Ashuku 阿しゅく
KEY WORD : art history / iconography
Also Ashiku. Immovable One (Sk: Aksobhya). The name of a Buddha today generally associated with Esoteric Buddhism mikkyou 密教, and representing one of the Five Wisdom Tathagatas *gochi nyorai 五智如来. Sino-Japanese transliteration of the Sanskrit Aksobhya, also rendered as Ashukuba/Ashikuba 阿しゅく婆 or Ashukubi 阿しゅくび. Ashuku, along with *Amida 阿弥陀, is one of the earliest names to appear in Mahayana Buddhism (2c) as one of the Buddhas said to dwell in the paradisiacal Pure Lands joudo 浄土. Ashuku appears in the ASHUKU BUKKOKUKYOU 阿しゅく仏国経 (Ch: Achu foguojing), or Scripture of the Buddha-land of Ashuku, translated into Chinese in 147 and the oldest extant Buddhist text to expound Pure Land thought. According to this scripture, a certain monk once declared that he wished to practice the bodhisattva teachings in the world of Delight (Jp: Myouki 妙喜, Sk: Abhirati), situated in the eastern quarter. The Buddha told him that the teachings were difficult to practice because a bodhisattva must generate no thoughts of anger or malice towards any being. The monk accordingly made a vow to generate no thoughts of anger or malice until his attainment of enlightenment. He proved himself immovable (Sk: aksobhya) in the accomplishment of this vow, and so became the Buddha Ashuku, who resides in the eastern world of Delight and expounds Buddhist teachings. The early popularity of the Ashuku cult eventually declined, probably because of the greater popularity of *Yakushi 薬師, also associated with the eastern quarter. Ashuku continued, however, to appear in various texts as one of the Buddhas of the four directions *shibutsu 四仏, generally the east, and in this role he reassumed an important position in Esoteric Buddhism around the 7/8c; in this case he was counted as one of the five Buddhas, gobutsu 五仏, and 37 deities, sanjuushichison 三十七尊, of the *Kongoukai mandara 金剛界曼荼羅. In the Kongoukai mandara, he presides over the eastern quarter, where he is surrounded by the four attendant bodhisattvas shishingon 四親近, Kongou satta 金剛薩た (Sk: Vajrasattva), Kongouou 金剛王 (Sk: Vajraraja), Kongouai 金剛愛 (Sk: Vajraraga), and Kongouki 金剛喜 (Sk: Vajrasadhu). Ashuku also is identified with Tenkuraion 天鼓雷音 in the *Taizoukai mandara 胎蔵界曼荼羅, based upon a passage in the DAINICHIKYOU 大日経 (Sk: Vairocanabhisambodhi sutra ; Scripture of the Enlightenment of Vairocana), in which Ashuku appears under the name of Immovable One *Fudou 不動, as the Buddha of the northern quarter, the position that is later assigned in the same text to Tenku raion. In late Esoteric Buddhism or Tantrism, Ashuku appears in various mandalas *mandara 曼荼羅, sometimes even replacing *Dainichi 大日 as the central deity. In Japan he also figures among the Thirteen Buddhas *juusanbutsu 十三仏, presiding over the memorial service held on the sixth anniversary of a person's death. His principal iconographical characteristic is the right-hand gesture of touching the ground *shokuchi-in 触地印, which symbolizes his spiritual "immovability". His left hand either lies in his lap clenched to form the adamantine fist, kongouken 金剛拳, or it may hold a corner of his robe. Usually given the color blue, his distinctive animal vehicle *choujuuza 鳥獣座, is the elephant. His seed-syllable shuji 種子, is un 吽 (Sk: hum), and his esoteric symbol, sanmayagyou 三昧耶形, is either a single five-pronged *kongousho 金剛杵 or two five-pronged kongousho arranged in the shape of an inverted T. Owing to the early decline of his cult, there are no independent images of Ashuku made in Japan whose authenticity is certain. Examples of his image may be seen in sets of the five wisdom Tathagatas.

*gochidou 五智堂, *gobutsudou 五仏堂

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