It’s not really fair. Buddha, above, has an advantage in the meditation game: he’s a statue.
I’ve tried it. I’ve tried finding a still, small, quiet space in the world to sit still, quietly, and make myself small in the grand scheme of the world. I’ve tried praying, meditating, contemplating, but I have a great deal of difficulty. I can’t shut off me. If I were concrete, if I had been formed somewhere by an artisan or a concrete mold and there were no thoughts going on inside my head, I might be better at sitting still and finding a quiet place to think about life, about the things that really matter.
Either way, Buddha always has the advantage.
There are hundreds of Buddhas at Borobudur. It was hard to focus on just one, but this one, fully intact in his niche, seemed like he wanted some attention. Although, technically, Buddha didn’t seek attention, only enlightenment.
There is a story going on here, and it extends around the entire temple at Borobudur. What is most fascinating is that the reliefs shown above are incredibly well rendered and seem to include characters from global cultures. There are Europeans, Classical Greeks, Chinese, African, and Indonesian characters, all carved into rocks that are well over one thousand years old. They all reflect the story of Buddha, his birth, life, and transcendence.
There is a myth here in South Asia, the myth of the Monkey King. He was incredibly fast, amazingly powerful, and willing to learn. One of my favorite versions of the Monkey King myth is in the graphic novel American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang. In his version, the Monkey King grows from an enlightened monkey into an arrogant and destructive practitioner of god-like powers to an eventually humble devotee of the Buddha. He learns from his time trapped under a mountain that he need only accept himself for who and what he is in order to free himself from his terrible burden. He realizes that in order to be free, he must freely give his allegiance and subject himself to someone else’s will. To be a free spirit, he must freely choose to help others.
The photo, above, is of the Monkey King, or one of his many incarnations. This is the Indonesian version, who appeared in the Ramayana. He is one of many wayang that I saw at the Wayang Museum in Old Jakarta.