The Buddhist Architecture of Borobudur displays how an ancient Mandala diagram can evolve into a three-dimensional work of architecture. In order to experience this transformation, your journey begins at the foot of the stepped pyramid. Along the way to the top, you encounter 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, eat dinner and get some rest before embarking on a day trip to Borobudur the next day.
Magical Journey to the Top
The day tour to Borobudur began at 3 AM the next day. The travel guide from Klook tours had asked me to wait in the hotel lobby for pick-up. The guide arrived on time and after picking up several more tourists we drove 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. Each of us received a guide map and a flashlight. We were told to make our way to the top of the temple to watch the Sun Rise. Watching the Sun gradually emerge from the night sky 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.
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The Mandala Diagram
A Mandala is a diagram that represents the cosmos. It represents the infinite universe and our place in it. It provides an organizing structure for life itself. In various spiritual traditions, the mandala is used as a spiritual tool to focus one’s attention. It can also delineate a sacred space. In the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, a Mandala is a map that connects the mind, body and spirit and leads to enlightenment.
Buddhist Architecture of Borobudur
The Borobudur Buddhist temple rises magically from the Mandala Diagram and takes the form of a three-dimensional stepped pyramid. At the very top is the Buddhist Stupa, which is where Buddha is supposed to reside for eternity. It is incredible to see Buddha statues in deep meditation, some overlooking the scenic landscape while others inside a bell like porous stone enclosure. Each statue of Buddha was sculpted by a Buddhist monk as a form of meditation and a way to achieve enlightenment. This combination of divine art and cosmic architecture is recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. How could hundreds of Buddhist monks conceive of such a marvelous temple and build it from a simple Mandala diagram? The Buddhist Architecture of Borobudur demonstrates the supremacy of an idea as an organizing principle to synthesize art, architecture and human existence.
Title Image: Unknown sourceUnknown source, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons. File:Panoramic views of Borobudur.Jpg. (n.d.). Wikimedia.org. Retrieved September 16, 2022, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63319628