly as documented in the oldest esoteric Buddhist tantric text in Old Javanese, the Sang Kyang Kamahayanan Mantranaya refer Kazuko Ishii (1992).[11]

Current practice

Monks doing Pindapatta before Vessak Day 2010 in Magelang
Monks doing Pindapata before Vesak Day 2010 in Magelang, Central Java. Chinese Indonesian Buddhist giving alms to the monks.

In Indonesia Buddhism is mainly followed by the Chinese Indonesian people and some small indigenous groups of Indonesia, with 0.8% (including Taoism and Confucianism) of Indonesia's population being Buddhists.[1][2][12]

A small minority of Sasaks called the "Bodha" (estimated population: 8000) are mainly found in the village of Bentek and on the slopes of Gunung Rinjani, Lombok. They are totally untouched by Islamic influence and worship animistic gods, incorporating some Hindu and Buddhist influences in their rituals and religious vocabulary. This group of Sasak, due in part to the name of their tribe, are recognized as Buddhists by the Indonesian government.

Pockets of Javanese Buddhists also exist and are to be found mainly in villages and cities in Central and East Java. The regencies of Temanggung, Blitar and Jepara count about 30.000 Buddhists, mostly of Javanese ethnicity.

Schools

Today there are numerous Buddhist schools established in Indonesia. The earliest school that was established in Indonesia was Vajrayana Buddhism, which developed from Mahayana Buddhism, and which had some similarities with later Tibetan Buddhism. Various temples of ancient Java and Sumatra are Vajrayana. Chinese Buddhism (the main branch of Mahayana Buddhism) has gained followers from Chinese Indonesian populations that began to migrate into the archipelago during the 17th to 18th century. Other notable schools are Theravada Buddhism from Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Indonesia's most notable Buddhist organization is Perwakilan Umat Buddha Indonesia (Walubi) which serves as the vehicle of all Buddhist schools in Indonesia. Other Buddhist organizations include Majelis Buddhayana Indonesia, Sangha Agung Indonesia (SAGIN), Sangha Theravada Indonesia (STI), Sangha Mahayana Indonesia, and the Taiwan-originated Tzu-Chi.

Religious events

The most important Buddhist religious event in Indonesia is Vesak (Indonesian: Waisak). Once a year, during the full moon in May or June, Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak day commemorating the birth, death, and the time when Siddhārtha Gautama attained the highest wisdom to become the Buddha Shakyamuni. Vesak is an official national holiday in Indonesia[13] and the ceremony is centered at the three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.[14] Vesak also is often celebrated in Sewu temple and numerous Buddhist temples in Indonesia.

Protests

The Chinese Indonesian community in Tanjung Balai municipality in North Sumatra has protested against the administration’s plan to dismantle a statue of Buddha on top of the Tri Ratna Temple.[15][16]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b "Peringatan".
  2. ^ a b c "Buddhism in Indonesia". Buddha Dharma Education Association. Buddha Dharma Education Association. 2005. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  3. ^ Flanagan, Anthony (2006). "Buddhist Art: Indonesia". About. Archived from the original on August 19, 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-03.
  4. ^ P. 487 Buddhism: art, architecture, literature & philosophy, Volume 1
  5. ^ Depkumham.go.id Archived 2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Buddhism in Indonesia". Buddhanet. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  7. ^ cf. Bunge (1983), chapter Buddhism.
  8. ^ a b http://www.bhikkhuni.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/FirstTheravadaordinationofbhikkhunisinIndonesiaAfteraThousandYears.pdf
  9. ^ "Vesak Festival: A Truly Sacred Experience". Wonderful Indonesia. Archived from the original on 4 May 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  10. ^ SHIVA BUDDHA INDONESIA. "SHIVA BUDDHA INDONESIA".
  11. ^ Ishii, Kazuko (1992). "The Correlation of Verses of the 'Sang Kyang Kamahayanan Mantranaya' with Vajrabodhi's 'Japa-sutra'". Area and Culture Studies Vol. 44. Source: [1] (accessed: Monday February 1, 2010)
  12. ^ [2] Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Keputusan Bersama tentang Hari Libur Nasional dan Cuti Bersama tahun 2006" (Press release) (in Indonesian). Coordinating Ministry for Public Welfare. Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
  14. ^ "The Meaning of Procession". Waisak. Walubi (Buddhist Council of Indonesia). Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  15. ^ Apriadi Gunawan (2010-10-20). "Indonesian-Chinese protest removal of Buddha statue". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  16. ^ http://www.tionghoa.info/patung-buddha-di-vihara-tanjung-balai-pecinan-digusur-alasannya-karena-dianggap-menghina-agama-mayoritas/

Bibliography

External links

Media related to Buddhism in Indonesia at Wikimedia Commons

Aliran kepercayaan

Aliran Kepercayaan is an official cover term for various, partly syncretic forms of mysticism in Indonesia. It includes kebatinan, kejiwan, and kerohanian.

Ashin Jinarakkhita

Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002), born Tee Boan-an 戴满安 was an Indonesian-born Chinese who revived Buddhism in Indonesia. He was also known as Bhante Ashin, Tizheng Lao Heshang 體正老和尚, Teh-ching, Sukong 師公 ("Grandmaster", and The Flying Monk.

Borobudur

Borobudur, or Barabudur (Indonesian: Candi Borobudur, Javanese: ꦕꦤ꧀ꦣꦶꦧꦫꦧꦸꦣꦸꦂ, romanized: Candhi Barabudhur) is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang Regency, not far from the town of Muntilan, in Central Java, Indonesia. It is the world's largest Buddhist temple. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. It is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple design follows Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India's influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The pilgrim journey begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument, ascending to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Borobudur has one of the largest and most complete ensembles of Buddhist reliefs in the world.Evidence suggests that Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and subsequently abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, followed by the monument's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and ranks with Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia as one of the great archeological sites of Southeast Asia. Borobudur remains popular for pilgrimage, with Buddhists in Indonesia celebrating Vesak Day at the monument. Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.

Buddhahood

In Buddhism, buddhahood (Sanskrit: buddhatva; Pali: buddhatta or buddhabhāva; Chinese: 佛果) is the condition or rank of a buddha "awakened one".The goal of Mahayana's bodhisattva path is Samyaksambuddhahood, so that one may benefit all sentient beings by teaching them the path of cessation of dukkha. Mahayana theory contrasts this with the goal of the Theravada path, where the goal is individual arhatship.

Buddhism in Singapore

Buddhism in Singapore is practiced by approximately 33% of the country's population. In 2015, out of 3,276,190 Singaporeans polled, 1,087,995 (33.21%) of them identified themselves as Buddhists.Buddhism was introduced in Singapore primarily by migrants from across the world over past centuries. The first recorded histories of Buddhism in Singapore can be observed in the early days' monasteries and temples such as Thian Hock Keng and Jin Long Si Temple that were built by settlers that came from various parts of the world, in particularly Asia.

There are a variety of Buddhist organizations in Singapore, with the more predominant authorities being established ones such as the Singapore Buddhist Federation.

Buddhism in Southeast Asia

Buddhism in Southeast Asia includes a variety of traditions of Buddhism including two main traditions: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Theravāda Buddhism. Historically, Mahāyāna Buddhism had a prominent position in this region, but in modern times most countries follow the Theravāda tradition.

Southeast Asian countries with a Theravāda Buddhist majority are Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.Vietnam continues to have a Mahāyāna majority due to Chinese influence. Indonesia was Mahāyāna Buddhist since the time of the Sailendra and Srivijaya empires, but now Mahāyāna Buddhism in Indonesia is now largely practiced by the Chinese diaspora, as in Singapore and Malaysia. Mahāyāna Buddhism is the predominant religion of most Chinese communities in Singapore. In Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia, it remains a strong minority.

Bukit Seguntang

Bukit Seguntang ("Seguntang Hill") is a 29–30 metres high small hill located at the northern bank of Musi River and within the vicinity of Palembang, capital city of South Sumatra province, Indonesia. It is located around 3 kilometres north from Musi river northern bank and around four kilometres southwest from Palembang city center. The place is considered sacred by the locals and home of many archeological relics believed to be related to Srivijaya Empire, once a dominating political power around Malacca Strait (6th to 13th century AD). Today the hill gain status as an archaeological park.

In 1920s, a Buddha statue was discovered in this hill. It was discovered in pieces, the head part was discovered first, several months later the body parts were discovered, however the leg part is still missing.

The 277 cm tall statue made from granite stone commonly found in neighboring Bangka Island. The statue followed the Amaravati style flourished in Southern India around 2nd to 5th century CE. The style was copied during Srivijaya era, and its origin was estimated circa 7th—8th century CE. Today it is displayed in Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum, near Kuto Besak fort.

In Bukit Seguntang area also found fragments of Boddhisattva statue, a ruin of stupa made of sandstone and brick, fragment of inscription, stone statue of Boddhisattva, statue of Kuwera, and a statue of Buddha Vairocana in seated position complete with prabha (halo aura) and chattra (umbrella). The fragment of inscription is called Bukit Seguntang Inscription, mentioned about a great battle that shed a lot of blood upon Bhumi Srivijaya. The inscription also mentioned about a curse for those who had done evil deed.

In the southern side of the hill lays Karanganyar site, where sherds from Tang and early Sung dynasties were found. Two stone inscriptions dated back to seventh century AD were found in its vicinity in 1920s.

History of the Jews in Indonesia

The history of the Jews in Indonesia began with the arrival of early European explorers and settlers, and the first Jews arrived in the 17th century. Most of Indonesian Jews arrived from the Netherlands, Middle East, Northern Africa and Southern Europe. Jews in Indonesia presently form a very small Jewish community of about 100-500, of mostly Sephardi Jews. Judaism is not recognized as one of the country’s six official religions and members of the local Jewish community have to register as Christian or another recognized religion on their official identity cards.

Indonesian Esoteric Buddhism

Indonesian Esoteric Buddhism or Esoteric Buddhism in Maritime Southeast Asia refers to the traditions of Esoteric Buddhism found in Maritime Southeast Asia which emerged in the 7th century along the maritime trade routes and port cities of the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra as well as in Malaysia. These esoteric forms were spread by pilgrims and Tantric masters who received royal patronage from royal dynasties like the Sailendras and the Srivijaya. This tradition was also linked by the maritime trade routes with Indian Vajrayana, Tantric Buddhism in Sinhala, Cham and Khmer lands and in China and Japan, to the extent that it is hard to separate them completely and it is better to speak of a complex of "Esoteric Buddhism of Mediaeval Maritime Asia." In many of the key South Asian port cities that saw the growth of Esoteric Buddhism, the tradition coexisted alongside Shaivism.Java under the Sailendras became a major center of Buddhism in the region, with monumental architecture such as Borobudur and Candi Sukuh. The capital of the Buddhist empire of Srivijaya in Palembang, Sumatra was another major center.

The decline of Buddhist-Hindu states and the rise of Islamic states in the region during the 13th-16th centuries saw the steep decline of this tradition.

Kwee Tek Hoay

Kwee Tek Hoay (Chinese: 郭德懷; pinyin: Guō Déhuái; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Koeh Tek-hoâi; 31 July 1886 – 4 July 1951) was a Chinese Indonesian Malay-language writer of novels and drama, and a journalist.

Kyai

A kyai (kyaa-ee) is a (Javanese) expert in Islam.

Mendut

Mendut is a ninth-century Buddhist temple, located in Mendut village, Mungkid sub-district, Magelang Regency, Central Java, Indonesia. The temple is located about three kilometres east from Borobudur. Mendut, Borobudur and Pawon, all of which are Buddhist temples, are located in one straight line. There is a mutual religious relationship between the three temples, although the exact ritual process is unknown.

Narada Maha Thera

Narada Mahathera (Sinhala: නාරද මහා ස්ථවිරයන් වහන්සේ), born Sumanapala Perera (14 July 1898 – 2 October 1983) was a Theravadan Buddhist monk and translator, the Superior of Vajiraramaya in Colombo. He was a popular figure in his native country, Sri Lanka, and beyond.

Outline of Indonesia

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Indonesia:

Indonesia – sovereign island nation located in Southeast Asia comprising more than 17,000 islands of the Maritime Southeast Asia.

Prajnaparamita of Java

Prajñāpāramitā of Java refer to a famous depiction of Boddhisattvadevi Prajñāpāramitā, originated from 13th century Singhasari, East Java, Indonesia. The statue is of great aesthetical and historical value, and is considered as the masterpiece of classical Hindu-Buddhist art of ancient Java. Today, the statue is one of the prized collection of the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta.

Sanghyang Adi Buddha

Sanghyang Adi Buddha is a concept of God in Indonesian Buddhism. This term was used by Ashin Jinarakkhita at the time of Buddhist revival in Indonesia in the mid 20th century to reconcile the first principle of the official philosophical foundation of Indonesia (Pancasila), i.e. "KeTuhanan Yang Maha Esa" (lit. "Recognition of the Divine Omnipotence") that requires the belief in a supreme God, with Buddhism which strictly speaking does not believe in such monotheistic God. This concept is used by the Indonesian Buddhist Council, an organization that seeks to represent all Buddhist traditions in Indonesia such as Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.Adi Buddha is one of many names that may be used as an approximation for God Almighty in addition to Advaya, Diwarupa, Mahavairocana (Kawi language texts of Buddhism), Vajradhara (Tibetan Kagyu and Gelug schools), Samantabhadra (Tibetan Nyingma school), and Adinatha (Nepal). In Indonesia, the term Sanghyang Adi Buddha is agreed upon and used by the Indonesian Supreme Sangha and the Indonesian Buddhist Council as the designation for the God Almighty. This term is not found in Pāli Canon, but used in some old Indonesian Vajrayana texts such as Sanghyang Kamahayanikan.

Singhasari temple

Singhasari temple or Candi Singhasari is a 13th-century syncretic Hindu-Buddhist temple located in Singosari district, Malang Regency, East Java in Indonesia.

Sunda Wiwitan

Sunda Wiwitan (Sundanese: ᮞᮥᮔ᮪ᮓ ᮝᮤᮝᮤᮒᮔ᮪, English: "early Sunda", "real Sunda", or "original Sunda") is a religious belief system of traditional Sundanese. It venerates the power of nature and the spirit of ancestors (animism and dynamism).The followers of this belief system can be found in some villages in western Java, such as Kanekes, Lebak, Banten; Ciptagelar Kasepuhan Banten Kidul, Cisolok, Sukabumi; Kampung Naga; and Cigugur, Kuningan Regency. In Carita Parahyangan this faith is called Jatisunda. Its practitioners assert that Sunda Wiwitan has been part of their way of life since ancient times, before the arrival of Hinduism and Islam.

The sacred book of Sunda Wiwitan is called Sanghyang siksakanda ng karesian, it is a didactic text of religious and moral guidance, rules and lessons. The text is identified as Kropak 630 by National Library of Indonesia. According to a kokolot (elder) of Cikeusik village, the people of Kanekes are not adherents to Hindu or Buddhist faiths; they follow an animistic system of belief that venerates and worships the spirits of ancestors. However, over the course of time Sunda Wiwitan has been influenced by and incorporated Hindu, and to some extent, Islamic elements.

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