04. Mandala of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajra 密集不动金刚曼陀罗

Tibet 西藏
14th Century
Distemper on cloth
25 ¾ by 21 in. (65.5 by 53.5 cm.)

Provenance:
Axel Ball Collection

Published:
Rossi & Rossi Ltd., Tibetan Painted Mandalas, exhibition catalogue, London, 1993
Jeff Watt, Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 88557

At the center of this splendid mandala is a figure of Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja (‘Secret Assembly’), a Buddhist meditational deity who appears in three principal forms: Akshobhyavajra (‘Unshakable Vajra’); Manjuvajra (‘Melodious Speech Vajra’); and Lokeshvara (‘Lord of the World’).  Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja is described as having “a body blue in color like a sapphire, issuing forth rays of blazing light.”  The outer assembly includes a standard group of protective deities: Yamantaka, Prajnantaka, Padmantaka, Vighnantaka, Takkiraja, Niladanda, Mahabala, and Acala.

The Tibetan mandala is a tool for gaining wisdom and compassion and generally is depicted as a tightly-balanced, geometric composition in which deities reside, with the principal deity housed in the center.  The mandala serves as a tool for guiding individuals along the path to enlightenment.  Monks meditate upon the mandala, imagining it as a three-dimensional palace, and the mandala's purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones.  See Brauen, Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism, Rubin Museum of Art, 2009, for an informative and comprehensive discussion on the subject.  In the forward to this work, H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama writes: “Mandalas are an aspect of Tantric Buddhism that, due to their colorful complexity, have attracted a great deal of interest.  Taking a variety of forms, from simple diagrams and more elaborate paintings on cloth to complicated patterns of colored sand and large three-dimensional carved structures, mandalas have a profoundly symbolic value.  We Tibetans regard them as sacred.”