Entering the Dharmadhātu

A Study of the Gandavyūha Reliefs of Borobudur


The Gandavyūha, a sacred text of Mahāyāna Buddhism, is an allegorical tale of the pilgrimage of a youth named Sudhana, who visits fifty-three spiritual mentors to receive their instruction in the Conduct of the Bodhisattva. His miraculous journey on the path towards Enlightenment inspired the sculptors of Borobudur (9th century C.E.) to illustrate the tale in 460 bas-reliefs on the higher galleries of this great Javanese monument. During the 1920s N.J. Krom and F.D.K. Bosch identified many of the panels, but most of their findings, written in Dutch, remained unnoticed. Entering the Dharmadhātu compares the complete set of panels with three early Chinese translations of Central Asian and Indian Sanskrit manuscripts of the Gandavyūha. This first identification of the entire series in English concludes with a discussion of the new perspectives on the meaning, symbolism, and architecture of Borobudur that a reading of the Gandavyūha suggests.
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Biographical Note

Jan Fontein, Ph.D. (1966) Leiden University in Far Eastern languages and Southeast Asian archaeology, was Curator of the Museum of Asiatic Art, Amsterdam from 1955 to 1966. From 1966 to 1992 he worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, first as curator and later as director. He has published books, exhibition catalogues, and articles on Asian art.


Students of Buddhism, ancient Java and Southeast Asian archaeology. University and museum libraries, especially museums with Asian art collections.


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