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Introducing to Javanese Moral Behavior, Etiquettes and Tradition

Budi Pekerti

Means Good conduct of life / good morality. This is the most important moral guidance for traditional Javanese. A person who has budi pekerti, he should live in safety (slamet), hopefully he should never be in trouble. A parent’s blessing and a blessing from elder people always start with the word “Slamet”. Budi Pekerti is the mother of all other ethics, etiquettes, good behavior, proper conduct, etc. Firstly it is bred by the parents & family at home, then by the society directly or indirectly.

The stories of wayang (shadow puppet performance) is one of the most important source of Budi Pekerti’s lesson for the youngsters. But there are also episodes in wayang, telling the way to reach the true life (urip sejati) or the unity of servant & Lord (Manunggaling Kawulo Gusti: manunggal = unity).

In the wayang episode, the Javanese see their own life, that’s why wayang is very popular in Java up to now.

Lessons from wayang among other:

  1. There are good & evil, at the end the good shall win. But anytime, the evil should try to tempt again.
  2. Follow the examples of Pandawa and other Satrias (Knights, Warriors), they have noble character, sincerity, politeness. They fight for the truth, for the welfare of the people & the country. They learn seriously spiritualism, they use their supernatural power to accomplish a noble goal. Satria – a knight/person with noble character.
  3. Do not follow the deeds of Kaurawa & their cronies. They are not sincere, greedy for power & material wealth, rough & impolite. They look only to fulfilling their lust. Raksasa – giant, in Javanese = Buto means blind, a person who see no different between good & bad, correct & wrong.
  4. The dwellers in the universe are not only human beings & animals. There are other creatures such as spirits (bad & good ones) or popularly known as “mahluk alus” unseen spirits (mahluk = creatures, alus = unseen). The Gods & Goddesses living in their domain of Kahyangan (the abode of Gods). The power holder of the universe is the Supreme God.
  5. The life of a person, its place & its fate are pre-destined by supernatural power belong to God.
  6. A human being is obliged to be grateful to God as he/she has been given opportunity to live in earth & worship Him. Do not complain to Him when you are suffering, instead be close to Him.

The legends of Java give some examples of:

  1. Just & unjust Kings/Rulers
  2. Trickiness & Sincerity
  3. Heroes & Traitors
  4. Prosperous & peaceful country & chaotic country
  5. (Political) Power for the people & abuse of power
  6. The society of adil (just), makmur (prosperous), Tata Tentrem Kerta Raharja where order, peace, safety & happiness are well maintained is an ideal society for Javanese.

From the parents & the families, the teachers & the society, a Javanese learn among other:

To be polite (tata krama) or etiquette which involves bodily gesture, the way of seating, the way of speech. With elder people & people of high position, a krama inggil (refined language) is used. With friends usually a ngoko language (low level) is spoken. Almost all words in Krama & Ngoko language are different.

The Javanese language is special, it is well-suited to prove the tata krama (etiquette)

To Respect

Parents, elder people, teachers, ancestors, etc. It does not mean that younger people should not be respected, the younger should be treated also accordingly, the same treatment given to persons with higher & lower position.

This is Tata Susila (ethics) also:

  • To be honest, not to cheat, ready to help others.
    To well behave by avoiding mo limo (5 bad conducts in Javanese language starting with mo); Main – gambling; Madon – commit adultery; Mabuk – excessive alcoholic drinking; Madat – using opium, narcotics, etc; Maling – stealing. Needless to say that killing & cruelty must be avoided too.
  • To do a correct behavior avoiding wrong doings to protect a good reputation, so that someone should not feel isin (to feel ashamed). To feel “isin” due to bad conduct for a Javanese is shameful, it is losing honor.
  • To maintain harmony (rukun), free of conflicts in the family, the neighborhood, the village, the country & the world. The harmonious relation between men – is important. Factually when, there is a ruin in life of human beings, it is due to irresponsible people. Only a very small part was due to disturbance by animals and/or spirits.
    A popular proverb says:
    Rukun agawe santoso means rukun makes us strong.
  • To be patient (sabar), to be able to do self-control.
  • To accept his fate consciously & not to envy to the other’s success (nrimo)
  • Don’t be selfish, to act only for his own interest. Sepi ing pamrih (free of self interest). Sepi ing pamrih, rame’ ing gawe, which means in a broader sense: free of self interest, be always ready to work hard for the society and the welfare of the world.
    (rame >< sepi = (ready to work) hard/seriously, gawe = work or to organize parties such as wedding party etc.


It is very important in every traditional ritual. A pray attended by neighbors and/or relatives and/or some close friends in the form of a simple ceremonial meal & offering of rice cone (tumpeng) & other dishes, some fruit, betel leaves, petal of flowers, etc.

Slametan from the word “slamet” has a main purpose to be in safety, safety in life, in job, in marriage, in delivering child, etc.

Gotong Royong

Mutual cooperation, consciously & deliberately help each other, especially in the neighborhood or in the village. Among other: cleaning the village, repairing the neighborhood road or guarding the safety of the neighborhood or of the village, helping voluntarily or obligatory if a neighbor passes away.

Introduction to Kejawen

There are 3 levels of kejawen knowledge:

  1. Level 1: It is called Kanuragan, from the word “Raga” means body. The body of the student becomes powerful, invulnerable (to bullets, sharp weapons, etc.). The Kanuragan is for the youngsters. Seeing the result, they believe more to mystical or supernatural power.
  2. Level 2: It is called Kasepuhan, from the word “Sepuh” means old. This knowledge is mainly use to cure sick people. Combating any illness, physically and/or mentally. It gives protection to those people looking for slamet (safety in life, well being, etc.)
  3. Level 3: It is called Ngelmu Sejati (true knowledge) or Kasunyatan (True Reality). A good & wise person, who successfully achieved true knowledge, sees true Reality of life. All is opened for him/her, there is no more secret in life.

Usually people is not satisfied before he could achieved True Reality, harmonious relation between servant & Lord (Jumbuhing Kawulo Gusti). Although someone is already good in kasepuhan, but sometimes he is worried; he has no inner peaceful feeling. He goes to ancestor’s cemetery to ask help or he goes to dukun (shaman) requesting a solution of problem.

Mastering True Reality needs a long way of devout exercise & practice by using his/her own inner energy. Only a matured, honest, wise person should be able to gain this true knowledge, he/she needs a divine permission.

To compose this article, the writer has contacted some people who have gained true knowledge and request them to tell their valuable experience.

The writer has the honor to present to the readers:

  1. Romo Soebadi Poespowinoto (77 years old)
  2. Ki Soekardi (71 years old)
  3. Bapak Sastro Hutomo (57 years old)
  4. Bapak R.M. Anom Binaji (43 years old)
  5. Bapak K. Suwardi (53 years old) and his partner Bapak Kijan Djajatirta (44 years old)
  6. Prof. DR. Sukintoko (68 years old)
  7. Prof. Drs. R. Imam Sudjagad Saleh (70 years old)
  8. Bapak Soepadi Soetowilopo (68 years old)
  9. The noble women:
    Ibu Brotodiningrat (85 years old)
    Ibu Soekirno Hadipoetranto (77 years old)
    Ibu Sudarni Saimin (73 years old)

They are very kindly hearted people, low profile, have a decent simple life style. They are healthy. They have a sharp vision & feeling. They do not earn their living from their gifted ability.

The writer also got some valuable advices from several priyayi sepuh (old wise men) from Yogyakarta, namely: Bapak Sumadi, Bapak Mantoro & Bapak Gembong Danudiningrat.

To those respected gentlemen, the writer is very much grateful.


In addressing people, the Javanese are using expressions of family model. Elder men or respected men are addressed as Pak, abbreviation of Bapak (father), the equivalent of Mr. In high level language (Kromo) is Romo. Elder women or respected women are addressed as Bu, abbreviation of Ibu (mother), the equivalent of Mrs. or Madame.

For much elder men the address is mbah, abbreviation of Simbah (grandma or grandpa)
In Kromo high level language is Eyang. Eyang Kakung: grandpa, Eyang Putri: grandma.
Mas is for men of the same age, elder or younger, Mas is abbreviation from Kamas, elder men.
Dimas, younger men
In common language kamas is Kang, abbreviation of Kakang: Dimas is Dik or Di (from adik/adi)
Mbak abbreviation of Mbakyu, for elder women or respected women.
Jeng, abbreviation of Diajeng for adik
Nak, abbreviation of anak (son/daughter). In refined language, Nak Mas-son. Nak Jeng -daughter. Ki is: an address or title of an elder respected man.
Nyi: an elder respected woman

(Suryo S. Negoro)

Sumber: joglosemar.co.id

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