The harmonious ways of Balinese living are intoxicating and contagious, provoking most tourists to second guess their work habits and their return flights home. But as visitors, we become so enthralled with our own experiences that we don’t often stop to think about the effects our presence has on this paradise’s natural resources, spiritual culture
The harmonious ways of Balinese living are intoxicating and contagious, provoking most tourists to second guess their work habits and their return flights home. But as visitors, we become so enthralled with our own experiences that we don’t often stop to think about the effects our presence has on this paradise’s natural resources, spiritual culture and most of all its beautiful people. Walking the streets of Ubud, the effects are quite visible as commercialism creeps into every nook and cranny between sacred temples and places, and the stress of the hustle and bustle is easily felt.
But nestled in along the Ayung River in the 6-home village of Tebe Kurung in Mengwi, Shanti Toya Ashram is creating a harmonious balanceas a healing and gathering space for both the local and tourist communities. They have fully embraced the Balinese concept ‘tri hita karana,’ which means harmony between humans, gods and nature. Without compromising the integrity of the land, culture, or future generations, they have built an oasis that ensures the sustainability of the land and the village’s relationship to it.
Visitors and retreat ants learn to appreciate and respect the spiritual customs, partaking in daily offerings, prayers and ceremonies at the Ashram. The staff at Shanti Toya love to teach the guests about their religion, language and lifestyle. Likewise, in their pursuit to learn the local way, the visitors have created educational opportunities to enrich the local community because a portion of profit goes to providing free yoga classes and English lessons to the Balinese.
Most of those drawn to Shanti Toya come to find balance inthe seclusion and serenity of the ashram, which is conveniently centered between Canggu, Ubud and Denpasar. In their pursuit of personal physical balance, they set an example for the community by requesting healthy, organic food, which has led to an organic garden and cooking classes that the locals can learn from, spreading seeds of mindfulness to all they encounter.
Home to GokulYoga Bali School, dedicated to Guru Mahayogi Gokula chandra Das, they offer affordable teacher trainings, retreats, group and individual courses. Fancy retreat centers can make this lifestyle seem unattainable for most with exorbitant prices, but this style of ethical tourism is having the opposite effect by creating 12 jobs for locals to contribute to their own local economies and livelihoods.
The village high priests are actively involved at the Ashram as well, sharing cleansing and purification ceremonies, fire blessings (known as Agnihotra) and Diksa (certification for spiritual beings). Many of the yoga classes are taught by experienced Balinese teachers, and there are often guest teachers who visit to share their knowledge from all over the world.
The nature of mass global tourism and the travel industry has an immediate impact on environmental resources and infrastructures. Shanti Toya strives to leave the smallest footprint possible. Many developments sacrifice sacred places in the name of tourism, preventing the community from worshiping or visiting. But in the case of Shanti Toya, the sacred spring on their property continues to serve as a public gathering area and daily bathing spot. All of the overflow of the crystal-clear, cleansing water goes to feed a stone-walled swimming pool that tourists can enjoy as well.
Shanti Toya shows that there is limitless sharing to be done in this global community that we live in today; and that there is also an urgent need to engage with it mindfully, respectfully, and dutifully. There is a great importance to protect natural resources, local peoples, and customs; while also sharing the natural beauty, history, traditions, and the devotion & kindness of Bali’s culture, with all who are drawn to the beautiful Island of the Gods. After all, Bali’s environment and smiling faces are what draw most tourists here. As one comes to a clear mind in the village’s fresh air, it’s plain to see that this Ashram cultivates a truly balanced, relaxing environment enjoyed by all.
To find out how you can be a part of this movement towards ethical tourism, learn more at: www.shantiretreatsbali.org, www.gokulyogabali.com, FB: shanti toya ashram, FB : gokul yoga bali, Instagram: shanti toya ashram, Instagram: gokul yoga bali (BTN/bns)