Mahavairocana sutra

THe mahavairochana sutra is a complex and reach text that places the Dharmakaya Buddha. Mahavairochana as the center of the universe. The personification of voidnes, emptiness or space in Mahavairochana and the cosmology seeing the world as part or the Great Mahavairochana seem to be a viewpoint similar to non self and impermanence. But I got lost in the ritualistic actions and the large number of mantras, mandalas and mudras. I have a couple of comentaries on this scripture but would love to explore more and understand better. THANKS for all input.
Kind regards

Gregory Hamilton Schmidt's picture

Two World Mandala

It may be helpful to take a look at the Two World Mandala of Shingon to get a more complete picture of the cosmology here.

A brief excerpt from my term paper on this topic may be a good introduction.

The Two World Mandala is a conjunction of two maṇḍala: the Kongōkai (Mandala of the Diamond World) and the Taizokai (Mandala of the Womb World). These two were likely joined “within the circle of Huiguo,” the seventh patriarch of Chinese Esoteric Buddhism. Each maṇḍala is based on one of the two most important sūtras for Shingon. The Kongōkai is based on the Kongōchōkyō (Diamond Crown Sutra) and the Taizokai, the Dainichikyō (Vairocana Sutra), both of which were likely compiled in India in the seventh century. Taken separately the maṇḍala represent the dual aspects of the cosmos, vajradhātu and garbhadhātu, ultimate reality and the world of conditioned existence respectively. Taken together they represent the non-duality of wisdom and compassion, the
inseparability of mind and material reality. For the Japanese monk Kūkai, the disciple of Huiguo who founded Shingon in Japan, the Two World Mandala is the embodiment of “the fundamental doctrines of Esoteric Buddhism.”

I found Yamasaki's Shingon: Japanese Esoteric Buddhism useful for delving into Shingon in general.

The following deal specifically with mandala and Esotericism:
Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography, Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis
Icons and Iconoclasm in Buddhism: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment, Pamela Winfield
Art in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, Takaaki Sawa

Denis Wallez's picture


Funnily enough, the "celestial buddha" may be seen as a major, vast and wide "mental fabrication", as you seem to have experienced… So much so that it has been used in another form of Japanese Buddhism: Dogen's Zen.

The 26th(?) koan of Dogen's compilation of 300 koans is the following:

Zen master Huizhong of Nanyang was asked by Emperor Suzong of the Tang dynasty, "What is the samadhi of no conflict?"
Nanyang said, "You majesty, go trample on Vairocana's head."
Emperor Su said, "I don't understand."
Nanyang said, "Don't regard the self as the pure dharma body."

The koan itself warns against the interpretation of Vairocana as 'personification' (that you mention). The commentary of Dogen makes it clear "ideas about the pure dharma body" participate in blinding us from things as they are.

Maybe "getting [you] lost" is an important part of the sutra: when you're lost, your sense of 'self' might temporarily dissolve, thus giving you an insight into a "who are you?" which is not answered by certainties, habits, prejudices or views.