DAINICHI NYORAI (BUDDHA)
Represents Center or Zenith
Cosmic Buddha, Great Buddha
Life Force Who Illuminates the Universe
Identified with Birushana Nyorai
Sanskrit = Vairocana or Mahavairocana
Dainichi's Messengers are the Wrathful Myo-o
Origin = India
Important to Shingon & Tendai Sects of Esoteric Buddhism.
Central Deity among the Five Tathagata (Gochi Nyorai).
These five appear most frequently in Japanese Mandala.
Last Update: Sept. 13, 2006
Added Showa Daibutsu and Ichijikinrin
Dainichi, Heian Era 1176, at Enjyo-ji in Nara
Photo Courtesy "Handbook on Viewing Buddhist Statues"
Mantra for Dainichi (Kongokai Mandala)
Mantra for Dainichi (Taizoukai Mandala)
OVERVIEW. 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 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. 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. Indeed, 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.
Dainichi's Messengers. 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.
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. = Gochi 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.
Dainichi's Mudra (Hand Gesture). Dainichi's characteristic hand gesture in Japan (although not always) is the Mudra of Six Elements -- also called the Knowledge Fist Mudra; Jp. = Chiken-in 智拳印. In this mudra, 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/wind, and space/void -- with spiritual consciousness. For a review of the most common mudra in Japan, please visit the Mudra page. For more on the Six Element Mudra, see below.
Dainichi Buddha (Nyorai) Sitting Atop Lotus
Statue Available for Online Purchase
Dainichi Nyorai, 12th Century AD, Chuson-ji Temple
Most common Sanskrit Seed Syllable for Dainichi
DAINICHI - Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese Spellings
DAINICHI - English Translations and Reference Notes
- Cosmic Buddha, Buddha of Cosmic Life
- All-Encompassing Buddha, 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); 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; also see Fudo page
Guardian of People Born in the
Zodiac Year of the Sheep and the Monkey
Who is Your Buddhist/Zodiac Patron Deity?
DAINICHI ARTWORK IN JAPAN
Appears as central figure in Japanese Mandala
Unlike most statues of the various Buddha (Nyorai) 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 Dainichi is frequently portrayed (see Mandala Page). The mandala art form is especially important to Japan's Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism, and Dainichi is their central object of worship.
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; Jp. = Hokai Jo-in). See Mudra Page for more details. 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," the "Wisdom Mudra," or the "Knowledge Fist Mudra." It is known as Chiken-in 智拳印 (ちけんいん) in Japan.
SIX ELEMENTS 六界
Jp. = Rokukai ろくかい
In Esoteric Buddhism, the five elements (Jp. = Goshiki 五行) are combined with one additional element, the MIND, for a total of six. Statues or paintings of Dainichi Buddha, the central deity of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan, often portray Dainichi with a characteristic hand gesture called the Mudra of Six Elements (Chiken-in 智拳印), 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 space) with a six element, spiritual consciousness. Others equate the left hand with the male organ and the right hand with the female organ, and maintain that it represents, by means of sexual symbolism, the central deity of the mandala from which all the other deities emanate. According to another interpretation, the left hand represents sentient beings and the right hand the Buddha, and thus symbolizes the two-way response of the Buddha and sentient beings.
In the Mandala artform, which is of special importance to Japan's Esoteric sects (Shingon, Tendai), the five elements are considered inanimate (this equates to the Garbhadhatu or Womb World Mandala). Only by adding the sixth element -- mind, perception, or spiritual consciousness -- do the five become animate. This equates with the Vajradhatu or Diamond World Mandala. Phrased differently, there is "unity" only when the sixth element is added. Without the sixth element, ordinary eyes see only the differentiated forms or appearances.
- Air (or Wind)
- the MIND (spiritual consciousness or perception)
An exception to the rule
Images of the Nyorai are rarely shown wearing jewellery or ornaments, but this is not always the case. Dainichi Nyorai, in fact, is one of the exceptions to the rule. Not only does the mudra of six elements help to identify Dai Nichi, but also images of Dai Nichi often show the deity wearing a crown and jewels.
One of the most famous examples of Dainichi can be found at Todai-ji in Nara (see photo at right). This is the world-famous Daibutsu of Nara, supposedly the largest bronze statue in the world. But it is actually Birushana Nyorai, not Dainichi Nyorai -- the two are manifestations of the same deity, and different sects give the deity different names. It is likely that Dainichi was "derived" from Birushana. Click here for more on Birushana, more photos, and a history of the Big Buddha of Nara.
DAINICHI: ONE OF THE FIVE GREAT BUDDHA OF WISDOM
courtesy buddha-gallery.net/pantheon.htm#jinas (no longer online)
The Buddha of the Zenith: Vairocana or Mahavairocana.
Japanese: Dainichi Nyorai, Rushana Butsu, Birushana Butsu
He whose name means "Spreader of Light in All Directions." In Japan he is the "Great Solar Buddha of Light and Truth," "The Resplendent One," the "Radiant Preacher." Dainichi corresponds to the Historical Buddha's first turning of the Wheel of the Law in Deer Park at Sarnath, his first sermon to his disciples after his enlightenment. The Turning of the Wheel is a metaphor for teaching the way of enlightenment. Dainichi is accordingly represented in the preaching gesture, the Dharmacakra mudra (Japanese: Hokai Jo-in). In Japan and Korea, however, Dainichi can also be seen in the "mudra of the six elements," or "mudra of the fist of wisdom." This mudra is called "Chiken-in" in Japan. Please see Mudra page for details. Outside of Japan, Dainichi is sometimes shown holding a medicine jar in the left hand while the right hand forms the Abhaya or Varada mudra.
Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana or Mahavairocana)
Represents the Tathagata (Buddha) family among the Five Budda Families. These five families are especially important to the Shingon Sect of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, and they appear frequently in the Japanese Ryokai mandara. Dainichi Nyorai converts ignorance and bewilderment into the wisdom of primordial awareness, or the wisdom of universal lawfulness. Dainichi is known as the primordial or cosmic Buddha, and represents the center or zenith and the color white. Dainichi also represents body, earth, and eye consciousness. For a review of the Five Great Buddha and the families they represent, please click here.
Ichiji Kinrin Butchou (Skt. = Ekaaksarausnisacakra)
AKA DAINICHI BUDDHA
Courtesy Tokyo National Museum
Formerly owned by the Hara Family.113.9 x 86.0
Kamakura Period, 13th century
The Mudra of Six Elements (Chiken-in 智拳印) is most commonly seen in images of Dainichi in the Diamond World Mandala (Kongoukai Mandara 金剛界曼荼羅), but is also found on other deities affiliated with Esoteric Buddhism, such as Ichijikinrin Butchou 一字金輪仏頂 (e.g., Chuusonji 中尊寺 in Hiraizumi 平泉, Iwate prefecture), Sonshou Butchou 尊勝仏頂 (e.g., central deity of the East Stupa on Mt. Kouya 高野), and Daishou Kongou 大勝金剛. < This last paragraph courtesy of JAANUS >
Showa Daibutsu (Aomori)
Dainichi Buddha Daibutsu
Bronze, H = 21.35 Meters
Weight = 220 tons
Built in 1984 (Showa 59), the Showa Daibutsu is a giant effigy of Dainichi Nyorai, the central deity of worship among Japan's Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism. Located at Seiryuu-ji Temple (Blue-Green Dragon Temple) in Aomori City, the statue is taller than the Nara Daibutsu and Kamakura Daibutsu. The temple itself is new, with construction launched in 1982.
One of the most popular lighting ceremonies is the "Festival of Ten Thousand Lights" held during the Bon holidays. Details Here. The Seiryuu-ji Temple follows this tradition by holding Buddhist services for the dead and lighting ceremonies during the Bon period.
- Buddhist-Artwork.com. Statues of Dainichi Buddha are available for online purchase at our sister site.
- Click here for more photos of Dainichi (Birushana Nyorai)
- Japanese Mandara (Mandala). Dainichi is the central figure in mandala of the Shingon and Tendai sects of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Dainichi Nyorai is typically surrounded by four other Nyorai, each representing one of the directions of the compass. The five, with Dainichi Nyorai at the center, are known as the Godai Nyorai (Five Tathagatas)
- www.shingon.org (Official Shingon Homepage)