A first probe inside Borobudur, in 1815, revealed that the central stupa was empty. There exists a running argument between all those who have studied this monument of vital significance - specialists in the history of religions and art historians - as to whether or not it once contained a statue. It was the personal opinion of Jacques-Edouard Berger that the crowning stupa was empty from the start, for the simple reason that in 1815 there was not yet any interest in Oriental art. If not stolen, then the statue might simply have been mutilated, but no fragments ever showed up. Should the crowning stupa have been left empty deliberately, the message most probably goes very deep, implying that we are in a realm beyond appearance, a realm of pure spirit. The empty stupa would hence represent the absolute symbol that, in this World of Formlessness, refuses reference to any form whatsoever.

Another thought comes to mind upon contemplating the central stupa and the sort of shower of stupas extending it: in the Purinirvana notion dealing with the moment when the Buddha gives up earthly life, the text speaks of his soul being scattered in the form of millions of souls throughout the universe. In this context, one can picture the central stupa as the Buddha, and all the smaller stupas as the spreading of his Law and Faith. And carrying the image even further, all these particles, which fill the universe in its entirety, reappear everywhere, even on the balustrades and on to the very bottom of the monument. In other words, the impression is that this is a deliberate attempt to convey the grandeur of the Buddha's message to the lowliest earthly levels: an amazingly abstract concept, as present to today's viewers as it must well have been to the pilgrims of over 1000 years ago.