Buddhism, Its Elemental my dear Watson….Part IV, Maha Vairocana

Buddhism, Its Elemental my dear Watson….Part IV, Maha Vairocana


The historical Buddha was a man, the Prince Siddhartha, Shakyamuni, Gautama.  The Buddha Maha Vairocana (Dainichi in Japanese) represents both the historical Buddha’s Enlightenment and the universe that it contains.  The Great Six Elements represents not only us but all phenomena in the whole universe.  It represents how through interdependence (Dependent Origination) all phenomena through conditions, come into being, exist, and dissipate (or return to their source).


This is where the symbolism gets a bit deep but at the same time starts all coming together. The Buddha Maha Vairocana is the six elements and the six elements are the Buddha MahaVairocana.  They are just different representations of the same thing.  He is the unity of all of them.  They all exist on their own but at the same time all contain him.  He is the force behind the universe and all existence.  He is the force that both produces inanimate matter and the life force that animates living things.


In Shingon Buddhism the Buddha Maha Vairocana is represented in many forms.  He is represented by the Five Element Pagoda (Go Rin Tou).




The five level stupa (pagoda) is actually a six level stupa.  The sixth element is Consciousness which is invisible and also contained within the five other elements so it is not represented by a shape.  Each element is represented by a Sanskrit letter with the first element Earth being represented by the Sanskrit letter A.


Maha Vairocana is also represented by the Sanskrit letter “A” (pronounce AH).  Sanskrit is the holy language of India.  It is similar to Latin in that it was the primary language used to convey religious thought.  The letter A is the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.  Since it is the first letter and therefore the first sound (syllable)of this language it is thought to be the root or beginning of the language.  It is also the the first syllable  of the Sanskrit words Adi (origin), Anutpada (unborn), which combine to form the word Adyanutpada meaning “Originally Unborn”.  So it is a representation of the “Originally Unborn”, “The Buddha Mind” or “The Buddha Nature”.



Sanskrit  letter A


This means that the A-syllable is the first life-root. Since it gives life to all syllables, it is called life. If there were no A-syllable, no other syllables could be born.  Therefore it is the first life. This phrase well embraces these meanings. By contemplating this syllable, one encompasses all things, Internal and external.

Commentary on the Dainichi-kyo (Maha Vairocanna Sutra)


The Buddha Maha Vairocana is usually depicted with his hands in forming the mudra Chiken-in (Vajra Mudra).  His left hand has the index finger extended.  The right hand has the four fingers and the thumb wrapped around the index finger on the left hand with the thumb on the top.  The four fingers and the thumb,of the right hand,  represent the five elements earth, water, fire, air, and space.  The index finger on the left hand represents the sixth element consciousness that exists as it’s own element but also penetrates the five other elements.  This mudra also represents sentient beings with the left hand and the Buddhas with the right.  Lastly it represents the sexual imagery with the left being the male and the right being the female.  When together in this way it shows the truth behind the non-duality of all phenomena.


The six elements produce in forms according to their kind dharmas and dharma marks,

Buddhas, sravakas, world saving pratyekabuddhas,

Hosts of valiant Bodhisattvas, and likewise the world honored among men;

Sentient beings and the physical world are established in succession,

And dharmas that are born, abide, and so on are perpetually produced in this manner.

The Maha Vairocana Sutra


To be continued….

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