we arrived we were informed that one of Indonesia¡¯s
largest Islamic organizations was having its congress in
Yogyakarta, that 20,000 people are attending and that
many of them will
probably visit Borobudur. When I heard this the slightest
feeling of unease came over me. Whether or not it is
justified, Islam does have a ¡®scary¡¯ image in many peoples¡¯
We had already decided to visit the shrine early in the
morning so we would probably avoid the crowds anyway
¨C or so I thought.
Even when we got there at 6.30 there were already a lot
of people there ¨C all the women with head scarves and
with taqiyahs. I had been half expecting unfriendly or
disapproving looks, or at least blank stares. Nothing
could have been
further from the truth. Almost without exception, everyone
met me with a beaming smile, an extended hand, polite
inquiries about where I was from or requests to have
taken with me. After a while the friendliness actually
bit overwhelming and prevented me from concentrating
fully on the temple itself. Several people asked me to
a detailed explanation of Buddhism (Good God! Is there
no escape!) and one elderly gentleman took my hand on
being told I was a Buddhist monk said to me, ¡®You Buddhists
have given we Indonesians this lovely temple. Thank you¡¯.
noticed that some of the visitors showed a real appreciation
for the meaning of the temple, carefully examining the
carved panels and looking appreciatively at the Buddha
It¡¯s always good for you to have to readjust your mindset in the face of reality.
My next post will deal more fully with our Borobudur trip.