Day 7: Prambanan


The Dharma wheel continues to turn. Yesterday, a shorter drive, with another marvelous lunch on a pond (seems to be a standard – implies that the fish is fresh).


Abundant rice, spicy dipping sauce, a whole fish and a whole chicken, some vegetables, tofu, fruit drink, etc., consumed with the hands – with a sink nearby for washing off the mess. We sit on the floor, as Martin is here and there – directing affairs. “You take this – You that – More of this – More of that.” A truly wonderful host. Then off to Prambanan.

Lunch with Martin

Whoa! An enormous Hindu complex constructed about a century after Borobudur - multiple spires shooting up into the sky. Instead of 1, there are 3 main structures, the center tjandi (shrine) is devoted to Shiva, the one on the left to Vishnu, and the right to Brahma: the Trimurti (the 3 gods, Destroyer, Preserver, and Creator).

Moving closer, we appreciate the vegetal look of the shrines. The tjandis almost look porous, especially compared with Borobudur, which seemed to be a solid block of stone. We notice the immense amount of rubble scattered everywhere, presumably remnants of over 100 smaller shrines that have yet to be reconstructed.

The main temple to Shiva is so tall (47 meters, over 140 feet) that we must wear hard hats to protect us from the potential of falling debris. Notice the makara railings to the right of Laurie in the photograph.

As at Borobudur, a balustrade on the lower level creates a corridor with walls containing panels on both sides. In contrast to Borobudur, the walls are not tall enough to prevent one from seeing out. Plus there is only one level that contains the bas-reliefs as compared with Borobudur's four. The Prambanan temple complex invests more artistic energy in the height of the temple and less in friezes.

The complete story of the Ramayana is etched into the high bas-relief along the walls – not just scattered scenes, but the entire narrative. The panels are engraved with successive scenes including Rama, Sita, Hanuman the monkey king, and Ravana the demon king.




In the center of each tower there is a greater than life size (9 feet tall) sculpture of the deity to whom the particular tjandi is devoted to. Here is Shiva as the mahaguru, the great guru.

The Shiva shrine also includes a separate room in the back to house a sculpture of his consort, Durga. It is of equal magnificence. The mythological scene shows Durga drawing a demon from a cow that she has conquered. This narrative is not from Hindu mythology, but is instead a Javanese story. This is yet another indication of how the Javanese didn't copy the Hindu religion slavishly, but made it their own.

Besides the friezes and the internal statuary of the gods, there are many mythological scenes and creatures that adorn the temple.


These representations include the ubiquitous Kala/Makara representations that we saw at both Borobudur and the Dieng Plateau. Time swallows everything, even as we cultivate vitality. This is a powerful symbol indeed.



Evidently, in the original shrines, there were fountains spouting water from the mouth of the Makaras, again emphacizing fecundity as a symbolic feature of the half animal-half fish like creature.

There are multiple temple spires of lesser, but still grand, size surrounding the big three. One of these presumably houses the cremated remains of the raja/king who created the masterpiece. The symbolism presumbly equates the king and his dynasty with the gods.

As we are leaving the complex to rejoin the group, an Indian accompanied by his daughter approaches me with a fervent look on his face. He points to me and exclaims adamantly. “You must go to India!” After pleasantries, introductions and such, we exchange contact information.

Martin has read that there is a Buddhist complex a little further away that was created at the same time. We race at Olympic speed-walker pace. Laurie begs us to slow down, as she can’t keep up – her legs too short. After passing a shrine that is under construction, an enormous Buddhist temple complex greets us – guarded by gigantic statues.


There is no one else there, neither security guards nor tourists. Martin likens it to an alien space ship. It is similar in design to the Hindu temple complex we just saw – a primary shrine surrounded by multiple smaller shrines, all in various stages of reconstruction. Note that the spires have the shape of a Buddhist stupa, solid and gradually moving towards a peak. In contrast, the towers on the Hindu shrines are bulbous, vegetal, and somewhat diaphonous.


Instead of Hindu gods, the shrine presumably housed Buddhas, all of which have been stolen or removed. We all go our separate ways to explore the temple complex. All alone, I sing and resonate with the structure – at one with the Universe.


We race back by another route to rejoin the others. Surprise of surprises. Along the way, we see a Buddhist deer park – a simulation of where the Buddha gave his first lecture after becoming enlightened. Who is there? The same Indian father and daughter. “I am rich and a publisher, Send me your book. Maybe translate into Malay.”


After relating the encounter, Martin says, “I am but a cog on your Dharma wheel. Maybe he is next. The Wheel keeps turning. Around and around. First on the top and then on the bottom.”

Exhausted, we collapse at the hotel, not fancy, but located in the heart of Yogyakarta. After a long nap we walk the night market – shopping for clothes and who knows what. A busy marketplace with high quality goods and incredibly polite vendors. Virtually, no one is hawking their wares, but just waiting patiently for us to express interest. Laurie buys her clown, me, a beautiful batik shirt for $6 and for herself a well-made leather purse for $15. Then who do we see for a 3rd time – the Indian and his daughter. Stunned, Laurie says, “This is not a coincidence. We will meet again.”

I’m exhausted by the shopping and the excitement. We have a short dinner at a high quality Chinese style restaurant. Then back to the Market. Marvelous street musicians playing a collective gamelan, traditional Javanese percussion instruments. In exultation, I dance with the youth. People take my picture – others give a thumbs-up – the dancers beg me to stay. But we must get back to the hotel to say our goodbyes to Martin and settle affairs.

After sharing a few beers and reminiscing on our marvelous adventure, Martin tallies up our share of the trip. He has paid for all the food and the transportation. But we owe him for the hotels. He says he could easily pay that as well, but it is important that we pay that to balance our interaction. It is $340 for the mountaintop resort, 2 nights in Borobudur, the Gallery Hotel in Wonosobo, and the night here in Yogyakarta. (We already paind for the 2 nights in Jakarta – $100.) I offer him $400. He insists on the exact amount – no more, no less. An amazing and inexpensive journey. On to Bali, the last leg of our trip in just 15 minutes. Must meet William the Driver in the lobby at 6AM to catch an airplane to Denpesar.

Invisible yet Invincible: Grateful that my dim light called Martin

(HW pp. 23>26, 12-5-13, Thursday, 0.5 hr.)

Although my creations are invisible to the Establishment, I’m invincible, craving nothing more. Just patiently waiting for the wind to change to take me back home. I’ve been here far too long – among the barbarians with faint understanding. And yet Martin comprehends and extends – a master in his own right. I feebly attempt to match his class with compassion and respect.

Unfortunately, all the proper names escape me – my aging and abstract brain unable to remember details – its unique specialty the big picture – seeing patterns that no one else has perceived – attempting in my somewhat pathetic way to communicate my universal vision to the particulate populace – who in general is so distracted by the individual trees – lost in the present moment, that they are unable to grasp the eternal now. But enough bragging as an excuse for a poor memory.

I must testify from my limited perspective. The Universe has continually sent hints and messengers to guide me on my Dharma path. It seems that my Person is protected and loved by this divine presence, whatever its attributes are. My experience teaches me that Providence rewards gratitude and acknowledgement, and punishes pride. Despite being surrounded by the notion that everything is material in nature – the current mindset of the secular world, I make these firm statements after having made 63 revolutions around the sun.

The Bodhisattva, the Universal Messenger, points to a higher truth through Signs and Messages. Trapped in the midst of the Kali Yuga, the Fall, I hope to not confuse the finger for the Moon. Obsessions with history or science distract my Person with the refinement of knowledge and the pursuit of recognition. To avoid these Side Paths, I must continually polish my Luminous Egg so that the reflection is as pure as possible. In other words, as a polluted human being, my ore of thoughts must be refined of pride and greed so that only the bodhi, the pure light, remains. Hopefully, the words I leave behind will convey general truths rather than a personal perspective. At least my weak spark transmitted enough of a glimmer to attract a like-minded spirit – Martin Nga.


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