Hidden in a valley between a few mountains and volcanoes about an hour outside of Jogja sits Candi Borobudur. This 9th century Buddhist temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, claims to be the biggest Buddhist monument still standing today, and is the most visited tourist site in Indonesia.
If you want to avoid the crowds you can pay an extra 40 US dollars to go through the a hotel for sunrise before the park opens. Or, if you know some locals, you can hitch a ride up to the top of one of the hills surrounding the valley and watch the sunrise from up there. Both are highly recommended.
The temple has six levels, essentially large squares stacked on top of each other with a myriad of relief sculptures carved into the walls on each level. Once you get to the top, you can see an incredible view of the surrounding valley, lush and green. In each of the stupas, bell-shaped installations, meditates one of 504 Buddha statues on the monument. Only one is openly revealed, the rest hide inside the stupas, only to be seen by peaking through the gaps in the stones.
When first seeing the temple I was a bit underwhelmed. I thought it would have been a lot bigger. It’s big, but not overwhelming like the Empire State Building, Sultanamet, or a college football stadium. The steps are steep, a little too tall for the average person, requiring a second balancing step in between each ascent. It’s crowded with local school visits, world-travellers, and the curious all ensuring their Facebook friends know where they are.
If you turn left on the second level you reach this relief of Gautama Buddha sitting.
Once you notice the intricate beauty of one of these reliefs, you realize how impressive the structure hosting hundreds of them is. You begin to get lost tracing the stories and histories along the walls. My first visit to the temple was the only time I went up to the top level to see the stupas, the view, and the Buddha statues. Since then I have remained on the lower levels exploring carvings that seem to sprout anew upon each visit.
I meditate more in Indonesia. I’m not sure if this is a result of being in an environment that ensured more regular mindful awareness, a personal desire to sit more often, or a need to. The sessions at Borobudur have been remarkable. If you even make it, I highly recommend you find a corner of a level to sit and breath for a while.