In this museum-quality thangka painting, the enlightened consciusness of the great Buddha Himself has been resolved into five symbolic entities, each replete with Its respective mudras and hues. Each of the tathagatas also stands for a distinct direction pertaining to the individual as the centre of the universe; influences a part of the meditating individual's anatomy; and has Its own consort as well as vahan. Painted on the finest canvases fashioned in the Orient, this thangka features the characteristic roseate clouds of Chinese art, a major influence on Tibetan painting, and luxuriant florals in pastel shades and tints (for example, the wreathed aureole of each tathagata and Their respective offerings and lotus thrones).
Tathagata Akshobhya, or the Unshakable One, stands for the direction of sunrise, the East. Of a complexion as blue as dawn itself, the mudra is bhoomisparsha (earth-touching mudra), which the Buddha is said to have adopted the moment He attained enlightenment, in a bid to gather the earth as witness to the experience. Akshobhya stands for the sense of sound; is a manifestation of the element of water at once soothing and tenacious; and regulates the circulatory system of the meditating individual. Akshobhya conquers over the deterrences of anger and hatred to embody clear, self-reflecting wisdom.
Tathagata Ratnasambhava, or the Jewel-born, lords over the South. The earthy yellow complexion complements the tranquil varada mudra (bestowing mudra), which the Buddha adopted to bless His seeking devotees. Ratnasambhava represents the sense of scent, is a manifestation of the earth and all its nourishing and life-endowing qualities, and regulates the flesh and the spleen of the individual who meditates upon Him. One who meditates upon Ratnasambhava will conquer one's pride and miserliness and emerge with a divine sense of equality.
The tathagata at the centre is Vairochana, or the Illuminated One. The pristine complexion of this tathagata is a manifestation of the all-encompassing dharmadhatu wisdom that triumphs over ignorance and delusion. His is the quintessential Buddhist dharmachakra mudra (wheel of dharma or life) that espouses the Buddha's qualities as the supreme teacher of life. Vairochana stands for the fifth element expounded in ancient Oriental texts, ether; is a projection of the sense of sight; and influences the heart and energy channels of the meditative seeker.
Next to Vairochana is Tathagata Amitabha, or the Infinite Light. He is of the West and immersed in the deepest meditative trance, the dhyana mudra. His fiery red complexion owes to the overpowering emotions of lust and desire, which have been replaced with invincible discriminating wisdom. Amitabha resides in the temperature and the liver of the body of the meditating individual, and in the element of fire outside it.
The final tathagata is Amogasiddhi, or the Conqueror. Of a tranquil green complexion, Tathagata Amogasiddhi represents the direction of the North and has the abhaya (fearlessness) mudra. His element is air and He embodies the sense of touch. He is not only master of the respiratory system of the meditating individual, but also overcomes jealousy and fear in order to embody the wisdom of compassion.
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