Borobudur temple, not far from Indonesia’s cultural capital Yogyakarta, is the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. It is entirely unique – there is nothing like it.
It was built in phases sometime between 760 and 830 of our era. Most people did not know how to read or write. The purpose was to provide spiritual education in a graphic way, and although built in solid stone it is entirely symbolic. There is no hall for prayer or sermons – the visitor stays under the sky.
Pilgrims came to climb this holy mountain and obtain spiritual merit while passing ten stages of development that will eventually lead to enlightenment. The “education”, the Buddhist understanding of the human condition, is handed to us through the architecture of the building itself, through hundreds of statues in prescribed poses, and 1460 carved stone panels, illustrating scenes from Buddhist scriptures – unfortunately not always easy to interpret for the researchers of our days or for us visitors.
I am concerned with the Society-Nature interaction, and I find the constant presence of Nature’s embrace, if I may say so, significant – our eyes follow the contours of the statues and the bell-shaped forms on the upper level of the temple and then move along contours of the hills and the forest canopy, and back to the next stone figure.
In contrast, the stone panels are placed in “walkways” where we are surrounded by walls so we are led to concentrate on the images and their story.
Photos: A model of the temple for an overview, the location in the terrain (it seems that in the past as now, the temple was surrounded by nature’s landscape, with no town in sight.), the approach, examples of the many reliefs and statues, the miniature stupas at the upper platform, and the views from up there.