image of Vairocana
name of Vairocana in Siddaṃ
vai ro ca na

Vairocana is the white Buddha at the centre of the Mandala. He features in Carya and Yoga class tantras. In the Shingon school he is considered to be a personification of the Dharmakāya and is usually refered to as Mahāvairocana (Dainichi Nyorai, 大日如来) - a name which comes from the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Tantra. Tantric discourses are traditionally said to be have been taught by Mahāvairocana rather than the historical Buddha Śakyamuni.

The image shown is a kind of generic Vairocana depicted in bhikṣu's robes with his hands in the Dharmacakra, or Wheel turning mudra - which alludes to his teaching of the Dharma which is poetically referred to as "turning the wheel of the Dharma".

Shingon recognises two main forms of Mahāvairocana: in the Garbhadhatu mandala he is golden in colour, has one face and displays the dhyana mudra with a golden dharmacakra sitting in his hands; in the Vajradhatu mandala he is white in colour, has four faces and displays the Bodhyagrī mudra (Japanese: Chiken-in).

mandala of the jinas

position in mandala center
Colour white
Family Tathāgata or Buddha
Mudra wheel-turning
Wisdom wisdom of the Dharmadhatu
Emblem Dharmacakra
Consort/prajñā Ākāśadhātvīśvarī

Other Jinas: Akṣobhya | Ratnasmabhava | Amitabha | Amoghasiddhi

Related figures: Acala - Fudō | Mañjuśri / Mañjughoṣa | White Tārā | Kūkai

Seed Syllables

The seed syllable of vairocana is the letter a.

In the Shingon school a distinction is made between Mahāvairocana in the Garbhadhātu mandala and the Vajradhātu mandala, associated with the Mahāvairocana Sūtra and the Vajraśekhara Sūtra respectively. The seed syllable of the former is the simple short a, though sometimes it is elaborated as āṃḥ - the most elaborate form a can take. In the Vajradhatu mandala the seed syllable is vaṃ, also sometimes elabotared as vāṃḥ.

Garbhadhātu Mandala

The 'a' seed syllable in Siddham script
a in Siddhaṃ script.
Seed Syllable 'a' in the Tibetan Uchen script
a in Tibetan Uchen script.
The 'a' seed syllable in Siddham script
āṃḥ in Siddhaṃ

Vajradhātu Mandala

The 'vam' seed syllable in Siddham script
vaṃ Siddhaṃ script.
The 'vamh' seed syllable in Siddham script
vāṃḥ Siddhaṃ script.

Mantra

Vairocana sits at the centre of the Mandala of the Five Jinas. He plays a very important role in Shingon Buddhism where he is known as Mahāhavairocana. There are a number of mantras associated with Vairocana.

Basic Mantra

Siddhaṃ

the Short Vairocana mantra in the Siddham script

Tibetan - Uchen

Vairocana mantra in the Tibetan Uchen script

Transliteration

oṃ vai ro ca na hūṃ

oṃ vairocana hūṃ

Other Mantras

'Avira' Mantra

In Shingon there is another important mantra which links Mahāvairocana to the six elements - the five letters here representing the material elements, and Mahāvairocana himself represents the element of consciousness. The idea is that the whole of the universe is a manifestation of Mahāvairocana - all forms of the body of Mahāvairocana; all sounds are the voice of Mahāvairocana; and all mental activity are the mind of Mahāvairocana.

The five syllable mantra a vi ra hum kha which associated with Mahavairocana in Shingon Buddhism

Transliteration

a vi ra hūṃ kha

mantra of light

The Mantra of Light

A late Shingon mantra associated with Vairocana is known as the Mantra of Light or in Japanese as kōmyō shingon, or 光明真言. It features in the Amoghapāśakalparāja-sūtra and is often written in a circle. Below is calligraphy by Jayarava. On the right is calligraphy by Kūkai using the Chinese brush style.* Kūkai heads the mantra with vaṃ, the seed syallble of Vairocana in the Vajradhatu Mandala.

mantra of light part 1 - om amogha vairocana

Transliteration

oṃ a mo gha vai ro
ca na ma hā mu dra
ma ṇi pa dma jvā la
pra va rtta ya hūṃ .

oṃ amogha vairocana mahāmudra maṇipadma jvāla pravarttaya hūṃ

Kukai's version reads:

vaṃ - oṃ amogha vairocana mahāputra maṇipadma jvāla pravarttaya hūṃ

I'm unsure about the reason for the subsitution of putra for mudra.

Notes

The Mantra has been translated as

Literally the words, which all appear to be undeclined, translate as:
oṃ unfailling illuminating great-seal jeweled-lotus blazing evolve(?) hūṃ

pravarttaya is unclear (turn around? creating? evolve?) and I'm not sure of the root. The dictionary has several possibilities. Pravartya = to be excited to activity. Pravṛtta = round, rotund; circulated; issued from, resulted, arisen; come back, returned; acting proceeding, etc. Mark Unno seems to derive it from parivarta (revolving, revolution) but this seems less likely to me. Shingon Buddhist International has "evolve" and given they represent the tradition I have adopted their translation.

* The image of Kūkai's calligraphy is originally from a collection reproduced in five large concertina fascicles by the Japanese monk Sō-gen in 1837 under the title of Ashara-jō. Sō-gen traced fine examples of Siddhaṃ calligraphy and then inked in the middle, thereby creating reasonably accurate facsimilies. The Ashara-jō was republished as Sanskrit bījas and mantras in Japan edited by Raghu Vira and Lokesh Chandra (New Delhi : International Academy of Indian Culture, 1965). It is reproduced in R.H. Van Gulik. Siddham : An Essay on the History of Sanskrit Studies in China and Japan (New Delhi, Jayyed Press, 1981), p.183.