The first steps to Borobudur, the great Buddhist temple outside Yogyakarta, Indonesia, are guided: a welcome sign informs visitors of the monks’ routine, inviting the neophyte to follow the traditional path they took up and into the temple, entering from the East, and exiting from the West.
It is then up to each and every one to choose their path, whether completing at each of the seven pyramidal levels a circumvolution of 3 laps, clockwise, at a slow and meditative pace, looking at the walls from time to time, with equal attention given to the within and the without, or electing to run straight to the top.
For those who walk through each level, the encryptions and sculptures depict a tortuous code to Nirvana, forming a continuous, melodic song from the very base of the pyramid to its summit.
After some thought, and mostly by chance, I’ve come to believe the way is in fact downwards, as the path becomes longer and longer, and not the other way around, for the search for enlightenment and perfection does not become easier with time and effort, to the contrary, much like exponentially greater energy is needed to propel an object faster as it approaches the speed of light.
As I reached the ground floor, and after 3 more circumvolutions, I eventually headed out back east (had planned to exit the last level west, as enlisted by the welcome sign and tradition).
Feeling incomplete, I resumed another circumvolution, the camera’s battery ran out, but in the world of signs and allegories, this could mean only one thing – you’ll have to take the last steps alone.
Which will be your Way?