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Moral Conduct

In  general Budi Pekerti means to carry out  good moral conduct in  life. It is an important moral guide for the traditional Javanese people.

Budi Pekerti is the mother of ethics, moral conduct and behaviour in social life, including professional relationship in the office and in  daily life.

Nowadays, many aspects of life are bad, due to eroded moral. To improve the situation, Budi Pekerti which is relevant must be revitalized.

Budi Pekerti has a clear and simple meaning i.e. :

Deed ( Pekerti in Javanese) based on clear a mind ( Budi in Javanese).

With such a clear and simple definition, we shall be able to consciously carry out

Budi Pekerti, the moral conduct in our daily life. With Budi Pekerti, moral conduct, we do everything in a proper, good and correct manner.

In this way, we live  a safe life in a harmonious  relationship with other people.

On the other hand, if we violate moral conduct/ Budi Pekerti, we will experience an unpleasant life, we might be disliked or disrespected by other people  and if violate the law, we could be jailed.


The Introduction of Budi Pekerti

The essence of Budi Pekerti/moral conduct is traditionally introduced since early childhood, at home, at school and in social life.

Since childhood, within the family circle, under the parents’guide, Budi Pekerti is introduced through ethics by telling traditional stories, doing children’s play ( dolanan in Javanese); showing to the kids vivid examples of good, correct cooperation and interaction in the family and the preservation of environment.

Practising a good behaviour in the family circle, is very important for the further development of a chlid’s moral conduct. Since her/his tender age, a kid is used to respect the parents and the elder people. For instance, a kid will slightly bow when he/she walks in front of elder people, saying politely : Permit me please or May I pass this way?

Except to behave politely, one has also to speak  politely by using  proper language to honor other people.

In Java, the people are communicating with different levels of language i.e. the common language ( ngoko in Javanese) and the refined language ( kromo inggil in Javanese).

Using two different levels of language is not something complicated for Javanese people, it is a proof that the Javanese value highly etiquette and politeness.


Refined and Common language

Kromo Inggil is refined language; ngoko is common language.

The kromo Inggil level is used with the purpose to honor elder people and honorable people. The ngoko level is usually spoken between friends.

All words used for the refined and common level are totally different, although they have the same meaning. Look at this example :

English  : I shall go
Kromo  : Kulo badhe kesah
Ngoko  : Aku arep lunga

In  daily conversation, the parents use the ngoko level of language to their children; while the children speak to the parents by using refined/kromo inggil level of language.

There is another level of language, kromo madyo using both words of the refined and the common level of language. The words used in kromo madyo are the mixture between the refined and common level. It is easier to learn the kromo madyo by practising it rather through a guide book.


Ora ilok- It’s not good, a local wisdom

Our elder people oftenly say : Ora ilok which means : It’s not good. This phrase is used by the parents nicely to forbid the children by using the indirect method.

Ora ilok is said to the children to behave nicely, politely in accordance with prevailing etiquette and they are required to keep clean the environment and preserve the nature. Below are some examples :

  1. Ora ilok, it’s not good, to sit on a pillow, you will have ulcer on your buttock.In that case the parents would like to say that it is not proper to sit on a pillow, because a pillow is for the head. 
  2. Ora ilok, it’s not good to spit everywhere.
  3. Ora ilok, it’s not good to throw trash everywhere.

In the old days, our elders were accustomed to use the indirect method, they did not forbid things directly.

It is indeed a local wisdom which has to be appreciated.


Education by chanting





It is accepted by common sense that a proper way of raising the children is at home, within the family . That is the best way to educate the children.

In a tranquil traditional Javanese home, in the old days, in the evening, a father or a mother embraced her/his small kid by chanting a chant (tembang in Javanese ) softly. After a while, the kid would fall asleep peacefully.

The content of the song usually are reflecting a prayer to God for the kid’s  best future. For instance that the kid would be clever at school, he/she would become a lawyer, a doctor or an architect.

There are songs with other requests to God, such as that when he/she is grown-up, he/ she will have  good morals to glorify the name of God, dedicate her/his life to the country etc.

The traditional education in the old days showed a great patience in educating people a.o. :

Always be grateful to accept the gift of God – Nrimo ing pandum ( in Javanese),
One has to do her/his utmost and completely abide by God’s decision – Pasrah ( in Javanese),
One must have a peaceful feeling and  not be emotional – Ayem tentrem ( in Javanese),
One must always remember God, any time, any where – Tansah eling marang Pangeran ( in Javanese).

It must be noted that the traditional Javanese people are believers in God, since  ancient times.

Since a  tender age,  Javanese children listen to their parents who often said  : Everything in this world exists due to the wish of Gusti, God. So,  the traditional Javanese, whatever happened, would always be grateful to Gusti, praise Gusti, Lord The Creator, God.

That kind of attitude is the birthright of traditional Javanese people.

Usually when a kid is 5 years old, automatically he/she will be taught ethics, politeness to honor the parents, the elders and other people. The inculcation of ethics is considered very important for the kid, so that he/she will grow-up properly. When he/she becomes an adult, he/she can mingle properly in the society and he/she has budaya malu ( in Indonesian lit. meaning avoiding  shameful behaviour.

In her/his activities, he/she will favour the interests of other people ( not her/his own interests), - has no pamrih in Javanese. He/she has sensitivity and care to his/her surrounding and environment.

He/she is used to live in harmony, with love and care in the family and in the society.

It is of prime importance to cultivate a positive attitude since early chilhood, it will penetrate deeply in the heart, it won’t easily erode.


Care to environment

Since  tender age,  children are educated to care for the environment, to love  nature.

The children are taught not to be careless toward animals and vegetation, they are also trained to keep the environment clean and to preserve  nature.

The children who have pets at home such as birds, dogs, cats, they have the obligation to take good care of them. They have to feed their pets properly, keep them clean and healthy and protect them accordingly.

The vegetation and the trees must also be well taken care of. Every afternoon they must be watered, regularly must be manured, so that they grow healthy and beautifully, and become quite attractive.

The plants will reciprocate our good care; the leaves, the flowers, the fruits, the roots are useful to us.

The earth, the place we live in, also must be protected, well preserved. Do not dig the soil carelessly.  Springs must not be polluted.

We have to consciously preserve all the gifts of nature, of The Creator. It is a matter of principle!


Formal Education

Except positive non-formal education , there is formal education which plays very important role for the children’s future.

At school, they are educated by their teachers to learn a variety of sciences and at the same time they are  guided to keep good conduct. Since playgroup and kindergarten, they are educated to always behave in accordance with the etiquette. The school cultivates  the pupils to have the sense of togetherness, discipline, solidarity, honoring each other, caring and loving each other, in order to have a harmonious and balanced life in society.

They are also taught the noble value of our tradition.

During the colonial time,  national private schools such as Taman Siswa, educated the students with nationalistic morale, the unity of the people against the policy of the colonialists.


Good manners in social life

As a civilized nation, everyone should behave properly, with good manners in social relationship. Everybody is treated equally and with honor.
Everyone including wong cilik ( Javanese for small people) the economically weak people should be happy if he/she is treated with honor. In return they will respect anybody who respect them.

A civilized man is  polite and humble, although he/she is rich.

One who has a good moral conduct and etiquette, always speaks nicely is appreciated by other people.At the same time he/she is a lucky person, because such kind of attitude shall awake his/her soul, so he/she will reach a higher level of spirituality.


The Lessons from Wayang

The sources from the wayang – the Ramayana and Mahabarata folk stories are also important for the education of Budi Pekerti.

For the traditional Javanese people, the wayang stories represent their mirror of life. This is one of the reasons why wayang is still popular in Java up to the present .

The lessons from wayang a.o. are :

  1. There is good and evil in the world. In the end the good prevails, but the bad always tries to tempt. 
  2. Follow the examples of Pandawa, the five sons of Pandu, The King of Hastinapura. The Pandawas : Yudistira, Bima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sadewa are knight-warriors – satria with good moral conduct, honesty and responsibility. They fight for noble purposes, for the truth, for the welfare of the country and the people, by using their knowledge and ability sincerely.
    Except working hard properly for worldly needs, they also seriously endeavour spiritual knowledge.
    They are living according to the divine path.
  3. Do not follow the behaviour and the deed of the Korawas, the 100 sons of Destarata and their cronies like Duryudana, Burisrawa, Sengkuni etc. They are not honest, greedy for power and material wealth. They are also impolite, have no good manners.They appear in the form of giants, in Javanese language giant is buto which means blind, they see no difference between good and evil, right and wrong.
  4. In the Ramayana epoch, King Rama and his troops such as his brother Laksmana and the monkey troops of Hanuman and Sugriwa,  are noble satrias, fighters with good moral conduct; on the other side, the giants Rahwana, Sarpakenaka and their group are cruel and have no sense of humanism.
  5. The dwellers of the universe are not only human beings and animals, there are also good and bad spirits.
  6. There are gods and goddesses who live in the abode of gods  ( Kahyangan in Javanese). The power holder of the Universe is Sang Hyang Wenang ( God), who gives authority to Betara Guru to govern the world.
  7. A human being must be grateful to all the gifts of God; he/she always prays and praises God, The Creator. The life of a human being is destined by Gusti, God. A human can communicate with The Ruler of the Universe, God, through the intermediary of gods or through direct contact.
    This is a gift of God, not given to everyone, only to special ones who are permitted by Gusti, God.
    The messages of God can be received through divine revelation ( wahyu in Javanese) or through dreams.
    In the wayang stories, one can be contacted by an envoy of God, after he/she practised ascetism alone, for quite a long time, in a remote and lonely place. ( The gods and goddesses- dewa or dewi, male and female gods in Javanese are another terminology for Angels ).
  8. A human being who has been given an opportunity to live in the world by God The Creator, should not waste her/his life. He/she must have moral conduct to apply his/her mission of life wholeheartedly and to preserve  nature and the earth.

The Legends of Java

The legends of Java as told in the Babad/ The stories of old books of Java, containing a.o. :
  1. There were just and unjust Kings/Rulers. There were bad and unwise Kings/Rulers; there were also good and wise Kings/Rulers in Java.
  2. There was honesty and trickiness.
  3. There were heroes and traitors.
  4. There were times when  the condition of the country was safe and prosperous, other times when it was unsafe and chaotic.
  5. There was power dedicated to the benefit of the people; on the contrary there were rulers who misused their power to oppress the people.
  6. The people of Java/Indonesia wished to establish wholeheartedly a just, prosperous, peaceful and safe society ( The Javanese terminology is Adil Makmur Tata tentrem Kerta Raharja). A phrase which is always cited by a Dalang, story teller of the wayang/shadow puppet performance.


Manners and Ethics

Manners and ethics are also part of Budi Pekerti. Everywhere one has to behave politely, having good manners including body movements, the proper way of sitting, speaking etc.

One is using kromo inggil- the refined level of language when conversing with elder people, while speaking to friends, the ngoko-common level of language is used.

To honor parents, elder people, gurus is an obligation, but that does not mean that  youngsters are not respected. Honoring other people is a must.

These are ethics which also consist of  the following :

  1. One has to be honest, do not cheat other people, showing love to fellow humans. One has to behave properly avoiding MO LIMO ( The five bad conducts starting with the Javanese letter “MO”) ,which are : Main  in Javanese which means gambling; Madon – to commit adultery; Mabuk- to get drunk due to alchoholic drinks; Madat- using opium, drugs; Maling- stealing. Other bad deeds are also forbiden such as  : to kill, to slender,  to blackmail, to bribe, to break the law, to do cruel things etc.
  2. One has to behave properly avoiding wrong doing to protect one’s reputation, avoiding shame. To be involved in shameful action, for traditional Javanese is a catastrophe. It means to lose honor. There is a proverb saying :  To lose all properties means to lose nothing.To lose your life means to lose a half of your life. To lose honor is to lose everything.
  3. To maintain harmony, free of any conflicts in the family, the neighborhood, in the village, in the country and in the whole world is very important. All the damage and catastrophe in the world are mostly due to  human unproper deeds, such as the wars between human beings. There is a wise proverb in Javanese : Rukun agawe santoso which means a harmonious relationship makes us strong and firm.
  4. To be patient ( sabar in Javanese); to accept gratefully and consciously what we encounter in life without envy of other’s success ( nrimo in Javanese). If you wish to have a successful life, you have to work harder and always pray to Gusti, God and ask God’s blessing. Hopefully, God will grant you what you need.
  5. Do not be egoistic, selfish and only think in your own interest. There is a good proverb ,saying in Javanese : Sepi ing pamrih, rame ing gawe. When you do something, you are not doing it only for your own benefit, you do it for the good of everybody, for the benefit of the society. This kind of mental behavior will easily bring you to build voluntarily cooperation with other people.
  6. For the Javanese/Indonesian people,  traditional mutual cooperation which is named “ Gotong Royong” is important.It is an ancient custom in Indonesia. In the villages, the people do “Gotong Royong” by cleaning and repairing together the village’s infra structure such as the roads, the irrigation, the village hall etc. Sometimes they help build a home of their neighbour on voluntarily basis.
  7. The essence of Gotong Royong is cooperation involving many people/parties to produce higher value products for the benefit of all parties concerned. Every participant takes care of the job they are expert for, thus will build a sync working team and “ the project” will run smoothly. This kind of cooperation is successfully carried out at small scale, logically the spirit of Gotong Royong can be carried out at national, regional and global scope.

Back to Budi Pekerti

At this moment, we are very much concerned for the situation in our beloved country. The core of the problem is eroded morality; the truth is oftenly mocked, many people including some leaders, bureaucrats with strategic positions, the upper level people have no feeling of shame ( ora isin in Javanese; tidak malu in Indonesian) as if they do not know what is good and what is bad, moral conduct is not valued. And where is honesty? This is an era full of promises, especially the promises made by some politicians. Many people say that this is the time of multi-dimentional crisis. In the old time, our elders said : Zaman Edan in Javanese which means : The era of madness. Even in the worst moments, there is a way out. Not all people are bad, not all leaders are bad or irresponsible. There are some good sons of the nation who are honest, clever, brilliant, energetic, they dare to live a simple life style, their behavior and deeds are sincere, blessed by The Loving God. There are sons of the nation, responsible and qualified persons, satrias who will solve the complicated problems of the people and the country. They will be able to elevate the condition of the people to a better life where justice, safety, peace and prosperity are guaranteed. If we have a clear mind, set a tranquil time for introspection, we are confident that the revitalization of Budi Pekerti with its noble teaching, with God’s blessing is an efficient “ medicine’ to free  the people and the country from all kind of difficulties they encounter in life.

All kind of crisis can be solved thouroughly if all of us notably the leaders ( political and social), the bureaucrats, the upper level people including members of the Parliament and  the biz. circle are consciously determined to accomplish every activity based on Budi Pekerti.

Budi Pekerti is a local wisdom which has universal value.
Budi Pekerti will arise the quality of a person to be sensitive ( tanggap in Javanese); mentaly strong ( tatag in Javanese) and reliable ( tanggon in Javanese).

Suryo S.Negoro 
Edited by Mrs. Ediati Kamil