The splendiferous monument Borobudur which stands surrounded by volcanoes in the middle of the Kedu plain in central Java is indubitably one of the noblest buildings to have sprung from the Buddhist faith and is one of the world’s finest religious founda tions. It stands to convey an extraordinary impression of the ultimate tranquility which Buddhism affords to its believers. That it does so is an architectural achievement of the highest order and testifies to the successful manner in which structure and decoration have been treated together to produce a coherent whole. Great ingenuity is demonstrated in the lay-out. It is the only stupa in Java which is rich in other types of Buddhist monuments. It is a unique product of genius and it is this uniqueness which makes its interpretation so difficult. The stQpa of Borobudur goes back eleven centuries.Order now
In about 800 a.d. a king of the Sailendra Dynasty immortalised his faith in the Buddha in an unexampled monument, conceived and concretised by a poet, philosopher, and architect, named Gunadharma. Gunadharma sallied forth into the mountains of Menorch, his heart rapturous in the hope of transcreating adoration along the path of unending time. Gunadharma, after a long meditation and an indepth study of the great Buddhist Classics, conceived the Borobudur as we know it today. Tradition has it that the architect Gunadharma is integrated into the mountain range of Menorch, where you can see the silhouette of his chin, mouth and nose. The name of the Borobudur has been an enigma. Some have derived bara from vihdra meaning a complex of temples and mona steries, and budur heralds the Balinese word beduhur meaning “above.”
Thus the word signifies a high, eminent or supreme mona stic complex.1 Prof. Casparis explains it as an abbreviation of a com pound word which means, “The monasteries of the accumulation of virtue in the ten spiritual stages in the meditation of a Bodhi sattva “2 Whatever the origin of the word, it does represent the ten stages in man’s ascent from the baser world of lust and passion into the highest realms of iiinyatd, which are known as daSa-blmmi or it may also stand to mean date ku£altini* namely the ten sins: pdnalipdto (killing); adinndddnam (stealing); kdmesu mikkliaknro (impurity); musdvddo (lying); pisund-vdkd (slander); pharusdvakd (harsh language); samphdppaldpo (frivolous talk); abfiigglia (covetous ness); vydpddo (malice); mikklidditthi (false doctrine) in the Buddhist philosophy. As one approaches the Borobudur, one is in the presence of a replica of the universe which is three-fold namely kdmadhdtu, rupa-dhdtu, агйра-dhdtu, and beyond these three worlds is the Sunya.5 However, the basic lay-out of the building is simple: four square terraces set upon the basement platform and surmounted by three circular terraces which support a stiipa.
Each four square terraces are provided with an exterior wali so that there is an enclosed pathway around each level of the monument. A stair-case with lavishly decorated archways leads to the top of the monuments from the middle of each side of the square. The lowest base re presents the kama-dhdtu or the phenomena! world, the world of baser passions. Kdma, desire of senses is one of the four aSvas and is the first of the six factors of existence, the elimination of which is essential for liberation from re-birth. The six are kdma, vedaiid, sanita, dsvds, kamma, and dukkJia The basement has 160 reliefs which have been drawn from a religious text, the Mahakarma Vibhanga. This text deals with the Buddhist system of rewards and penalties for right and wrong actions, a system subsumed in the term karma7 which has been translated loosely as fate. Both the nature of the text and the il lustrations of it, which are found on Borobudur, make it clear that it is addressed primarily to laymen whose function in Buddhism is to gain merit by supporting the monks.
From the world of passions or of kdma we reach the world of riipa dhdtu or Form.8 It consists of four square galleries or terraces, with a chain of large niches, which contain Buddha images, culi minating in miniature stupas. The four square terraces in Buddhist philosophy may also re present dwthvdrydrya satydm? diatitfralokapdldh10 namely the Four Guardians of the World; dhaturattho, virulho or virulhako, virupakkho, vessavano or chatxtirobraUmavilidrah, the Four Perfect States or diatvdri saiigrahawstuni;12 the Four Elements of Popularity or diat vdki smrthya prasthdndni;13 the Four Earnest Mediations namely kdydnu-passamid, i>edandmi-passafind, kittdtiu-passannd and dhammdnu passatvid; or dxatvdri-samyakprahandni, the Four Right Exertions. But a more complex theology emerges when we consider the Buddha figures enshrined in the niches on the facades. On each side of the monument there are 92 statues arranged in four rows which correspond with the four terraces. The figures represent: seated Mdnu$i-Buddha$ and Dhydni-Buddlias – Akshobhya, Ratna Sambhava. Amitdbha and Amogha Siddhi who are associated with the four cardinal points. The legends of Maitreya and Saman tha-bhadra are also sculpted in the third and fourth terraces.
Above these four-fold ranks there is a fifth line common to all sides of the monument whose niches house Vairochana. The walls of the terraces are adorned with reliefs portraying life scenes and Jatakas in exactitude to the texts enjoined in Jdtakamdla, Avaddnas Lalitavistara, and Gandavyuha. As befits , the walls are also embellished with a variety of designs of kdlamakara]4 foliage, flowers and spiral ornaments. Above the four terraces of the гйра-dhdtu, we reach the higher domain of arupa-dhdtu, the World Beyond Form.15 Here tranquility and serenity prevails and the atmosphere indicates the realm of meditation. There are three circular terraces in concentric circles around the main stupa at the top. There are a number of stupas of which a particular type is found only at Borobudur. These stupas which are constructed with half-open walls, number thirty-two, twenty-four and sixteen on the three successive terraces. Each houses a figure of yet another Dyani-Buddha, Vajrasattva, who is generally accepted as being the highest of these Buddhas; indeed treated almost as a supreme deity in some schools of Buddhism. Again, the latticed stupas with Buddha images represent the near-highest manifestation of Ultimate Reality.
There is a striking difference in this sphere and the previous one. There are no reliefs nor any ornamentations. The pilgrim is initiated into the higher sphere of ariipa, where decoration is no longer relevant and the mysterious chairoscuro of the Buddha, in the latticed stupas, lends a sublimity to the entire atmosphere. The continuous repetition of the same truth is an affirmation of reality. Repetition is eternity. While the lower stages are material and massive, the higher ones rise in simplicity of silence.16 The very presence of latticed stupas numbering thirty-two, twenty-four, and sixteen on the three successive terraces is quite significant and has Buddhist philosophical meaning. Thus, the row of thirty two stupas, may represent dvathrim-Salakshanani. the Thirty Two Signs of Perfection17. Similarily, the twenty-four stupas in a row connote chaturvimSa-tirtlpakleidh, the Twenty Four Minor Evil Passions,18 while the sixteen stupas probably stand for the Sixteen Patimokkha, disciplinary rules binding a bhikkhu}9 The three circular terraces, in concentric circles around the main stupa, have again Buddhist ideology transmuted in them. The three circular terraces may stand for triratnas,20 the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha; or Thrayovimoksha(21 the Three Kinds of Salvation namely sunnatavimoko (void); animiltavimokho (uncondi tioned), apparihtavimokho (passionless); and mahavyupt. Beyond the three circular terraces is the main stupa. Culmi nating in the centre, it forms the crown of the entire monument.
Inside is an open space which is empty. It is the iiinya,22 the Absolute, the monument of silence, the highest expression of truth in the quest of the sddhaka While the sadhaka ascends the Boro budur on to higher terraces, he proceeds to higher domains of spiritual life. In a similar manner the Buddha gradually manifests himself downwards in order to be approachable to beings. It is the descent of the Divine on this earth . The pilgrimage can be seen as an account of the history of Buddhism and of the doctrine which the Buddha expounded. On the exterior of the platform are the depictions of the inexorable laws of karma. As he enters the first of the circumambulatory ter races, the pilgrim sees the way in which the Buddha prepared for his role by a succession of previous lives (the Jdtakas and avddna panels), is born to his last existence, receives enlightenment and preaches the first sermon in which he expounds the doctrine which releases men from the laws of karma; all of which this monument emphasizes.
Also as a stfipa, the monument symbolizes the moment of the Buddha’s own achievement of mrvdna, an event which is not otherwise illustrated at Borobudur. But the doctrine has more esoteric truths to reveal than the simple historical teachings of Gautama; the story of Sudhana’s search for these is now recounted in a stylized and restrained manner, for we are beyond the point of folk narrative and moving into the realm of metaphysics. This becomes clear on the circular terraces, where the reliefs cease, and thence at the Central Stupa where even the Dhyani-Buddhas have disappeared. Yet, if we consider the Dhyani-Buddhas upon the facades and the circular terraces as being in a sense the spiritual shell surrounding the whole monument, then it can be seen as cosmos, a universe of which the Central Stupa with its lofty mast, now missing, is the world axis, the Sumeru of the Indian cosmo logies.24 Thus, amazingly, the Borobudur stupa echoes the Buddhist ideologies imbibed in the architectural entities which formed part of it.