This small statue represents Rêsi Caraka. Caraka, in Sanskrit, means 'a wanderer', 'an ascetic', as well as a 'medicinal plant'. It can, however, also mean 'a spy', though often the word 'cāraka' is used to indicate this particular meaning. In Javanese, too, 'caraka' means 'a messenger', which indeed is derived from the Sanskrit word 'cāraka'. But actually, in this context, the meaning of this word should be interpreted as 'one who is loyal to and trusted by someone'.
Yet a more relevant meaning is expressed by the meaning the word 'cêraki', which in Javanese, means a 'herbalist healer', 'medicine man', 'pharmacist' , and from which we can also make 'cêrakèn' (herbs, medicine; medicinal herbs). Still more likely, is that Caraka is the name of the rêsi who composed the Carakasaṃhitā, i.e. the 'Compendium of Caraka'; the oldest encyclopedia of ancient Indian medicine. Whatever may be the correct linguistic derivation, it should be clear that Rêsi Caraka is an ascetic specialized in herbal healing.
In Buddhism, Rêsi Caraka is called Ṛṣi Jivaka, the medical doctor of Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha. Ṛṣi Jivaka is considered to be the founder of the ancient Indian medical system known as the Āyurveda (Sanskrit: ayus: life; veda: knowledge). He is, therefore, considered to be the grandmaster of all traditional massage and healing practitioners.
This also corresponds to the traditional understanding about the rêsi, for they are seers who live in secluded places outside of society. They engage themselves in mystical forms of practice (such as the making magic potions and all sorts of healing medicines) which derive from the Indian Hindu type of individual ascetic, also known (in Sanskrit) as ṛṣi or yogi. As such, the brahmin rêsis stand in stark contrast with the Buddhist bhikṣus, who live in a monastic community and abide the monastic code of discipline (Sanskrit: vinaya).
In Indonesia, the earliest sources mentioning the rêsis date from 6th and 7th century legends and myths in chronics (Javanese: kitab kunå). The historiography of the rêsis can, therefore, be placed somewhere around the early stages of the Hindu-Buddhist period (6th century – 14th century) in the Indonesian archipelago.
Just like the ṛṣi in ancient India did not belong to any particular established form of religion, so too were the rêsi in Indonesia not incorporated into a specific religion, but rather did they become important characters in the teachings of Kêjawèn, or Javanese mysticism. The Kêjawèn teachings tell about the rêsis amd their attainments of supernatural powers (Sanskrit: abhijñā, siddhi; Javanese: sidi). These supernatural powers include several kinds of magical powers, such as:
- levitation, bilocation, walking on water and through walls (Pāḷi: iddhividhā);
- being able to hear conversations of humans, gods, and animals from a far distance (Pāḷi: dibbasota);
- mind reading and teleportation (Pāḷi: cetopariyañāṇa);
- remembering past lives and forms of existence (Pāḷi: pubbenivāsānussati).
Rêsis in Indonesia are not always referred to as such, but rather will people call them reverend masters, or ‘bathara‘ (Javanese: batårå; Sanskrit: bhaṭṭāra), like for example Bathara Narada (Sanskrit: Ṛṣi Nārada) and Kyai (Rêsi) Bagaspati ('kyai' means ‘honorable’ in Javanese).