The Concept of Aji (agi) in Kanuragan and Tenaga Dalam


Kanuragan is more akin to sorcery,  where one invokes the aid of spirits, gods, ghost, spirits of dead people, ancestors, jins etc.,  to protect oneself, cure illnesses, cast spells and so forth.  Kanuragan invariably involves ritual initiation in which one acquires an aji which is a kind of power, knowledge and skill,  that the master or priest or shaman transmits.  This aji is like a spiritual gift.  When a student has received an aji,  he/she has received a particular power to perform a particular task, or to understand certain things, etc.  This aji is inherited from a long line of masters,  and is passed down to the next recipient.  Ajis can be quite specific and has specific characteristics,  for example, invulnerability to weapons or impact blows to the body,  having exceptional strength,  curing a particular type of disease,  casting out black spells,  telepathy,  clairvoyance, self-protection, protecting others, empowering objects, astral travel, helping others, entry to spiritual dimensions, meditation etc etc etc.


The aji has an existence on its own.  It is transmited from person to person,  or it sustains itself through the world of the spirits and gods (alam gaib – mystical world).  In this way,  the aji does not “die” when its possessor passes away.  In the lower stratum of the secret arts, for example,  in sorcery type of path,  the aji that remains with the person does so because it is connected to the spirit/ghost/jinn that has been invoked to be in close proximity or reside within the person or an object the person carries.  It is said that such a person who has benefited from such lowly ghostly demonic forces will have to “pay back”.  These people will die a horrific death,  for example,  having a long torturous death,  or,  as I have heard,  in some instances,  having their bodies “eaten up” by unseen forces.  Let this be a warning to those who indulge in sorcery to derive worldly benefit,  or those who cast black magic on others.  In such lowly arts,  the possessor of such spirits/ghosts/jinns should try to get rid of the articles of power, together with the associated aji and spirits/ghosts/jinns.  The assistance of a good master/priest/shaman is required.  Another way is to acquire a student to pass it on (and perform incalculable amount of repentance and purification as well).  Whoever accepts the articles or the aji also acquires the powers and responsibilities associated with it.  So,  watch out what you are learning and inheriting!  Be sure it is from a clean and unblemished source.


In connection with the above,  I again,  issue a stern warning to all readers,  never to indulge in the lower arts such as sorcery etc.  that involve spirits/ghosts/jinns.  Related to this is to request a sorcerer to cast spells on another person,  whether an enemy, business rival, love rival, lover, etc.  Also related to this are love spells and love potions.  Be warned that there are repercussions for these. 


I noted that some ladies acquire certain charms/amulets/gemstones etc for the purpose of making themselves look very attractive to men.  Some of these magical devices can even take the very innocent form of a nice diamond like gemstone that is implanted in the face or breast of the woman.  Be warned:-  do not accept such implants,  and if you have,  get rid of them as soon as you can.


back to the topic of the aji ………………………….


Ajis are also connected to magical incantations and mantras,  otherwise they have no intrinsic power and can not work.  Recitation of the incantation or mantra invokes the deity/spirit/ghost/jinn associated with it and makes the aji come to life.  The rite of initiation of the spirit/ghost/jinn and incantation/mantra is the transference of the associated aji.  That is why all students of magic have to acquire a transmission from another magician,  unless the conferral is direct from the deity/spirit/ghost/jinn,  which sometimes occurs only in exceptional cases (for example,  in Subud, Bambu Kuning, Reiki etc  where the founders receive a major transmission and awakening,  which can be quite dramatic).  


In Malay and Indonesian traditions,  there are certain requisites that are usually followed:-  there is usually a fast, a gift/offering to the master and the deity/spirit/ghost/jinn, an initiation rite, a commitment or advice, and sometimes, a test of the power.  


In most cases,  the apprentice has to fast in order to obtain his aji.  (whether for the initiation,  or,  subsequently,  to enter into a retreat to obtain power).   Some Malay/Indonesian paths begin with the initiation ritual first,  in which the master chants and bless the students and empowers holy water.  The student bathes and drinks the holy water.  Then the essence of path and secret formulas of the path are disclosed.   Then the master may provide the opportunity for the student to test the efficacy of the transmission.  For example,  if the path and aji is for invulnerability to sharp weapons,  the master may ask the student to subject himself to be struck by a blade.  This also tests the apprentice's faith and courage in the master, the path, and the aji.  

In some cases,  the apprentice thanks the master and his family with a ritual meal (selamatan).


Tenaga dalam mean for “Internal Power”.  It is the science of developing the inner vital bioenergy and spiritual energy (prana) as well as entering the spiritual realm via one’s own efforts.  Strictly speaking,  tenaga dalam is different from kanuragan.  However, in Malay and Indonesian traditions,  there is often an overlap between kanuragan and tenaga dalam,  and many practitioners practice both without any discrimination.  This is probably due to the heavy influence of religion and sorcery in such regions.


In tenaga dalam,  transmission is not as ritualized.  In fact,  many tenaga dalam paths involve mostly breathing exercises which look like Indian pranayama being adapted with Qi Gong (Chi Kung) from Chinese martial artist.  Much of tenaga dalam in Malaysia and Indonesia take place under the auspices of Silat.  For example,  Merpati Putih,  which is perhaps has the largest following in tenaga dalam in Indonesia,  is practised by many Silat masters, as well as Karate masters etc,  and even the Indonesian military.  Merpati Putih has different divisions:-  public, military, military elite, presidential and special bodyguards.  Merpati Putih training is said to be hard,  but very effective.  


Beside Merpatih Putih,  other big tenega dalam organisations are Satria Nusantara, Prana Sakti, and Marga Luyu. 

There is a National League of Tenaga Dalam Schools (Ikatan Perguruan Bela diri Tenaga Dalam, or IPBETADA),  founded in Yogyakarta in 1990.  The official protector is the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono X.


Tenaga dalam is basically the Indonesian version of Chi Kung and Pranayama.  Just like its counterparts,  it can be practised for health, healing, protection,  and its advanced practices are spiritual practices.  


While the ability to acquire protection from the pure breathing exercises of tenaga dalam may be acquired without much,  if any at all,  of mystical ritual,  it appears to be limited to withstanding physical blows to the body.  This makes it similar to Chinese and Japanese martial arts,  for example,  Wu Chu Chuan and Go Ju Ryu etc.    However,  it is believed (and even in Chinese tradition) that when one has acquired a very strong and formidable internal power,  one’s energy can extend beyond one’s physical body and affect the environment.  Black spells and ghosts are not likely to trouble a person with very strong tenaga dalam.   


In addition,  the advanced aspects of tenaga dalam involve the spiritual path.  In this respects,  the practices are really a higher practice than kanuragan.  The aji or sakti acquired by the tenaga dalam practitioner is stable and enduring,  whereas the power of a sorcerer is limited by his ability and hard practice,  and the reliability of the spirits/ghosts/jinns.  The power (aji) of the tenaga dalam practitioner is natural,  and is given by the grace of God.  It is bright and may startle the spirits/ghost/jinns.  Thus,  a strong tenaga dalam practitioner is likely to be able to neutralise the antics of a sorcerer.  This is why a teacher of Perisai Diri Silat in Bali stated confidently to me:-  “In Perisai Diri,  we say there is no kebal (invulnerability acquired by sorcery).  We have tenaga dalam.  We believe that our tenaga dalam will break any kebal from kanuragan,  so even if there is kebal,  there is no kebal for us in Perisai Diri.”  He said that he had encountered cases of kebal,  but it can be broken easily if you have a strong tenaga dalam.  What he meant was that while kebal may exist,  it can be broken by the tenaga dalam practised in Perisai Diri Silat,  and thus,  it is not effective or a good idea.  Like many Indonesian mystics I have encountered,  he said that kanuragan is a lower level of practice than tenaga dalam. 


Not only is tenaga dalam higher than kanuragan.  With tenaga dalam,  the kebal is natural,  and one does not have to abide by many “pantangan”  (spiritual taboos or prohibitions),  and therefore not subject to the whims of spirits/ghost/jinns,  which can be a hassle sometimes.  Thus,  it is also safer.  It is not a religion,  or connected to a religion (although it can be,  depending on the lineage).  It is breathing exercises that are excellent for health and vitality.  The aji obtained is natural.  The Indonesian mystics I met recommended tenaga dalam because it is very “clean”.  They believe the power is natural within us,  and given by God within us.  This aji needs to be awaken and activated by practice of pranayama and Samadhi and virtuous conduct.  Tenaga dalam is the way to go.  


Pak Sudi of Yellow Bamboo (Bambu Kuning) emphatically told me that aji is not really from outside.  The aji from spirits/ghosts/jinns is their own aji,  not ours.  Why try to accept an external thing?  He emphatically said that all the ajis we need are all within us already.  God already gave us all the aji.  All the aji is within us,  and all the initiation and master did was to bless us and open us up to God’s grace so that we may be cleansed and God can communicate with us and wake our ajis up.  Since our own ajis are from God,  they are good and safe.  We have different ajis (power, skills, abilities, knowledge) and not all ajis will be woken up at the same time.  It all depends on God’s grace.  So,  some practitioners may have healing ajis woken up.  Some have the ability to cast out black magic.  Some have invulnerability.  Some can knock down people from a distance.  Yellow Bamboo is the path to receive God’s grace so that our ajis will be woken up and we can contribute to God’s creation.  


Many spiritual practitioners,  irrespective of paths or lineages,  like to practise in sacred places where they believe spiritual energy (aji-ajian) is strong.  For example:-

* Mount Sumeru and Mount Bromo in east Java.

* Mount Agung in Bali.

* Tombs of the old masters and mystics  etc.  

* Practice places of ancient masters.

* Places sacred to certain deities.


There is rumour of many spiritual practitioners associated with the cult of Nyai Ratu Kidul, the Goddess of the Southern Seas,  who is probably the Indonesian version of the popular Chinese cult of Kuan Yin of the South Seas (Nan Hai Pu To San?).  Maybe this goddess has special affinity with the people of the region or the force of her aji emanates and resonates well in the region.  This is another way to understand what aji means in our South East Asian traditions.  



Written by John Chow,  to be copyrighted

12 November 2004