Borobudur Indonesia

Borobudur – Indonesia

Indonesia’s interesting history somewhat surprisingly contains numerous interactions and preoccupations with South Asia, namely its religion.  Although now Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world, before the arrival of the Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus brought language, culture, and religion along well-trodden trade routes over sea.  Indonesia offered attractive commodities such as spice and natural resources, making it a focal point of many imperial agendas right until the modern day.  The Hindus called the land “Su-varna-bhumi”, or, literally, “The golden earth.”  Borobudur is the most spiritual landmark that the early South Asians left behind and represents a monumental turn for the history of Buddhism outside India.  Borobudur, once a monastery and worship center for Mahayana Buddhists, was built literally as a cosmic symbol on the earth.

Borobudur, Indonesia

flickr image by .alessandra

Known as a mandala, or sacred circle, at its center, Borobudur contains a stupa, a mound built around the relics of the Buddha.  The presence of such relics enhances the spirituality of all activities occurring within the premises.  Kings of the Sailendra dynasty, who were known as the Kings of the Mountains, constructed this elaborate shrine in the 8th century of the Common Era.  The enormous Buddhist monument has nine different levels, all accumulating, like a pyramid, into the top structure.  Each level jets higher and higher into the sky, and, considering the monument was built already on top of a mountain, the sheer volume of stone, sculpture, and shrine makes for an impressive display.  The higher terraces contain 72 stone stupas, each one having an image of the Buddha carved within to symbolise the Buddha’s presence.  But as one walks up higher and higher, the lower terraces may actually be even more imposing than the higher ones.  The circular terraces contain over fourteen hundred relief images, depicting Buddhist ideals, scenes from the Buddha’s life, and prominent Mahayana Buddhist bodhisattvas, who possess godlike features since they are nearly enlightened beings.

Visit Borobudur, Indonesia

flickr image by BrutteAbitudini

108 Buddha statues exist on each level of Borobudur, symbolising the most sacred number in Hinduism and Buddhism.  Walking up further, the visitor actually retraces the path towards enlightenment that others, including the Buddha, came to realize on their own journey.  The lower levels of the monument represent humanity’s attachment to desire, which binds souls into repeated rebirth based on their karmic action.  The higher terraces represent the final stages of enlightenment that the Buddha eventually came to understand.  He taught that one can avoid suffering and painful repeated rebirth through the cultivation of compassion and the relinquishing of desire.  Coming full circle, literally, since the monument is, in fact, a mandala, the visitor metaphorically achieves nirvana, or enlightenment, once she or he reaches the top.  Despite its defacing by Muslim conquerors and the destruction left by natural disasters and natural decay, the spiritual power of Borobudur is still eminent.  Nevertheless, one must not worry as UNESCO actively attempts to preserve the monument and restore what it can.  In the end Borobudur is a reminder that everyone contains the innate potential for enlightenment if one walks the correct path.

Date posted: 6th March, 2014

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