Friday, March 4, 2011

Candi Borobudur - my journey into the three realms of metaphoric cosmology!

Hello, today I'm going to share my experience while visiting Candi Borobudur, the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world and one of the eight wonders of the world. Candi is a local word that means temple, and Borobudur derived from the Sanskrit word vihara Buddha uhr that means the Buddhist monastery on the hill. It was founded by a king of the Saliendra dynasty; it was built to honour the glory of both the Buddha and its founder, a true king Bodhisattva. Candi Borobudur is located in Muntilan, Magelang, and is about 42 km from Yogyakarta City, Central Java, Indonesia. It was lost hidden from the world until it was found again by Sir Thomas Raffles in 1812, since then it has been under restoration and maintenance regularly.

I went to Candi Borobudur while on an 18 days trip in Indonesia with Famulan and Faye.  We rented a car from a man called Pak Joko and headed out at 7.30am from our hotel, Duta Garden.  If you wish to read my blog post about the hotel, click here. Anyway, when we got there it's almost noon and it looked like it was going to rain. Pak Joko offered us umbrellas that he always carries around in the car for his passengers, Faye gladly took it because she doesn't want to get wet in case that it rains, and don't want to get dark due to the heat in case it didn't rain. Famulan and I decided not to, I don't remember her reason but I didn't want to carry an umbrella because I am already carrying my huge green shoulder bag that was so heavy it felt like I'm carrying tons of bricks, plus I'm also carrying a video camera.  So no thanks.  There are numbers of helpers outside the temple compound offering services that cost minimum of Rp10000 to carry an umbrella for you. Anyway, that is the last thing I want, to have someone follow me closely behind. I would even go mad having a sales person follow me around in a shop, so imagine how uncomfortable it must feel for me to have someone so close with an umbrella... No thanks!! However, in the end I end up carrying Faye's umbrella because she got tired carrying it. I have no idea how it ended with me but I used it as a walking stick in the middle of the tour... haha!!

Taking memorable picture with Famulan before we begin our adventure in three realms of Borobudur. What a huge bag I carried around with me, it has a huge chunk of  iron molded into the letter G. It looks cool at first that's why I bought it. Later I kinda regret it because it was soooooooooooo heavy even with very little stuff inside. Next time I will just use a knapsack for my camera. Oh btw I didn't have a camera during this trip, I am grateful to Famulan for sharing these photos.

We took an official tour guide, I've forgotten his name but he is a very soft spoken and speak in a very thick Javanese accent that most of the time I have no clue what he was talking about. He was very polite and kept  reminding us that we can always ask him anything that we don't understand. Unfortunately I don't understand most of it. Well it's difficult to put much attention when my mind is so overwhelmed with the fact that I am finally here... one of the places that I wanted to be is Borobudur and now I can proudly say I have stepped my feet here. I'm so eager to do a little adventure on my own. Little did I know I was going to travel in three different realms before I finally reach the infinite... or perhaps nothingness?? Metaphorically of coz... hehehe.. It was exhilarating finally reaching the top!

It is believed that the panels or relief extend over a total length of 6 km and hailed as the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. The narrative relief on the main walls read from the right to left. This was done for the purpose of the Pradaksina ritual which the pilgrims make moving on the clockwise and keeping the sanctuary to the right.

According to our guide, every visitors to the temple have to perform Pradaksina, encircled the temple three times clockwise from the east gate as the starting point. In Buddhism it symbolizes its centrality in the lives of those who walk around it. The activity also represents integrity and cosmic harmony in mirroring natural phenomena such as the clockwise course the sun was believed to follow over the surface of the earth. Hmm... If you take it literally it doesn't make any sense but perhaps what it meant was the sun rays that reach the surface of the earth appears to be in clockwise motion? Buddhism is very metaphoric in their philosophy...  As a sign of respect we begin our climb in clockwise motion, stopping at each level to hear readings of the engraved panels or relief.

Borobudur temple has three tiers that represent the three major realms of Buddhist cosmology, the first is the Kamadhatu. It's the lowest of the Buddhist realms - the realm of desire that it is related to the 'thirst' or 'craving' and that is the cause of the 'suffering' or 'impermanence', in which the human beings are still prisoners of their own desires. 

Is it my imagination or is there a mismatched on the far end of the upper left? This must be the Kamadhatu realm. Look at him, he has two pretty girlfriends in both arms. Lol.

The second tier is the Rupadhatu, the realm of Form where dependence on earthly desires have been mastered, the human beings are no longer subject to the extremes of pleasure and pain, or governed by desires for things pleasing to the senses. The third tier is the Aruphadatu, the realm of Formless. The beings inhabiting this realm have either shape or location; and the realm has no location either. The Formless realm belongs to those devas who attained and remained in the state of mastering one self and no longer subject to earthly desires in previous life or realm, the human beings now enjoys the fruits (vipak) of the good karma of that accomplishment. It is to be understood that deva in this realm are not "gods" in the common sense of the term, it is an imprecise term referring to any being living in a longer-lived and generally more blissful state than humans in the other realms.

Here I am getting ready to climb to the top, to Aruphadatu. On my left hand is Faye's umbrella that now has become my walking stick. Lol. Honestly, I don't think I ever reach Aruphadatu. Let's be realistic here, there's so many worldly things that I want to have or to do, for example I wish I have Sony VIAO L Series big screen PC!! Now wanting to have something but not having is not equal to not wanting therefor not having. So I can say that I am currently in the realm of Ruphadatu where I am practising the mastery of not wanting or desiring anything a.k.a. dead inside. Occasionally I visit some old friends in the Realm of Desire because they miss my money on occasion that I do have it. When I died and become totally formless I will probably reach Aruphadatu where everything is nothing. Hahahahaaaa...I'm kidding so don't take it personal!!!!

Technically I reached the highest level of the realm by climbing this magnificent temple and the view is magestic!! Marvelous!!! Bravo!! How else would I be able to take this pics.. Haha! In summary, the three realms is the vertical cosmology corresponds to a mental state or a state of being, interesting philosophy put carefully in a metaphoric way don't you agree?

Here we are at last, the realm of the formless - Aruphadatu. Faye is holding her own umbrella now. There's Buddhas inside the huge stupas. The local believe that anyone who can touches the Buddha's toe will be granted his or her wishes. Only those of clear and good intention will be able to do so, or so I was told by Faye and supported by our guide.

Happy faces, all three of us were able to touched Buddha's toe quite easily, I don't even have to reach  out very far.  Those people behind us, they kept complaining out loud that the Buddha's toe was beyond reach. My brother said, if he stick his hand inside the stupa, he probably won't be able to touch it too. Worse case scenario, he said that the Buddha will probably stomp on his fingers because of too many evil thoughts. Hahahaha... So what will you wish for if you have the chance to touch the Buddha's toe inside the stupa?

Candi Borobudur is surrounded by eight mountains while the ninth is the Borobudur itself. One of the mountain that surrounding Borobudur is the recently erupted volcano Mt. Merapi. Scientist and scholars believes that in the past Borobudur was surrounded by water.

 Tips: You will be asked for donation at the exit, it will be used for maintenance so please be so kind to do so if you enjoy the tour. Careful, as soon as you exit the temple compound, peddlers are ready to swarm you trying to get you to buy something from them. If you are not gonna buy, please don’t haggle or small chat unless you love to be chased around persistently! It will take them a long time before they actually give up on you.

P/S : The trip was in 2008 and all photographs was taken by the tour guide using Famulan's and Faye's compact camera :)

Hope you enjoy my ramblings.  Anyway, see you soon in my next post. ‘Til then, have great days  :)


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