The Buddhist temple at Borobudur is an amazing example of Cosmic Architecture, where an ancient Mandala diagram evolves into a three-dimensional work of architecture. The journey to the Buddhist stupa at the top begins at the foot of the stepped pyramid and takes you on a magical ride through countless Buddha statues in deep mediation overlooking the scenic landscape.
The nearest airport to Borobudur is at Yogyakarta, which is on the Javanese Island of Indonesia. I arrived in Yogyakarta aboard a short AirAsia flight from Bangkok, Thailand. It was almost 6 PM by the time I made my way through immigration and passport control. The people were extremely friendly, and I could feel the humid moist air as I ventured outside the arrival area. I had made reservations to stay at a nearby hotel which turned out to be an excellent decision. My plan was to explore the area around the hotel on foot, eat dinner and get some rest before embarking on a day trip to Borobudur the next day.
The Mandala Diagram
A Mandala is a diagram that represents the cosmos metaphysically and symbolically. It represents the infinite universe and our place in it. It represents wholeness and provides an organizing structure for life itself. In various spiritual traditions, the mandala is used to focus one’s attention as a spiritual guidance tool. It can also delineate a sacred space. In the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, it is a map that connects the mind, body and spirit and leads to enlightenment.
From Mandala to Cosmic Architecture
The Borobudur Buddhist temple rises magically from the Mandala Diagram and takes the form a three-dimensional stepped pyramid structure. As the very top is the Buddhist Stupa, which is where Buddha is supposed to reside for eternity. Along the way, you will find Buddhist statues in deep meditation, some overlooking the scenic landscape around while others inside a bell like porous stone enclosure. Each statue was developed by a Buddhist monk as a form of meditation and a way to achieve his own enlightenment. It is at once a work of divine art and cosmic architecture and is recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Magical Journey to the Top
The day tour to Borobudur began at 3 AM as I waited for my travel guide from Klook to arrive in the hotel lobby. He arrived on time and we drove an hour and a half to the Borobudur temple. There were five of us in the minivan in addition to the driver. A couple from Minnesota, and two twenty somethings from Japan. When we reached the temple, it was still dark. We were given a guide map and a flashlight and told to make our way to the temple. The idea was to reach the top and watch the Sun Rise overlooking the nearby valley. Watching the Sun rise was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I felt as though time had stopped and I was in the middle of an otherworldly experience as various statues of Buddhas emerged in the Sun light in deep meditation.
How could hundreds of Buddhist monks conceive of such a marvelous temple and build it from a simple Mandala diagram? It clearly represents the supremacy of an idea as an organizing principle to structure art, architecture and life itself. A Mandala that is at once a symbol of our connection to the eternity and our world within.
Image Credit: Aerial view of Borobudur, it took the form of a step pyramid and mandala plan. By Unknown author – Unknown source, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63319628