The Barabudur : A Synopsis of Buddhism

Abstract: The aim of this PhD-dissertation is – on the one hand – to present in a critical and comprehensive manner an update of recent findings among Western scholars regarding the Barabudur monument and its illustrations of various Buddhist traditions, and – on the other hand – to throw some light on some of the outstanding issues regarding this monument. Focus has been laid on the religious aspects with a view of ascertaining which forms of Buddhism are most prominently represented on the monument.The Barabudur is the largest Buddhist monument in the world – being built on Central Java during the late eighth century CE. The Barabudur is constructed in four successively higher galleries with an area on top with three round terraces. The terraces encompass 72 latticed stupas, each containing Buddha Vairocana in dharmacakramudra large stupa is in the center. Each side of the squarely built monument is at the ground level around 123 meters. The height of the monument is believed to originally have been 41.81 meters. The walls and the balustrades of the galleries encompass 1,460 bas-reliefs representing various sutras, such as the Mahakarmavibhanga Sutra, the Lalitavistara, the Gandavyuha Sutra, the Dasabhumika Sutra and the Bhadracari. In addition, the Barabudur seems also to have been influenced by ideas from the ensuing Indonesian esoteric text the Sang Hyang Kamahayanikan, as well as by the esoteric Buddhist texts of the Mahavairocana Sutra, the Tattvasamgraha and the Prajnaparamita in 150 verses. The Barabudur thus presents aspects from the main three Buddhist traditions – the Sravakayana, the Mahayana and an early esoteric form of the Vajrayana.The main problem in studying the Barabudur is the lack of historical information. No dedicatory inscription has yet been found. The Barabudur was built during the Sailendra interregnum on Java. Their contacts with the Abhayagirivihara on Sri Lanka and with the Pala dynasty in Bengal, indicate that some early form of Vajrayana Buddhism existed on Java during the eighth century CE. In addition, some concepts from the esoteric Buddhism developed by the Three Monks in China during this period could well also have been introduced on Java.The Barabudur, together with the Candi Mendut, are supposed to represent the Twin-mandala – thus representing the “non-duality” between “Truth” and “Wisdom”. Dharmakaya Mahavairocana is in the center of both these Twin-mandalas symbolizing the amalavijnana.In conclusion, the Barabudur may be regarded as a holy monument, where the Buddha is present, and where the devotee may be taught directly by the Buddha.

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