Akshobhya and Acala: From Wrath to Reality (Or How To Transform Your Anger into Abhirati, the Pure Land of Unconditioned Love)

 The Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya

It’s been a long-traveled, time-consuming month.

Sarah (my girlfriend) and I explored the entire length of Vietnam and touched down briefly in Cambodia finally getting to see the indescribably magnificent temple complex that is known worldwide as Angkor Wat.

We’ve been back home for almost two weeks and I’m still trying to settle back into some sort of a routine where I can force myself to write something meaningful. My month of adventure continues to soak into the mental membranes of my memory and hopefully, I be able to write something worthwhile about what I’ve learned over the past month of traveling Southeast Asia for everyone who enjoys reading this site. Thank you for all of your support.

Since I’ve been back, a lot has happened.

The Thai Year New Year kicked off upon our return home which means that the ever-so-anticipated Songkran water festival started its nearly week long water wars celebrating the new year with its annual water cleansing ritual. But, to westerners, tourists, and Thai youth, this translates into a giant water gun fight. This year was my second annual celebration and between a few broken squirt guns, flooded streets, and wiping out on my motorbike due to the slick roads, I’ve managed to survive with nothing more than a little road rash on my right knee and big toe. No big deal.

As the holiday buzz  dies down and my month of traveling comes to an end, I’ve had a little down time to explore myself and learn more about what makes me tick and ticked-off. It’s been an exhausting, emotional roller coaster, but here’s what I’ve learned about handling anger.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I met Akshobhya.

Face to face.

Now I know you are wondering, who is Akshobhya, and we’ll get into that shortly, but first let’s start with a short back story of how I came to be upset.

Then again, let’s be realistic, a story’s a story a story about how we get angry. Who doesn’t have their countless tales, countless reasons for rising to rage, getting upset, and being angry.

Understanding Anger

All of a sudden, an aggravated rage seems to explode out of nowhere. The empire strikes back and lashes out at the reality disrupting its flow.

At first, it is not necessarily crucial to realize why we get angry, but we must learn to understand what anger is.

It’s doubtful we can prevent ourselves from becoming angry all of the time without being free from suffering or developing a sufficient amount of awareness and insight into the experiences that agitate us. What we can do is learn to understand what anger is, notice, and follow our aggression with sufficient attention when we feel emotionally unstable. This drives us to the depth of that which causes of our aggravated states of being.

Keeping this in mind, I found myself enraged and having had reached a serious tipping point on the night before Easter and the following morning. This wasn’t ordinary anger, one typical of everyday outrages, some much more akin to a furious self-consuming wrath. I wanted to explode and consume any object of my anger’s direction into a fest of completely subjective, raw emotional hatred. Being angry was more than simple word at this point, I had become attached to the significance of my aggression and through my own attachment found myself identifying more with this word and more with the feeling until my entire self-identification became it. I arose as a destructive force urgently awaiting a reaction. The selfish energy wanted nothing less than to devour and run its course rampantly amock, focusing on whatever chaos the course could easily and most readily become. Slowly by slowly, Acala’s sword consumed me alive.

You might be wondering, how did I arrive here?

A History of Wrath, Carelessness, and Confusion

I’ve been battling my emotions for years, trying to see into them, to feel them entirely, and see them as they are. The more we can see into the reality of ourselves, our emotions, the better we can respond to them and to others. Typically, we react in emotional immaturity which is for most considered normal, acceptable social behavior. I believe we can do better.

As a kid, I was quite quick to anger. Either I was mad at my parents, pissed off at some friends, and eventually I came to realize that what I hated most was this sense that hate existed within me. At first, I must admit I liked how anger made me feel in control and powerful over others. But then I started noticing early on that as my rage subdued, I was left feeling a victim to my rage while in the initial stages of being angry, it seemed like everything and everyone else in the world was the cause of my unhappiness. Over the years, the more I felt victimized by my own carelessness, irresponsible behavior, and bad decision-making due to reacting prematurely in anger left me with a stale bitterness towards my emotional arsenal. I found I not only contained genuine virtues, but also more destructive forces that would erupt from time to time affecting the ones who I cared deeply for. Jealousy, envy, pride, greed, hatred, anger, rage, and other selfish emotional reactions towards the world when it doesn’t go our way have at some point or another affected most if not all of my most treasured relationships leaving me with a sense of self-conflict and confusion.

In recent years, I’ve started paying more attention to these forces and how they form inside me, what aggravates them, and most importantly, who or what is their cause and outright objection. What I’ve learned is that if I can manage to outlast my anger’s explosive state of immediate reaction by being passively aware of it, a certain sadness eventually replaces the rage and I feel upset at myself for being so angry, out of place, and emotionally immature. Recognizing these unstable behaviors in ourselves creates a  highly confused state of self-assurance.

In time and with proper attention our understanding of anger can lead to a more humanistic and personal growth. I’ve grown to be more responsive and aware of my emotions. In my attempts to passively handle my emotional triggers, I’ve learned it’s better to remain quiet when I feel angry instead of carelessly taking it out on someone else. If I’m feeling extremely out of sorts, I’ll try distancing myself from the situation in hopes of reconciling my feelings alone. When we don’t avoid being angry, but allow our anger and notice it completely for what it is, we begin to understand the problem.

Presence and Madness

This past Easter Sunday instead of exploding on a loved one I tried distancing myself from the situation in hopes of better understanding the war raging inside of me. I soon found myself alone in a local coffee shop trying to work through the commotion. Desperately patient and in a fury to write down every thing that was bothering me, I hoped to better understand the whole situation, how I felt about it, and drive deeper into the core of my anger when eventually, the problem found the problem.

Moving past the illusions we believe cause our rage and finding out the reality of our unhappiness is enlightening.

Now I won’t bore you with the three pages of emotional details I wrote before anything happened and that sound completely self-justified, self-conceited, self-centered, and out of self-control, but I came to recognize what the problem was: I was entirely okay with being selfish. The problem with wrath, rage, fury, and hatred are that one feels completely justified in his or her own selfishness and justified in their reasons no matter how neglectful or disrespectful they are to others including ones they love.

The self is trying to control, manipulate, and make life into its own way, instead of how life really  is. Actually, most of life is out of our control and this is scary for many people to admit. Wrath blossoms out of our underlying fear of uncertainty. The real underlying issue of my unhappiness was that I wasn’t accepting how everything was. I was too busy concentrating on myself, how I feel,  and attempting to make life, my relationships with others, be how I wanted it to be. I was so busy focusing on my idea of how a relationship should be instead of seeing the relationship as it is.

As the infernal flame of Acala engulfed myself and I reached the bottomless pit of my emotional sinkhole, that too, was devoured and Akshobhya ‘the Imperturbable One’ appeared.

I doubt many of you have ever heard of Acala or Akshobhya so please allow me to explain.

Transforming Hate Into Love

Akshobhya is one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas that stand as representations of Reality or reality as it is (meaning, not seeing the world as you want it or thinking it should be, but again, as it is). Akshobhya appears only when we reflect life honestly. The major problem with getting in touch with our dear friend Akshobhya is, as legend goes, the Five Wisdom Buddhas are protected by Five Wisdom Kings who stand as guardians of their beloved gates. Akshobhya’s protector is known by the name of Acala. We each have our own inner Acala to confront, these wraths of psychological torment capable of turning our happiness into rage, anger, hatred, fury, and an all-consuming form of self-wrath that must ultimately be faced before we  can enter the Pure Lands of Akshobhya. This land is known in some circles of Buddhism as Abhirati.

Acala, The Immovable One

Acala represents wrath.

At first glance we may seem confused in understanding how Acala, a depiction of wrath can be a guardian of the Pure Land of Akshobya. Typically, we see wrath as a conscious representation we interpret as being entirely negative, a dark energy of an all-consuming anger and hatred that oneself projects upon the world, but diving further into our self-realizations, insights, and a bit of research, Acala actually represents the wrath that leads to salvation (not in the Christian sense of the word, but as that state of inner liberation capable of destroying our own self-ignorance). As we swallow Acala’s sword by paying ample attention to the origins of our anger, wrath has no where to turn but upon itself dissolving the entirety of the source of one own’s wrath leaving all that remains, a radiating love free of self-contempt, self-concern, and purely unconditional. Welcome to Abhirati.

In realizing this particular aspect of love, Akshobhya appears only after what is a full-on assault of the self: self-incineration and self-destruction to the point that the illusion of self-concern, self-security, and self-protection disappear. Wrath, that power of destruction from which nothing good comes into the world, pushed to the extreme and passively followed to its origin brings about a stark discovery and miraculous realization. Love, at least one tiny aspect of this complicated and misinterpreted word, is the wisdom of reflecting life as it is. Love is more than understanding that life is not just about what you want a situation to be, it’s being as you are with what is. Joined and together in a reality where letting it be is all there is. Every situation lies perfectly in touch with each other. It’s loving it enough to let it be itself, free from your personal judgement, protective and fearful measures.

The appearance of Akshobhya is not a hallucination of a sky-blue being holding a scepter and pointing to the ground, but a metaphor of navigating one’s mind, one’s self, thought-process, emotional-process, and watching how it constantly behaves and interprets the world. Witnessing our selves and the illogical limits they will reach brings about a certain potential that we can achieve only by noticing and following our anger, hatred, and fury and the extreme depths to which they will go in order to react, to feel powerful and in control of the unknown.

Being entirely and consistently aware of our own inner anger, wrath, and hatred we reach the fiery guardian Acala. Passing his guard is no simple feat and requires countless failures, especially if we are deemed to make reality happen according to our own ways. The more we try to willingly walk past his guard and reach the self-containing infernal abyss, the further we distance ourselves from Abhirati. The cost of transformation is momentarily self-destructing. Only the will-less shall pass here and reach the mirror-like awareness that stands as the representational stage of consciousness known familiarly as the Akshobhya buddha.

Remember, these demigods and guardians are not figures of the imagination or real in their externally believed or depicted manifestations, rather they serve as metaphors in the story of life and how one can manage to overcome life’s inherent difficulties, challenges, and the inner battles that come with being human. Bypassing the wrath of Acala comes not with some sort of willed self-surrender, but seeing deeply into ourselves, the motives of our mind, the illusions we aim to convince ourselves are real, and the source of our hatred to the point that all our anger, hatred, and wrath have no choice left but to consume and dissolve their conditions. At the culmination of this dissolution, Akshobhya appears bringing about the joyous land of Abhirati. Here all things are liberated in possibility, in non-duality, pure consciousness is realized, and true humility is at last achieved.

Abhirati, The Pure Land of Akshobhya

*****

I hope you have enjoyed this write-up. I know it’s a bit different than some of the previous posts, so feel free to let me know what you like/don’t like about it in the comments section.

For those that enjoy exploring and absorbing symbols, take a better look at these 13th-14th century depictions of Acala in the Nara National Museum. Check out the picture you want and try the zoom feature. It’s so fun.

Thanks for reading,

Stephan

About Stephan Stansfield

Stephan is the owner, creator, and editor of Peregrine Poise.
He is currently traveling and teaching around the world. When he is not helping others discover their true potential, he finds time to surf, read, and reflect on the important issues of living a good life.

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