Gaṇḍavyūha, The Quest for Awakening
Level 4, Balustrade
4. Maitreya, Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra
large collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Gaṇḍavyūha Sūtra, which tells about the Bodhisattva Sudhana and his search for Awakening by questioning 53 Masters, together with further information.
|Level 2, Inner Wall,
Meetings with Spiritual Friends
|Level 3, Inner Wall,
Maitreya reveals the Dharmadhātu
|Level 3, Balustrade,
|Level 4, Balustrade,
Maitreya, Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra
|Level 4, Inner Wall,
The Aspiration to the Good Life
Reliefs on this Level:
Introduction to the Gaṇḍavyūha Reliefs at Borobudur
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Level 4, Balustrade
Maitreya, Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra
East Wall (Center to South)
This level continues illustrating the text that was begun towards the end of the last wall with the great gifts that Maitreya in his various incarnations had given away.
1. Maitreya gives away Universal Monarchy
2. Maitreya gives away a Throne
3. Maitreya gives away a Female Servant
4. Maitreya gives away a Harem
5. Maitreya gives away Parasols
6-7. Maitreya gives away Banners
These two make up a corner relief. On the first we see Maitreya holding the teaching posture (vitarka-mudrā). Sudhana in sat in the middle of his companions and gesturing. On the right panel an incarnation of Maitreya is worshipping while giving the banners hung up behind the stūpa.
8. Maitreya gives away Standards
Maitreya sits in the middle holding up a lotus flower. Sudhana in the midst of his followers on the left also holds up a lotus. On the right of the relief we see Maitreya presenting standards to the monks on the far right.
9. Maitreya gives away Garlands
10. Maitreya gives away Medicine
11. Maitreya gives away Food
12. Maitreya gives away Drinks
This seems to be a gift of drinks that Maitreya has made in the past. Unfortunately sections of the panel are missing, so we cannot make out who he is giving the pots to. Maitreya is also rather damaged, and Sudhana has lost part of his features.
13. Maitreya gives away Utensils
It is hard to see what exactly is being given here as the block showing the gift has disappeared. In accordance with the text though it should be Maitreya giving utensils. The recipients here are kneeling, while Maitreya in the past is standing.
14. Maitreya gives away Mechanical Instruments
15-16. Maitreya gives away Bowls
17. Maitreya gives away a Horse Carriage
18. Maitreya frees Prisoners
19. Maitreya acts as Physician
20. Maitreya shows the Right Path
21. Maitreya saves People from a Flood
I tend to agree with Krom that this must show a flood, and therefore departs from the text as we know it. We seem to see the waters washing away people and houses, and the incarnation standing firm and helping to save children by holding them above the flood. It is hard to make out what the building in the centre is meant to represent. Maitreya gestures as he shows the scene to Sudhana who stands with his hands in reverence.
22. Maitreya saves the Merchants
We see Maitreya sitting on a very grand throne in the centre of the panel. On the left in the midst of his companions Sudhana kneels. The right side is rather damaged and the exact scene is difficult to make out now because of that.
24. Maitreya as a Spiritual Friend
Virtually nothing is left of these sections, and there is only one face visible on the far right, whether it is correctly placed is hard to tell.
27 Partially Reconstructed
We can see some figures in this badly preserved section, a king sitting with ladies, and some people standing on the left. But we cannot understand the story properly.
28. Maitreya as a Disciple Teaching
A badly damaged relief. We can see that one monk is teaching on the far right, presumably an earlier incarnation of Maitreya, and someone in front is worshipping him. Maitreya of the present stands in the middle. The compound illustrated on panel 24 is followed by the one on 29, so we do not know exactly what 25-28 represented.
29. Maitreya as a Disciple
30. Maitreya as Himself
Again it is difficult to know what exact scene this represents. Maitreya sits with one hand held up and one lying on his knee, but both extended outwards, presumably a show of blessing. Sudhana sits on the left and turns to his companions. On the right we see two bearded characters, I believe the previous life of Maitreya is shown second from right, along with his wife, or queen.
32. Maitreya as a Disciple
In this corner piece we see Sudhana standing on the right, with part of the panel missing. On the right side Maitreya stands, and looks back at his companions. Meanwhile on the far right, in a previous incarnation, he is shown sitting and teaching Dharma to those in front of him.
33. Maitreya builds a Stūpa
34. Maitreya makes Buddha Images
35. Maitreya teaches Dharma
We have come to the end of the main section in which Maitreya is seen inside the Tower performing all manner of good deeds, the rest of the wall is taken up with Sudhana’s emergence from the Tower and his preparing for his next great meeting, which will be with Mañjuśrī, who will point him, now that he is fully prepared, in the direction of Samantabhadra, who is featured later in the series.
36. Sudhana and the Tower
Sudhana stands along with one attendant who holds the parasol for him and another who looks away. To the right is a magnificent Tower, with a kāla protecting the entrance and a large bowl of flowers at its front. Birds are also pictured on the spires.
37. Sudhana and Maitreya
Here we see Sudhana on the left worshipping the Bodhisattva on the right who is in teaching posture. The Bodhisattva lacks the normal identifying stūpa in the crown that would show it was Maitreya, but it seems this is who it is. Behind Sudhana his attendant holds up what appears to be a peacock-feather parasol.
38. Maitreya opens the Tower
This panel shows a very important scene from the story where Maitreya – the real Maitreya, who has waited outside – opens up the Tower again. Previously when Sudhana had entered the door it had closed behind him, and the ‘Maitreyas’ he has seen inside were a part of the grand dream or vision.
39. Sudhana emerges from Meditation
Probably the person in the Tower is Sudhana, who is now emerging from meditation. He sits facing the viewer with his hands held in añjali. On the left we see various of his companions looking on at the scene. On the right people sit under the tree.
40. Maitreya addresses Sudhana and Another
Sudhana and another person who also has a halo are pictured inside a simple pavilion. Who exactly the second person is I am unsure. On the lotus throne under the tree on the right is Maitreya who is teaching. The usual array of attendants are sat around.
41. Maitreya as Householder Gopālaka
Probably Fontein is right to identify this as Maitreya in his previous incarnation as the householder Gopālaka. He seems to be listening to the teacher on the right, and is sat with his wife and others behind him. Sudhana stands and looks on.
42. Sudhana takes Leave of Maitreya
In this scene Sudhana, sitting on the left, is taking leave of his most beneficial spiritual friend, who is seen inside the building in the middle. It is through the power of Maitreya that Sudhana has come to understand the true nature of reality, but he must now progress to further teachers for final instructions. This is exactly half way through the reliefs on this wall, and is separated from the following reliefs by the staircase.
43. Sudhana visits Mañjuśrī
After his visit to Maitreya Sudhana returns to Mañjuśrī, who had originally send him off on his pilgrimage. Here we see Mañjuśrī sitting on a throne in the centre of the relief. Notice the crescent moon behind his head which is used to mark him as still in his youth. Sudhana sits with his head bowed on the left with four of his companions.
44. Sudhana worships Mañjuśrī
We do not know what the exact scene is that is supposed to be represented on a number of these reliefs, but this again is Sudhana’s visit to Mañjuśrī. The youthful Bodhisattva sits with one hand held high, probably in a teaching gesture. Sudhana meanwhile sits holding his hands together in respect.
45. Sudhana visits Mañjuśrī
Mañjuśrī is sitting with his legs crossed in an elaborate and festooned pavilion and is teaching eight Bodhisattvas on the left. Sudhana sits under the parasol, while his companions are sat under trees behind him.
46. Sudhana worships Four Buddhas
Again we cannot find a proper textual correspondent for this relief, but we do see Sudhana sitting on the left respectfully holding his hands together. In front of him are four Buddhas, all on lotuses, and holding similar postures, indicating they are teaching. The panel is reminiscent of the ones we see on the inner wall at this level.
47. Sudhana and a Bodhisattva
This is part of a corner panel. Here we see Sudhana kneeling, with his hands on the floor, as he converses with a Bodhisattva who is highlighted in the pavilion. Notice the way he is sitting, with one knee raised, and the other tucked under him.
This panel is somewhat similar to the dividers that are used to seperate the main reliefs on this level. On the left four men are sitting under trees and holding flowers. While those on the right are standing and facing the action on the next panel.
49. Sudhana on a Journey
Sudhana is the prominent character with his hand on his hip, fourth from the right. He is surrounded by his companions, and they are all on a journey. One of them holds a large bowl, but what is inside we do not know, and cannot infer.
50. Sudhana worships Mañjuśrī
We are back again with Sudhana’s meeting with Mañjuśrī in his youthful aspect. He sits on a high cushion and is teaching. One other character sits inside the pavilion with him. On the right we see a fruiting coconut tree with guardians underneath. On the left Sudhana is kneeling while paying his respects.
51. Sudhana visits Mañjuśrī
The second visit to Mañjuśrī is actually one of the shortest in the text, and nothing much happens, except that Mañjuśrī directs Sudhana to his final spiritual friend, Samantabhadra. However, the sculptors have been alloted a large number of reliefs to fill, and fill them they do. What the scene here represents particularly is unknown.
52. Meditating Bodhisattva
A Bodhisattva sits under a tree in the middle of this relief and is in meditation posture. It is not clear who he is. On the right sit a worshipful congregation of devotees. Sudhana sits on the left next to the main character, with his followers behind him.
53. Meditating Bodhisattva
Unusually we see the main character on this corner relief is sitting on the left side panel. He is meditating under a tree, just like the previous panel. Sudhana is under the parasol next to him. On the right are his companions in various postures.
Fontein makes an effort to correlate the following reliefs with the text, but to my mind it is really unsuccessful, and random mentions of items in the text do not allow us to quote here a convincing sequence.
54. Sudhana worships three Buddhas
From what we know regarding the display of three Buddhas on these reliefs they normally represent the Buddhas of the three times, especially when they are separated by trees like this. Sudhana is seen kneeling down and holding his hands in añjali. The character behind him has an interesting object, which looks like body-armour; he also carries a sword.
55. Sudhana worships a Buddha
In the middle sits a Buddha, who was almost certainly in teaching posture (vitarka-mudrā), but the arm has been lost. Sudhana sits on the left and is worshipping while the Buddha teaches. On the right we see a group of seven monks, who are the Buddha’s monastic disciples.
56. A Meditating Bodhisattva
This time it is a Bodhisattva who sits under a stylised tree. He is in meditation posture. Sudhana kneels and holds his hands together in reverential salutation, while behind him his companions also kneel. The devotee on the right next to the central character holds up a lamp.
57. A divider.
This is actually a divider, not a panel at listed in Krom and Fontein.
58. Sudhana on a Journey
This is evidently a traveling scene, in which a group of people are processing, although the person on the far right seems to impede their progress. Presumably this represents Sudhana on his way to his final friend, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra.
59. Sudhana curls up on a Throne
This relief is actually part of a corner section, but the right hand side is a divider, and not part of the main scene. On the left we see Sudhana rather curled up on a throne in the midst of his companions. On the far left we see one of them carrying three bags of money on a tray. Sudhana may be talking to the pair of devotees in front of him.
60. Samantabhadra Teaching
From here to the end of the wall we see that Sudhana has moved on to his final spiritual friend (kalyāṇa-mitra), Samantabhadra. Here the principal Bodhisattva sits on a dias and is teaching. He sits in the midst of his attendants and devotees, but it appears unexpectedly that Sudhana is not amongst them.
61. Sudhana and an empty Throne
We cannot understand from the text what is represented here. One suggestion is that it is Samantabhadra leaving his throne, but in the text he does no such thing. I tend to think it must be Sudhana we see on the left, not Samantabhadra. And it is Vairocana on the throne, but still invisible to Sudhana at this point.
62. Two Buddhas
Two Buddhas are sat inside a divided pavilion, both in the same meditation posture. On the left of this scene Sudhana sits with raised hands held together. On the right we see three monks in various poses, and devotees bringing offerings.
63. Festoons of Jewels
Samantabhadra sits on the throne on the left, but it appears Sudhana is not featured in this panel. In the middle we see festoons of jewels raining down, including something that looks like a reliquary on a lotus.
64. Two Buddhas
A number of times on these concluding reliefs we see two Buddhas sat in their own pavilions like this. Here the Buddha on the left has his hand on knee, apparently calling the earth to witness. On the right he has his hand raised in a teaching posture.
65. An Offering of Flowers
Although this scene should be easy to identify from the text, we find no correspondent. It appears to be Samantabhadra in the middle of the panel, and a brahmin on the left is making an offering. It is hard to see what he offers because of the erosion, but judging from the other offerings in the relief it must have been a flower, or flowers.
66. The Sun, the Moon and the Stars
We see a countryside scene with trees and bushes in the middle. Above the clouds are figures of the moon, stars and sun. Samantabhadra stands to the left of this and gestures while pointing it out. Sudhana is seen sitting amidst his companions on the left.
67. Bodhisattvas in a Row
Fontein thinks this may be a scene from the rūpa-dhātu worlds, but there is nothing about the relief which suggests it. Rather it seems to be a line of Bodhisattvas sitting on elevated seats and holding various postures. Sudhana is sat on the left under the parasol, and the elephant again makes his entrance.
68-69. Not Missing
Both are marked as missing by Krom and Fontein, but on my inspection it appears that panel 70 follows directly on from panel 67.
70. A Buddha and Two Monks
This is a very damaged corner relief with most of the blocks missing at present. We do see a Buddha on the right, and two monks sat next to him, but apart from that too much is missing to identify the scene.
71. A Meditating Bodhisattva
A bodhisattva sits in dhyāna-mudrā in a pavilion in the centre of the relief. On the left sit Sudhana and his companions. There is a horse behind them. On the right sit another group of devotees, with an elephant behind them. From his description Fontein seems to have been looking at a different relief to the one I see.
72. Sudhana and a Buddha
The relief features a Buddha sat in Dharma-cakra-mudrā in the centre. On the right a figure stands and worships, and he has seven devotees sitting behind him. On the left we see what, contra to Fontein, I would identify as Sudhana, with the customary parasol held over him. To his left are his companions.
73. A Tree with Incense Burners
We now have a series of trees coming up, with various requisites placed upon them. In this one Sudhana stands just left of centre, while an attendant holds a parasol over him. Other companions are behind him. The central feature is an ornate tree with incense burners underneath it.
74. A Tree hung with Cloth
In this corner relief the tree has cloths hanging from it, and the tree itself straddles the two sections of the relief. Sudhana stands on the left hand side and gestures. On the right five people – maybe Bodhisattvas, or maybe just rich people – are sitting under more trees.
East Wall (North to Center)
75. Trees hung with Musical Instruments
The tree in this relief has musical instruments hanging from it. Sudhana turns back to his companions who are sat under trees on the left and seems to be explaining the scene. On the right two more devotees sit under a tree.
76. Sudhana visits a Noble Lady
Sudhana stands with one foot on a brick and his hands held in respectful greeting to the six men on the right. Inside a pavilion is pictured a woman who is kneeling. The whole scene would again seem to beg for identification, but nothing in the text agrees with it.
77. A Buddha and Bodhisattvas
In the centre of the relief we see a Buddha sitting. Although the right arm is broken off, it looks like he would have been pictured teaching. On the right we see seven Bodhisattvas, and on the left three more, and then Sudhana who is standing with his hand on his hip.
78. The Hells
Sudhana, who is here standing, appears to be having a vision of the hell realms. On the right we see a bath tub, or cauldron, with fire underneath it. Three people are pictured inside the boiling waters, while one has emerged.
79. Animal Realm
Sudhana must be the character on the right of this relief, who is attracting the attention of those around him. The relief is very broken here so the identification is not sure. Two, and maybe three, women stand in front of him, while there are two more at his feet. On the left we see an elephant and other animals, probably indicating the animal realms.
80. A Buddha Teaching
Another corner relief shows a Buddha sitting on a lotus and teaching on the right hand side, with various devotees sitting and kneeling around him. Those on the left have offerings, those on the right hold their hands respectfully. On the left Sudhana stands, and his companions are around him.
81. A Bodhisattva Meditating
A Buddha sits in meditation posture under a tree. Around him are many devotees also under trees. Although it is not easy to distinguish, Sudhana must be the the character on the left of the Buddha. The devotees all hold various postures, while Sudhana holds his hands up in añjali.
82. Samantabhadra blesses Sudhana
We finally catch up with a relief that has a certain identification again, and here we see Samantabhadra sitting in a simple pavilion on a lotus stretch forth his hand and lay it on Sudhana’s head, which gives Sudhana further visions of these miraculous worlds known to the great Bodhisattvas.
83. Two Buddhas
We see two Buddhas sat in two separate pavilions, almost certainly one was teaching, and the other calls the earth to witness his Awakening. Sudhana sits holding a flower and offering it on the left, while other devotees and companions sit around.
84. Two Buddhas
In the final relief in this sequence we again see two Buddhas sat in pavilions. One is teaching, and one is in meditation. Sudhana stands, with his hands held in respectful salutation on the left, while other devotees look on.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu
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