Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Akshobhya Buddha - (Sarvadurgati Tantra)

མི་འཁྲུགས་པ། 不动如来
(item no. 1006)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Uncertain
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Catalogue # acc.# P2000.22.15
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Akshobhya Buddha as part of a five painting set depicting the Five Symbolic Buddhas of the Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra.

Akshobhya Buddha is first referred to in the Mahayana Sutra literature of Buddhism and later incorporated into the Tantra texts and Vajrayana theory as one of the Five Symbolic Buddhas. This composition belongs to a five painting set depicting all five Buddhas: Vairochana, Amitabha, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi. It is currently the only painting known from the set of five. The source text for depicting the five Buddhas in this particular configuration is the Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra. 

Akshobhya has only three special attributes. The attributes are typically a blue body colour, an upright vajra scepter in the left hand and an elephant supported throne. Only the elephant supported throne is shown in this composition. 

The function of the imagery and texts of the Sarvadurgati is related to both imperial and common funerary rituals. The practices were popularized in the 11th century by the famous Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) of West Tibet. The ritual practices today are primarily maintained by the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. 

The composition is in the tradition of Nepalese painting of the Kathmandu Valley indicated by the use of very tight horizontal and vertical registers and the dominance of red pigment. The layout of the individual figures is highly technical and all five paintings together represent all of the deity figures found in the mandala of the Sarvadurgati Literature. As an act of devotion by the donor each of the figures are painted with expensive powdered gold. 

Jeff Watt 6-2018

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