The Wisdom King Aizen (Aizen Myōō)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 223

Aizen Myōō is a wrathful deity, as suggested by his fearsome expression, his red skin, the bow and arrow he holds in two of his six hands, and the roaring lion’s head he wears as a crown. Aizen—the two characters of whose name mean, literally, “dyed in love”—is, in fact, a force for good in Esoteric Buddhism. Practitioners pray to him to transform human desires, especially sexual ones, into powerful spiritual energy that, through ritual, can be harnessed to help them escape suffering. Backed by a variegated halo within an orb of red flames, the deity sits atop a multitiered lotus pedestal that hovers above delicately swirling gold clouds and is decorated with an image of dragons emerging over a rough sea. Aizen is surrounded by a proliferation of red, blue, green, and white wish-fulfilling jewels (hōju), a sign of this deity’s devotion to the needs of the faithful.

#8808. Aizen Myōō (Râgarâja)

The Wisdom King Aizen (Aizen Myōō), Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, and cut gold leaf (kirikane) on silk, Japan

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