Vairochana is a prominent figure in Buddhism, particularly in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions. As one of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, Vairochana represents the cosmic element of space and is associated with wisdom, enlightenment, and the removal of ignorance. In this article, we will delve into the significance and symbolism of Vairochana, exploring various aspects of this revered figure.

The Meaning of Vairochana

The word “Vairochana” is derived from the Sanskrit language and can be translated as “the greatly illuminating one” or “the one who shines everywhere.” This name reflects Vairochana’s role as the primordial Buddha, representing the essence of enlightenment and the all-pervading nature of wisdom.

Vairochana in Buddhist Philosophy

In Buddhist philosophy, Vairochana is considered the embodiment of the Dharmakaya, the ultimate reality and true nature of every living being. The Dharmakaya is an abstract concept representing the unconditioned state of enlightenment, free from all conceptual limitations. Vairochana’s association with the Dharmakaya signifies his transcendence beyond individual form and his connection to the universal truth.

Iconography and Depiction of Vairochana

Vairochana is often depicted as a serene and majestic figure, commonly portrayed in a seated posture on a lotus throne. His body is typically painted white, symbolizing purity and the transcendence of defilements. The white color also represents the cosmic element of space, which is associated with Vairochana’s essence.

The mudra (hand gesture) of Vairochana is the Dharmachakra mudra, commonly known as the “turning the wheel of Dharma” gesture. This mudra symbolizes the Buddha’s teaching and the transmission of divine wisdom to humanity. Vairochana’s hands are shown forming a circle, representing the eternal and unbroken nature of the teachings.

Symbolism and Attributes of Vairochana

Vairochana is often depicted with various symbolic attributes that represent his teachings and qualities. Some of these symbols include:

  1. Dharmachakra: The wheel of Dharma represents Vairochana’s role as the teacher of the Dharma, guiding sentient beings towards enlightenment.
  2. Bodhi tree: The bodhi tree symbolizes the site where the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, attained enlightenment. Vairochana’s connection to this tree signifies his role in inspiring others to reach awakening.
  3. Vajra: The vajra, a thunderbolt-like weapon, symbolizes indestructibility and spiritual power. Vairochana’s association with the vajra represents his ability to overcome obstacles and ignorance on the path to enlightenment.
  4. Lotus: The lotus flower represents purity, beauty, and spiritual growth. Vairochana is often depicted seated on a lotus throne, signifying his transcendence and connection to the spiritual realm.

Vairochana in Buddhist Practice

Vairochana holds immense significance in Buddhist practice, particularly in the Vajrayana tradition. Devotees often engage in various practices and rituals to connect with Vairochana’s wisdom and attain spiritual realization. These practices can include meditation, visualization, mantra recitation, and offerings.

By cultivating a deep understanding of Vairochana’s teachings and embodying his qualities, practitioners seek to remove ignorance, develop wisdom, and ultimately achieve enlightenment. Vairochana serves as a guiding force, inspiring individuals on their spiritual journey.


Vairochana, the greatly illuminating one, holds a critical place in Buddhist philosophy and practice. As the embodiment of wisdom and enlightenment, Vairochana represents the ultimate reality and the path towards liberation. By studying and connecting with Vairochana’s teachings, practitioners can deepen their understanding, purify their minds, and strive towards awakening.

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