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Asian art

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The Great Illuminator, Dainichi Nyorai

18th century-19th century


Unknown Artist


Sitting in the meditation pose on a lotus throne supported by two vajras rested on a lotus pedestal is Dainichi Nyorai (sansk. Mahāvairo-cana), the central and supreme deity of the Esoteric Buddhist pantheon, represented by the ‘Womb world mandala’ (Taizōkai mandala) and the ‘Diamond world mandala’ (Kongōkai mandala). In Japan, Dainichi further figures among the Thirteen Buddhas, presiding over the memorial service of a dead person’s 12th anniversary.

Different from other Buddhas, Dainichi Nyorai is depicted as a bodhisattva with long locks of hair, wearing silk robes and richly adorned with necklace, armlets and bracelets. He also wears the so-called 'five- wisdom bejewelled crown' (Gochihōkan) symbolising his association to the five main Buddhas and the five wisdoms attributed to them. With his hands rested on his lap, palms turned upwards and thumbs touching to form a circle showing the meditation mudra (Zenjōin or Hōkaijōin), he is identified as Dainichi Nyorai of the womb world or matrix realm. An irregularity is to be noticed, however, in the position of the hands. Usually, Dainichi Nyorai would have the right hand on the left, palms turned upwards and thumbs touching in the meditation mudra. The mudra, where both hands are in one line next to each other, is called ‘Mida no jōin’, and is reserved exclusively for images of Amida Nyorai.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2008.


Other Title

Seated Dainichi Nyorai of the Matrix realm

Place where the work was made



18th century-19th century

Media category


Materials used

hanging scroll; ink, colour and gold on silk


109.5 x 51.4 cm image; 160.0 x 64.0 cm scroll


Gift Peter Muller 2008


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019