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Paintings > Thangka > Mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhya in Yab-Yum
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Mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhya in Yab-Yum

Mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhya in Yab-Yum

Mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhya in Yab-Yum

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

Size of Painted Surface 18.0 X 23.0 inches
Size with Brocade 30.0 X 45.0 inches
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Mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhya in Yab-Yum

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This thangka portrays the mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra in yab yum. Akshobhyavajra has an important place in Vajrayana and Buddhist pantheon.

Vajrayana Buddhism is one of the most complexes of all metaphysical system known to man. It refers to Shunyata which is designated a vajra because it is firm and sound and cannot be changed, penetrated, pierced, burnt, but destroys all evils. Thus it is the adamantine path or vehicle. It introduced the methodology that enlightenment can be obtained in a single lifetime through the direction of the guru and intense arduous practice, which involves yogic transformative, meditation and visualizations to realize the enlightenment state. Vajrayana also introduced the theory of the five Dhyani Buddhas from which deities emerged. Moreover it introduced the worship of the Prajna (Shakti) in Buddhism and a host of the other things including a large number of gods and goddesses their sadhana for the purpose of visualization, mantra, tantra, yantra, mudra, implements, ritual and mandala etc.

Guhyasamaja is the fundamental tantra of Vajrayana Buddhism. Padmavajra in his work Guhyasiddhi cites it under the name of Shrismaja as the most authoritative. In this all the components of the five Dhyani Buddhas, mudra, mantra, kula, prajna, their colours and directions, form and meaning were systematized.

The psychic process of realization according Guhyasamaja tantra “makes it clear that when Bodhicitta or the will to attain Enlightenment mingles with sunya or the Infinite Spirit in the highest state of meditation the mind-sky is filled with innumerable visions and scenes until at last, like sparks the individual visualizes letters or germ syllables, which gradually assume the shape of deities, first indistinct, then changing into perfect, glorious and living forms, the embodiment of the infinite sunya. They appear in bright, effulgent, gorgeous and divine beauty in form, ornaments and dress”.

The central deity of this mandala, according to the Guhyasamaja-mahakalparaja is Vajradhara. Guhyasamaja’s name means secret union or assembly of the secret ones. Guhyasamaja is associated with the Buddha Akshobhya. The Guhyasamaja Tantra itself calls him Akshobhyavajra. In Tibet, the Gelupa Order particularly worships him.

The brilliantly drawn this mandala rests on crossed vajra and in the center of which Akshobhyavajra, seated on a lotus throne, is in secret union with his consort Sparshavajra or Adhiprajna. He is dark blue in color as distinct from the light blue complexion of his consort. He has three faces, which are white, dark blue, red and six arms. The principal pair embrace his consort and cross behind her back, holding vajra and bell in the vajrahunkara mudra. The right hand with the vajra, and the left with bell, cross at the wrist, the right arm outermost. His upper right and left hands hold chakra (wheel) and mani, (flaming jewel), respectively. The two lower hands hold a kamala(lotus) and a prajna-khadga (wisdom sword) The vajra-humkara mudra symbolizes steadfast unshakeable exertion.

The consort (yum)Adhiprajna is consubstantiated with Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra, whom she encircles and possesses the same attributes. She has three faces – red, light blue, and white. Her original hands embrace the yab at the back; the upper hands hold the mani (flaming jewel) and chakra (wheel), while the lower ones carry prajna- khadga (wisdom sword) and kamala (lotus). Both are adorned with the costumes and ornaments of a Bodhisattva.

The walls of the square are decorated with floral designs. There are four gateways in the building in each cardinal direction. Over the gates are houses in which are seated deities. As per the Tibetan convention, east is in front, and south, west, and north follow in the clockwise direction. The eastern gateway is protected is protected by the Buddha Amoghasiddhi; red-complexioned Buddha Amitabha is protecting southern gate. Bodhisattva Manjushri is protecting the western gate while Goddess Green Tara is protecting the northern gate. Each corner of the square is also protected by cosmic Buddhas.

The square is surrounded with three circles. The outer circle is of the charnel ground, depicting, stupas, corpses and skulls etc., symbolizing enlightenment’s power to transform death into eternal life. This circle is followed the circle of fire fence, which is florally rendered. By crossing the circle of fire fence one’s ego and illusion will burn away. Then there is the circle of lotus petals. Here the spiritual realm begins and one enters the mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra.

Amitabha Buddha is seated on a lotus seat in the upper center, outside the circle. Two dragons are depicted in clouds, each of the Buddha. The upper left corner is filled with the figure of Goddess Green Tara, while the upper right corner is rendered with the figure of a Nyingma Siddha holding prajna- khadga (wisdom sword) and pothi (manuscript). At the bottom Bodhisattva Manjushri is depicted in the left corner, while a Buddha is seated in the right corner under a tree. The bottom center is filled with the figure of wrathful goddess Palden Lhamo, holding command staff and riding on a mule, which is galloping furiously over a sea of blood. Moreover foreground also depicts a stupa and corpses, meaning is as described above.

The landscape depicts five great elements (pancha bhutas) - earth, water, fire, air, and space. They are symbolically represented here. The element earth is depicted here by rock formations and mountains as shown in the foreground and middle ground, respectively. The water is depicted here by lakes, shown in the middle ground and foreground, respectively. Fire is represented by aureole flames; air by cloud formation and space by sky. The red brocade is woven with stylized flowers and syllable mantra in Chinese character.

This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on “Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)”.

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