Vairocana (also Mahāvairocana, Sanskrit: वैरोचन) is a celestial buddha who is often interpreted, in texts like the Avatamsaka Sutra, as the dharmakāya[1][2][3] of the historical Gautama Buddha. In East Asian Buddhism (Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhism), Vairocana is also seen as the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of Śūnyatā. In the conception of the 5 Jinas of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Vairocana is at the centre and is considered a Primordial Buddha.

The Spring Temple Buddha, a colossal statue of Vairocana, in Lushan County, Henan, China. It has a total height of 153 meters (502 ft), including the 25 meter (82 ft) lotus throne which the statue stands on
(Pinyin: Dàrì Rúlái)
(Pinyin: Pílúzhēnà Fó)
(romaji: Dainichi Nyorai)
(romaji: Birushana Butsu)
大日如来(RR: Daeil Yeorae)
毘盧遮那仏(RR: Birojana Bul)

Машид гийгүүлэн зохиогч
Masida geyigülün zohiyaghci
ᠪᠢᠷᠦᠵᠠᠨ᠎ ᠠ᠂

Бярузана, Машид Гийгүүлэн Зохиогч, Гэгээн Гэрэлт
Biruzana, Masida Geyigülün Zohiyaghci, Gegegen Gereltü
(RTGS: Phra wị ro ca na phuth ṭha)
Wylie: rnam par snang mdzad
THL: Nampar Nangdze
VietnameseĐại Nhật Như Lai
Tỳ Lư Xá Na
Tỳ Lô Giá Na Phật
Venerated byMahayana, Vajrayana
 Religion portal

Vairocana is not to be confused with Vairocana Mahabali, son of Virochana.

History of devotion

Vairocana Buddha is first introduced in the Brahmajala Sutra:

Now, I, Vairocana Buddha am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.[4]

Vairocana is also mentioned in the Avatamsaka Sutra; however, the doctrine of Vairocana is based largely on the teachings of the Mahavairocana Tantra (also known as the Mahāvairocana-abhisaṃbodhi-tantra) and to a lesser degree the Vajrasekhara Sutra (also known as the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha Tantra).

Vairocana is also mentioned as an epithet of Gautama Buddha in the Samantabhadra Meditation Sutra, who dwells in a place called "Always Tranquil Light".[5]

Vairocana is the Primordial Buddha in the Chinese schools of Tiantai, Huayan and Tangmi, also appearing in later schools including the Japanese Kegon, Shingon and esoteric lineages of Tendai. In the case of Huayan and Shingon, Vairocana is the central figure.

In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana was gradually superseded as an object of reverence by Amitābha, due in large part to the increasing popularity of Pure Land Buddhism, but veneration of Vairocana still remains popular among adherents.

During the initial stages of his mission in Japan, the Catholic missionary Francis Xavier was welcomed by the Shingon monks since he used Dainichi, the Japanese name for Vairocana, to designate the Christian God. As Xavier learned more about the religious nuances of the word, he substituted the term Deusu, which he derived from the Latin and Portuguese Deus.[6] [7]

The Shingon monk Dohan regarded the two great Buddhas, Amitābha and Vairocana, as one and the same Dharmakāya Buddha and as the true nature at the core of all beings and phenomena. There are several realizations that can accrue to the Shingon practitioner of which Dohan speaks in this connection, as James Sanford points out:

[T]here is the realization that Amida is the Dharmakaya Buddha, Vairocana; then there is the realization that Amida as Vairocana is eternally manifest within this universe of time and space; and finally there is the innermost realization that Amida is the true nature, material and spiritual, of all beings, that he is 'the omnivalent wisdom-body, that he is the unborn, unmanifest, unchanging reality that rests quietly at the core of all phenomena".[8]

Helen Hardacre, writing on the Mahavairocana Tantra, comments that Mahavairocana's virtues are deemed to be immanently universal within all beings: "The principle doctrine of the Dainichikyo is that all the virtues of Dainichi (Mahāvairocana) are inherent in us and in all sentient beings."[9]

In the Śūraṅgama mantra (Chinese: 楞嚴咒; pinyin: Léngyán Zhòu) taught in the Śūraṅgama sutra (Chinese: 楞嚴經; pinyin: Léngyán Jīng), an especially influential dharani in the Chinese Chan tradition, Vairocana is mentioned to be the host of the Buddha Division in the centre, one of the five major divisions which controls the vast demon armies of the five directions.[10]


With regard to śūnyatā, the massive size and brilliance of Vairocana statues serve as a reminder that all conditioned existence is empty and without a permanent identity, whereas the Dharmakāya is beyond concepts.

The Spring Temple Buddha of Lushan County, Henan, China, with a height of 126 meters, is the second tallest statue in the world (see list of tallest statues).

The Daibutsu in the Tōdai-ji in Nara, Japan is the largest bronze image of Vairocana in the world.

The larger of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan that were destroyed was also a depiction of Vairocana.

In Java, Indonesia, the ninth-century Mendut temple near Borobudur in Magelang was dedicated to the Dhyani Buddha Vairocana. Built by the Shailendra dynasty, the temple featured a three-meter tall stone statue of Vairocana, seated and performing the dharmachakra mudrā. The statue is flanked with statues of the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Vajrapani.

See also

  • Mantra of Light


  1. 佛光大辭典增訂版隨身碟,中英佛學辭典 - "三身" (Fo Guang Great Dictionary Updated USB Version, Chinese-English Dictionary of Buddhist Studies - "Trikāya" entry)
  2. "Birushana Buddha. SOTOZEN-NET Glossary". Retrieved 2015-09-12.
  3. Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 949–950. ISBN 9780691157863.
  4. "YMBA's translation of Brahma Net Sutra". Archived from the original on March 5, 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
  5. Reeves 2008, pp. 416, 452
  6. Francis Xavier and the Land of the Rising Sun: Dainichi and Deus, Matthew Ropp, 1997.
  7. Elisonas, Jurgis (1991). "7 - Christianity and the daimyo". In Hall, John Whitney; McClain, James L. (eds.). The Cambridge History of Japan. 4. Cambridge Eng. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 307. ISBN 9780521223553.
  8. James H. Sanford, 'Breath of Life: The Esoteric Nembutsu' in Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, ed. by Richard K. Payne, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006, p. 176
  9. Helen Hardacre, 'The Cave and the Womb World', in Tantric Buddhism in East Asia (Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006), p. 215
  10. The Śūraṅgama sūtra : a new translation. Hsüan Hua, Buddhist Text Translation Society. Ukiah, Calif.: Buddhist Text Translation Society. 2009. ISBN 978-0-88139-962-2. OCLC 300721049.CS1 maint: others (link)


  • Birmingham, Vessantara (2003). Meeting The Buddhas, Windhorse Publications, ISBN 0-904766-53-5.
  • Cook, Francis H. (1977). Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra, Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Cook, Francis H. (1972). 'The meaning of Vairocana in Hua-Yen Buddhism, Philosophy East and West 22 (4), 403-415
  • Park, Kwangsoo (2003). A Comparative Study of the Concept of Dharmakaya Buddha: Vairocana in Hua-yen and Mahavairocana in Shingon Buddhism, International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture 2, 305-331
  • Reeves, Gene (2008). The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. Somerville: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-571-3.
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