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Buddhist deity: Acala

By Devik Balami at
Buddhist deity: Acala

Buddhist deity, Acala is a Dharmapala who is based on the school of Vajrayana Buddhism. He is also known as Fudo Myoo as according to the Shingon traditions of Japan. He is positioned among the Wisdom Kings and seen above the Five Wisdom Kings of the Womb Realm. In Sanskrit texts of Buddhism, Acala usually refers similarly to the Vidyaraja or King of Knowledge.

History and origin of the deity, Acala

Basically, Acala was included into Vajrayana Buddhism as a servant of the Buddha. He was popularly known as Acalanath which means immovable protector in the Mahayana Buddhism. If we look at the Chinese version of Vajrayana, Tangmi, then he is regarded as Budong. In Nepal and Tibetan Buddhism, he is often regarded as Candarosana.

Even though Acala is respected and honored in almost every Buddhist countries, it is highly revered in Japan. Therefore, the statues of Acala comes more from Japan than other countries. Since Buddhism was introduced by Chinese monks in Japan, it is fact that Acala was not originated in Japan. Also, It is documented that the deity was imported by the priest named Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism and arts, the Buddha Akshobhya presides over the clan of deities as to which Acala belongs.

It is believed that the Buddhist deity Acala involved in a deity invoked in Buddhist rituals to frighten gods, titans, men, and destroy the strength of demons. The followers also believe that he slays all the spirits of ghosts and evils. As mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures, Mahavairocana Sutra, the people who are dedicated to Buddha is instructed to visualize the left foot of Acala on his/her head during meditation. This behavior leads to prevent obstacles in reaching prajna or insights.

Iconography of Acala

It is thought that the physical appearance is based on the scriptural sources such as Mahavairocana Tantra and its annotation. Moreover, if one has the details of his appearance, then he would find that his face has an expression of extreme wrath, wrinkle-browed, left eye squinted or looking askance, lower teeth biting down the upper lip. He bears the body structure that of a corpulent child. He is engulfed in flame and seated on a huge rock base.

Normally, Acala is depicted in an angry face, holding a vajra sword and lariat. But in later representations, he is depicted in holding fangs- one pointing up and another one down, and a braid on the one side of his head. When he is depicted in holding the sword, it may or may not be flaming once while in other cases the sword is in form of a treasured sword or vajra sword. The sword may also be referred to as three-pronged vajra sword.

In times, he is also depicted with holding Kurikara ken sword with the dragon coiled around it which nonetheless also has a vajra-shaped pommel. Acala's statue has the flaming nimbus or halo behind and is accompanied by the mythical fire-breathing birdlike creature, the Garuda. Sometimes, Acala is accompanied by two boy servants, named Kimkara and Cetaka. Actually, there are said to be eight such boy servants altogether and as many as forty-eight servants overall.

Acala is normally seated in his seat, the huge rock base which is considered to be an appropriate iconographic symbol to demonstrate the steadfastness of the deity.

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