Dainichi Buddha (Sanskrit = Mahavairocana) represents the center (zenith) among Japan's esoteric sects. Esoteric Buddhism is another term for Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism, one of the three main schools of Buddhism in Asia, most widely practiced today in Tibet. The other two forms are Hinayana (Theravada) and Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana is the mainstream in Japan, but the country's Shingon and Tendai sects are still strongholds of esoteric traditions, especially the Shingon sect. See the Learn More section below for further investigation. As early as the Heian Period (794 - 1192 AD), devotees of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan worshipped Dainichi as the Central Buddha of the Universe, the Cosmic Buddha. Among non-esoteric sects, Dainichi (or Dai Nichi) is known as Birushana Buddha (Sanskrit = Vairocana). Dainichi generally supplants the Historical Buddha as the object of veneration among Japan's esoteric practitioners.
Sanskrit Seed Syllable
for Dainichi Buddha
Ban in Japan
Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese Spellings
English Translations and Reference Notes
- Cosmic Buddha or Buddha of Cosmic Life
- All-Encompassing Buddha or All-Encompassing Lord of the Cosmos
- Life Force That Illuminates the Universe
- Spreader of Light in All Directions
- Great Solar Buddha of Light and Truth
- Great Sun Buddha, Resplendent One, Radiant Preacher, Luminous One
- Identified closely with Birushana Buddha (Skt. Vairocana),
whose name means "belonging to or coming from the sun"
- Especially important to Japan's Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism
- Central deity among the Five Tathagata (Jp. = Godai Nyorai, lit. Five Great Buddha); these five appear frequently in Japanese mandalas, with Dainichi positioned in the center, surrounded by the other four, with each representing one of the cardinal directions.
- Dainichi's messengers are the Myo-o; see Fudo Myo-o page
Dainichi Buddha in Japan. Unlike most statues of the various Buddha in Japan (which are simple and unadorned), images of Dainichi Buddha are typically depicted in the guise of a Bodhisattva -- with elaborately arranged hair topped with a crown, and wearing richly jeweled ornaments or garments. In addition, Dainichi in Japan appears in different forms based on the iconography of either the Womb World Mandala (Jp. = Taizoukai) or Diamond World Mandala (Jp. = Kongoukai), in which this deity is most frequently portrayed (see Madala below). The mandala art form is especially important to the Shingon sect.
Dainichi Buddha corresponds to the Historical Buddha's first turning of the Wheel of the Law in Deer Park in India, where the Historical Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. The Turning of the Wheel is a metaphor for teaching the way of enlightenment. Images of Dainichi are accordingly represented often with the preaching-hands gesture, called the Dharmacakra Mudra (Sanskrit). This mudra is known as the Hokai Jo-in in Japanese.
Mudra of the Six Elements. In both Japan and Korea, however, Dainichi's hands are more often depicted in the Mudra of the Six Elements, which is also called the "Mudra of the Fist of Wisdom" or the "Wisdom Mudra." This mudra is called Chiken-in in Japan, and it is Dainichi's characteristic hand gesture in Japan (although not always), in which the index finger of the left hand is clasped by the five fingers of the right. This mudra symbolizes the unity of the five worldly elements (earth, water, fire, air, and metal; or earth, water, fire, air, and space) with spiritual consciousness. This is Dainichi's mudra for all the statues sold in this estore. For a review of the most common mudra in Japan, please see the Learn More section below.
Dainichi in Japanese Mandala (Mandara)
Dainichi is the central figure in mandalas of the Shingon Sect of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. In mandala scrolls and paintings, Dainichi is typically surrounded by four other Buddha, each representing one of the directions of the compass. The five, with Dainichi Nyorai at the center, are known as the Five Tathagatas (Jp. = Godai Nyorai). The most widely known mandala form in Japan is the Ryoukai Mandala (Two World Mandala). Sometimes also written as the Ryougai Mandala. It is composed of two separate mandala, which together represent the central devotional images of Esoteric Buddhism. The Taizoukai (Womb World Mandala, Sanskrit = Garbhadhatu) is based on the Dainichikyou Sutra (Jp), while the Kongoukai (Diamond World Mandala, Sanskrit = Vajradhatu) is based on the Kongouchoukyou Sutra (Jp). Even today, in Japanese Shingon temples, two large mandalas are typically mounted on both sides of the main image platform. The mandala on the east side is the Kongoukai Mandala, and the mandala on the west side is the Taizoukai Mandala. The Kongoukai mandala represents the cosmic or transcendental Buddha (aka Dainichi Nyorai), while the Taizoukai mandala represents the world of physical phenomenon.
Images of Dainichi in Japan are also often surrounded by the Myou-ou (Myo-o), warlike protectors who represent the Dainichi's wrath against evil and serve as messengers of the various Buddha. This store offers two different Myo-o statues, that of Fudo, who is the most widely known and venerated in Japan among the Myo-o group, and Aizen Myo-o, who represent passion and love. Finally, in Japan's Esoteric Buddhist traditions, Dainichi is the most important of all the myriad Buddha. In fact, Dainichi is said to be everywhere and everything, like the air we breathe, with all other Buddha and divine beings considered as emanations of Dainichi.
Says the Encyclopedia of Religion, Charles Orzech [ About Dainichi Buddha ]
The Buddha who is the central teacher and object of veneration in Vajrayana Buddhism. The "Great Sun Buddha" is the transcendent and cosmocratic apotheosis of the Historical Buddha Sakyamuni. Under the earlier designation Vairocana ('the luminous one"), he represents Buddhism's most profound speculation on the emptiness and interpenetration of all elements in the universe (dharmadhatu). As Mahavairocana he is concretely envisaged as the all-encompassing lord of the cosmos and is the object of worship for a form of Tantric Buddhism that spread from India to Sumatra, China, Japan, and Tibet. < end quote from Charles Orzech >
Japanese Mantra for Dainichi (Kongoukai Mandala)
Japanese Mantra for Dainichi (Taizoukai Mandala)
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