Most people assume that Sasak culture is only influenced by Islam and Hinduism. This assumption is not fully true. Last weekend, I have a golden opportunity to chat with one of the elder Buddhist named “Romo Martinom”. He stated that there are no any references found state about when exactly Buddha came to Lombok. However there are some assumptions about the first time Buddha introduced in Lombok.
First assumption is based on the folktale that states the relation between Kingdom of Keling Lombok and Buddhist kingdom—Kalingga Kingdom, Mataram, Java. This folktale has been told since the 4th Century. The other assumption is based on the “Piagam Pemaru” that now kept in the Museum of NTB. It stated that in the 8th -9th Century, Buddhism was spread around Indonesia.
The authentic proof of the Buddhism existence in the past can also be seen from the cemetery of Selaparang Kings. The cemetery is divided into two parts. One part is the cemetery for King who had become Muslim and the other part is the cemetery for the kings who believed in Buddha. On the king’s cemetery who were Buddhist, it is found a Roda Cakra –the symbol of Buddhism.
Buddhism is also implicitly embedded in the Sasak local wisdom that state.
Lenge mea sita gaweq If you do bad deeds
Lenge mea sita dait You’ll find bad things
Bagus mea sita gaweq If you do good deeds
Bagus mea sita dait You’ll find good thing
Those local wisdom above clearly states the “Hukum Karma”—one of the main principles in Buddism. Buddhism is also clearly pictured in some traditional dances such as Babar Layar and Sireh.
Now, the number of Sasak Buddhist reaches 12.533. They are widely spread in the some places around northern part of Lombok. In these places you can find some Sasak that is originally Buddhist. Sasak Buddhist spreads in four places around Lombok; those are in Pemenang, Tanjung, Gangga and Bayan.
As a common Buddhist, Sasak Buddhist tends to choose to live in the high place. They believe height is the symbol of Nirvana. One of the high places where the Sasak Buddhist lives is called Dusun Baru. Dusun baru is part of Bentek village, Gondang, North Lombok. This small place sits on the top of the hill. From the village, you can see some hilltops and a simple “vihara” on the other top of the hill. Most Buddhist here is working as a farmer. As I walked around this village, I saw a man was cutting some dried wood, a woman was walking with the high piles of leaves on his head, some kids were trying to fly their kites, and some other flew their kids higher than the hilltop. They live in very simple way. If you want to visit this place as your next destination, make sure you come in the dry season.