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Achala – The Immovable One

Achala, the Immovable, assumes his characteristic kneeling pose (Achalasana) atop a lotus platform and against a fiery halo of gold – tipped flames. His right hand wields a sword as his left makes the gesture of menace (tarjani mudra) while holding a lasso. Achala bites his lower lip, exposing sharp fangs, which —together with his bloodshot eyes — suggest his wrathful nature. Achala is one of a group of wrathful deities (krodha vighnantaka) who enable practitioners to overcome obstacles; he may be invoked to eliminate both "inner" (e.g., negative mental tendencies) and "outer" (e.g., enemies) hindrances. Achala's chief role, however, is to awaken the initiate to his or her own negative aspects and "to transform these into compassion and wisdom." Achala is sometimes described as a wrathful form of the Celestial Buddha Akshobhya, a symbol of the Buddha's unshakable resolve to attain enlightenment. Achala is also called Chandamaharoshana, an appellation by which he is known in the Chandamaharoshana Tantra, a text that Tibetans classified among the Anuttarayoga (Supreme Yoga) Tantras. Known both as Achala and Chandamaharoshana, Achala is the enlightened exponent of truth in the Chandamaharoshana Tantra, answering questions posed by his consort as they are joined in sexual embrace. The text itself explains the etymology of his name: Chanda means one who is very violent (Tivratara) and very wrathful (Maharosana).

Achala often appears as a subsidiary figure in Tibetan paintings; only rarely in surviving works is here presented as the central figure. Although the various other religious orders might also have worshiped Achala, the styles of headgear worn by the teachers in the top register indicate that this painting may have been associated with the Sakya order.

Achala's entourage of deities is linked by two meandering vines that encircle the figures in a pleasing, rhythmic pattern as blossoms burst from the many tendrils. The vines emerge from the open lotus at the center of the painting's bottom register. In front of the lotus is a Vajra—symbol of the adamantine nature of Buddhist teachings.


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