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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Compass Buddha

If you get lost, and there are no stars in the night sky to help you find the direction, just go to a chaitya near you and locate the Akshobhya Buddha. He always faces east.

Akshobhya (Sanskrit for “the Immovable One”) is the next important Buddha among the Dhyani Buddhas after Vairochana. Akshobhya was a monk who vowed never to feel anger or disgust at another being. He was immovable in keeping this vow, and after long striving, he became a Buddha.

Dhyani Buddhas are abstract aspects of Buddhahood. They are often called Tathagata or Pancha Buddha. They are so popular in Nepal that they are found in almost every chaitya, and found painted in the main entrance of many Buddhist houses.

Akshobhya is a heavenly Buddha who reigns over the eastern paradise, Abhirati. (Note that the eastern paradise is understood to be a state of mind, not a physical place.) Those who fulfill Akshobhya's vow are reborn in Abhirati and cannot fall back into lower states of consciousness.

In Buddhist iconography, Akshobhya usually is blue. He is most often pictured with his left hand resting on his lap, palm facing upward, and his right hand touching the earth, palm facing inward. This is the earth-touching mudra, which is the gesture used by the historical Buddha (Siddhartha Gautam) when he asked the earth to bear witness to his enlightenment.

In Buddhist tantra, evoking Akshobhya in meditation helps overcome anger and hatred.

So how many images of Akshobhya can be found in the Janabahaa complex? Well, it is surely worth counting.

Photo by Alok Tuladhar.