Friday, December 16, 2011

Bali Journals: Part VII - Zen Architecture, Walking In The Shadow Of The Buddha

Long before the break of dawn, Mr. T arrived to collect me. Also along for the ride for this journey was boy lothario & Mr. T’s incredibly skilled driver, ‘Tut and UK based cosmic comedian Denis. An hour’s drive thru dark village roads later, we arrived at Ngurah Rai Airport’s Commuter Terminal in Denpasar; all sleepily exiting the vehicle to clear security checks and eventually board a flight to the Island of Java.
Our ultimate destination - Yogyakarta, a city known for it’s literati and the multitude of ancient temple sites & ruins that surround it. An hour & a half flight later, we quickly collected cameras and other baggage and commandeered a driver to wisk us away to Temple Borbudur. Built in the 8th century, Borobudur is a Buddhist site listed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Making our way through villages and amazingly civilized highway traffic, we passed ruined towns buried in ash & lava flows, a consequence of eruptions from Mt. Merapi a year ago, the dominating feature of the landscape, still smoldering in the distance. Antique shops piled with colorful and ornately carved antique doors, small food stalls of infinite variety & domed mosques of every shape & size lined the roads as we headed to our lodings for the night, a small & quaint hotel situated just outside of the temple complex and shaded by a forest of old teak and bodhi trees, the tree under which Buddha was said to have found enlightenment.

Our party made two trips into the complex, one the evening of our arrival for sunset and another, the following morning for sunrise. Architecturally speaking, Borobudur is a marvel. Built of cut stone of various hues, all piled into place and held together by gravity, divine design and no mortar, carved in intricate reliefs depicting scenes, at the lower levels, of the animal nature of man... then with each ascending level, scenes of more heavenly inspiration... until the top level, barren of carvings. The planners of this temple meant for the faithful to begin their ascent, circling from bottom to top, pausing to meditate on the carvings, from base & earthly at the bottom, gradually becoming more divinely inspired, until they reach the top where there is nothing - Nirvana.

Add to all of this a liberal sprinkling of statues of the Buddha, and at the upper levels, gigantic stupas shaped like bells, along with amazing views of the surrounding mountains, surrounding jungle - steam rising in the humid equatorial heat, and the smoldering presence of Mt. Merapi in the distance, the effect can only be that one is left gobsmacked, awed & humbled.

Borbudur has been ravaged over the centuries... time, erosion, earthquakes, waves of invading moslem hordes, looting & more earthquakes. Many of the statues of the Buddha remain decapitated, evidence of religious intolerance during Indonesia’s 14th century Islamic conversion. With all of this, the site remains remarkably intact and constant efforts continue to maintain, restore and recover lost artifacts.

Our tiny party of pilgrims spent hours here... photographing, staring in wonder, meditating. Mr. T made offerings and prayers at various parts of the complex on behalf of all of us. 

Climbing down the steep temple steps following our final ascent, we regrouped, headed back to our rooms to shower, enjoyed a communal breakfast buffet and then headed back into the center of "Jogya" to the frenetic area known as Mailioboro Street. 

Stay tuned....


tonyglaser said...

Beautiful Photos, stunning visuals that can't help but transport the mind as if there touching the stone. Well done. And give Denis a redbull or something, that cheeky sleeper!! ;)

Tony Novak-Clifford said...

he wuz meditatin'...