Wood with gold leaf and lacquer; H. 36 3/8 in. (92.4 cm), W. 27 1/2 in. (69.9 cm), D. 19 5/8 in. (49.8 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1926 (26.118)
Dainichi Nyorai is known as the Supreme Buddha of the Cosmos in Esoteric Buddhist thought. He is the source from whom all other deities and everything in the universe emanate, as light does from the sun. Here, he appears in a form known as Ichiji Kinrin (Sanskrit: Ekaksara-ushnisha-chakra), or “One-Syllable Golden Wheel.” His hands form the mudra (hand gesture) of perfect knowledge, also known as the “wisdom-fist” mudra (chiken-in), which holds the power to restrain passions that hinder enlightenment. (See the Scroll of Mudras, accession number 1975.268.1, for more about mudras.) With the left index finger surrounded and protected by the fingers of the right, this gesture expresses the all-encompassing union of the spiritual and material realms of being. At one time, the sculpture also had a crown over the topknot adorned with images of the five Buddhas who represent Dainichi’s five forms. The graceful proportions of the sculpture were made possible by a new technique of carving and assembling sculpture in sections, characteristic of images of the later Heian period, when courtly aesthetics were paramount. In the glow of its original gold-leaf covering, this Dainichi must have appeared to embody his most common name, the Buddha of the Great Radiance of Illumination. The mandorla behind the Buddha, once brilliantly painted, may be of slightly later date than the sculpture.