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Borobudur and "Buduruvagala Buddha"

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  • SD
    Did the Abhayagiri Mahayana monks help build the world famous Borobudur stupa? It might be of some interest to the readers of the Sunday ISLAND newspaper that
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 3, 2002
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      Did the Abhayagiri Mahayana monks help build the world
      famous Borobudur stupa?

      It might be of some interest to the readers of the Sunday ISLAND newspaper
      that some anthropologists and archaeologists in several different countries are
      continuing their research on the ancient Hindu-Buddhist period in Central
      Java, Indonesia, including the probable relations which existed during the 8th
      to 10th centuries between the Old Mataram Kingdom in Central Java and Sri
      Lanka. Focus is on the role which Mahayana Buddhist monks from the
      ancient Abhayagiri Monastery near Anuradhapura may have played in the
      design and construction of the world famous Borobudur stupa in Central Java,
      which since several years is also included in the

      UNESCO World Heritage List.

      Hopefully, some of the readers of the Sunday ISLAND newspaper are in a
      position to answer some of the questions posed or to provide other
      information relevant in this particular context.

      My American friend and colleague Jeffrey Sundberg, now back in the USA
      after a stay of several years in Central Java where he made intensive studies of
      the ancient Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries including efforts to decipher and
      translate ancient inscriptions in Sanscrit and other languages, called my
      attention for an item mentioned in the Insight Guide’s travel series edition on
      Sri Lanka, 1983 edition, page 172-173. In a section entitled ‘The
      Buduruvagala Buddha" it briefly discusses seven colossal Mahayana figures
      sculpted into a rock face, which, according to the Guide, authorities date from
      the 9th or 10th centuries. The largest sculpture is 15.5 meters tall (the largest
      on the island), and is attended on either side by two bodhisattvas, each 12
      meters tall. Iconographically, the flanking statues are Avalokiteshvara and
      either Maitreya or, significantly, Vajrapani. Avalokitehsvara, in turn, is
      attended by Tara and (probably) Sudhanakumara. On the side of
      Maitreya/Vajrapani, one of his two attendants holds a vajra! Buduruvagala is
      in the highlands of Sri Lanka, about 14 miles south of Badulla and 3 miles
      south of Wellawaya.

      The name Buduruvagala of course conjures up images of the famous stupa of
      Barabudur (or Borobudur) in Java, the more so since we know from various
      inscriptions found in Central Java that Mahayana Buddhist monks from South
      India and/or Sri Lanka came on several occasions to Central Java and that
      some of them apparently stayed there for extended periods at a local
      monastery supposedly near the Borobudur, named after the Abhayagiri
      Monastery. In addition we know from a statement by Professor Roland de
      Silva, recently President of UNESCO’S International Commission on
      Monuments and Sites ICOMOS, published by the Japanese expert on
      Buddhism and on cultural exchanges Prof. Eji Hattori, that in the ruins of the
      Abhayagiri Monastery a drawing has been found depicting a lotus-shaped
      stupa believed to represent a ground plan of the Borobudur. At the same
      Abhayagiri location was also found a Buddha statue which greatly ressembles
      the very characteristic Buddha statues which exist in great numbers at the
      Borobudur stupa.

      Various experts have published alternative derivations for the name
      "Borobudur", none of which thus far appear to be entirely satisfactory. Some
      of these derivations include references to the presence of Buddhist monks
      from South India and/or Sri Lanka in Central Java. Therefore, Jeffrey
      Sundberg poses the question whether an alternative explanation for the name
      "Borobudur" could be a derivation from the name Buduruvagala, and that this
      name was given to this stupa in Central Java by Buddhist monks from Sri
      Lanka, just as they referred to the Abhayagiri monastery when indicating a
      local monastery in Central Java. If this assumption is correct, this would
      constitute another proof of the relations between Mahayana Buddhism in Sri
      Lanka and in Central Java, in particular in its form of Yoga Tantric Mahayana
      Buddhism which in the 9th century was practised locally both in Sri Lanka and
      in Central Java.

      According to Jeffrey Sundberg the most interesting thing about the name
      Buduruvagala would be to determine whether its name in Sinhalese is spelled
      with a sub-dotted ‘d’ or not. The original Javanese spelling of Borobudur is
      Barabudur: If this lead bears fruit, then of course the meaning of the word
      ‘Buduru’ would be of demonstrable interest, especially as it seems connected
      to Vajra-oriented Buddhism.

      In this connection it is interesting to note another fact. Local oral traditions in
      the present-day Islamic Central Javanese villages situated around the
      Borobudur stupa mention regularly that the Borobudur stupa was constructed
      by Gunadharma, who found his last resting place on the crest of the Menoreh
      Hills to the south of Borobudur, where his body and face are still outlined in
      the sky-line. However, Gunadharma is not mentioned in a single written text or
      inscription, and nothing else is known about him than what is stated in the local
      oral traditions, for which reasons anthropologiss, archaeologists and art
      historians most often refer to Gunadharma as a mythical personality, pointing
      out at the same time that this name is not a Javanese name but a Sanscrit
      name. One may therefore wonder how much truth there could be in such a
      local oral tradition, especially when one considers the fact that we know from
      many parts of the world that such oral traditions can be transmitted unaltered
      from generation to generation during many centuries. I have myself for this
      very reason put forward the theory that Gunadharma was indeed a historical
      personality, that he was a monk of the Abhayagiri Monastery near
      Anuradhapura, and that he played an important role in the design and
      construction of the third building phase at Borobudur when the upper terraces
      of the sanctuary were laid out as a Yoga tantric Vajradhatu-Mandala. It
      would also explain his profound knowledge of Yoga tantric Mahayana
      Buddhism, including various elements which would have reached the
      Abhayagiri Monastery through far-reaching contacts with the Nalanda
      monastery in Nord-east India, the Gandhara region in North-west India with
      its Hellenistic influences, China, Japan and Central Asia, all connected by
      monks and missionaries travelling along the Maritime Silk Road between
      China, Japan and India and beyond and along the Overland Silk Road
      between China via the Central Asian deserts and steppes with the Black Sea
      and Caspian Sea areas and Byzantium. Monks and missionaries, who were
      translating various Buddhist texts from one language into the other and who
      were certainly also responsible for the exchange of cultural elements and for
      the spreading of various forms of Buddhist teachings.

      Another very relevant question by Jeffrey Sundberg is whether the sculpture of
      (probably) Sudhanakumara at Buduruvagala might possibly refer to the young
      pilgrim Sudhana from South India, who travelled far and wide and who
      consulted many holy men and gurus in the search for wisdom, as is depicted in
      a long series of narrative reliefs based on the text of the Gandavyuha on the
      upper part of the Borobudur. This would be another link between
      Buduruvagala in Sri Lanka and Borobudur in Central Java.

      This entire subject is also for me personally of great interest, being a retired
      professor in general and applied geology from the Netherlands, who has been
      engaged several times by UNESCO as an expert/consultant for projects for
      the restoration and conservation of ancient monuments. I am in particular
      familiar with the Borobudur, which I visited many times with my parents during
      my childhood in the Netherlands East Indies. Later between 1968 and 1975 I
      was intensely involved in the UNESCO sponsored Borobudur restoration
      project as an expert/consultant and during four years also as the general
      UNESCO and UNDP project coordinator and adviser to the Indonesian
      government for this particular restoration project. For a number of reasons I
      live now in Bulgaria, where I am about to complete the manuscript of another
      monograph on Borobudur, in this case intended in particular for the general
      public and for the many interested thousands of tourists from all parts of the
      world who visit each year Borobudur.

      Any relevant information which could be provided by you and/or by the
      readers of the Sunday ISLAND newspaper on the questions and issues raised
      in the above would be most welcome to me. And, of course, it will be a great
      pleasure also to transmit such information to Jeffrey Sundberg in the USA and
      to other interested colleagues in the Netherlands, India and Japan.

      Prof. (Em.) Dr. Caesar Voute
      Ul. Tzar Simeon" no. 214, Gradoman
      Gr 1320 BANKJA, Bulgaria
      Phone: +359-2-9976525 and GSM number +359-87932349
      E-mail: cvoute@...
    • pinatubo.geo
      The only historical notice (of which I m aware) of a foreign built stupa in insular SE Asia comes from the story of Atisha s journey to Suvarnadvipa. Atisha
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 25, 2002
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        The only historical notice (of which I'm aware) of a foreign built
        stupa in insular SE Asia comes from the story of Atisha's journey to
        Suvarnadvipa.

        Atisha visited six disciples of the Guru Dharmakirti (Suvarnadvipi) at
        the "Golden Stupa of Sukhagati established by a Tibetan king."

        Atisha's Journey to Suvarnadvipa
        http://www.lamayeshe.com/other_teachings/atisha_bio/journey.htm

        Regards,
        Paul Kekai Manansala
        http://home.attbi.com/~a.manansala/vedicindia.html


        --- In IndiaArchaeology@y..., "SD" <sdjaya@l...> wrote:
        > Did the Abhayagiri Mahayana monks help build the world
        > famous Borobudur stupa?
        >
        > It might be of some interest to the readers of the Sunday ISLAND
        newspaper
        > that some anthropologists and archaeologists in several different
        countries are
        > continuing their research on the ancient Hindu-Buddhist period in
        Central
        > Java, Indonesia, including the probable relations which existed
        during the 8th
        > to 10th centuries between the Old Mataram Kingdom in Central Java
        and Sri
        > Lanka. Focus is on the role which Mahayana Buddhist monks from the
        > ancient Abhayagiri Monastery near Anuradhapura may have played in the
        > design and construction of the world famous Borobudur stupa in
        Central Java,
        > which since several years is also included in the
        >
        > UNESCO World Heritage List.
        >
        > Hopefully, some of the readers of the Sunday ISLAND newspaper are in a
        > position to answer some of the questions posed or to provide other
        > information relevant in this particular context.
        >
        > My American friend and colleague Jeffrey Sundberg, now back in the USA
        > after a stay of several years in Central Java where he made
        intensive studies of
        > the ancient Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries including efforts to
        decipher and
        > translate ancient inscriptions in Sanscrit and other languages,
        called my
        > attention for an item mentioned in the Insight Guide?s travel
        series edition on
        > Sri Lanka, 1983 edition, page 172-173. In a section entitled ?The
        > Buduruvagala Buddha" it briefly discusses seven colossal Mahayana
        figures
        > sculpted into a rock face, which, according to the Guide,
        authorities date from
        > the 9th or 10th centuries. The largest sculpture is 15.5 meters
        tall (the largest
        > on the island), and is attended on either side by two bodhisattvas,
        each 12
        > meters tall. Iconographically, the flanking statues are
        Avalokiteshvara and
        > either Maitreya or, significantly, Vajrapani. Avalokitehsvara, in
        turn, is
        > attended by Tara and (probably) Sudhanakumara. On the side of
        > Maitreya/Vajrapani, one of his two attendants holds a vajra!
        Buduruvagala is
        > in the highlands of Sri Lanka, about 14 miles south of Badulla and
        3 miles
        > south of Wellawaya.
        >
        > The name Buduruvagala of course conjures up images of the famous
        stupa of
        > Barabudur (or Borobudur) in Java, the more so since we know from
        various
        > inscriptions found in Central Java that Mahayana Buddhist monks
        from South
        > India and/or Sri Lanka came on several occasions to Central Java
        and that
        > some of them apparently stayed there for extended periods at a local
        > monastery supposedly near the Borobudur, named after the Abhayagiri
        > Monastery. In addition we know from a statement by Professor Roland de
        > Silva, recently President of UNESCO?S International Commission on
        > Monuments and Sites ICOMOS, published by the Japanese expert on
        > Buddhism and on cultural exchanges Prof. Eji Hattori, that in the
        ruins of the
        > Abhayagiri Monastery a drawing has been found depicting a lotus-shaped
        > stupa believed to represent a ground plan of the Borobudur. At the same
        > Abhayagiri location was also found a Buddha statue which greatly
        ressembles
        > the very characteristic Buddha statues which exist in great numbers
        at the
        > Borobudur stupa.
        >
        > Various experts have published alternative derivations for the name
        > "Borobudur", none of which thus far appear to be entirely
        satisfactory. Some
        > of these derivations include references to the presence of Buddhist
        monks
        > from South India and/or Sri Lanka in Central Java. Therefore, Jeffrey
        > Sundberg poses the question whether an alternative explanation for
        the name
        > "Borobudur" could be a derivation from the name Buduruvagala, and
        that this
        > name was given to this stupa in Central Java by Buddhist monks from Sri
        > Lanka, just as they referred to the Abhayagiri monastery when
        indicating a
        > local monastery in Central Java. If this assumption is correct,
        this would
        > constitute another proof of the relations between Mahayana Buddhism
        in Sri
        > Lanka and in Central Java, in particular in its form of Yoga
        Tantric Mahayana
        > Buddhism which in the 9th century was practised locally both in Sri
        Lanka and
        > in Central Java.
        >
        > According to Jeffrey Sundberg the most interesting thing about the name
        > Buduruvagala would be to determine whether its name in Sinhalese is
        spelled
        > with a sub-dotted ?d? or not. The original Javanese spelling of
        Borobudur is
        > Barabudur: If this lead bears fruit, then of course the meaning of
        the word
        > ?Buduru? would be of demonstrable interest, especially as it seems
        connected
        > to Vajra-oriented Buddhism.
        >
        > In this connection it is interesting to note another fact. Local
        oral traditions in
        > the present-day Islamic Central Javanese villages situated around the
        > Borobudur stupa mention regularly that the Borobudur stupa was
        constructed
        > by Gunadharma, who found his last resting place on the crest of the
        Menoreh
        > Hills to the south of Borobudur, where his body and face are still
        outlined in
        > the sky-line. However, Gunadharma is not mentioned in a single
        written text or
        > inscription, and nothing else is known about him than what is
        stated in the local
        > oral traditions, for which reasons anthropologiss, archaeologists
        and art
        > historians most often refer to Gunadharma as a mythical
        personality, pointing
        > out at the same time that this name is not a Javanese name but a
        Sanscrit
        > name. One may therefore wonder how much truth there could be in such a
        > local oral tradition, especially when one considers the fact that
        we know from
        > many parts of the world that such oral traditions can be
        transmitted unaltered
        > from generation to generation during many centuries. I have myself
        for this
        > very reason put forward the theory that Gunadharma was indeed a
        historical
        > personality, that he was a monk of the Abhayagiri Monastery near
        > Anuradhapura, and that he played an important role in the design and
        > construction of the third building phase at Borobudur when the
        upper terraces
        > of the sanctuary were laid out as a Yoga tantric Vajradhatu-Mandala. It
        > would also explain his profound knowledge of Yoga tantric Mahayana
        > Buddhism, including various elements which would have reached the
        > Abhayagiri Monastery through far-reaching contacts with the Nalanda
        > monastery in Nord-east India, the Gandhara region in North-west
        India with
        > its Hellenistic influences, China, Japan and Central Asia, all
        connected by
        > monks and missionaries travelling along the Maritime Silk Road between
        > China, Japan and India and beyond and along the Overland Silk Road
        > between China via the Central Asian deserts and steppes with the
        Black Sea
        > and Caspian Sea areas and Byzantium. Monks and missionaries, who were
        > translating various Buddhist texts from one language into the other
        and who
        > were certainly also responsible for the exchange of cultural
        elements and for
        > the spreading of various forms of Buddhist teachings.
        >
        > Another very relevant question by Jeffrey Sundberg is whether the
        sculpture of
        > (probably) Sudhanakumara at Buduruvagala might possibly refer to
        the young
        > pilgrim Sudhana from South India, who travelled far and wide and who
        > consulted many holy men and gurus in the search for wisdom, as is
        depicted in
        > a long series of narrative reliefs based on the text of the
        Gandavyuha on the
        > upper part of the Borobudur. This would be another link between
        > Buduruvagala in Sri Lanka and Borobudur in Central Java.
        >
        > This entire subject is also for me personally of great interest,
        being a retired
        > professor in general and applied geology from the Netherlands, who
        has been
        > engaged several times by UNESCO as an expert/consultant for
        projects for
        > the restoration and conservation of ancient monuments. I am in
        particular
        > familiar with the Borobudur, which I visited many times with my
        parents during
        > my childhood in the Netherlands East Indies. Later between 1968 and
        1975 I
        > was intensely involved in the UNESCO sponsored Borobudur restoration
        > project as an expert/consultant and during four years also as the
        general
        > UNESCO and UNDP project coordinator and adviser to the Indonesian
        > government for this particular restoration project. For a number of
        reasons I
        > live now in Bulgaria, where I am about to complete the manuscript
        of another
        > monograph on Borobudur, in this case intended in particular for the
        general
        > public and for the many interested thousands of tourists from all
        parts of the
        > world who visit each year Borobudur.
        >
        > Any relevant information which could be provided by you and/or by the
        > readers of the Sunday ISLAND newspaper on the questions and issues
        raised
        > in the above would be most welcome to me. And, of course, it will
        be a great
        > pleasure also to transmit such information to Jeffrey Sundberg in
        the USA and
        > to other interested colleagues in the Netherlands, India and Japan.
        >
        > Prof. (Em.) Dr. Caesar Voute
        > Ul. Tzar Simeon" no. 214, Gradoman
        > Gr 1320 BANKJA, Bulgaria
        > Phone: +359-2-9976525 and GSM number +359-87932349
        > E-mail: cvoute@o...
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