Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Although organized religion and religious practice have little personal meaning for me anymore, I am often reminded, especially when I travel, of the power these forces have over the hearts and minds and creative imagination of us all. Borobudur is just such a reminder, and what a privilege to see it today.

A 1200 year old Buddhist temple rising up in the middle of rice paddies and swaying palms in central Java. Stupendous in its immensity and complexity of construction (and subsequent restoration). Over 2 million individually carved stones by an estimated 60K workers. Entombed by volcanic ash until 'discovered' in the 19th century, it is a physical manifestation of the spiritual path toward Enlightenment.

As I ascended the steps from the lower platforms which contain hundreds of relief carvings that depict the consequences of a life of indulging in carnal pleasures, I moved up one level at a time through the chain of reincarnation, with each level presenting moral and historical instruction in the intricately carved stonework. Emerging at the apex of the temple, I was treated to sweeping views of the surrounding verdant countryside as well as approx 2 dozen stupas that enclosed individual statues of the Buddha, which I was encouraged to reach inside and touch for good luck. Needing all the luck I can get, I enthusiastically obliged.

There wasn't much time for reflection, since I was immediately assaulted by dozens of determined and (smilingly) aggressive souvenir vendors. Not an unusual experience in these situations. 

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