Decades before Cambodia’s Angkor Wat was erected, Borobudur temple has stood majestically in the center Java island, Indonesia. This glorious Buddhist masterpiece was built during the golden era of Syailendra dynasty along with the temples of Mendut and Pawon. Borobudur had been used as Buddhist worship center in Java for almost two centuries before it got swept by Mount Merapi’s disastrous eruption and earthquake. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles finally found this ruined edifice in 19th century and its reconstruction program was initiated years later with the help of UNESCO.
It took 75 years to build Borobudur. Under the command of architect Gunadarma, this giant temple applied sophisticated interlock system regardless of the absence of modern technology. No less than 2 million blocks of stone from nearby river were carved and piled into a temple, just like when you pile up your Lego.
UNESCO announced Borobudur as the biggest complex of Buddhist stupa in the world, but we prefer to call it the most beautiful living Buddhist art of all time. If you pay more attention at its structure, this ten-terraced temple is actually a visualization of lotus, the holly flower in Buddha. The first six rectangular platforms symbolize the petals and the next three circular ones represent the stamen. The top stupa located in the middle of the temple embodies the Buddha. Thus, the overall ensemble visualizes a Buddha meditating on a lotus.
Behind its high artistic value, Borobudur offers a great Buddhists’ philosophy of life. Borobudur is the conception of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Its three platforms embody each level of life journey to Nirvana (the paradise) named kamadhatu, rupadhatu and arupadhatu. People are trapped in the first level if they follow their worldly concerns and negative desire. The level of arupadhatu is named the sphere of form where people have gain control to their desire but are still attached to form and name. In the top level, the realm is beyond form, name and concept, known as Nirvana.
Knowledge of each level can be learned from the panels of relief on the walls of every terrace. The first group of platform, the reliefs mostly tells various causal stories teaching about karma. The second level depicts the story of Buddha and his previous incarnations. The last level has no relief and has circular shape, a shape that has no beginning or end. The deep idea of life behind Borobudur temple makes it crowded of saints that want to achieve enlightenment.
You should come to Borobudur in early morning before the sunrise to get the best of Borobudur experience. Sitting quietly on the top of the temple while witnessing the first ray of sun shining through the statues and stupa, you’ll more appreciate the greatness of this temple. Mount Merapi and a stretch of green paddy field on the background will create a feeling of peace. At this point, your mind is in its purest state to think about on what level of life are you now? Whether still hedonistic or nearly reach the formless realm.
Borobudur temple is located in Magelang city, roughly 40 km from Yogyakarta. You can take day trip from Yogyakarta to the temple. But if you area an independent traveler, you may stay in the villages nearby the temple. You can take a city bus or taxi to get to Borobudur complex from the village.