PURA TIRTA EMPUL is the name of a temple in Bali Indonesia, pura meaning temple and Tirta Empul meaning Holy Spring in Balinese. It is a popular water temple famous for its holy spring water where people come for a ritual purification.
I love visiting temples, especially Buddhist ones but I never expect it to “awaken” me, I don’t believe I need to experience anything special, I just love the calm, beauty and quiet that is usual in a place of worship. Tirta Empul is a beautiful temple specifically because of its pools, but it is usually full of tourists which makes it loud and I personally felt like I was in a line for a water attraction in an amusement park.
The way the ritual works is: there are two pools separated by a barrier with an elephant sculpture and are filled by 19 fountains\spouts, 13 in the first pool and 6 in the second. You will enter in the first pool and pass fountain by fountain, making a wish on each fountain. You will do this by taking some water in your hand and splashing it on your face 3 times, then the next handful you will pour over your head 3 times as well and then put your whole head under the fountain. Then when you pass all 13, you go under the elephant sculpture and as I remember you should feel all your wishes come true, let them go, get rid of the ego and just be.
My experience is my own and I can’t say that every visitor will have the same observations or that this temple is responsible for my experience, I am simply sharing what happened from my point of view. The way this went for me was that I entered the pool where water comes a bit above my waist and it was so cold, I was wondering how am I going to survive all 19 fountains. While waiting for the person before me to finish so I can start with my first fountain I started getting flustered by all the people around me. How am I ever going to concentrate, little less have a ritual when there is always going to be someone in front of me going to slow and someone behind me waiting for me to finish. At this point I was getting irritated and shaking from the cold water as, finally, the first fountain got freed for me. I came forward and by the second fountain I was in a kind of trans that grew stronger throughout the first pool. I felt water being cold, I was strongly aware but it didn’t bother me, and I was so aware of people but I didn’t feel like waiting or being waited on but more in a flow, in sync with all of them. My wishes started as very practical and ended up being wishes for all mankind and for more simple stuff like peace and calm. Now it was time to pass above the barrier separating the pools and under the elephant sculpture. As I passed through, I felt all I wished for being done and I left it a side as I become extremely blissful in a simple state of being. I passed the last six fountains in a total trance, aware of everything and at the same time being a part of this other world where my identity was gone. I didn’t look like anything and all I can see is that I am a golden light and that all around me is light. This light was all and everyone, I was it and it was me. It was so vast and impossibly full of possibility, a next level of everything being possible. I remember responding to a man next to me as he told me something and being aware of his positive energy, aware of all the people sharing this with me but I wasn’t there, this wasn’t me or it was? It felt like I am both here and HERE where the light is all that there is and it's all one. It was one of the most intense meditations or prayers (as you like) that I ever had and today when I feel lost, fearful or not myself I try to go back to this knowing of what I believe as truth.
This painting is that moment, the flow, the calm, the presence and me discovering myself as a golden light. After this experience I saw my higher self or energy we tap into while meditating as golden. I would see a hand of gold light or a seed or me in me that is golden so in my painting I often put gold to show this all conscious part of ourselves.
As I painted the water, I wanted it to have this feeling of energy moving through it and then making the same little bubbles and lines on the body as well. The flowers are usually put on the fountains as an offering and the petals will fall from these arrangements to the water, floating all around the pool. The fishes in my paintings are the same ones you can find in other pools of this temple but here they carry golden spots on their heads symbolizing the soul. Small white ones are souls coming to reality and big black fishes are souls already traveling this reality. Of course, the golden light shining above the head of a woman is me seeing myself. Even though the woman doesn’t look like me it doesn't matter because whoever I am it doesn't seem important, my body is a vessel for the golden light, a vessel that can feel for me, touch, experience cold water and petals on its surface.