Click to Increase Perspective

Yeshe Walmo

CODE: YW-91

Price: £ 340 : US$547

Canvas Size: 27 1/2x21'' [70x53cm]

RISHI COMMENTARIES - Each painting sold is accompanied by a written commentary. This will provide an Overview of the painting, including a sketch of the Buddhist Buddha, Bodhisattva, Deity or other figure depicted, descriptions about the Iconography. The Commentary will additionally provide an illustration covering some of the Buddhist ideas symbolised and represented within the painting.

AN ILLUSTRATION: 'ACHALA' 

Achala is a wrathful 'heurka' deity who was assimilated into Mahayana (Bodhisattvayana) doctrine during its middle phase of development. During this period Achala was primarily associated with the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjushree. Heruka deities are concerned with the energtic transformation of spiritual energy, usually in relation to theremoval of obstacles [Skt. Vignataka] & as wrathful protectors [Skt. Palas].
        As Bodhisattvayana doctrine developed, so did Achala´s role. The Buddhist Kriya Yoga mentioned was followed by Charya Yoga & subsequently Yogatantra which consists of the five transcendent Buddha Family Mandala. In the Yogatantra mandala Achala is promoted to being the head Wisdom King [Skt. Vidyaraja]. The five Wisdom Kings are the wrathful protectors [Skt. Palas] of the corresponding five Dhyani Buddhas within the Yogatantra mandala. A third role Achala plays is as a 'gatekeeper' as in the Mahayoya & Anuttarayoga Tantras.
         All of his roles are implied in his various names which all express a similar meaning. His name Krodharaja Achala means 'wrathful unshakable ruler (overseer)', with the wordstem Krodha- meaning 'wrathful' & -raja signifying 'ruler', respectively. His name Chandraroshana means 'violently wrathful'. In Japanese Shingon Buddhism (Pureland Buddhism) his form called Fudo-myoo means the 'immovable one'. Achala originated as the Hindu deity Acalanatha (lit. immovable protector). He was assimilated into the Buddhist assembly of deities in the around the 3rd Century CE during the emergence of the Tathagata Doctrine. The different forms Achala has relate to different Buddhist Traditions & co-emerged as they were realised by the relatively independent Indian tantric gurus through many centuries.

Iconography of Achala

Achala bears a flaming sword [Skt. Khadga] in his proper right hand which symbolises his protective & obstacle removing nature. His sword helps sever the fetters which bind the true self to the deluded ego. The sword is also a notable acouter of Manjushree, Amoghasiddi & four-Armed Mahakala, alluding to imperturbability & spiritual transformation. Achala holds a coil of rope called a pasha in his proper left hand which has a hook at one end & vajra finial at the other . This rope is sometimes mistakenly called a lariat which is a rope noose though without finials. The pasha represents the binding of the self to Buddhist doctrine & particularly to the idea of Dharma. Here Dharma in a broad sense, refers to the liberation of the self from cyclical, impermanent, illusory material world of form. The vajra finial at one end represents dynamic transformation i.e. change. Besides Achala, the pasha is a principle acouter of Amoghapasha Lokeshvar.

      In Buddhist Kriya Yoga Achala is shown standing, whereas in Charya Yoga he is depicted kneeling on one knee [Skt. Achalasana]. Buddhist Kriya Yoga was popularized by both Atisha [982-1054CE], founder of the Kadampa School & later by the Mahasidda Mitra. Achala in the form of Chandramaharoshana is portrayed with a third wisdom eye representing omniscience. He also wears a white snake wrapped around his neck, which is sometimes painted as a scarf symbolising the transformation of the accumulated power of nagas who represent drought & spirits of disease. For details concerning the iconography of his Japanese form of Achala please see below.

Achala in the Tibetan & Japanese Traditions

◊ The Tibetan tradition - The Tibetan tradition of depicting Achala is similar to that found in Shingon Buddhism. The Tibetan Ngorchen Lhundrub - 1497-1557, describes the iconography of Achala as his having "… bared fangs biting down on the lower lip, possessing three eyes, the right gazes upward eliminating heavenly demons. The left gazes down, destroying nagas, spirits of disease & malevolent earth spirits. His middle eye gazes forward destroying all types of obstacle. He is attired with a white snake as a necklace, gathering the power of nagas, spirits of disease and earthly spirits; with black hair, tied in a black tuft on the crown of the head; with jewel ornaments and various silks as a lower garment & as dwelling in the centre of a flaming mass of pristine awareness fire."


◊ The Japanese & Chinese tradition
- In Japan before the Heian era, Achala Achalais portrayed either kneeling or standing as in some of his other forms. His iconography is clearly detailed in the Mahavairochana Abhisambodhi Tantra. This tantra is one of the two principle texts of Pureland Buddhism practiced today in Japan & China today. The Mahavairochana Abhisambodhi Tantra was translated into Chinese in 724 by Subhakarasimha who had brought the text fromNalanda in Northern India to China. The Sanskrit text text is lost but it survives in the Chinese & Tibetan translations. This text is often believed to be the first true Buddhist tantra.
     In later representations, such as those used by the Yamabushi [Lit. 'mountain Warrior'] monks he is portrayed seated. The Yamabushi monks are Japanese mountain ascetic hermits with a long tradition as mighty warriors endowed with supernatural powers. They venerate Achala as a cult figure. Here Achala is often portrayed as described by Ngorchen Lhundrub...with one fang pointing up, the other down pointing down, and with a braid of hair drifting on the one side of his head. The sword he holds is shown licked by flames, or else appearing as if disgorged by a dragon. The sword is called a hoken which in Japanese means a 'treasure sword'; or alternatively kongo-ken which is descriptive of its talon-like pommel. It may also be referred to as sanko-ken, on account of the three pronged vajra pommel as is shown here in the image featured in this commentary. The flaming supernova of fire surrounding his body is known as the 'karura flame', after the fire-breathing bird-like creature called the Garuda. This bird is more accurately the Suparna which means golden feathered. Suparna is a more ancient name of Garuda. In Japan this creature is often called the konjicho which in Japanese literally means gold-winged bird.
         Achala is portrayed seated upon a large rock [Jap. Banjakuza] which represents the steadfastness of the Fudo. In the language of Buddhist imagery triangular shaped rocks usually represent the syllable 'E'. This syllable appears in the opening stanza of all early Buddhist scriptures meaning 'thus, I have heard'. Cliffs & rocky outcrops represent the unshakable nature of the self when in union with Ishvara, divine consciousness or else ones true inner nature. Rocks are sometimes painted with the sacred Kushan grass growing upon them. Kusha grass grows to a height of two feet and is used to purify defilements. According to early Buddhist accounts, it was the material used by Buddha for his meditation seat when he attained enlightenment. The plant was mentioned in the Rigveda for use in sacred ceremonies & as a seat for priests and the Gods. Those wishing purification sleep in a field or patch of Kusha grass for ritual purification. Placed under a pillow at night before initiation, Kusha grass is believed to produce clear dreams & used to enhance the clarity of visualization and meditation.

The Roles of Achala in Tantra

 1. Achala as Heruka in the Buddhist version of Kriya Yoga & in Charya Tantra- Achala is included in a class of wrathful deities called Herukas, which are characterised by a wrathful disposition. The wrath serves to transform negative energy, with all her guises, into the positive.
        In the early Kriya & Charya Yoga's, Achala shows classic heruka qualities as both remover of obstacles [Skt. Vignataka] and dharma protector [Skt. dharmapala] for the meditational practices related to Manjushree. The early Buddhist version of Kriya Yoga is essentially a three figure mandala. The central figure is usually either Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara or Manjushree. Here the end goal of the Buddhist using the mandala is to realise Bodhisattva-nature through which one can be reborn into a Buddha Pureland. Sometimes Shakyamuni Buddha is placed in the centre, in which case the end goal is attaining full Buddhahood for oneself. By the time of Charya Yoga which followed Kriya Yoga, Vairochana Buddha is placed in the centre of the Mandala. The Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara & Vajrapani are now seen as only serving the end goal of attaining Buddhahood rather than themselves being the means of attaining full Bodhisattva-nature & then reaching a Pureland.
        
2.  Achala as Wisdom King -
In the Yoga Tantra which is usually seen as a progression from the Kriya & Charya Yoga Tantras, Achala is again shown to play a prominent role. In the Yoga Tantra mandala there are five Tathagata [Dhyani; Pancha] Buddhas residing in the womb realm. These five Buddhas each have a Heruka called a Wisdom King [Skt. Vidyaraja] & Achala is the pre-eminent Wisdom King. The Wisdom Kings form a class of Herukas & represent the luminescent wisdom of the Five Wisdom Buddhas. In Buddhist cosmology, the Wisdom Kings are seen to occupy the Diamond Realm [Skt. Vajradhatu], but serve i.e. intercede on behalf of the Five Tathagata Buddha Womb Realm [Skt. Tathagatagarbha]. The Diamond realm and Womb realms grouped together form the Doctrine of the Two Realms.
        Achala also features in the important Mahayana Grounds of Becoming [Skt. Bhumis] teaching occurring in several texts such as the Dhasabhumika Sutra. In the grounds of becoming, the 8th ground in the process of Bodhisattva transformation is called 'Achala' which refers to the unshakable state of union of the lower self with higher eternal consciousness, from which one can never return to unawoken ignorance. The Yoga Tantra mandala which in turn followed both the Buddhist Kriya & Charya yogas, is a composition of Five Buddha Families. Here, Achala becomes more prominent as the Wisdom King of the central Buddha Vairochana of the mandala. In Yoga Tantra Vairochana Buddha is stationed in the centre of the mandala as he is in the earlier Charya Yoga mandala.
         The crucial significance is in the perception of the end goal of attainment. In the mandala of Yoga Tantra the goal is to attain Buddhahood and not 'Bodhisattvahood'. †(The word Bodhisattvahood will not be found in a dictionary, and is this authors inception). This is obvious as the Yoga Tantra mandala is primarily composed of Buddhas, whereas as mentioned, the earlier mandalas are primarily composed of Bodhisattvas. This author believes that the development of Kriya & Charya Yoga into Yoga Tantra is a significant moment in the evolution of Bodhisattvayana & the origination of Vajrayana Buddhism. The period was marked by a wholesale assimilation of wrathful Indian tantric deities into the Buddhist assembly & mindstream. Most of the deities originated as Shaivite deities, primarily the Vajrabhairava & Chakrasamvara Tantras were absorbed into the ancient Akshobhya Buddha family. Akshobhya soon came to be perceived as the progenitor of all wrathful deities. As head of the Vajra family he was in a position to absorb i.e. head-up all the tantric wrathful deities & their forms by the tantric Mahasiddhas. Other outright tantric cycles such as the Heyvajra & Eight Pronouncements Mandalas This begs the question, where did Vajrayana Buddhism originate? While the Vajrabhairava & Chakrasamvara Tantras originated in Northern India, if the origination of Yoga Tantra marks the beginning of VajrayanaYoga Tantra then one can argue that Vajrayana Buddhism originated in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. The Kathmandu valley had been a thriving spiritual hub for centuries if not millennia. The Newars ethnic group in Nepal are half Indian & half Mongol. The Indian contribution were artisans, Siddhas (Yogis) & traders who traveled to the Kathmandu Valley from the wide expanse of Northern India. The Vajrabhairava & Chakrasamvara Tantras are however not solely linked to the Yoga Tantra (the mandala of the Five Buddha Families). These tantra cycles exist in their own right & and are not exclusively practiced in Yoga Tantra.
            
3. Achala as Dharma Protector & wrathful Remover of Obstacles [Skt. Krodha Vighnantaka] - Achala is found in the majority of Heruka groupings within the Mahayoga & Anuttarayoga Tantra genres where he serves as a gatekeeper.
    Over time Yoga Tantra had developed into the decidedly tantric Mahayoga as defined by the Guyhagarbha Tantra text. The Mahayoga Mandala is composed of a hundred deities, though the central groupings of the Five Buddha Families & their respective prajnas remain the same as it is in Yoga Tantra

Achala in the Mahayoga & Anuttarayoga Tantras:

a. In the Guyagarbha Tantra text of Mahayoga, Achala serves as one of Four Gatekeepers, guarding the East direction. The protective 'gatekeeper' role of Achala is also found in the Sarma school's Guyasamaja Tantra (which is included in the Sarma School´s Anuttarayoga Tantra group of tantras).
        Here Achala's protective role is similar to that as a Wisdom Kings. However as a gatekeeper he guards a cardinal direction & wrathfully protects against malignant energy as a krodha vighnantaka. This means that he is a conqueror, subduer & transformer of wrath viz. anger. Although these gatekeepers are assigned a cardinal direction, they are ironically not the Buddhist Guardians of the Directions [Skt. lokapalas; dikpalas]. The dikpalas are instead called the Four Heavenly Kings [Skt. Caturmaharajas] & Achala is certainly not one of these. However Achala's gatekeeper role does imply a direction guarding role as well as a dharma protecting role and the gatekeepers are often perceived as such. The Four Heavenly Kings for instance do not feature in the Mandala of the Hundred peaceful & wrathful deities.         It should be noted that Mahayoga itself is a complex elaboration of the idea of the Five Dhyani Buddhas model, first developed in Yogatantra but now with, among other developments, a complex mandala is composed of a Hundred Peaceful {42} & Wrathful {58} Deities. This development reflects the previously mentioned assimilation of tantric ideas from India & the subtle evolution of Mahayana Buddhism into a more tantric form, which by this time had become Vajrayana Buddhism.

b. Achala is also found in each of the Tibetan Sarma's schools Anuttarayoga Tantra Group of tantras which includes the Guhyasamaja Tantra, the Vajrabhairava Tantra, Hevajra Tantra', Chakrasamvara Tantra & the later Kalachakra Tantra. In each of these traditions he features singularly i.e. without consort in a dual protective-obstacle removing capacity. When he is solitary he tends to express a protective role rather than a transformative one. In the Vajrakilaya Tantra he is called Arya Achala [Skt. Arya Acala; Tib. Miyowa] he is however presented in union {Yab-Yum} with prajna, Dorje Tun Khung Ma [Skt. vajramusika], occupying the south-west station

 

Text Composed by: Tristan Rigby
Send 'views & ideas' to: tristan@rishigallery.com



Tap to Zooom-in

Bookmark and Share