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Buddha Akshobhya

Buddha Akshobhya and the Eastern Assembly
of the Sarvadurgatiparishodhana Mandala
Tibet; 14th century
Mineral pigment and raised gold on cloth
C2010.8

In early Tibetan paintings, the relative size and placement of the figures is based upon a strict hierarchy that occurs both within individual paintings and across a set of paintings. This work, which features Buddha Akshobhya at its center, is a representation of the hierarchy of deities within the eastern quarter of a mandala.

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The Eastern Quarter

Each figure represented in this painting has a place in the eastern quarter of a mandala used in the ritual of “Eliminating All Lower Rebirths” (Sarvadurgatiparishodhana). A depiction of this mandala in the familiar circular form offers a clear presentation of its organization into three sections or palaces.

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Inner Palace

The inner palace of the mandala is occupied by the central deities of the painting: Buddha Akshobhya, the four bodhisattvas flanking him, the offering goddess at his lower right, and a gatekeeper at the center of his throne.

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Middle Palace

The middle palace is occupied by four bodhisattvas and another offering goddess at the buddha’s lower left. These bodhisattvas, along with twelve others dispersed among the three remaining quarters of the middle palace, are a part of a group known as “The Sixteen Bodhisattvas of the Fortunate Aeon.”

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Outer Palace

The outer palace is the largest and houses the buddhas of the east and the four gatekeepers who protect the entrance to the eastern quarter of the mandala. At the bottom corners of the painting are three directional guardians that reside outside of the mandala palace.

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