Bell-shaped stupas / Borobudur / LoRa Photography

2017© LoRa Photography

The most elaborate stupa is the 8th century Borobudur monument in Java, Indonesia. The upper rounded terrace with rows of bell-shaped stupas contained Buddha images symbolizing Arūpajhāna, the sphere of formlessness.

The shape of the stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and sitting in meditation posture on a lion throne. His crown is the top of the spire; his head is the square at the spire’s base; his body is the vase shape; his legs are the four steps of the lower terrace; and the base is his throne.

A bell is symbolic of pure vibration and energy. It has a concentrated source and radiates out into the world for all those who are close enough to hear. Bells are commonly used in many religions and the sound of a ringing bell in a religious context reminds everyone of their spiritual dimension. It calls out in a clear and pure voice ‘wake up, don’t forget!’ For Buddhists it is a reminder both of the the sound of the Dhamma itself and a reminder to go and listen to the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha.