My trip to Buddha in May, 2011 was an accident. Let me rephrase that: last year, I bought a ticket to Jakarta because I wanted to catch the Maroon 5, one of my favorite groups, in a concert. I booked my plane ticket and my hotel but when I clicked on Maroon 5’s website, horrors! Tickets to the concert were already sold out. So I had a dilemma: what was I going to do in Indonesia for 5 days?
I researched and only then did I remember that Borobudur, a childhood dream, is also in Indonesia. So off I went. The rock-concert-trip turned to a search-for-Buddha-adventure.
Borobudur is near Yogyakarta (which the Indonesians fondly call, Jogja; pronounced JOGH-jah) which is about 9 hours by train or about an hour by plane from Jakarta. I chose to ride the train (which was a mistake – I took the 8 p.m. train and got there a little before 7 a.m. so I didn’t see a lot of countryside like I wanted to; I took a plane back to Jakarta in the late afternoon). A rented private car took me to Borobudur which was about an hour’s drive from the train station. My driver was nice. Like chauffers of the genteel era, he would run around the car to open the door for me but, like almost all the other Indonesians I met in Jakarta, he could barely speak English so we communicated by sign language. That was a pity because I could have understood and learned more from his anecdotes about their culture, the recent eruption of a volcano (Mount Merapi which, I later learned, also caused the abandonment of beautiful Borobudur) and the two other temples (there are many, actually) which are usual tourist destinations, Mendut and Prambanan. I went to the latter but passed up on Mendut.
I had to walk some distance from the entrance to where the temple was but when I first caught sight of the temple, I had to stop. It was a grand sight, so awesome I could only whisper, “Buddha, I have come.” I went around not only taking photos. Here and there, I stopped and tried to transport myself back to the time when they actually used the temple. I felt a calming peace whenever I did that. I can still remember how the cold morning breeze gently touched my face, how quiet it was (Angkor Wat is noisy!**), how serene and grand Mount Merapi looked from the top of Borobudur. I could have stayed there the entire day (but, of course, at nearly 11 a.m., the heat began to bite). It was time to say goodbye to Buddha and leave in peace with my favorite Buddha quote: The way is not in the sky; the way is in the heart.
**I actually liked Borobudur, the temple itself, better than Angkor Wat but, of course, the entire Angkor Wat area was not only larger, it was also more impressive.