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Dainichi Nyorai in the Form of Ichiji Kinrin Buccho (Buddha Vairochana in the Form of Ekaksara-ushnisha-chakra)
Japan; Nanbokucho period (1336-1392), 14th century
Hanging scroll; Ink, color, and gold on silk
Image only, H. 43 1/2 in. (110.5 cm); W. 32 5/8 in. (82.9 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art
Dainichi Nyorai (Sanskrit Vairochana Buddha), whose name means "Great Sun Buddha," is considered to be the primary deity of the Shingon sect of Japanese Esoteric (Vajrayana) Buddhism and is worshiped as the cosmic origin of all things. In this painting, he is seated in the posture of meditation (padmasana) and performs a distinctive gesture known as the wisdom-fist (jnanamushti mudra). This gesture, in which the index finger of the left hand is extended into the right fist, symbolizes the unity of sacred wisdom and human ignorance. According to one text, Dainichi is another name for the sun, using the sun as a metaphor to explain the deity that brings light and salvation and cuts through darkness and ignorance. While the sun does not shine in shadow or at night and sometimes is hidden by clouds and storms, the radiant power of Dainichi is seen as shining forth eternally. In this painting, such power is symbolized by the round golden disk glowing behind Dainichi.
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