Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Vairochana Buddha Main Page

Vairochana Buddha Main Page | Buddha Main Page

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Subjects & Topics:
- Vairochana Buddha Definition (below)
- Painting Masterworks
- Sculpture Masterworks
- Buddha Main Page
- Buddhas, Who Are They? Outline Page
- Buddhas: Tantric Outline Page
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Forms & Types:
- Vairochana (without ornaments, Nirmanakaya)
- Vairochana (with ornaments, Sambhogakaya)
- Sarvavid Mahavairochana (figure & mandala)
- Vairochana (with the Five Tantric/symbolic Buddhas)
- Vairochana & Vajra Mudra
- Vairochana (with consort)
- Vairochana in Akanishta Pureland
- Others...

Principal Tantra Sources (Charya & Yoga):
- Vairochana (Abhisambodhi Vairochana Tantra) [Charya Tantra]
- Vairochana (Tattvasamgraha Tantra) [Yoga Tantra]
- Vairochana (Vajrashekhara Tantra) [Yoga Tantra]
- Vairochana (Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantra) [Yoga Tantra]

Five Buddhas: Charya & Yoga Tantras:
1. Vairochana | 2. Amitabha | 3. Akshobhya | 4. Ratnasambhava | 5. Amoghasiddhi

Vairochana Buddha can best be understood in three different ways: as the [1] principal character in a number of Buddhist sutras, [2] a meditational deity used in ritual practices, and [3] a familiar image depicted in early painting and sculpture. Vairochana is also one of the pre-eminent Buddhas in Tantric Buddhism along with Akshobhya and Amitabha. In some Sutra and Tantra explanations Vairochana is seen as a universal form of Shakyamuni Buddha and therefore especially important in the early development and history of Tantric Buddhism.

There are two main types of Vairochana:
- Buddha Appearance Vairochana
- Peaceful Appearance Vairochana

Vairochana Buddha as a central image for paintings is primarily drawn from the Charya and Yoga Tantras of the Vairochana Abhisambodhi, Tattvasamgraha, and Sarvadurgati Parishodhana Tantras. In the Vairochana Abhisambodhi he appears with one face and two hands: "...Bhagavan Great Vairochana, seated above a white lotus and moon, hair piled on the top of the head, with a crown, upper and lower garments, golden in colour. The two hands perform the gesture of meditation, adorned with all the complete marks on the body." (rgyud sde kun btus, volume 3, page 6).

In the Tattvasamgraha Tantra there are two forms described. The first has four faces and two hands and the second has four faces and eight hands. "... in the middle of a lion throne , above a lotus and moon is Bhagavan Vairochana, with a body white in colour, seated in vajra posture. The two hands are in the gesture of supreme enlightenment - holding a five pointed vajra of the tatagatas, with a backrest [torana] of the rays of the sun, wearing upper and lower heavenly garments, and a jewelled crown. Having four faces, the front looks to the East." (rgyud sde kun btus, volume 4, page 69).

Both the Vajradhatu form of Vairochana and the Vajrashekhara form have four faces, white in colour, and the two hands perform the supreme enlightenment gesture at the heart. It is therefore quite easy to confuse these two forms of the deity. They need to be differentiated by context and mandala configuration.

Jeff Watt 10-2008 [updated 5-2017]