Ayu endured a tragic childhood and gained her extraordinary ability to channel and memorize ancients texts mysteriously after falling ill and sinking into a coma. When she returned to consciousness, she claimed she was able to "communicate with spirits." She apparaently went on to passed tests of knowledge, religious scholarship and spiritual wisdom--all after only a week of training-- a monumental achievement that normally takes priests-in-training 10 years to complete.
According to one source, after Ayu experienced her near death episode that sent her into a coma for days, she gained an uncanny ability to recite ancient mantras and sacred texts by heart, as well as an incredible knack for speaking the Chinese language fluently—she was reported to have been a poor Balinese native prior to these events, who had never left the island let alone be exposed to other languages.
It was said that Ayo had activated the incarnation of a spiritual master when she almost died, and took on the essence of "Kuan Yin," a Buddhist figure of compassion. Her subsequent feats of healing and mastery of the ancient texts and rites made waves, and elevated her personal shrine into a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and Buddhists alike. She now receives visitors from all over Asia.
During my brief visit with her, which included a Full Moon ceremony, I watched her as she channeled different energies, and conducted healings and offered blessings for those who came to her.
Balinese Hinduism is a special blend of two indigenous spiritual traditions from India—Hinduism and Buddhism. Indonesia recognizes 5 official world religions—Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Christianity, and Buddhism. On Bali, one of Indonesia’s smallest islands and popular tourist destinations, ceremony and spirituality are a big part of life. It seems that at every corner, there is a shrine, temple, sacred carving, or an offering being shared with the Spirits. Bali is also known for its prolific mysticism, popularized by Laurence Blair's "Ring of Fire" and Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love."
When I arrived at Ayu's temple residence after a breathtaking motorcycle ride through the Balinese countryside, I could tell that there was something special and ancient about the energy in her compound. It made me pause, smile, and breathe deeply in acknowledgement. Others were waiting to be blessed by Ayu when I got there, including priests who were much older and more established. I sat at a balee close to the mouth of her shrine next to an older man who was a credentialed priest. He had arrived especially for her. We talked about his reasons for visiting against the backdrop of a 12-second pre-recorded Chinese mantra, which looped over and over. The words of the mantra paid homage to Kuan Yin and after a while created a hypnotic atmosphere.
Before I was given the go ahead to enter the shrine area for prayer, blessing, and meditation, Ayu personally approached me and gave me a warm welcome. Her handshake was gentle and tender. I thought I sensed an electrical charge go into my body when we made physical contact. She definitely had a strong presence.
I noticed that Ayu’s shrine was adorned with the color red, with many Chinese decorations—it was a totally different environment than any other Balinese holy site I had encountered, but her traditional clothing along with the dress of her visitors clearly suggested that she and her guests were all Balinese Hindus.
I thought at first that the unfamiliar décor and Chinese recording might have been a special way to celebrate the Chinese New Year. When I finally got a closer look, I realized that this was the normal view of the shrine. I must have witnessed a half-dozen images of Kuan Yin posted all around the area of worship. There were also other shrine elements that drew from Buddhism, Daoism, and Hindu mythology, as well as flowers, incense, and holy water containers.
My guide and friend, who was one of her followers, explained to me that Ayu united three energies—those of: Kuan Yin, Shiva (who is said to be present in Bali’s Mount Agung), and a well known Balinese water goddess. Three different forces and energies united in one. When I visited her again at night, I finally witnessed her channel Kuan Yin. Later that same evening she also took on what came across to me as a more irreverent male energy-- a spirit who appeared to represent wealth or commerce— With her eyes still closed, Ayu proceeded to light a cigarette and down two shots of liquor and take on an entirely different persona.
Whenever she would slip into her alternative identities, the crowd around her would huddle together, all eager to receive a nugget of wisdom or advice from the visiting energy she was reportedly channeling.
We proceeded to make an offering, receive a blessing, meditate, light incense, and pray. Afterwards, I received a personal blessing and message from Ayu and was sent away with a smile, a meal, and an invitation to return any time.
I saw that Ayu’s youthfulness kept an atmosphere of lightness and friendship among her visitors. Although I could not understand a word she said, she did not set herself apart from the rest the way some priests do and often joked and made her visitors feel at ease with humor and cheerful banter. Occasionally, Ayu would sit behind other meditators and place her hands at either side of their spine in what looked like an energy transfer.
I believe that Ayu may have undergone one of those radical shamanic experiences or awakenings that cracked her open and initiated her as a human bridge to the spirit world. She emerged from her traumatic episode with a knowing and a power that allowed her to introduce a unique combination of elements to an ancient culture. Her status among the priests allowed her to safely advance and share her shapeshift experiences with her people-- a rare occurance. While winning over the religious establishment with her wisdom, was a stunning enough feat all on its own, fortunately for her, the institutions of worship from her society opted to support and integrate her powers, and open up space for her unique mystical gifts to thrive. As a result, she now provides an alternative for worshippers on the island, seemingly without threatening her peers or the current order. But who really knows if there are those who feel threatened?
Ayu is said to be preparing for a visit to other parts of the world, including Australia and China.