Vairocana Buddha

From Buddha World

Vairocana (also Vairochana or Mahāvairocana; Sanskrit: वैरोचन, Chinese: Dàrì Rúlái or Piluzhenafo, Korean: Birokana, Japanese: Dainichi Nyorai; Tibetan: rNam-par-snang mdzad; Mongolian: Teyin böged geyigülügci; Vietnamese: Đại Nhật Như Lai) is a Buddha who is the embodiment of Dharmakaya, and which therefore can be seen as the universal aspect of the historical Gautama Buddha. In Sino-Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana is also seen as the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of shunyata or Emptiness. In the conception of the Five Wisdom Buddhas of Vajrayana Buddhism, Vairocana is at the center. His consort is White Tara (for every dhyani Buddha there is an affiliated dakini.) The Vairocana statue in Nara's Tōdai-ji in Japan is the largest bronze image of Vairocana Buddha in the world. The larger of the monumental statues that were destroyed at Bamyan in Afghanistan was also a depiction of Vairocana. In Java, Indonesia, the ninth century Mendut temple near Borobudur in Magelang was dedicated to Dhyani Buddha Vairocana. Built by Sailendra dynasty the temple featured 3 metres tall seated stone statue of Dhyani Buddha Vairocana performing Dharmachakra mudra hand gesture. The statue flanked with statue of Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara and Boddhisatva Vajrapani. Vairocana Buddha is first introduced in the Brahma Net 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. ” He is also mentioned in the Flower Garland Sutra, however the doctrine of Vairocana Buddha is based largely on the teachings of the Mahavairocana Sutra (also known as the Mahāvairocana-abhisaṃbodhi-tantra) and to a lesser degree the Vajrasekhara Sutra (also known as the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha Tantra). Vairocana features prominently in the Chinese school of Hua-Yen Buddhism, and also later schools including Japanese Kegon Buddhism, and Japanese esoteric, or Shingon Buddhism. In the case of Shingon Buddhism, Vairocana is the central figure. In Sino-Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana was gradually superseded as an object of reverence by Amitabha Buddha, due in large part to the increasing popularity of Pure Land Buddhism, but Vairocana's legacy still remains in the Tōdai-ji temple with its massive bronze statue and in Shingon Buddhism, which holds a sizeable minority among Japanese Buddhists. Vairocana is not to be confused with Virocana, who appears in the eighth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad as the king of the Asura.

Doctrine

In the Rigveda of Hinduism, the word ‘vairocana' has the connotation of a brilliant and luminous sun. Indeed, Vairocana in Tibetan is called ‘Namnang' (rnang.par snang.mdzad), meaning ‘the illuminator', and the Japanese (Dainichi) translates as "Great Sun". In the Buddhist Mahavairocana Sutra, Vairocana teaches the Dharma to Vajrasattva, but it is utterly incomprehensible, so Vairocana provides esoteric techniques and rituals to help conceptualize the Dharma beyond verbal form. It was this sutra that prompted the Japanese monk, Kukai to journey to China to learn more about Tantric Buddhism. Vairocana often displays the Dharmacakra mudrā. Dharmacakra in Sanskrit means the Wheel of Dharma. This mudra symbolizes one of the most important moments in the historical life of the Buddha, the occasion when he preached to his companions the first sermon after his Enlightenment in the Deer Park at Sarnath. It thus denotes the setting into motion of the Wheel of the teaching of the Dharma. Vairocana is an idealization of this central function of the Buddha as a teacher, without which there would have been no Buddhism, and no path to enlightenment. While Amitabha Buddha is seen as a personification of Compassion (balanced by Wisdom), Vairocana is often seen as a personification of Wisdom.

Iconography

Significantly, Vairocana is said to be the sum of all the Dhyani Buddhas and combines all their qualities. He is therefore, pure white, since white is a blend of all colors. Indeed, his lotus seat is supported by a pair of two great lions. The lion is the king of beasts and when he roars all others fall silent. Similar is the roar of Buddha's teachings, in relation to the grandeur of which all other voices of our everyday life become insignificant and fall silent. Not surprisingly, meditating on the image of Vairocana is specifically believed to transform the delusion of ignorance into the wisdom preached by the Dharma. When Gautama Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma, it illuminated (like a sun), the hearts of men and women darkened by ignorance. With regard to Emptiness, the massive size and brilliance of Vairocana statues is intended to serve as a reminder that all existence is empty, and without a permanent identity. Vairocana's distinguishing emblem is the golden or solar wheel.

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