13th century
Western Tibet or Central Regions, Tibet
Brass, with pigment and silver inlay
Height: 16 ½ in. (42 cm.)

The Transcendent Buddha, Akshobya, isseated gracefully with his legs folded in dhyanasanaand his right hand held in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsa mudra). With remarkable poise and serenity, the cosmic Buddha is deeply engagedin meditation. The lids of hisalmond-shaped eyes are heavy beneath a pair of finely arched brows, and hismouth is set in a blissful other-worldly smile. Interestingly, unlike historical Buddhas who areconsistently portrayed in monastic robes, the Five Transcendent Buddhas arecosmic in nature and therefore depicted with lavish jewels and crowns as wouldbefit a bodhisattva. In thepresent example, a sheer dhoti withbeaded hem covers the lower portion of Akshobya's slender form. Adorning his body is a series of jewelsincluding foliate armbands, a double strand of pearls, a collar incised withfloral motifs and central foliate ornament, and a pair of circular pearlearrings. His hair is upswept in aprominent topknot, surmounted by a leaf-shaped finial, and encircled by a tallfive-pronged crown. On eitherside, a stiff, narrow scarf surrounds the figure's torso, and a pair of ribbonsflutter behind his ears. His eyeshave been inlaid with silver, and remains of red pigment are found throughouthis hair ornaments, necklaces, and crown. Stylistically, the bronze possesses similarities to works attributed toboth Western and Central Tibet. Although other bronzes that exhibit a related hybrid of styles exist,[1]the present image of Akshobya is exceptional in its refined modeling and largescale.

Each of the Five Transcendent Buddhasbelongs to a particular clan, and is associated with a particular color,direction, transfigured addiction, wisdom and element.[2] Akshobya belongs to the clan of the vajra, and his color is blue. It is he who helps practitioners totransform anger into absolute wisdom, anger being one of the greatestobstructions to enlightenment.


Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection, NewYork


Rhie, M. and Thurman, R., Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art ofTibet, expanded edition, (New York, 2000), p. 345, no. 138.


[1] See von Schroeder (1981), pp. 156-93.

[2] See Rhie and Thurman (2000), pp. 334-5 for a detailed discussion ofthe role of Cosmic Buddhas in mystical Buddhism.