Sudhana meets Maitreya, the future Buddha
The image shows a section of the Gandavyūha story panel covering the west-facing inner wall of the corridor on the third terrace of the Rūpadhātu layer, one of the three layers of Borobudur. Check the Borobudur Temple Layers page for an explanation of all three layers. The Gandavyūha story panels cover the top three of the five terraces of the Rūpadhātu layer.
The scenes in the Gandavyūha story panels are based on Gandavyūha Sūtra, an ancient Buddhist text that chronicles the journey of Sudhana – a son of a wealthy merchant – in his quest for wisdom and enlightenment. In his epic journey, he meets a total of 52 teachers from all walks of life, including a king, queen, slave, and even a prostitute. His last three teachers before he attains enlightenment are, Maitreya, Manjushri, and Samantabhadra, who are Mahāsattvas (great bodhisattvas).
The bas-relief shown in the image depicts Maitreya, the ante-penultimate (third from last) teacher of Sudhana. Maitreya is the Buddha of the future, whose current abode is the Tushita Heaven and is accessible only through meditation. When Sudhana accesses Maitreya through meditation, he takes him to his wondrous tower and reveals the Dharmadhatus (realms of dharma).
As you can see from the image, Maitreya is seated on a highly ornate throne with the Dhyana Mudra gesture, implying that he is meditating, while Sudhana to his left is kneeling and bowing his head with hands on his knees. Note: The Dhyana Mudra gesture, which represents meditation, is typically performed in a sitting position. In this gesture, both the palms face upwards with the right palm above the left.
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