Javanese Ethics: A Philosophical Analysis of the Wisdom of Javanese Life


This paper is the result of a review of a book by Franz Magnis Suseno, published in Munich in 1981 under the title Javanische Wheishet und Ethik . In Indonesia, this book is entitled exactly as the sentence in the title above. This paper is actually one of the author's personal lectures, but we are trying to compare it to the next writings this month, one of which is Maintaining Superior Seeds .

This work by Father Magniz reconstructs our thoughts regarding the description of judgments about the good and bad views of Javanese people's behavior. Especially regarding behavior in maintaining the harmony of life which is limited by pre-Islamic Javanese orientation . In its introduction, this book explains the boundaries of what is meant by “Javanese”, “Javanese society” and “Javanese ethics”. Individuals are referred to as Javanese, namely, people whose mother tongue is Javanese, who inhabits the areas of Central Java and East Java.

In a different book-Abangan, Satri, Priyayi in Javanese Society- Clifford Geertz states that there are three core structures in Javanese society, namely the village, the market and the government bureaucracy. In line with this view, the author of the last book mentioned the division of Javanese society based on three groups, namely, the little people, the Priyai and the nobles.

The Javanese community whose thoughts are still heavily influenced by ethics are those who are also known as the Abangan . This group of people in their awareness and way of life is very much determined by pre-Islamic Javanese traditions, but they also try to live according to the teachings of Islam or what we now often refer to as Kejawen . However, it is not only Javanese adherents who apply the Eawa ethics discussed in this book, but Javanese society in general, who maintains the values ​​of Javanese ethics.

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In essence, the values ​​in Javanese ethics are focused on one principle called harmony. Whatever the Javanese do in their life, they will always maintain this principle of harmony. As the main principle of values ​​in Javanese ethics, then other values ​​emerge as development principles based on this harmony principle. It is not surprising that the Javanese people are then known as ethnic groups that have high values ​​of etiquette in society.

In real life, Javanese society is not focused on producing a harmony. Instead, they believe in the view that harmony already exists in everyday life. This harmony is not to be created but to be maintained. Harmony and calm is a normal state that will exist by itself as long as it is not disturbed. To maintain this, then the Javanese people develop norms in socializing in daily life, including respect, how to talk to maintain feelings and feelings. This is then mentioned as the principle of harmony to maintain harmony in the association in society.

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In an effort to maintain harmony, the Javanese people believe in the unity between society, nature and the supernatural . From here the Javanese then laid the foundation of their society and culture. This relationship is harmonized with the individual's life which must be right in its place in Javanese society, as the key so that peace and tranquility can be obtained as a state of safety.

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In addition to talking about harmony in the value of harmony, in the Javanese view there is also a view that assesses power. In Javanese understanding, power is something completely different from the usual definition, it is an expression of divine energy that is formless, and always creatively permeates the entire cosmos/nature. Individuals in power are considered to have inner strength. Therefore, the power of the king for the Javanese is symbolized through harmonious society and nature, as a form of the king's ability to maintain energy in the cosmos.

In this case, the king's power is not used, but it exists in an individual who is able to accommodate it. This power is seen as a supernatural reality that gives and determines itself, where the person who has it is a container for holding unlimited power, but he cannot determine it. Thus, we can see many sacred realities gathered around the king, as a form of gathering his power, such as the palace, traditional ceremonies, various objects and places that are considered sacred.

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Another thing is the principle of harmony in Javanese society is also present in confidence to protect themselves from the two dangers, namely lust and egosime. Both of these things will weaken a person's inner strength to control the subtle side of himself, and tend to act uncontrollably, until in the end destroy the existing peace and harmony.

Basically, Javanese people are expected to maintain social harmony in principle. This is done by preventing conflicts from arising, so as to achieve harmony in society which is closely related to the harmony of the cosmos. Through this harmony, it can be concluded that the core of the discussion of Javanese ethics lies in the relationship between maintaining harmony in society and the universe. This will be achieved if the individual is able to maintain the subtle side as wisdom based on human interests.


This book teaches us about the beliefs of the Javanese people which have been mixed with various values (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam) . The theoretical description that is built, if it is still relevant to explain the beliefs of the Javanese people to this day. The most important thing described in this book is the existence of a unity of values ​​that affect life. This unity, namely, the behavior of individuals in society is very closely influenced by the metaempirical supernatural nature. This is a way of life wisdom to be practiced as a Javanese living in Javanese society.

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Namun, pemahaman yang terdapat di dalam buku ini, setiap konstruksi teoritisnya tidak dapat begitu saja mengeneralisir seluruh masyarakat Jawa. Selain itu, perlu diperhatikan juga, tentang pemaknaan yang dibangun mungkin akan mengalami sedikit pergeseran apabila melihat kehidupan masyarakat Jawa di perkotaan. Karena kehidupan di perkotaan memiliki variable yang dirasa lebih dominan mempengaruhi perubahan konsep yang telah dijelaskan sebelumnya.

Telepas dari kelebihan dan kekurangan dalam buku ini, tetap saja hasil karya dari Franz Magnis Suseno menjadi sebuah rekomendasi bacaan yang bagus. Sangat sesuai untuk mereka yang bukan merupakan orang Jawa namun telah menetap lama di tanah Jawa. Berikut buku dari Romo Franz, bagi anda yang ingin memahami lebih jauh pemaknaan yang terdapat di dalam buku ini.

See also: History of the Nahdlatul Ulama ' , Fadhilah Reading sholawat , SUFISM , Poetry illahi.🤲 grandeur , The words of wisdom , Friday Barokah , Secret Behind Patience and gratitude , MASJID SUPREME DEMAK


Geertz, Clifford, 1983. Abangan, Santri, Priyai in Javanese Society, Cet. 3rd, Jakarta: Pustaka Jaya.

Suseno, Franz Magnis, 2003. Javanese Ethics: A Philosophical Analysis of Javanese Life Wisdom , Cet. 9th, Jakarta: PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

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