Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Vairochana Buddha - Sarvavid with 1000 Buddhas

ཀུན་རིག་རྣམ་པར་སྣང་མཛད། 普明大日如来(佛教本尊)
(item no. 281)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Size 55.88x53.34cm (22x21in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1996.17.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Vairochana, Buddha (Tibetan: nang par nang dze, sang gye): a principal buddha within Vajrayana Buddhism residing in the center or eastern quarter of the mandala, and a minor buddha within the sutra tradition of the Mahayana.

"Arising in the eastern direction is Vairochana on a lion, lotus and moon throne; with a body white in colour the hands are in the mudra of supreme enlightenment." (Trakpa Gyaltsen, 1147-1216).

Peaceful and youthful in appearance, white in colour with one face and two hands he performs the mudra of Dharma teaching at the heart. Adorned with a gold crown, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and the like, he wears a skirt of blue and red. With the legs folded together in vajra posture atop a blue and red lotus above a lion supported throne, a blue nimbus and green areola of light surround him. The six ornament design decorates the backdrop with elephants, lions, horses, small boys, makaras, nagas and a red Garuda at the top.

Within the gold lined enclosure of a swirling blue lapis lazuli ground, alongside the throne stand two bodhisattvas, white on the left and orange on the right, displaying various mudras, objects and wearing jewels and silks; standing on lotus seats. Below those are 4 smaller seated bodhisattva-like figures of various colours, mudras and ornaments.

Completely surrounding that are 200 buddha figures in horizontal rows alternating from the top center and moving outward to the sides are white Vairochana, blue Akshobhya, yellow Ratnasambhava, green Amoghasiddhi and red Amitabha. Each has one face and two hands, perform their own mudras and wear red robes; seated in vajra posture surrounded by circles of red light.

Belonging to a larger set of paintings containing the buddhas of all five families, Vairochana plays a central role in Vajrayana Buddhism as Lord of the 1st of the Five Buddha Families of the higher tantras and found throughout all 4 tantra classifications most notably the yoga and anuttarayoga classes.

Jeff Watt 9-99

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