Friday, May 13, 2005

My Brother from Solo, Central Java

Jeff and Bapak Reno Notohardjo, Detroit 2004

I have two homes. My physical body dwells and toils in a quiet suburban city about 20 minutes north of Detroit, Michigan. My "other" self - or soul if you will - has continued to seek refuge in its true abode in Solo City ever since "we" returned home there several years ago.

In August of 2004 we were honored by a visit from a man I consider to be my closest friend, and a true Brother, Bapak Reno Notohardjo. 'Pa Reno is currently a resident of the U.S. eastern seaboard, however he was born and raised in the Heartland of Kejawan culture - Solo City in Central Java.

Reno is a true son of his culture. I am convinced that there is no greater living example of the authentic Javanese "inner life" on American soil than this exceedingly humble individual. During his visit, 'Pa Reno graciously favored us with several lectures, expounding eloquently and concisely on some very esoteric and subtle material culled from sources such as the Quran, the Ramayana, and lore regarding the mysterious "Walisongo" - or 9 mystic saints creditied with bringing Islam/Sufism to the Inodnesian Archipelago - all in realtion to the traditional Central Javanese spiritual worldview.

I will always remember one evening's selametan in particular. My students and I were assembled in my living room after enjoying some truly delectable middle-eastern fare prepared by one of the finest Lebanese chefs in Dearborn at the behest of a local, very spiritually-inclined businessman who had come to us upon hearing that an Indonesain mystic had arrived for a visit.

Following the meal, we sat literally packed (yet comfortable) on carpets as tea was served and water-pipes of strong Syrian tobacco were lit. Another student - a musician - managed to locate my Mississippi Dobro and tune it like an oud. As he played over the din in the room, it felt rather like a scene from the Arabian Nights.

In any truly spiritual practice, there is a feeling that actual physical time is stopped. We all sat enraptured as 'Pa Reno began his dialogue with a particularly Indonesian explanation of a portion of the Indian epic Mahabarata as related to the practice of Southeast Asian martial arts.

Long into the night, after a typical Michigan summer "brown-out" necessitated the kindling of an oil lamp, I closed my eyes as 'Pa Reno broke into the melodious dialect of his magnificent Land, and for all too short a time...I was indeed back "home."

The talks were duly transcribed from our recordings - sufficient to capture the message if not the ambiance of those profound evenings. In time, and with the proper editing, I hope to publish them. God Willing.

We were also honored to share some training in Pekiti Tirsia with our guest (as evidenced in the photo above.) 'Pa Reno's family in Indonesia (specifically his brother Martin) is plugged into an extensive network of top Silat Masters from Java to Borneo - and was kind enough to make some very important contacts for me as he did for a French colleague of mine some years ago. My teacher, Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr. has charged me with the task of further researching the currents from Indonesia and Malaysia which have contibuted to the beauty and, to use his expression "grandure" that is the Southeast Asian martial arts. I got some very important and tantilizing clues from Cigku Omar Hakim recently, and am currently planning a massive field research project in Southeast Asia for the summer. God Willing.

So, Brother Reno...thank you for years of fellowship and encouragement - including our talk this very evening. Our friendship will continue to bridge time, cities, states, and perhaps continents. God Willing.



Anonymous said...

Hi Guru,

I remember that night very well. Please give Mas Reno my regards the next time you speak with him.


guro jeff davidson said...

Consider it done!