The name's Ben, currently back living in Bogor, Indonesia. I also run a, photoblog and that's all you need to know.

The Warmth of Travel - The Murmur House Journal

I recently wrote for a fresh new literary journal The Murmur House. An impressive compilation of writings from up and coming local writers. If you’re interested in buying the journal and supporting our local writers you can buy the journal here for a mere Rp. 97.500. I have met some amazing writers during the journal’s launching event a few weeks back and they’ve written pretty remarkable stuff. Anyway here’s an excerpt of my essay (which I hope is enough to get you interested in buying this journal, hah!). The title of my writing is ‘The Warmth of Travel’.

Maybe this is the purpose of travel.

We see the world with our minds or perhaps, better put we understand the world with our minds. The experiences we have procured, the knowledge we have gained, shedding light on our ignorance that often blinds us. We travel great distances, to see, to experience, to know and to understand.

We shape and reshape our understanding of the world, of ourselves and how we act, react or relate with the world around us. In a way our views of the world is constructed. A constant dialog, a dialectic as Marx aptly describes. It is a constant death and birth of the self, a deconstruction and reconstruction of the self and the reality of which we perceive until it reaches its peak state, a final form, an evolutionary supremeness.

It is to question and see objectively the things we vehemently yet often unconsciously hold on to.

It is to destroy you, to burn not only the bridge that connects you and the reality you believe to be true but to burn your concept of reality itself. On what you think is true.

It was never about the luscious colorful bags or the finely hand woven carpets in exotic markets, it always about the striving journey for an end, hopefully for a happy end. The striving for happiness itself. The steps, the moments of fatigue, the questions of why, where, how, which. 

It is to learn and engage with the people you meet, the connections you make, the sorrows you share, the happiness, that sweet happiness, that is given and that is taken.

It is that struggle of trying to understand the gestures of hands waving, moving erratically, ecstatically, non gracefully with that desire to understand and be understood. Sometimes often ending in a show of frustration and desperation of two people laughing, divided by the chasm of language, united by the absurdity of misunderstanding and linguistical ignorance.

There is no leisure in travelling, there is constant struggle with intermittent moments of joy.


The Blue Flowers , 1908

Emil Nolde 

(via jesuisperdu)

Krishnamurti Vipassana meditation retreat

Hey everyone, Banda Neira will be performing for a charity event this Friday night at Pasar Santa. Come on over and if you can bring a book that you want to donate to kids that would be great! And if you see me and Rara hanging around just say hi! Hope to see some of you there!

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.
 Pema Chödrön (via purplebuddhaproject)

(via purplebuddhaproject)

Saya berasal dari sebuah negeri yang resminya sudah bebas buta huruf, namun yang dipastikan masyarakatnya sebagian besar belum membaca secara benar—yakni membaca untuk memberi makna dan meningkatkan nilai kehidupannya. Negara kami adalah masyarakat yang membaca hanya untuk mencari alamat, membaca untuk harga-harga, membaca untuk melihat lowongan pekerjaan, membaca untuk menengok hasil pertandingan sepak bola, membaca karena ingin tahu berapa persen discount obral di pusat perbelanjaan, dan akhirnya membaca subtitle opera sabun di televisi untuk mendapatkan sekadar hiburan.
Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Trilogi Insiden


I will be reading one of my essays on warmth for the launching of The Murmurhouse, a literary journal. The event will take place this Saturday, 27th of September 2014 at Reading Room - Kemang from 3-6pm. Feel free to drop by! I’m very keen ini meeting new people! And maybe we can talk about life and other shit like that. 

Anonymous asked: Hai Ben. Aku ingin tahu bagaimana sudut pandangmu dalam mendefinisikan "dewasa". Bersediakah kamu berbagi? Terima kasih. Semoga kebahagiaan dan kebaikan senantiasa ada di dekatmu.

Menurut saya tolak ukur kedewasaan ada dua: 1) kemampuan untuk menyadari bahwa segala tindakan kita, sekecil apapun, memiliki sebuah konsekuensi terhadap lingkungan di sekitar kita termasuk segala bentuk makhluk hidup yang berada di dalam lingkungan itu. Atau dengan kata lain kita kritis terhadap segala tindakan kita.

2) Dengan menyadari no 1, maka segala tindakan kita akan digunakan bukan hanya untuk kepentingan pribadi namun juga untuk kepentingan bersama atau dengan kata lain dilandasi oleh empathy and compassion.

Jika disimpulkan menurut saya kedewasaan adalah memiliki sikap kritis, mampu berempati dan welas asih dan terakhir adalah mampu memahami dan meredam ego kita masing-masing.

Anonymous asked: hanya mau menanggapi post Ben ttg agama. menurut saya semua agama itu sama, yaitu metode untuk mencari kebenaran. Sedangkan meditasi, adalah salah satu alat yang digunakan dr salah satu 'metode2' tsb untuk mendapatkan kebenaran. Jadi memeluk agama bukan hanya sekedar untuk mendapatkan rasa nyaman/aman/kepastian. Tetapi untuk memilih salah satu metode yang paling sesuai dengan kita agar kita lebih mudah mencapai kebenaran. Karena toh saya mendapatkan 'rasa' yang sama dari meditasi ataupun shalat.

Tapi mengapa harus ada sebuah kebenaran absolut? Bagaimana jika tidak ada? Apakah kamu merasa lebih nyaman dan aman dengan adanya kemungkinan sebuah kebenaran absolut? Merasa lebih nyaman dan aman dengan mempercayai adanya sebuah kebenaran absolut?

Dan bagaimana jika ternyata tujuan dari meditasi bukan mencari sebuah kebenaran absolut? Dan hanya sekedar melihat diri lebih dalam?

Literacy and independent learning


I’ve been working on a project in increasing Indonesia’s literacy rates (as in the number of people who actually read books not just merely the number of people who can read books) with Indonesia’s National Library (Perpustakaan Nasional RI) these past few months. Although it’s been fascinating to have hands-on experience working with the Indonesian government, especially when formulating a policy that will affect millions of people, it’s also sad to bear witness to the depravity of how Indonesia’s government does its job. Lacking in financial resources, lacking in adequate human resources, lacking in motivation for any kind of progress, basically lacking in a bunch of other things that will probably fill an A3 sized spreadsheet. I know, I know, i’m giving the National Library a very gloomy picture but I get frustrated easily when talking about literacy and education. So might as well speak the truth.

Speaking of literacy every 8th of September, UNESCO celebrates International Literacy Day. This year’s celebration reminded me when many years ago, as I was struggling through my elementary education, counting the volumes of cubes, memorizing important names and dates of momentous events in Indonesia’s colorful history, that despite the exhausting school subjects that I had to learn, I was never really encouraged to read a book. To actually pick up a book and read the whole book from start to finish all on my own.

Even though I was always told that books are the heart of education, Indonesia’s educational system, oddly enough, didn’t have compulsory books that I needed to read and finish.

I was taught to be able to read of course, but in retrospect it was fairly limited so that at most I would be able to read my schoolwork and undertake the school tests. The ability to read doesn’t necessarily translate into the act of wanting to read more, especially when it comes to reading books.

Reading books, it seemed, was not all a concern of my formal education. One could hope that things have changed nowadays, but sadly how schools approach books these days hasn’t changed much.

When it comes to merely eradicating illiteracy, Indonesia has done a fantastic job since it’s independence. Based on the 2013 survey conducted by the Central Body of Statistics (BPS), people aged 15 – 44 had an illiteracy rate of only 1,61% with high a number of illiterates still concentrated in Papua. However a 2012 study also done by BPS has shown that only 14,08% reads non-fiction books and a piffling 5,01% reads fiction. We shouldn’t be at all surprised.

As I said previously we do not have a compulsory book policy to foster the desire to read, to learn more, to be thirsty of new knowledge. And it will  be hard to have people learn independently and continuously if we do not have this hunger to read. There will be a shortage of life-long learners that our government has often sought in producing. Without having these life-long learners the quality of our human resources may deteriorate, as people do not see the need to independently increase their ability and skills to keep pace with the changing times. Learning stops when school finishes.

I was hoping that the new 2013 curriculum would change all this. As it was trumpeted by our government that it would answer all the complexities of our future. It was heralded to foster critical thinking and the ability to solve complex problems. Yet with no compulsory books to read their wishes are nothing but naive. Critical thinking can only grow through independent learning that challenges the self and there will be no independent learning on a much wider scale if we are not encouraged and fostered to read books and information that calls into question our preconceived understandings of everything around us.

The purpose of books is to challenge us, intellectually, morally, and emotionally. They are there to tug our hearts when it has run cold, to enlighten our minds when it has run dry. They are there to give us new insights of the world, of people, of how society works. Books help us find ourselves, and show a glimpse of life that we may live. It gives hope to those who need it the most and it gives us a moment to pause and reflect within a world that pushes us to constantly achieve.

Without encouraging youths to read books, we are not teaching our them to explore, to discover, to see the world in a different light. We are not encouraging them to feel the pain and happiness of others through the reading of personal stories, poems or memoirs. Nor are we teaching them to imagine, to envisage a world that is beyond our current world. 

Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu by Pramoedya Anata Toer, Madilog by Tan Malaka, Dibawah Bendera Revolusi by Soekarno, Menuju Manusia Merdeka by Ki Hajar Dewantara just to to name a few, becomes nothing more than books read by intellectual elites who brag about their literary accomplishments in their weekly book discussions. 

Maybe Indonesia is not ready for something as “revolutionary” but as simple as reading a book. We have had a sad history of banning (and burning) books. If that is indeed the case, then it just shows that books indeed have the power not only to teach us new knowledge of the world but also to help us see, to help us understand what has been hidden from us all along. Without books we educate our selves to remain blind and ignorant just to store knowledge that’s been imparted to us, not much thinking or questioning needed.

So perhaps Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator, was right to say, “education is oppression.” What better way of oppressing the society by educating them to remain blissfully ignorant and uncritical of the world around us?


Living Together in a Religious Plural Society


My former supervisor recently sent me a photo of my thesis bound that will be submitted to my university’s library. If any of you are interested in the dynamics of religion in Indonesia, including a bit on our perceptions of religious tolerance and of Indonesia’s (religious) citizenship, my thesis is now available for download at

It’s about 120+ pages long, and since I perfectly understand that reading 120 pages of academic writing is quite a headache inducing event, you can flick to chapter 7 for the conclusions of my thesis.

Basically, I believe, through the evidence that I’ve found from my research, since we are still adamant in teaching religion in our schools, we are however teaching religion the wrong way. Our religious education is teaching our children to be religiously segregated, tolerance becomes nothing more than a mere theory that’s still incredibly obscure to be acted out in our daily lives. We lack realtime exposure in diversity, having only seen religious differences in school books but rarely do we expose ourselves and interact with these differences.

Proper exposure of these differences is the key in teaching understanding within a plural society, be it religious or cultural.

Questions? Feel free to send me an email at


Anonymous said:

Hi Ben, saya ingin tahu pendapat kamu tentang ini: jika semua agama mengajarkan kebaikan pada umatnya. Apakah kalau begitu tuhan itu 1 dan perbedaan di dunia ini adalah sekedar perihal panggilan yg kami berikan ke tuhan? Haruskah kita memilih 1 agama dan hanya memanggil 1 tuhan dan menjalankan hanya dari ajaran agama itu? Bagaimana kalau kita percaya tuhan tapi menjalankan kebaikan tanpa memilih agama? Seperti yang Dalai Lama katakan “my religion is simple, my religion is kindness”. Terimakasih!

Anonymous said:

Jadi Ben, menurut kamu kita harus melepaskan agama seperti apa yang telah kamu lakukan?

Anonymous said:

Hai ben, aku pelaku meditasi juga yang masih bingung apa itu meditasi. well, apakah meditasi itu untuk melatih kesadaran diri saja atau bisa mencapai tahap-tahap lainnya? misalnya seperti “mengaktifkan cakra?” sehingga kita bisa mencapai sesuatu yang orang pada umumnya sebut “indra ke enam”?

Agama memiliki peran sentral dalam kehidupan banyak manusia bukan karena agama hanyalah sebuah ide yang menjadi landasan moral dan perilaku kita namun juga memberikan sebuah kenyamanan dalam kehidupan kita. Terutama ketika kita mengalami kesulitan dalam hidup, kita percaya ada sebuah entitas yang melampaui rasionalitas kita dengan kekuatannya yang abadi dan tak terhingga untuk selalu membantu kita. Ditambah itu kita membutuhkan agama karena kita percaya bahwa agama dapat memberikan sebuah kepastian secara psikologis akan kehidupan yang berlanjut setelah kita menghela nafas terakhir kita. Dengan kata lain, agama mampu meredam ketakutan kita bahwa kita tidak hanya akan mati menjadi makanan untuk cacing tapi melanjutkan hidup dalam keabadian. 

Dan disinilah masalah saya dengan agama.

Kita dapat percaya bahwa semua agama pada dasarnya sama, kita dapat percaya bahwa ada agama yang lebih superior dari yang lain, kita dapat percaya bahwa Tuhan itu satu, kita dapat melepas agama dan menjadi agnostik maupun atheis, kita dapat percaya bahwa alam semestalah Tuhan kita. Kita dapat mempercayai dan meyakini apapun.

Tapi ini semua tidak menghadapkan kita terhadap realita hidup kita, realita hidup setiap manusia, bahwa kita dalam keseharian kita mengalami banyak penderitaan, telah, sedang atau akan mengalami musibah, dan ketakutan kita bahwa setiap manusia dapat dipastikan akan mati.

Apapun yang kita percayai atau tidak percayai, mengapa kita tidak menghadapi penderitaan kita secara langsung dan menghadapi ketakutan kita akan kematian (kematian diri, keluarga, teman atau siapapun) tanpa harus mengintrojeksi ide (yang digunakan untuk menenangkan pikiran dan hati) bahwa si subyek yang mati akan mengalami hidup yang abadi setelah mati? Dengan mengsisipkan sebuah ide bahwa ada yang akan menghilangkan penderitaan kita, kita secara tidak langsung juga mengatakan ke diri kita bahwa kita ingin kabur dan tidak ingin menghadapi penderitaan kita. 

Mengapa kita tidak melihat ketakutan kita secara langsung, melihat penderitaan kita secara langsung, melihat kesedihan kita secara langsung, melihat masalah kita secara langsung, dan menerima bahwa kita ada di dalam keadaan yang tidak menyenangkan. Kita menerima keadaan kita saat ini, tanpa melihat bahwa ada sebuah entitas suprarasional yang sedang menguji kita dan akan akan mengeluarkan kita dari “cobaan” ini. 

Mengapa kita tidak dapat menerima penderitaan dan menerima bahwa hidup akan selalu penuh dengan penderitaan karena memang beginilah hidup?

Dan disinilah peran meditasi untuk saya, bukan untuk mengatifkan “chakra” atau “indra keenam” atau apapun yang supernatural tapi untuk melihat, merasakan, dan mengalami secara langsung penderitaan yang saya alami. Termasuk melihat secara nyata kenginan saya untuk “kabur” dari penderitaan saya ini, apakah itu dengan agama atau dengan ilmu pengetahuan atau bahkan dengan meditasi itu sendiri.

Let’s look honestly at life for once. That life is suffering, whether we believe in God or not, or believe in kindness or nature. We can believe whatever you want, but you will still suffer, so why don’t we directly look at suffering and understand why we are suffering? Then maybe we’ll find a way out of suffering without having to believe and hold on to something else.


Anonymous asked: Ben, saya masih 17 tahun. Mungkin terlalu bocah untuk mengerti banyak hal tentang hidup. Tapi saya cuma mau nanya aja... What do you usually do when you're lack of productivity? Karena saya ingin jadi produktif seutuhnya.

Turn off your computer, put away your cellphone, find a good silent place and read books. Learn, learn and learn, ask, ask, ask, search, search and search. Read, read and read books until the day you finally draw your last breath.

impermanently secure


I sit here in the heat of summer. The humid air grips me by the throat, having me sweat profusely. I become easily agitated. Even the sound of a motorcycle passing in front of my house infuriates me. I’ve been trying to finish my work, or perhaps start my work, but that’s been a struggle. My mind is just everywhere. So here I am writing what I’m thinking and feeling just to see and understand what actually is going on with me. Writing helps, it always helps. So let’s call this mindfulness writing.

I think to sum it all up the problem here lies in me wanting to be understood. That’s a bit vague I know. But let’s be honest here, I’m on the verge of being angry and the reason being is because everything around me is not happening according to what I want. I want the world to understand me right now that I’m in need of silence and some cool, fresh air to finish my work. And since a great deal my work involves writing and thinking, silence is one of those things that you just can’t bargain. A big no, no to even simply put into question.

I need to finish my work in order for me to have security. Be it financial security, intellectual security, a future job security as an academic etc, etc. In essence it’s about security. I desire for security and all this nonsense happening around me is preventing me (or I think it is preventing me) to achieve this security that I yearn for. It’s funny how I actually have been meditating on this for years but I probably have only scratched the surface. So far what I’ve found my craving for security is also intertwined with my desire for power. Don’t get me wrong, doing daily meditations does not make me a saint of any kind. Without the slightest doubt, I still have desires of course.

I’m not so much keen on popularity or money, being little known is something I cherish deeply and as long as I have money to buy food and books, i’m good to go. But the desire for power (which probably is in itself intertwined with popularity and money) is another thing that I sometimes struggle to control and understand.

I see so much injustice and morally deprived assholes around me that I often would imagine myself as someone who has the power to change all this absurdity around me. As if my moral compass points north of excellence (and I can assure it does not). I’ve been working on being a good boy only in the past 3 years or so when I started realizing that the world can be awfully harsh if you don’t understand your relationship with it.

But after a bit of soul-searching, or perhaps more precisely admitting that i’m full of shit, has shown that I don’t actually want power. What I want is not to be afraid, what I want is to be secure in this fast-changing, unremittingly needy world.

And what I’ve been told by the society around me is that all this power will bring me everlasting security. Banishing away forever after all my little fears that sometimes keeps me awake in the middle of the night. Such as?

Will I ever be able to bear the death of another family member?

After my father died a few years back, it petrifies me to even imagine such a thing. Thankfully I’ve been meditating heavily on death recently and it has helped a great deal. Yet still though to have weekend gatherings with my whole family, including Rara of course and understanding that each and every one them will die still makes my heart thump with fright.

Lost is such a painful experience, nevertheless I’m grateful to have had such an experience. A big learning curve that puts me into perspective.

In the end now I realize that what I want is security. A feeling of being safe and secure. Intellectually I understand that there is no such thing as everlasting security, and the desire of personal security has resulted in (borrowing an International Relations term) an “arms race” to the top. A top which gets higher when I’m just about to reach for the tip. A top which I often can’t even see.

So back to the cushion as my meditation teacher once said. 

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