The Transcendent Buddha Akshobhya


Not on view

Akshobhya, the “Immovable One,” is one of the classic subjects of early Tibetan painting, a representation of one of the five Transcendent Buddhas who presided in Vajrayana Buddhism. He embodies the pure mind that distinguishes (higher) reality from (material) illusion, symbolized by the power of the vajra scepter he displays before his throne. He is understood to embody the highest expression of the power to pacify aggression and transmute it into wisdom. This painting functioned as one of a set of five such paintings, representing the five Transcendent Wisdom Buddhas, the Tathagatas, loosely translated as “those who have entered into [the truth of] highest perfection.” They were typically venerated in a mandala configuration, each assuming a specific iconographic form distinguished by directional orientation, body color and attributes. Akshobhya displays the vajra, serves as the protector of the East and is deep blue in complexion ("like the ocean"). This is one the few surviving painting from a grand tradition of monastic cloth painting practiced in Tibet in the 13th through to the early 14th century. It was collected by the Italian Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci on one of his eight research expeditions undertaken in Tibet between 1928 and 1948.

The Transcendent Buddha Akshobhya, Unidentified ; Newari working in Tibet, Distemper on cloth, Central Tibet

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