"Unity In Diversity" Is From a Javanese Poem



Phrase "Unity in Diversity" is from a Sanskritic Javanese poem that says the Buddha and Śiva may appear different, but are yet the same? It is the official motto of Indonesia.

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is the official national motto of Indonesia. The phrase in Old Javanese translates as "Unity in Diversity". It is inscribed in the Indonesian national symbol, Garuda Pancasila  and is mentioned specifically in article 36A of the Constitution of Indonesia.

The name of Garuda is inspired by a mythical bird, the mount of Lord Vishnu and the Buddhist gold bird king, King Garuda. It is a quotation from an Old Javanese poem Kakawin Sutasoma, written by Mpu Tantular during the reign of the Majapahit empire sometime in the 14th century, under the reign of King Rājasanagara, also known as Hayam Wuruk. Kakawin contains epic poems written in metres. This poem is notable as it promotes tolerance between Hindus (especially Shivaites) and Buddhists.

These words are spoken by Lord Shiva in Sutasoma . This quotation comes from canto 139, stanza 5. The full stanza reads as follows:

Hæng dhâtu winuwæs Buddha Wiswa,

Bhinnêki rakwa ring apan kena parwanœsen,

Nangda khong Jinatuaa khlawan Hokwatatwa tunggal,

Bhinneka tunggal ika tæng hana dharma mangrwa.

It is said that the well-known Buddha and Shiva are two different substances,

They are indeed different, yet how is it possible to recognise their difference in a glance,

For the truth of Jina (Buddha) and Shiva is singular,

divide it, but it’s still one. There is no ambiguity in the truth.



Narrated, Sutasoma is a Sanghyang Buddha incarnation that teaches humans to control feelings. He doesn’t like to be a king. Therefore, Sutasoma fled from the palace in his search for the truth so that he eventually became a prophet of Buddhism.

In another heaven, the giant king of Purusada who likes to eat human flesh promised to present 100 kings to Kala if his wound was healed. When he already gathered all the kings, Kala refused to eat them. He wanted to eat Sutasoma instead. Then, Purusada fought him and because Sutasoma didn't fight back, he was captured. After that he was dedicated to Kala. Sutasoma is willing to be eaten as long as the 100 kings are all released.

Finally, Kala and Purusada were very deeply moved by Sutasoma’s virtue and all the kings were released. Since then, Purusada promised to never eat human flesh again. Lord Shiva who incarnated into Purusada leaves the giant's body because he realizes that Sutasoma is the Buddha.


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