Aksobhya, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasaṃbhava, and Vairocana are the five Dhyani Buddhas who are the icons of Mahayana Buddhism. They are viewed in tantric meditation and are found in Buddhist iconography. Each of them represents a different aspect of the enlightened consciousness to help in spiritual transformation.
The five Dhyani Buddhas signify the core mandala in ourselves including our environment and the cosmos. They represent the five types of human personality and exemplify the perfect form of the personality types. Interestingly, each of them also accounts for a negative quality. They demonstrate the genius of Vajrayana Buddhism and professes to work on the weaknesses instead of suppressing or denying them.
In Vajrayana art, the Dhyani Buddhas are arranged in a mandala with Vairocana in the center and the other Buddhas in other directions; north, south, east and west. Each Dhyani Buddha has a particular color and symbol and carries specific meaning and purpose. Even the mudras or the hand gestures are different from each other and convey appropriate teaching.
Aksobhya Buddha, “Immovable Buddha”
The Aksobhya Buddha, also known as the immovable Buddha, was a monk who pledged never to feel outrage or sicken toward another being. He was relentless in keeping this promise. In the wake of taking a stab at a long stretch, he turned into a Buddha.
Akshobhya is a heavenly Buddha who rules over the Eastern paradise, Abhirati. The individuals who satisfy Akshobhya’s promise are renewed in Abhirati and can’t fall again into lower states of consciousness. It’s imperative to take note of that the directional “heavens” are comprehended to be a state of mind and not physical places.
According to the Buddhist iconography, Akshobhya is blue in color but at times in gold as well. He is often picturized as touching the earth with his right hand, which is known as the earth-touching mudra. The gesture is used by the historical Buddha when he requested the earth to demonstrate the veracity of his illumination.
Akshobhya holds a Vajra in his left hand which symbolizes shunyata or an absolute reality that both animate and inanimate things are unmanifested. Akshobhya is associated with consciousness which is the fifth skandha.
Buddhist tantra believes that evoking Akshobhya in meditation helps us overcome negative feelings like hatred and anger.
Amitabha Buddha: “Infinite Light”
Amitabha Buddha, also known as Amita or Amida Buddha, is the famous Buddha among the Dhyani Buddhas. Amitabha is at the center of Pure Land Buddhism, which is one of the largest schools of Mahayana Buddhism in Asia.
Many centuries before, Amitabha was a king who had renounced his kingdom to become a monk. He was called as Dharmakara Bodhisattva, a monk who practiced for five eons and realized enlightenment to become a Buddha.
Amitabha Buddha rules over Sukhavati, also known as the western paradise or the Pure Land. People who are reborn in this land experience the joy of hearing Amitabha teach Dharma till they are ready to attain Nirvana.
Amitabha signifies mercy and wisdom. He is associated with the third skandha which is perception. Tantric reflection on Amitabha is a cure to desire. He is picturized in the middle of the bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Mahasthamaprapta. Often Amitabha is portrayed with his hands in meditation pose; fingers barely touching and gently folded over the lap with palms facing upwards. His red color denotes love and compassion. His symbol is lotus which represents gentleness and purity.
Amoghasiddhi Buddha: “Almighty Conqueror”
In the “Bardo Thodol” – the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” – Amoghasiddhi Buddha represents the achievement of all activity. His name signifies ‘Infallible Success” and his partner is the notable Green Tara, in the ‘Noble Deliverer.’
Amoghasiddhi Buddha reigns in the North and is related with the fourth skandha, volition or mental formations. This can likewise be deciphered as driving forces, which is firmly connected with activity. Reflection on Amoghasiddhi Buddha vanquishes envy and desire, two regularly imprudent activities.
Amoghasiddhi is usually portrayed in Buddhist iconography as transmitting a green light, which is the view of finishing knowledge and advancing peace. His hand motion is the mudra of courage: his right hand is placed in front of his chest and palm in an outward direction as though to state “stop.”
He holds a crossed vajra, likewise called a double Dorje or the thunderbolt. This indicates achievement and satisfaction in all aspects.
Ratnasambhava Buddha: “Jewel-Born One”
Ratnasambhava Buddha means wealth. His name means “Source of Jewel” or the “Gem Born One.” In Buddhism, the Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha and Ratnasambhava. He is often thought of as the giving Buddha.
He reigns in the South and is related with the second skandha, sensation. Meditation on Ratnasambhava Buddha is believed to remove pride and insatiability and helps in concentrating on equality.
Ratnasambhava Buddha has a yellow shading which symbolizes earth and richness in Buddhist iconography. He regularly holds a desire satisfying gem.
He holds his hands in the desire-satisfying mudra: his right hand facing down and the palm outward and his left in the meditation mudra which symbolizes generosity.
Vairocana Buddha: “Embodiment of Light”
Vairocana Buddha is at times called the primordial Buddha or the Supreme Buddha. He is believed to be the exemplification of all the Dhyani Buddhas; including everything and everywhere, ubiquitous and omniscient.
He symbolizes the insight of shunyata or void. Vairocana is viewed as an exemplification of the dharma-kaya – everything, unmanifested, free of attributes and distinctions. He is related with the main skandha, form. Meditation on Vairocana vanquishes ignorance and dream and leads to wisdom.
When the Dhyani Buddhas are portrayed together in a mandala, Vairocana is in the middle. Vairocana is white and represents the shades of light and all the Buddhas. His symbol is the Dharma wheel, which, at its most fundamental, speaks to the study of the dharma, practice through contemplation, and preaches moral discipline.
His hand gesture is known as the Dharmachakra mudra and is regularly saved for the iconography of either Vairocana or the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. The mudra signifies the turning of the wheel and places the hands in such a way that the thumbs and forefingers touch at the tips to form a wheel.