Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Akshobhya Buddha - (Sarvadurgati Tantra)

མི་འཁྲུགས་པ། 不动如来
(item no. 373)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Buddhist
Size 99.70x80.01cm (39.25x31.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Raised Gold on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.20.21
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Peaceful

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Akshobhya, Buddha (Tibetan: mi kyu pa, sang gye): a principal buddha within Vajrayana Buddhism residing in the eastern quarter of a mandala and a minor buddha within the sutra tradition of the Mahayana.

"Arising in the eastern direction is Akshobhya on an elephant, lotus and moon throne; with a body blue in colour the right hand is placed in the mudra of pressing down." (Dragpa Gyaltsen, 1147-1216).

In a peaceful demeanour, (painted with gold) he gazes forward with a smile. The right hand extended across the knee is in the mudra of earth witness with the fingers pressing against the ground. The left hand placed palm upward in the lap performs the mudra of meditation. Wearing sambhogakaya vestments (the enjoyment body of a buddha) the hair is piled on the top of the head with some falling loose and a dot adorns the forehead between the eyebrows. Wearing a crown of gold and jewels, earrings, necklaces and bracelets, he is attired in various colourful silks. With the legs folded in vajra posture, he is seated atop a multi-coloured lotus and elephant supported throne surrounded by a blue nimbus and green areola both ringed with gold and wishing jewels. For the backdrop, ornately displayed, is the 'six ornament' design. On the left and right are blue elephants, supported above are snow lions, a horse and a heavenly bird with a human upper torso, a naga - with a human torso and a snake tail for the bottom. At the top is a single red Garuda bird. Above that in a small square enclosure is a seated buddha, golden, with the hands placed in the mudra of meditation, wearing ornate vestments

Alongside the throne stand two bodhisattvas displaying various mudras and wearing jewels and silks. Above at the left are 4 seated bodhisattva figures. The lower of the figures and closest to the throne is Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava in characteristic appearance. At the right side of the throne are 4 more figures including Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara. The horizontal row immediately above, within the square enclosure, comprises 5 buddhas and 7 arhat figures.

At each side of the lotus seat is a lama figure and along the front of the throne between the white elephants are 3 of the 4 female Door Guardians. At the bottom center is a wrathful male figure with one face and six hands, yellow in colour. At the two sides and above are three wrathful attendants, yellow, each with one face and two hands standing in a wrathful gesture with the right leg bent and the left straight.

At the bottom left side is the Direction Guardian of the east, Shakra, yellow in colour, riding a white elephant. Seated alongside is the Guardian King of the east, Dhritarashtra, white in colour, holding a lute, wearing a helmet and the garments of a warrior. At the bottom right is the Direction Guardian of the northeast, Ishana, white, riding atop a bull.

Surrounding all of that are 191 Buddha figures. Golden in colour, aligned in rows, each with one face and two hands, they perform the earth touching mudra with the right and the mudra of meditation with the left, wearing red robes and seated in vajra posture surrounded by circles of light.

This painting of Akshobhya belongs to a larger set containing the buddhas of all five families; Vairochana, Akshobhya, Amitabha, Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi. See this painting of Ratnasambhava for an almost identical composition and structure.

Occupying a central role in Vajrayana Buddhism, Akshobhya, by some accounts, is Lord of the 2nd of the Five Buddha Families of tantra and found throughout all 4 tantra classifications most notably in the anuttarayoga class. Akshobhya is also mentioned in several Mahayana sutras, the Vimalakirti Nirdesa being the most famous. It was in his pureland of Abhirati, attainable only by 8th level bodhisattvas, where the yogi Milarepa and the scholar Sakya Pandita obtained complete buddhahood.

Jeff Watt 9-99

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