Gaṇḍavyūha, The Quest for Awakening
Level 3, Inner Wall
3. Maitreya’s Good Deeds
large collection of high-definition creative commons photographs from Borobudur, Java, illustrating the Gandavyuha Sutra, 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
(opens in a lytebox, without leaving the page)
use j/k or left/right arrow
to navigate through the photos below
Level 3, Balustrade
Maitreya’s Good Deeds
East Wall (Center to South)
1. Three Women and a Brahmin
Three women sit in a building with their attention directed to a brahmin who stands outside. Behind the brahmin there is a fruiting coconut tree, and he has a bull with him. Maitreya, accompanied by an attendant, looks on from the left.
On the other part of the relief a brahmin sits on the right with someone kneeling in front of him, they are both gesturing as though in conversation. On the left of these two sit two more who are watching the scene unfold.
Sections of this relief are lost, and it is difficult to make out what may have illustrated. We see four people kneeling and one is standing.
3. Walking Bodhisattvas
Maitreya is near the centre, Sudhana and his companions are on the left. On the right of the relief we see eight Bodhisattvas walking round, some holding their hands in reverence.
4. Bodhisattvas gain Insight
5. Bodhisattvas Striving
6. Bodhisattvas spread Great Compassion
7. Bodhisattvas instruct in Various Sciences
8. A Bodhisattva Teaching
9. Bodhisattvas recite the Texts
11. A Bodhisattva answering Questions
12. A Bodhisattva expounds the Dharma
13. Maitreya instructing in the Aspirations
14. Seven Bodhisattvas
Maitreya stands in the middle of the relief, with Sudhana and his companions to the left, one of whom holds up the parasol. On the right sit seven Bodhisattvas, one of whom is worshipping, while the others are otherwise engaged.
15. Maitreya blessing Four Bodhisattvas
16. Six Bodhisattvas holding Pots
17. Six Bodhisattvas offering Flowers
18. Bodhisattvas holding Flowers
19. A Wish-Fulfilling Tree
A wish-fulfilling tree (kalpa-vṛkṣa) is pictured in the centre, with three bags of money placed at the base. The two figures on either side of the tree are kinnaras, who protect it. Maitreya stands left of centre, and Sudhana sits amidst his companions.
20. Eight Bodhisattvas under Parasols
21. Five Bodhisattvas Holding Stems
A very damaged panel with many sections missing. Maitreya must be the figure in the centre, and on the right we see five sitting figures. Maitreya’s attendants line up behind him.
22. Offering Flowers to Maitreya
A corner panel with Sudhana marked by the nimbus sitting on the left. Maitreya sits on a raised lotus throne, and his attendant holds a parasol over him on the right section. Immediately next to Maitreya one Bodhisattva offers flowers, and two more sit behind him.
23. Five Bodhisattvas with Bells
Another corner panel has Maitreya standing on the right section under the parasol. On the far right sit five Bodhisattvas, one of whom has a bell. On the left side of the panel we see Sudhana, who is kneeling on one knee, and his companions.
24. Offering of Incense
The character next to Maitreya on the right is holding an incense-burner, in tribute to the Bodhisattva. Sudhana is worshipping him with hands folded in reverential salutation. It appears from old lithographs that this panel has been reassembled incorrectly.
25. Nine Bodhisattvas wearing Jewellery
We now start a series of panels in which the Bodhisattvas are wearing jewellery. On the left we see Sudhana and his usual attendants, in the middle is Maitreya, while on the right sit nine Bodhisattvas with jewellery around the necks and pendulant over their bodies.
26. Seven Bodhisattvas wearing Jewellery
Maitreya sits inside a simple pavilion, which has garlands hanging from it. On the right are seven Bodhisattvas who are holding strings of jewellery. On the left one attendant holds a parasol, another a fly whisk, and Sudhana looks up holding his hands in añjali.
27. Seven Bodhisattvas wearing Jewellery
Maitreya stands and appears to be pointing out to Sudhana and his companions the Bodhisattvas on the right of the panel. They do not seem to be engaged with Maitreya here, but look away. Again they all hold jewellery.
28. Maitreya and Garlands
We now have a few very broken and fragmentary reliefs where we cannot properly make out what is happening. In the first we see Maiteya standing in the middle, with his usual identifier, a stūpa in the crown. To the right we see bouquets and garlands. It appears from old lithographs that this panel has been reassembled incorrectly.
Judging by the other corner reliefs, Maitreya would be the character standing on the right, whose hands are held in añjali. On the left the only complete character is in standing position, with one hand on the hip, presumably Sudhana.
Much less can be seen or inferred on this relief, most of which is presently missing. A few characters’ faces are seen on the upper part of the register, and that is all.
Another very dilapidated panel which is hard to make out. Faces are missing in the seated figures on the left, and it looks like they were chisseled out. There are a couple of standing characters.
A very broken relief whose parts have evidently been separated and suffered diverse weather conditions. A few heads are visible, and a few bodies are left headless.
The following series of panels seem to illustrate this line:
36. Guardians of the World
It probably represented the mahoragas of the text.
47. Independent Buddhas
Again we face a difficulty here as in the hierarchy of beings we do not expect to find anyone between Pratyeka-Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, who are portrayed on the next panel. As not much of this relief is left we also cannot make it out from the inconography.
We now seem to get a few reliefs illustrating this line:
52. The Planets
Maitreya sits on a lotus throne looking at the women on the right, who are the planets (grahana), as is shown by the planets the end figures are displaying. Sudhana is in the middle of the group of the left, holding his hands in salutation.
53. The Constellations
Maitreya looks at the lotus pond on the right, and holds his hand up. Instead of the usual group of people what we see are the constellations wrapped in clouds. On the left Sudhana turns away and gestures. One of his companions has turned his back on us!
Maitreya sits cross-legged on a lotus throne, Sudhana is standing on the left. On the right we see Bodhisattvas sitting on lotuses emerging from the pond. They appear to be teaching.
Many of the blocks in this panel are missing or broken. We can still see Sudhana standing on the left side. On the right three Buddhas, maybe of the three times, are sitting on large lotuses.
All but four of the blocks are missing from this long panel, and we can’t see enough to know who it featured, or how the principal characters were situated, although we can see that they are emerging from a lotus pond.
This relief is badly damaged as well, Maitreya is seen standing and holding the lotus in the middle. Sudhana is standing to the left.
It seems the following sentence is selectively illustrated in the next sequence:
58. A Universal Monarch
61. A Minister
64. A Tree and Jeweled Pots
The scene seems to have changed now, and we see Maitreya faces the viewer, and seems to be teaching. Sudhana standing on the left looks on and worships. On the right we see a stylised tree with bejewelled pots beneath it. Two figures seem to keep guard.
65. Four Children
We have an odd scene here of four children standing on only three lotuses, one of them sharing the lotus of two others! Maitreya looks on at the strange scene. Sometimes the sculptors at Borobudur seem to be having fun with us!
Unfortunately the blocks that are missing in this scene are exactly the ones we would need to identify the picture. Maitreya, slightly to the left of the missing blocks looks on and gestures, and Sudhana watches from the left.
67. A Palace
For once Maitreya is seen sitting on a lotus on the left side of this corner panel. Behind him Sudhana is pictured kneeling. The whole of the right side of the corner is taken up with a magnificent palace, with devotees on either side. Flowers fall from the sky.
Not much of this panel is left, and the whole right side is missing. We do still see Sudhana kneeling, and Maitreya sitting on his lotus throne.
This is a corner-panel. Sudhana stands on the left, and his companions sit around him. Maitreya stands on the right and before him is what may be a circular mirror.
Again a badly damaged panel prevents us from properly identifying the scene. Sudhana is seen holding a lotus, and Maitreya appears to be standing.
The following sequence is connected to this passage from the text:
71. Maitreya donates his Head
Maitreya in the present and his incarnation in the past sit on almost identical thrones. The Maitreya of the present is explaining the practice to Sudhana who kneels before him on the left. In the past he is about to give his head to two brahmins, one of whom stretches forth his hand to receive it.
72. Maitreya donates a Body Part
In the past Maitreya’s incarnation is evidently donating a body part to the brahmin on the far right. It is hard to make out, but it may be an arm. Maitreya in the present sits on the lotus throne, displaying the blessing posture (vara-mudrā). Sudhana kneels behind him holding a lotus.
73. Maitreya donates a Body Part
A corner panel with Maitreya in the present and Sudhana and his companions on the left half. The incarnation is on the right side of the panel and is presenting a body part, maybe his eyes, to Śakra, Lord of the Gods. His vehicle, Airāvaṭa, is seen with elephant ears on the far right.
74. Maitreya donates a Body Part
In this panel Sudhana and the present Maitreya’s faces have been broken off unfortunately. On the right of the panel the incarnation is sitting and is about to give a body part to the brahmin standing next to him. Behind Maitreya are sat other Bodhisattvas learning the practices.
75. Maitreya donates a Body Part
The present-day Maitreya sits left of centre, and Sudhana is sat lower on the left. On the right half the incarnation sits on the high seat and is about to present something to the man with outstretched arms.
76. Maitreya donates a Body Part
Again it appears the three central characters have lost their faces, these include both representations of Maitreya. On the right he is standing and leaning forward while presenting something to the leading brahmin before him.
77. Maitreya donates a Body Part
Maitreya in the present stands just left of centre, while Sudhana sits on a raised seat behind him. Behind Sudhana and his companions is an elephant, perhaps signifying a journey. The incarnation in the past is giving something to the brahmin before him who receives it with open hands.
East Wall (North to Center)
78. Maitreya donates a Body Part
Many blocks belonging to this panel have been lost and we can’t see what is being depicted. We still do see Sudhana and his companions on the left, together with the elephant behind them. We presume this was also a gift of a bodily part.
79. Maitreya donates a Body Part
Large sections of this relief are again missing. We see Maitreya in the present standing and gesturing. The incarnation is again presenting something, but we cannot identify who to. Sudhana seems to have been sitting left of centre.
80. Five Yaksas
The incarnation of Maitreya in the past is sitting on the throne centre right and is in meditative posture. The yakṣas, who are the recipients of his bounty, appear to be pouring something into their mouths. There are evidently five yakṣas, not four as Fontein states.
81. Maitreya donates a Body Part
Maitreya in the past is standing and leaning forward while presenting something to someone on the right. Again it is hard to see what is intended for the gift, but it is probably a body part of one sort or another. Maitreya in the present sits with one leg pendulant.
82. Maitreya donates a Body Part
A corner panel. On the left Sudhana kneels worhipping Maitreya, while his companions sit behind him. The incarnation is giving something to the brahmin on the far right, who sits in a pavilion.
83. Maitreya makes a Gift
Maitreya in the present in sat on a lotus throne, his knee supported by a strap, as seems to have been the custom. Sudhana sits on the left and has his arms crossed in front of him amongst his companions. On the right the incarnation is kneeling and giving something to the man before him.
84. Maitreya gives a Boy
Maitreya in the past stands and hands what is presumably his son to the brahmin in front of him, who receives him with open hands. Maitreya of the present is also standing, and gestures as the scene unfolds. Sudhana is also standing amidst his companions.
85. Maitreya gives a Woman
The relief is rather worn, but what it shows is Maitreya in the past, just right of centre, offering a woman, presumably his wife, to the person sitting on the throne in the pavilion. Sudhana holds a large flower, and the present-day Maitreya gestures as though explaining the scene.
86. Maitreya gives Jewels
The incarnation of Maitreya on the right is sat on a raised dias and appears to be giving a platter of jewels to the person in front of him. Maitreya in the present is in teaching posture, and Sudhana is listening to his teaching.
87. Maitreya gives a Building
The crucial blocks for identifying this scene are missing from this relief, it is possibly the gift of a building. Maitreya in the present is seen sitting on the lotus, and Sudhana is pictured in the middle of his companions.
88. Maitreya gives a Palace
This is a corner piece showing an incarnation of Maitreya on the right side on his knees offering a palace, which he points out to the recipient who sits in front of him. On the left side Maitreya in the present sits on a lotus and looks on. Sudhana sits with his knee drawn up in the centre.
Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu