Klaus Pinte

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:

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As one of the aspects and later designation of Vairocana (var. Virocana/Verocana), or the Luminous One, Mahāvairocana is a very important figure in the Buddhism of East Asia, Tibet, Nepal, and Java. In the same way that the sun deity Mithra is the personification of ultimate truth in Manichaeism, Mahāvairocana, or the Great Illuminator, is the chief deity of Esoteric Buddhism, and is generally referred to as “Great Sun Tathāgata” (Jpn. Dainichi-nyorai 大日如来). In contrast to the emphasis on the teachings of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni in his physical body (Skt. nirmanakāya), Esoteric Buddhist theosophy places the timeless teachings of the Buddha in his cosmic or dharma body (Skt. dharmakāya, Jpn. hosshin 法身) at the center of its doctrinal universe. This “cosmic Buddha” is called Mahāvairocana and is beyond all conception of worldly duality, but its essence is within all phenomena (Skt. dharmas) as their Buddha-nature or “seed-to-enlightenment” (Skt. bodhicitta). Whereas Vairocana is the ultimate perspective realized through insight, Mahāvairocana is realized concretely in ritual practice. In Esoteric Buddhist soteriology, enlightenment means to realize that one’s own Buddha-nature is identical with Mahāvairocana, and can even be achieved in this lifetime while possessing a human body (Jpn. soku-shin jōbutsu 即身成仏). Thus, all other buddhas and bodhisattvas are various emanations or aspects of Mahāvairocana, who is depicted amidst them in both the Diamond World (Skt. vajradhātu, Jpn. kongōkai 金剛界) and Womb or Matrix World (Skt. garbhadhātu, Jpn. taizōkai 胎藏界) mandalas. In the Tantric systems of East Asia, Vairocana forms the center of the five buddhas (Skt. pañcabuddha, Jpn. gobutsu 五佛), while in Tibetan traditions he has largely been superseded by Akṣobhya. Alternate spellings include Vairocana = Piluchena = Birushana; Mahavairocana = Dari = Danichi.

Article.  5158 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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