Vairocana

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Statue of Vairocana Buddha, South Korea

Vairocana (T. rnam par snang mdzad, རྣམ་པར་སྣང་མཛད་; C. dari rolai/piluzhena 大日如來/毘盧遮那), or Buddha Vairocana, is one of the five tathāgatas (typically identified as the central deity of these five). Vairocana is equated with the primordial buddha (ādibuddha) and the dharmakaya. He is also one of the major buddhas of East Asian Buddhism.[1]

Thrangu Rinpoche describes Vairocana within the context of the five tathāgatas as follows:

Vairocana is known in Tibetan as Sangay Namparnanzad, that in English means “perfect knowledge of all things as they manifest.” Buddha Vairocana is realized when the conflicting emotion of ignorance is removed. When one cannot see things as they really are, one has the conflicting emotion of ignorance. As a result, we judge things from a mistaken point of view.
The example for this that is given is to say there is a rope lying on the floor in a dark room. Because of ignorance we mistake the rope for a snake and become alarmed and feel tremendous fear. The solution to this fear is to simply see the rope as really a rope and not a snake. This example shows how mind functions in a state of ignorance. The distress and fear is simply the result of misperceiving the situation and simply knowing the rope isn’t a snake eliminates all the fear and distress created.
Buddha Vairocana holds the wheel of dharma in his hands, which symbolizes absence of ignorance and complete and clear knowledge of all things as they are and as they manifest — dharmata. He is realized when ignorance is removed, the quality of Buddha Vairocana. This wheel symbolizes the Buddha’s teachings, which show us what to abandon and what to take up in our gradual advancement to enlightenment. We learn how to give up and abandon negative emotions and how to develop wisdom. Thus the dharma wheel brings us from ignorance to wisdom. In comparison, it was the wheels of a chariot in Buddha’s time that brought you to your destination. The wheel of dharma similarly carries you from the darkness of ignorance to the clarity of knowing each thing as it is.
Both hands of Vairocana Buddha are placed in the mudra called “enlightenment” or sometimes “the mudra of turning the wheel of dharma.” Since the only means to remove ignorance and defilements is by learning the dharma, Buddha Vairocana discloses the dharma to all living beings.
He is white which represents “without fault” and he rests in the center to the mandala and is on a lion’s throne.[2]

Notes

  1. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Vairocana.
  2. Thrangu Rinpoche 1998, pp. 8-9.

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