The tooth-filing ceremony on the island of Bali is a rite of passage into adulthood, in which, as Balinese Hindus believe, fang-like qualities of human teeth are smoothed away, and the six inner enemies inherent in human nature are removed. This article explores the sources of the concept of the six enemies in Sanskrit and Old Javanese literature.
Indeed, the idea of the aggregate of six (ṣaḍvarga) as the inner foes is duly transmitted from Sanskrit to Old Javanese texts, as evidenced in the Bhaṭṭikāvya and the Rāmāyaṇa Kakawin. The items enumerated as the six components are, however, not identical with those used for the explanation of tooth-filing in Bali.
A possible solution may be found in a trend of contemporary Balinese Hinduism. Numerous scriptures and teachings popular in India have been imported to Bali towards further “Hinduization.” The ethical concept of the six enemies to be conquered for meditation, as cited in the Devībhāgavatapurāṇa, might be a good example. It might have been introduced in Bali without passing through hundreds of years of literary tradition, and it has also come to be used as an “authentic” interpretation of such an indigenous custom as tooth-filing.