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Daichini Buddha

Represents Center or Zenith
Cosmic Buddha, Great Buddha
All-Encompassing Buddha
Life Force Who Illuminates the Universe
Identified with
Birushana Nyorai
Sanskrit = Vairocana or Mahavairocana
Dainichi's Messengers are the Wrathful

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

Dai Nichi, Heian Era 1176, at Enjyo-ji in Nara, courtesy Handbook on ViewingBuddhist Statues
 Dainichi, Heian Era 1176, at Enjyo-ji in Nara
Photo Courtesy "Handbook on Viewing Buddhist Statues"

Mantra for Dai Nichi, Kongoukai
Mantra for Dainichi (Kongokai Mandala)

Mantra for Dai Nichi, Taizoukai
 Mantra for Dainichi (Taizoukai Mandala)

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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 -- Available for Online PurchaseCloseup - Dainichi Buddha (Nyorai) sitting atop lotus -  available for online purchase !
Dainichi Buddha (Nyorai) Sitting Atop Lotus
Statue Available for Online Purchase

Dainichi Nyorai, 12th Century AD, Chuson-ji Temple
 Dainichi Nyorai, 12th Century AD, Chuson-ji Temple

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Sanskrit Seed Syllables for Dainichi Nyorai

Dai Nichi Nyorai - Sanskrit symbol -- aanku

Dai Nichi Nyorai - Sanskrit symbol -- aaku

Dai Nichi Nyorai - Sanskrit symbol -- ah

Dai Nichi Nyorai - Sanskrit symbol -- baanku

Dai Nichi Nyorai - Sanskrit symbol -- ban

Dai Nichi Nyorai - Sanskrit symbol -- ban

 Japanese Pronunciation
 Most common Sanskrit Seed Syllable for Dainichi

DAINICHI - Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese Spellings

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? 

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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 Mudra of Dainichi Buddha (Nyorai)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.

  1. Earth
  2. Water
  3. Fire
  4. Air (or Wind)
  5. Space
  6. the MIND (spiritual consciousness or perception)

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Dai Nichi Nyorai - The Great Buddha at Todai-ji in NaraDAINICHI NYORAI
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.

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Dainichi Nyorai Stone Statue, in private garden in home in KamakuraDAINICHI - The Cosmic Buddha and Mandalas
Below text courtesy of: www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/ANCJAPAN/GALLERY.HTM

Esoteric Buddhism was founded on the principle that the two aspects of Buddha, both the unchanging cosmic principle and the active, physical manifestation of Buddha in the natural world, were one and the same. The truth of the cosmic order, which is contained in the relationships between the Cosmic Buddha and all his manifestations, cannot be known verbally.

Five Buddha of Wisdom (Gochi Nyorai, Gochi Buddha, Gochi Jina)One method for understanding this truth was to comprehend it visually and symbolically; to this end, Japanese esoteric Buddhists imported the mandala (in Japanese, mandara), or circle, to express symbolically the order of the universe related to the cosmic Buddha. Since the Buddha occupied two separate realms, the mandala form that the esoteric priests imported was the Mandala of the Two Worlds, or Ryokai mandara (Ryo=two, kai=world, mandara=mandala). On the east side of the temple would be placed the Diamond World (Kongokai in Japanese, Vajradhatu in Sanskrit), which represented the world of the transcendental Buddha. It was called the Diamond World because it embodied a static, crystal clear, and adamantine truth of the universe. In the Diamond World, the Cosmic Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai in Japanese), sits in the center of assemblies of Buddhas arranged in a three by three square.

Dainichi Nyorai and Deities from Lotus Holder Court 859AD

Detail from Taizokai (Womb World). The Ryokai Mandara is the oldest color mandala still in existence in Japan. It is believed to have been a copy made in China and brought to Japan in 859 AD by the Tendai priest, Enchin. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

Photo Courtesy of:

The other world, the Womb World (Taizokai in Japanese, Garbhadhatu in Sanskrit), was the world of physical phenomenon. In this mandala, the Dainichi Nyorai sits in the middle in relationship to all his physical manifestations ranged in several courts radiating outward from him. In the detail here, we see nine physical manifestations from the Lotus Holder's Court (which sits on the right side of the Court of Eight Petals, which is the court of the Cosmic Buddha). The physical manifestations of the Lotus Holder's Court represent the purity of all things. In the picture, you can see Buddha in several different aspects. To the bottom right, he is a three-headed, angry creature that represents the Buddha's ability to overcome evil (the three heads symbolize vigilance over evil). Most of the Buddhas, however, represent compassion or mercy. Not only are all the Buddhas surrounded by unique symbols, each one has a unique pairing of hand gestures, called mudras. The mudras are key in Buddhist practice; they recreate hand gestures from the life of Buddha. Not only did Buddha teach in words, he taught symbolically in hand gestures. Like all Buddhist art, a large part of the symbolic meaning is located in these hand gestures. For instance, the middle figure is making the semuiin gesture with his right hand (in Sanskrit, abhayamudra ). This means "fear not." Yes, an esoteric devotee could name each and every hand gesture in the picture you're looking at!

An esoteric devotee would be asked to starre and meditate on each of these Buddhas in turn. He would meditate on their symbolic meaning as it is represented visually and he would meditate on that deity's relationship to the other deities as those relationships are represented visually. When he's fiinished with the Taizokai Mandara, he would move on to the Kongokai Mandara. Once he's meditated and, through visual and symblic understanding, come to comprehend all the Buddhas and their relationships across the two worlds, he will have unified himself with the Cosmic Buddha. Beginning priests would be asked to throw a blossom at each of the two mandalas; the deity that the blossom landed on would be adopted as that person's personal deity for the course of his study.

The Ryokai Mandara is the oldest color mandala still in existence in Japan. It is believed to have been a copy made in China and brought to Japan in 859 by the Tendai priest, Enchin.

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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
Chinese: Palushena.

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.

Dainichi on the Kongokai Mandala, Heain Era, Toji Temple (photo Kyoto National Museum)

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Ichiji Kinrin Butchou (Skt. = Ekaaksarausnisacakra)
Ichiji Kinrin Butchou (Skt. = Ekaaksarausnisacakra)
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 >

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Showa Daibutsu, Large Efficy of Dainichi Buddha
Showa Daibutsu
Photo Courtesy of

Other Photos (outside link)

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.

TEL: 017-726-2312
FAX: 017-726-2124

Lighting Ceremony for the Respose of Dead Souls, Showa Daibutsu, Seiryuu-ji Temple, Aomori
Showa Daibutsu
Photo Courtesy of

Seiryuuji Temple (J-site)

Like many Shingon temples throughout Japan, Seiryuu-ji holds special light ceremonies during the Bon Festival (mid-August) to pray for the response of ancestors, dead children, and the transmigration of their departed souls. Indeed, there are many sites in Aomori Prefecture where grieving parents go to to pray and make offerings to pacify the soul of their lost child and to pacify their own soul as well. Details Here.

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.

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  • Buddhist-Artwork.com. Statues of Dainichi Buddha are available for online purchase at our sister site.

Jump to Buddhist-Artwork.com -- Online Store Selling Quality Hand-Crafted Buddhist Statues



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